Cement Gardens for the City
written by Valerie K
Believe it or not, all these blooms were grown either in pots or in a raised bed that has only about 6-7 inches of soil.
You may have seen BiG TeA PaRtY’s Elizabeth Fiend‘s garden and how gorgeous it is [to take a look click HERE]; an oasis in the grime of a big city. But not every urban home has enough space for that much greenery, in fact most back yards where I live in South Philadelphia are covered in cement and cinder block, and it’s not always possible or financially feasible to tear up the cement and get back to the earth.
Despair not, city dwellers, with just a few feet of space there is room for a healthy, happy and beautiful garden!
My yard is about 14′ x 7′ of cement, enclosed by cement block walls, sounds grim doesn’t it? But look what I got last year – this is mid-June during the second wave of blooming – mostly perennials highlighted here but a few annuals are spicing it up, like the hot pink Snap dragons in the left-hand photo
You don’t need soil that reaches down to the water table to grow flowers like those pictured above. With raised beds sitting on top of cement, and a variety of pots and containers you would be surprised (I was!) how lush your yard can be. And after a couple years it starts to really flourish if you get some good perennials going, and then it’s up to you how much work you want to put into it….
I took these photos this year (2011) on April 28th – and I hadn’t even planted anything new yet!
As you can see in the photos above, by the end of April a lot is happening even though I did not put much effort into it. Sure, I pulled some weeds but I’ve been really lazy and at the time of that photo, I hadn’t added compost or planted annuals or started many of the containers that will fill out my urban backyard garden. I had not even pulled out the dead stuff from last year until the day I took this photo (In the fall I like to leave most of the carcasses intact for birds and insects to feed on through the winter).
But my garden starts without me, ready or not, and what you see in that last photo grouping is the result of six years of work and experimentation – by this point I don’t really have to add more flowers if I don’t feel like it, the plants you see above would be just fine all on their own. But I like to add splashes of color in the form of annuals, and try new varieties so that each summer my garden has a different look.
Of course you can grow food, but this article is about flowers. If you want to grow vegetables, you need to do a bit more research to make sure your soil is healthy, your compost is safe for food and any non-food plants near your food are not toxic.
Personally, I’m in it for the flowers. My goal is to look out my kitchen window and see life, color, green, hopefully some birds, some bees, maybe even butterflies. Also my goal is not to work too hard at gardening, and with flowers you can be a lot more lax than with vegetables and herbs.
Read on to get some tips on getting started. I’m not just being modest when I say to you: if I can do it, anyone can.