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Urban Garden Ideas

urban garden ideas
by Ally North Ally North

An urban garden presents its own challenges in terms of limited space, growing conditions and sometimes not even having soil. That small (sometimes weird shaped) space has to be a lot of things to a lot of people - a place to entertain, relax, eat and even grow food. But where some see problems, we see a golden opportunity to design your own little piece of paradise. City gardens can even be home to plants that would struggle in other places. Read on for lots of urban garden ideas to get excited about!

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Shade or sun?

The sun-trap

One great thing about urban gardens is that they’re often much more sheltered than those in less built up areas and so enjoy a warmer temperature. As well as making them perfect places for outdoor entertaining, this means that you can grow a wider range of interesting plants outdoors, including grasses, vines and citrus fruits which would struggle in a larger, more open space. Many urban gardeners take advantage of this with a Mediterranean planting scheme with large pots of herbs, lemon and fig trees or even growing grapes on a pergola.

grape vines

The shady nook

If your garden is overlooked by other buildings or tall fences, you might have the opposite conditions, with lots of shade. If that’s you, you have the ideal conditions for growing woodland plants and climbers. Foxgloves, ferns and hostas thrive in shade and will love the cool, sheltered environment of your city garden, while climbers such as jasmine and honeysuckle will be in their element.


Ditch the lawn

Toto, I don’t think we’re in the suburbs anymore! A lawn serves no purpose in a city garden and the space you’d use to store a lawn mower can be better used for more plants or a seating area. 

If you’ve moved into a home with a concrete garden and no soil, don’t despair - there are plenty of stylish and practical ways of getting more plant life into your space.

Raised beds

Container gardening is an easier (dare we say better?) way of growing than digging down to make flower beds in the ground - besides, city gardens often have poor soil, lots of rubble or cables underneath, which means your plants will do much better in pots. Container gardens work well on a balcony, terrace or roof garden as well as in a courtyard and are perfect if you’re renting, as you can take them with you!

When choosing your planters, bigger is better - you’ll get more impact and your plants won’t dry out as quickly. Fill your raised beds with compost and choose plants that will thrive in your garden’s light conditions. Evergreen shrubs and climbers are a good choice, as they’ll brighten up your garden all year round. A city garden can also be used to grow food - if you have a sun trap of a garden, plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, salads and herbs will love it, while chard, brassicas, broad beans and beetroot can be grown in light shade.

Top tip: there are always unwanted pallets lying around in cities - check before you take them, then make them into budget planters.

container gardening

Go large

Just because your garden is small, it doesn’t follow that your planting has to be. In fact if you try to pack in too many small pots and plants, it just makes the space look crowded.

Instead, choose fewer, larger planters, fewer varieties of plants and large plants that will make your garden look full rather than fussy. Try impressive foliage plants like yuccas, phormiums and carex, tall perennials such as agapanthus and trees in large pots - as they grow, they’ll create an atmosphere of lush greenery, blurring the harsher lines of your walls and fences and making the space look bigger.

Top tip: plants like hostas with variegated foliage will brighten up a shady garden.

agapanthus plants

Trees for privacy

Your urban garden should be a little oasis where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city - which is kind of tricky if you’re overlooked. Trees are a natural means of providing privacy - the taller the better - and you have plenty of choice when it comes to growing in pots

Acers, crabapples and dwarf cherry blossoms all thrive in large containers, as do many fruit trees. Plant them all around the perimeter of your garden and near your seating area, where they’ll also provide shade on hot days - or train them against a wall.

Or how about a living screen made of bamboo? As well as hiding your neighbour’s security fence, it’ll filter out traffic noise and pollution with its gently swaying, leafy canes.

bamboo screen

Move on up

Another great way to maximise your growing space in a small garden is to grow climbers. Cover the walls and fences in trellis and you can transform them with greenery and flowers. If you’ve got an accessible shed or extension roof, you can get your hands on even more growing space by creating a green roof or simply covering it in more planters. For shady gardens choose ivy, jasmine, honeysuckle and fast growing Virginia creeper - or for full sun, go for clematis, wisteria, passionflower or rambling roses.


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