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Types of Gardens in the City: Not Just for the Suburbs

Photo by Sue Lowndes licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

If you ever read gardening magazines or watch horticultural programs on TV, you might think that you need a sprawling yard to create a garden. You don’t.

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You don’t need outdoor space for a garden. You don’t even need a lot of room. Check out these pretty small garden ideas if you’re in doubt.

In fact, you don’t even need an actual garden to grow flowers, ornamental plants, herbs or vegetables. All you need is a little knowhow and the motivation to grow a green thumb if you don’t have one already.

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The Untraditional Garden Space

You don’t have to limit yourself to an artificial ficus tree or a few low-light potted plants if you live in a smaller space. Even if you live in a crowded city, think outside the box and you’ll be surrounded by vegetation in no time.

The Balcony

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For many who live in high-rises, the only direct access to the outdoors is via a balcony. You can dress up a concrete slab with more than just flowers. Make yourself a little yard no matter how many stories above the ground you live.

Small trees and edible plants grow from the floor, creating a living privacy screen. You can also hang plants from the roof to add dimension.

The Stoop

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If your front door opens to the outside world, you can build a garden around it. A staircase leading up to your entryway can become a tiered garden.

The path that meanders to your front door can become an enchanted walkway. You don’t need a lot of area to create an inviting entrance to your home.

Check out our 101 front yard garden ideas photo collection.

The Windowsill

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Gardens in the city don’t have to be outdoors. Windowsill gardens get plenty of light. Grow smaller items, like herbs and flowers, on a ledge inside near your window.

Small, individual pots are easy to maintain and pull down for watering. A larger window box creates an impressive focal point.

See our incredible gallery of 40 windowsill flower boxes.

The Rooftop

Photo by Karen Stintz licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you have a rooftop available for a garden, you can grow plants for yourself as well as all of your friends. Your roof might be the largest expanse of space available for a garden.

Rooftops are wide open to sunlight and rainfall. However, you may need to add in some shade, especially if you live in a warmer climate.

These perennial flowers love full sunlight. You can plant them in deep boxes for vivid blooms that come back up year after year. Don’t let them remain hidden on top of your building. Use the cuttings to create flower arrangements to adorn the inside of your apartment.

=> Check out 19 rooftop gardens.

What Materials Do You Need To Build Gardens In The City?

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Unless you’re skilled in hydroponic gardening, you’ll need some soil to grow a garden in the city. From there, your garden can be as elaborate as your imagination.

You can throw a few bags of soil on your balcony and plant seeds in slits cut out of the top. It may not be the prettiest way to grow a small garden, but it gets the job done.

If you’re taking the time to beautify your space with plants, however, you probably want something a little more attractive.

=> See 35 flower pot ideas.


Photo by fourthandfifteen licensed under CC BY 2.0

Any container can work for growing just about any type of plant. Tidy rows of terra cotta pots are inexpensive and create a uniform foundation for your bounty.

You can also get creative with other household containers. Grow a teacup garden on your windowsill. Gather your old pots and pans for a quirky kitchen garden.

Get rustic by planting succulents in a wooden or metal tool tote. It’s even possible to create a one-of-a-kind container garden in your child’s collection of discarded toy dump trucks.

If you use vintage and recycled containers for your edible plants, you might want to ensure that the wood, metal and paint don’t contain lead.

Raised Beds

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If you’re growing vegetables, they’re likely going to need more space than a teacup. You can build raised beds out of untreated lumber. Landscape timbers stack together nicely and can be made as tall as you want. Get 32 raised wooden garden bed designs and examples to inspire your urban garden.

You can also build raised beds out of brick, stone, cinder blocks or metal. Stone and masonry can be easily formed into different shapes. This is ideal if you have an irregular space.

If you have a small yard or a courtyard, your raised bed doesn’t need a base. The roots of your plants will grow into the soil below, providing for a better foundation. Your raised beds will need bottoms if you’re placing them on concrete, brick, stone or wood.

Vertical Structures

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If you don’t have floor space, you can build your garden up a wall. Hang lattice, fencing, pallets or old window panes on an interior or exterior façade to incorporate flowers, greenery or succulents in an unexpected area.

With vertical garden ideas, the sky’s the limit. You just need to be able to hang containers that hold enough soil for your plants.

Things to Consider When Building an Urban Garden


If you don’t have access to a hose, you’ll need to consider how you’ll water your garden. If you have to walk down two flights of stairs to reach your front door, perhaps the stoop isn’t the best place for the garden.

Watering cans get heavy when they’re filled to the brim. Think about installing a rain barrel closer to an outdoor garden to make your life easier.


If your balcony is abundant with plant life, you’ll need to make sure that you have a solution for drainage. The same goes for growing plants indoors.

If you trap too much water inside a container, your plants can develop mold and disease. However, if your containers drain out to the floor below them, they could ruin the substrate or drip water onto your downstairs neighbor’s head. Whether you have containers or raised beds, place a tray below them to retain excess water.


Some cities have restrictions on where you can plant gardens. For example, some locations don’t allow residents to grow food in the front yard.

Plants near a sidewalk should not cover signs or impede the flow of foot traffic. You may even be prohibited from growing plants on your balcony. Check with the city or your landlord before building an urban garden outside.

When all else fails, plant a garden in your bedroom or build a tiny city of your own inside a terrarium. Many plants, like peace lilies and palms, require little light to grow. They also purify the air. These plants will help you fall and stay asleep at night.

You don’t need extravagant materials or a great deal of talent to grow gardens in the city. You just need to get a little clever. If you’re nervous about your abilities, start small. You’ll hone your skills and gain the confidence to impress your friends with what’s growing inside and around your home.

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