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Do you want to turn your balcony into a flower paradise, prepare pesto alla genovese with basil from your herb garden or pick fresh strawberries on your terrace? Thanks to urban gardening, you no longer need a garden for that - a balcony or terrace is enough. We explain what you need for an urban garden, what you can plant and what alternatives you have if you lack a green thumb.
In the early 19th century, factory workers in small German towns planted the first allotment gardens to provide their families with fruits and vegetables. Since the 1970s, New Yorkers have been planting flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs in community gardens and coined the term "urban gardening" with these community gardens. Today, urban gardening is a worldwide trend. More and more people are planting flowers, vegetables or herbs on their balcony, in their garden or on their terrace. On the one hand, because gardening is fun and relaxing, and on the other, because basil, strawberries or tomatoes from one's own garden taste fresher and more delicious. The Coronavirus pandemic has further strengthened the need for a small flowering paradise at home.
For your urban garden, all you need is a corner on the balcony, in the garden or on the terrace. The right plants, enough sun and water are important. Almost anything can be used as a container, it doesn't have to be a container from the garden centre: For example, a wooden box or barrel. More important is the volume of the container: at least 4.5 litres, preferably 15 litres, to ensure growth. The right substrate (soil) and a good fertiliser are also important. Depending on what you want to plant or sow, you need different soil. For example, for flowers, strawberries, vegetables, herbs or tomatoes. That is why you should plan the urban garden before you buy.
Do not underestimate how much soil some plants need. Large plants like cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes need a pot with at least 15 litres of soil to grow and thrive..
Whether you sow seeds or plant seedlings is less important than the time of planting. Some plants you can only plant or sow at certain times. Now, in June, for example, you should buy tomato seedlings instead of tomato seeds because it is too late to raise them. Once you have sown or planted everything, you need to water all the flowers, vegetables or herbs regularly. Too much or too little water can be just as damaging as too much or too little sun or draught. If you register your new plants with our plant guide, you will receive valuable care tips - water requirements, location, frost hardiness, fertiliser as well as soil - and a seasonal garden calendar.
Planting a raised bed is easier and more convenient than having to bend down for hours. You can read how to build a raised bed in 7 steps in «Gartenkalender: Das sollten Sie im März erledigen».
With flowers you can create colourful accents on the balcony, in the garden or on the terrace. It is best to plant low-maintenance flowers that bloom for as long as possible.
For fruits you need a sunny spot sheltered from the wind. Strawberries, kiwis or Cape gooseberries (physalis) need a lot of sun and tolerate draughts very badly. If your urban garden is often in the shade, you should plant wild strawberries. Berries or columnar fruit are a good alternative for indoors if you have (too) little space outside. Column fruit are, for example, apples, cherries or plums that have been bred to stay small and grow indoors.
Most urban gardeners plant vegetables. It is best to plant the seedlings in growing soil and later transplant the vegetables into compost or fill the container with compost. Plant stairs or plant ladders are best for vegetables: the sun-loving varieties at the top, the thirsty varieties at the bottom.
Too much humidity is harmful to most vegetables. That is why you should protect your vegetables from rain during longer periods of bad weather, if necessary in your house or flat.
Seedlings, as well known as microgreens, are rich in vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances. With few exceptions, all vegetable or herb seeds are suitable for growing seedlings. Carrots, coriander, cress, radishes, red cabbage or sunflowers, for example, are suitable; nightshade plants such as aubergines, potatoes or tomatoes are unsuitable. Herb or vegetable seedlings can be used to garnish soups, salads or bowls, for example.
Herbs are particularly popular with urban gardeners. On the one hand they need little space, on the other they are easy to care for. A few window boxes filled with special herb soil are sufficient for a herb garden. Sprouts from the market or garden centre and seeds can be planted or sown in small boxes and pots that will even fit on a window sill. You should start basil, dill, parsley or chives in mid to late April, after that it is too late. Full-grown herbs, as sold in many grocery shops, are only something for impatient gardeners who need herbs for salad or basil for a pesto.
There are herbs that prefer the same locations and feel comfortable in the same pot:
But not all herbs get along because they have different demands on the location:
If space is tight on the balcony or terrace, or you want to create a large herb garden, hanging shelves and plant bags that you can find in DIY stores are an alternative.
There are simple smart gardening solutions for urban gardens that automatically water the vegetables, for example. Smarter is the complete system BOUM one, which a Bernese start-up has developed with the University of Bern, the Bern University of Applied Sciences and other partners. BOUM one consists of five coordinated components: