Urban Gardening Introduction (Pt. 1)
April 25th by Anthony D'Atri

Ever since my uncle decided to purchase a sublet with a rooftop patio in the heart of downtown Toronto, I've personally taken an interest in urban gardening to make the roof-top more of an "outdoor living space", rather than a "liveable space". This article will serve as a preface to an in-depth look at potential urban gardening spaces. In the near-future I hope to cover details such as light exposure, plant selections, watering schedules all the way to gardening ornaments. So stick around, I have plenty of cool knowledge to throw at you as we both take an interest in the urban gardening environment.

Gardening designs and plans don't end in your backyard, oh no. Ever since the introduction of high-rise condos, the term "gardening" has grown to include balconies, terraces and atriums. Even though these enjoyable outdoor living rooms are truly enjoyable, designing and planning them are more difficult than interior decorating; choosing plants, making beds and maintaining soil conditions requires more than effort than say, selecting a chair that fits with your interior colour scheme. Making an urban garden is a creative, resourceful process of trial and error. Trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables are living creatures, and these "greenlings", like children and pets, need time and care. City living can be even more stressful on the plants than it is for us. Besides the obvious considerations of city pollution, one reason for this difficulty in adjusting is that they must adapt to and artificial habitat. Many of the popular selections for city gardens and not necessarily "native" to nearby suburban or rural areas. It is pertinent to learn what trees and shrubs are indigenous to the immediate region, and a good atlas will provide a natural vegetation map for North America.

In alleys behind apartment buildings, and most especially on the balconies, terraces and rooftops, a growing environment has to be simulated to achieve a truly successful urban garden. One approach would be to force a planting scheme on the garden--which is not an approach I would advocate, unless you want to work against nature, which 9 times out of 10 is a losing battle. Using this mind-set, not only would lead to inordinate doctoring and altering of the garden to keep the plants alive that are not native to or compatible with a particular region, but this path will demand time consuming maintenance from either you or the expensive landscape maintenance service you will need to hire. This is not say that making adjustments and outsourcing professional care won't be necessary. However, the recommended approach is to design your garden based on the plants that will thrive on the strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncracies of you particular growing conditions. If a plant is in an environment that won't support is, it will die.

I hope this introduction to urban gardening served as a useful tool to get your mind spinning as to what you can do to make your outdoor space a little more livable, as I said, stay tunes, plenty of cool ideas to come in the very near future. As a closing note, remember to leave with memories and pictures, not footprints!