By Laura Garcia

Living in a city can be depleting. Navigating streets and sidewalks overcrowded with pedestrians, bikes, and motorists all rushing to get where they’re going as the rays of the sun, once so longed for, beat down on you unrelentingly. We have all lugged home bags full of groceries–heavy cans and tinkling glass weighing us down. Yes, living in a city has its benefits, too, with an abundance of entertainment, funky coffee shops, hip restaurants and vast amounts of shopping all a stone’s throw away.

But kindly put, at the end of the day it can leave you running on empty. So, what if you had a little haven, your own tiny, secret garden where you could nourish your body, mind, and soul?

The modern urban garden can be so much more than daffodils and gardenias or shade-loving hostas that take little effort. Put in some time, some careful planning and a little bit of muscle and you’ll see your efforts flourish with thriving flowers, fruits, and vegetables ready to feed and nourish you and your loved ones.

Forget the farm to table foodie trend which every restaurant on every corner is capitalizing on; we’re talking freshly picked and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables–straight from your rooftop, your patio, or even your living room–to your family’s table. Crisp green lettuce, succulent strawberries, juicy ripe tomatoes, peppers of all colours, shapes and sizes, whatever your heart desires and your sun exposure, or budget allows, all at your fingertips, all ready for the plucking.

Saving The World While Saving Your Money

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the rapid growth of cities in the developing world is placing enormous demands on urban food supply systems. Growing your own fruits and vegetables means less transportation impact, less water, and less waste. It’s not rocket science; urban gardens are good for the environment. 

It’s so good that IKEA is currently collaborating with British designer Tom Dixon on an urban farming project that is aimed at assisting urbanites in growing food locally. “Gardening will Save the World”, an experimental model for growing plants in an urban environment will debut during the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The pennies have been counted, and they add up quite nicely. And with a bit of extra work and learning to grow from seed, they add up even faster. Once again, IKEA has you covered with cute little cultivators to help you out in those tight city spaces. 

Health Benefits

Yes, fresh fruits and veggies are nutrient power-bombs. Pack them into your smoothies, toss them into your salads or dice them into your pasta. Trade in that can of pasta sauce and keep it simple with avocado oil, herbs, and your favourite cheese, then toss together a salad, and pop the cork on a bottle of wine–for some added tannin benefits of course.

The uses are endless, and the benefits are bountiful. Gardening can be hard work, but with hard work comes reward. Lowering stress levels, building muscle, nourishing your senses, easing depression, and fighting heart disease, all while nourishing your body and feeding your soul. Come on now!

Harvesting Your Options 

Whether you’re working with a rooftop, a patio, a shared garden space, or just 600-square-feet of condo-dwelling, there is something to suit every space, style, and budget. Research and careful planning are paramount, so grab a cup of coffee or that ‘steeped at the perfect temperature’ tea, and find your inspiration and motivation.

Urbanites rejoice, IKEA’s Krydda/Växer series allows you to grow your own vegetables inside. No soil or sunlight needed–and very little space required. (Don’t forget to keep an eye out on their collaboration with Tom Dixon, which seems to be on a mission, and we expect additional innovative, forward-thinking products to come.)

Yet more choices for city dwellers with little to no outdoor space, both Tower Garden and Aerospring have great options, allowing you to grow vertically, indoors or outdoors, soilless and waterless (kidding, plants still need water, but it is self-watering!). These don’t, however, need much more, making them gardening-newbie and black-thumb friendly.

There’s a reason that Pinterest traffic increases as we are all revving up for the weekend on a Friday afternoon. It’s a project maven’s dream builder and wistful thinker’s inspiration catcher. From raised garden boxes to a homemade vertical garden with removable planters, DIY projects are aplenty with options to fit your space and suit your style. 

Tips And Tricks

Know what you eat, grow what you eat. Yes, there are options you’ll want to explore, varieties not available in your local grocery store, and we recommend that you learn of them. So think small, think taste and test your choices out. If you like it, grow more next year. Traverse the myriad of varieties, offer up as a side dish to risk-taking friends, or simply enjoy their vivid colours. Here’s a tip: Peppers are a great way to have some fun, taking up little space, and they’ll liven up any plate.

If you have the time, space, and the perseverance, try growing extra and preserve the bounty, extending the magic (and the savings) into the winter months. We’re not going to lie, it’s a whole bunch of effort, but oh so worth the trouble. As every good Italian will tell you, “the more, the merrier,” so borrow from their traditions and invite family and friends over. Many hands make for light work.

Many mouths to feed? Optimize efficiency by planting these high-yielding crops.

Let’s Get Technical

We know, we feel you. You just want to pick out something pretty or tasty, but every choice is ladened with the need to know: how much sunlight do you get? Take a deep breath, you got this. Here’s a little trick on how you can find out— and don’t say we never gave you anything.

Now let’s get back to the basics.

  • Lest you forget, most plants will require 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. 
  • Plan an escape route. Water needs to drain so look for drainage holes in your containers and make them if you are repurposing a planter.
  • Soil depth is imperative. Shallow-rooted plants need a minimum of 6 inches of soil depth if they stand less than one foot tall. The taller, more deeply-rooted plants require a minimum of one foot of depth. 
  • Go for the potting mix. Content is king when you’re picking your soil, and potting soil both drains better and is lighter than standard soil.
  • Water. Don’t overdo it, and don’t under do it. Play Goldilocks and make it just right by covering the entire container. If there’s excess water in the saucer then dump it out. Nobody likes root rot.

IKEA isn’t wrong. Urban gardening really is the future, and we believe it may even save our world. So pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, plug in the string lights, sit back and rejoice in your private oasis as you reap all that you have sown. Bathe in the certainty that you have done some good, for you, your loved ones, and for Planet Earth. And let that knowledge nourish your soul.