A lack of space is one of the most common excuses for not having a garden. Still, with some knowledge and creativity, it is possible to grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables in urban settings. This week’s guest, Mark Ridsdill Smith, is here to provide tips for getting started as a respected specialist in container gardening in small spaces.
Because he is aware that it fosters community and results in improved wellbeing, Mark advocates for growing up at home by creating a green sanctuary, he aids in the reconnection of urban residents with food and the natural world. He now resides in Newcastle, England, but he started gardening in London. His new book, “The Vertical Veg Guide to Container Planting,” which he wrote after 20 years of gardening in small spaces, is run by the owner of the website Vertical Veg.
I’m confident that many of you, especially city dwellers, will find the issue of small-space vegetable gardening enjoyable. Any gardener can benefit from Mark’s advice on how to use the area we have available. You can start reevaluating the sites you previously believed would be unsuitable for a vegetable garden.
More and more individuals live without gardens as populations shift to urban settings, and others don’t even have a balcony to call their own. However, Mark claims that some Londoners are incredibly inventive. For instance, individuals may be allowed to use a parking space for a container garden if they are entitled to one but do not possess a vehicle. Others flourish on the roof of their workplace.
Mark currently resides in a terraced home, often a row home, with a tiny concrete front yard where he raises flowers and veggies in pots.
Mark elevated his plants on five layers of wall shelves to ensure they received the most sunlight possible. He erected a ladder to access the south-facing, sunny area where his trash can is placed. Now, vegetation hides the trash can above it.
Additionally, Mark looks for places to hang lines so that climbing plants, like tomatoes and vining squash, can climb higher into the light. He advises considering locations in three dimensions to find extra space for plants to thrive.
The book by Mark makes clear that these are not little vines. They had no trouble reaching that upper elevation despite these being enormous leaves and large berries. They are ornamental and instead appealing at the same time. When compared to concrete, Marks claims it is highly appealing and brings joy to both the grower and bystanders.
How Mark Ridsdill Smith discovered Container Gardening
Before he began gardening, Mark spent roughly 20 years living in London. The only feature of his apartment, or flat as it is known in the UK, was a tiny balcony. He inquired for an allotment—a plot of land he could rent to grow food crops—but was informed that he would probably have to wait 30 years before receiving one.
So, he remembers, “I reasoned that if I want to grow things, the only way I’m going to do this is to grow things on my balcony.”
Mark couldn’t simply go online and find out what he needed to know to grow successfully on a balcony because the internet wasn’t prevalent back then. He had to experiment with many options before figuring that out on his own.
Mark was surprised to see that over time, he was harvesting food almost every day for nearly every meal, whether it be herbs or tomatoes. He had initially thought he would only be able to grow some rocket or arugula. He claims to have found that a garden could be built in a tiny area that was both meaningful and highly fruitful.
Mark is self-taught makes his gardening journey and accomplishment all the more remarkable. His involvement in his parents’ allotment was minimal. He had to experiment with his balcony garden and learn as he went.
He acknowledges, “I had no direct practical experience; therefore, I was making lots of blunders. On one level, he discovers that growing food is something you can learn about for the rest of your life, but on a deeper level, he discovers that it’s pretty simple. He needs to give it a go and not worry if things don’t work out.