Outside the Row
Spring into gardening season with these five trends
By Jordan HoewischerPublished April 1, 2012
Gardening is no longer reserved for the haggard neighbor lady with a two-acre garden who is obsessed with canning everything (“I can pickle that!”).
Growing your own vegetables, even in the smallest spaces, can be a satisfying “get back to my roots” educational venture. Let us kick start your green thumb with a short list of gardening trends for 2012 so you can get dirty, go green, have fun, and most importantly, grow the sh*t out of some stuff.
Raised bed gardening is nothing new to urban vegetable growers, but it is a trend that has increased in frequency over the years. A raised garden allows for instant soil depth in areas that are limited on space, i.e. the dense urban enclaves where the cool kids reside. Raised bed kits can be found at any of your local big box stores and garden centers, but you can also choose to be greenly creative with your beds. Old tires work great as growing containers or simply use recycled wood from an old project to erect your vertical garden. For those amateur pickers and backyard junk car collectors, using the bed of that old truck or the hollowed out hood area of a car is a super green way to grow tasty veggies for the dinner table. (Check out Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew for a great guide to growing with limited space.)
Go Green or Go Home
There are endless opportunities to darken your shade of green when it comes to backyard gardening. It all starts with establishing a compost bin to break down materials such as coffee grounds, leaves, dog poop, food scraps, etc. A good compost pile is an environmental work of art; when done right, it’ll be the free garden amendment that is essential for turning your soil into a veggie growing machine. Besides the ability to recycle the above organic materials, compost provides a wide array of slowly released nutrients, which are vital for proper plant development.
Roll out the barrels for a cool way to store and reuse the rainwater coming through your down spouts. Admittedly, rain barrels supply only a small fraction of the water that is required to grow a large garden but they're a great way to lower your city water use and the bill that comes along with it. Similar to the raised beds, rain barrels can be purchased at any garden center but can also be made out of any container you choose. Some are made out of plastic drums, others use old whiskey barrels, but generally any way to catch your rain water while not making it look too tacky will serve you well.
Keep it Contained
If you are severely limited by space, container gardening may be your trendy option for 2012. Container gardening is simply what the name implies, growing vegetables in containers using nutrient enhanced soil-less media (potting mix). Container gardening certainly isn’t reserved solely for boring front porch pots, but can extend to unused window sills or even evolve into a rooftop gardening oasis (landlord permitting). Selecting patio or bush-type plant varieties is crucial to making sure your “garden” doesn’t out grow your space.
Urban Old MacDonald
The most intriguing, complicated, and unique gardening trend of 2012 is backyard chickens. The little cluckers are beneficial in many ways; they can potentially keep you in high egg supply, keep the bug population in check, provide natural fertilizer (chicken sht, as it were) for your garden, and reign as coolest pet on the block. Buying or building a coop and the initial purchase of chicks or full-grown hens and feed can be costly, but the birds are very easy to take care of. (The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow is an excellent illustrated A-Z on how to raise chickens.) Also, to keep yourself out of deep (chicken) sht, make sure to check your local ordinances to ensure urban chickens are legal in your area.
Jordan Hoewischer is a Senior Research Specialist at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in Marysville and the brother of (614) Editor-in-Chief Travis Hoewischer.