John Reinhardt is an urban planner, writer, photographer, and urban gardener. An avid cook, John is interested in the intersection of urban design, sustainability, and food systems planning. He currently resides in Washington DC and works for the American Planning Association. He currently writes Grown in the City, a blog about urban gardening and food systems planning.
Gardening in the city can be a rewarding, yet challenging experience. If you’re lucky enough to have a coveted spot in a community garden, hang on to it! You can even try sharing backyards (a site I used to connect with some other urban planners who were interested in gardening). The easiest way, however, is to start container gardening.
Last season I started with tomatoes and herbs out on my balcony in Columbia Heights. The plants grew marvelously, until about August when I struggled to keep them alive in the DC heat. I’d water once in the morning, once when I got home from work, and once again in the evening. I still had trouble keeping up!
This season, I did some research and learned to make self-watering planters. I made three sizes – an 18-gallon size that holds tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, peas, string beans, and some herbs. I also constructed a smaller size, made our of recycled yogurt containers, that currently have basil, cilantro, sage, garlic chives, and common chives growing in them. Finally, I constructed shoebox size containers to house flats of lettuce, radishes, and other similar vegetables that need to be started at different times throughout the season to ensure a long harvest.
I highly recommend the self-watering container method. For under $20, I was able to construct an 18 gallon tub; for next to nothing, I was able to use my recycled yogurt containers to grow herbs in. For those who are in really sunny locations, or who travel for work, these self-watering containers are a must.
Check out the plans and photos at www.growninthecity.com