How to Start an Urban Garden at Home with Your Kids

ByCristina TanJanuary 10, 2022
mother planting and watering garden with daughter
Have you ever wanted to start a garden but thought it was not possible under your circumstances? The small space, the lack of time, the kids always underfoot, the lack of experience and knowledge, the lack of resources; you can probably make a longer list of reasons. But as a self-taught home gardener for over five years, I can tell you that you can overcome all those challenges and start your own little green oasis in the city like I did. Here are all the most important lessons I’ve learned so far and a few of my best gardening tips.
Start with a few plants, and some seeds
The plant bug bit the world sometime in the mid-2000s. So it won’t be hard to find garden stores, plant stalls in markets and groceries, garden pop-ups and plant sellers all over Instagram and Facebook.
Begin small. Pick a few tropical plants to bring home; maybe buy some seeds of vegetables your kids like. Buy younger, smaller plants rather than the big, well-established ones that will definitely cost more, and might not adapt well to your home anyway.
Plant a kitchen garden
If you like to cook, or someone else in your home does, it makes sense to start a small kitchen garden. This could mean planting leafy greens or vegetables in plant beds if you have the space, or simply growing some herbs in a few pots in the sunniest part of your kitchen (you could opt for a vertical garden to save on space). Buying herbs from the grocery is especially wasteful and expensive—I used to buy a whole bunch of parsley or basil when all I needed them for was garnish. Luckily, grocery stores have caught on and sell actual potted herbs beside the packed bunches. Shell out a bit more money to buy the living plants. Your little “investment” will pay off every time your kids get to pick leaves from your herbs for a recipe.
Ask the Internet, but be smart about it
The Internet is a massive resource for plant lovers (the app PlantSnap, for example). Scour the Web for these resources; the key is to be smart about this wealth of information. If you need advice on a particular plant, have several sources of information with varying advice and consider them all. The best thing would be to find a gardening resource from your home country, or at least from a place with a similar climate.
Patience, patience, patience
Some plants seem to grow overnight, some seem to take forever. After all these years of gardening, I’ve learned to give my plants the time they need, and learned to be patient. It can seem frustrating. But I promise that one day you’ll wake up, and your plants will surprise you with new growth, a flower bud, a fruit. I got my kids to take pictures of the plants as they grow to keep a visual record of how exactly they’ve changed over the months. Part of the joy of gardening, after all, is watching your plants grow.
Gardening is not a hobby, it’s a way of life
After we had accumulated and successfully adapted a whole bunch of plants to our roof deck area where our small garden is, I soon found myself getting into full-blown gardening mode. That means assigning chores like watering and pruning, repotting, maintaining cleanliness, getting rid of pests, watching out for inclement weather, and many other things. It is an everyday thing. That doesn’t even include the emotional side of it (you will miss your plants when you’re away, no joke). The point is, gardening, if you’re serious about it, is not something you do only when you feel like it. It comes with a lot of responsibilities and commitment, but also immense rewards (for example, it teaches kids how to be patient and responsible). The gardening life is like nothing else, and it’s waiting for you.
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