Planting an Urban Garden From Seed

Posted by N. Astrid Hoffman on

Planting an Urban Garden From Seed

There is nothing like harvesting food from your backyard.   Whether its a small urban plot or a more extensive backyard space, urban gardening holds so many benefits for our wellbeing and enhancing our lifestyle! 

Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs allows you to harvest fresh produce at its peak ripeness. This freshness often translates to higher nutritional content, providing you with a direct source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

1. Plan Space & Placement 

Determine the available space for your urban garden. Consider sunlight, wind exposure, and accessibility. Plan the layout based on the size and types of plants you want to grow.  Don't forget to keep in mind the vertical space that is available. 

Opt for easy-to-grow plants for beginners such as herbs (like basil, parsley and cilantro), salad greens, cherry tomatoes, and radishes. Start with a modest garden and grow over time.  A first time gardener can easily get overwhelmed mid-summer and lose their inspiration.  A smaller garden will allow you to learn how to grow a certain amount of veggies well, while being able to observe them and properly take care of any infestations that may arise. 

Read our blog post How to Start a Garden From Seed.  Rad the seed packets for specific instructions on planting depth, spacing, and sunlight requirements.  Always keep your seedlings moist while they are germinating.  This was one of my first and biggest gardening lesson when I started urban gardening in my community garden in Santa Monica.

Create a layout of where your seedlings will be planted.  Keep in mind a plants mature size and determining how much space they will need. 

2. Asses Your Soil

Before planting, assess the quality of the soil in your urban area. Urban soils can vary widely in composition. Conduct soil tests to determine pH, nutrient levels, and the presence of contaminants. This information will guide you in amending the soil appropriately.  Urban soils may contain contaminants such as heavy metals, lead, and pollutants from industrial or vehicular sources. Be cautious about planting edible crops directly in the ground, especially if the soil tests reveal high levels of contaminants. Consider raised beds or container gardening using clean soil.

If this is overwhelming, opt for container gardening.  Container gardening does not limit you to the size of things you can grow, I have seen giant fig and lemons trees growing perfectly happy in large wine barrels.  We had a Myer lemon also in a wine barrel for many years. 

Raised beds or containers filled with high-quality organic potting mix to avoid direct contact with potentially contaminated soil. This is a practical solution for urban gardens, allowing you to control the soil quality and provide a healthier environment for your plants.


For many plants, starting seeds indoors provides a head start. Some seeds like tomatoes, peppers and golden berries require to be planted indoors for up to 8 weeks prior to planting outside.  Use seed trays or small pots filled with potting soil.  A covered dome with a heating mat is an ideal germination set up.  Affordable kist are available  online and will last for many growing seasons if taken care of.  Place them in a warm, well-lit area. 

Some seeds prefer to be planted directly in the garden and prefer to establish their roots once planted.  Most roots veggies  & corn fall in this category.  Read each seed packet and plan accordingly. 

4. Water and Light 

Keep the soil consistently moist during the germination phase. Once seedlings appear, ensure they receive adequate light. If you don't have a sunny windowsill, consider using fluorescent or LED grow lights.

5. Transplant

Once seedlings have grown a few inches tall and have developed a couple of sets of leaves, transplant them into larger containers or directly into your garden. Be gentle when handling seedlings to avoid damaging their delicate roots.  Label, label, label!  Use anything from a garden map, popsicle sticks to copper plant plates. Anything to keep track of what is in your garden. 

6. Watering

Water your plants consistently, aiming for the soil to be evenly moist. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Water in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation and water stress during the heat of the day.

7. Fertilizer 

Each plant has different needs.  Some are considered to be heavy feeders.  This requires extra nutrition while the plant is growing as well as amending the soil, after the soil has finished production.   Do you research. We use compost as a garden supplement, while topping off certain plants with supplements like seaweed, chicken manure, bone meal, etc. 

8; Observation 

One of the beauties of growing your own food is observing the process from life to death and everything in between.  Keep an eye out for pests like aphids or snails. Pick off pests by hand or use natural remedies like neem oil or simple dish soap. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of distress.

9. Harvest 

Harvest your crops when they are mature and ready. Some plants benefit from regular harvest and will promote more growth.  For leafy greens, harvest outer leaves to encourage continued growth. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor, and share your harvest with friends and neighbors.

Gardening is a journey of discovery. Embrace the process, learn from your experiences, and celebrate the joys of nurturing life in your urban oasis!

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