Every year around May I think about starting a small garden – a little urban gardening just sounds like a great idea. That thought is often put off for other things and eventually just goes away or is no longer feasible. This year, I am not letting that idea go to waste… but I’m also not entirely sure where to start.¬†When it comes to gardening, what little I know was taught to me by my late grandfather, and it was mostly about flowers and trees. As I start on this green thumbed journey, I figure my best course of action is to actually document the entire process. For myself, I’ll have a written guide on what to do (or more likely, what NOT to do), and for you, perhaps some inspiration (or even some guidance) on how to do your own urban gardening.

Urban Gardening

Let’s talk about plans. For me, a garden has to have one characteristic – it needs to be useful. Flowers and ferns do nothing to improve my life. I’m a utilitarian… if it doesn’t have a purpose, I’m not all that interested in it. (My place lacks artwork for this exact reason). What’s useful and improves my life? Access to my own fresh foods! Tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, lettuce, asparagus and everything in between! The thought of being slightly self sufficient is exciting especially as the cost of food continues to rise. With that in mind, I figure I’ll go to a garden center, grab some plants, put them on my balcony and in weeks, I’ll have some delicious salads and grill fodder.

At least, that was the thought.


On looking online, I may have to refine my plan depending on what site you look at. Everything online seems to contradict everything else… but from what I can gleam from the 50-or-so websites I’ve read on urban gardening, the first thing I need to do is figure out how much sunshine my balcony gets throughout the day. Most vegetables need at least 6+ hours of direct sun and I’m not all that convinced that it does get that much…

Balcony Dappled Sun

Direct Sun is Crucial to Urban Gardening

Over the course of an entire day, each 30 minutes I mark out where the sun hits and slowly develop a grid system to identify my ‘hot zones’ vs the areas that get little to no direct sunlight. My balcony is backed onto a very heavily treed deciduous (that means leafy tree) ravine. As such, there’s only a 4 hour window midday that about half of my balcony gets direct sun. The rest of the day, it does get SOME sun, but it’s just the beams that make their way through the leaves – evidently this is called ‘dappled sunlight‘, and while not the best, it will help plants grow…Urban Gardening Sun

Now that said, the sunlight that it gets does have some overlap – for example, the back side of the blue actually gets 1 hour of sun that the red area does not… so if I had the time (or some kind of conveyor system) I could theoretically get up to 6 hours of sun if I keep the plants moving throughout the day. That sounds insane though, so let’s just go with 4 hours + dappled and see what we can grow! This plan is now in motion, and even if it’s a total failure I’ll be better for having done it. I just need to know what I can actually grow…

Next Time: What Can I Actually Grow?