City Gardening In The Ozarks: How To Garden In The City

city-garden-bed
Image by Aka Hige

By Debbie Slack

I love the small city I live in – its sounds and the people. But gardening in the city can be very different than in surrounding rural areas. In some cities there are city codes as to what you can and cannot do in your yard. In some communities, there are neighborhood associations that have strict guidelines about the appearance of your gardening efforts. If you have moved to a new city or a new part of your city, it is important to find out what codes and by-laws affect your gardening efforts before you plant. Keep reading for information on city gardening.

How to Garden in the City

Do not let the rules discourage you. Most towns have very few restrictions. There are dozens of books about edible landscaping. Lettuce and greens, for instance, make a beautiful bed edging. A large healthy bush squash can become a beautiful feature plant in a flower bed. Mixing and staggering your planting of flowers and vegetables often keeps them healthier by discouraging pests. Most neighborhoods need uplifting with beautiful flowers and attractive beds, so you are only limited by your imagination. Where there is a will there is a way.

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There is nothing like the joy of planting a seed and watching it grow. First, the little leaves sprout up, then a leggy stem, which quickly strengthens as a proud mast, upright and strong. Next, the blooms appear, and the fruit emerges. The moment of expectation arrives taking the first bite of the first tomato of the season. Or in spring, the delicious green peas that pop right out of the pod. I eat them right off the vine. They rarely make it inside.

These treats make all the work worthwhile. It is best to remember gardening is addictive. It usually begins with a few annuals in a little bed. Then before you know it, you are thinking about taking out some of the grass you don’t like to mow anyway and planting perennial beds of plants to attract butterflies.

Next, benches and a water feature you build yourself become topics of conversation with like-minded neighbors. Your dreams will be overrun with vines, fruit trees, and delicious veggies – all yet to be planted.

Joys of City Gardening

The garden is where I go to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. I have several benches around the garden so I can enjoy the view from different perspectives. I try to introduce as many animals as I can into my garden, such as frogs, toads, and garter snakes. These underrated animals eat garden pests and reduce the need for pest control measures. Hummingbird feeders, regular bird feeders, a birdbath, and a small water feature bring sound, color, and an ever-changing panorama of activity to my garden.

My backyard garden is an extension of my home and a reflection of my life. I walk out onto the deck and down into the garden and the stress of the day washes off me as I watch butterflies dancing in the early evening. Sipping a cup of tea and watching the garden awaken with the rising sun is a life-altering moment. I walk most mornings and evenings in the garden looking for the subtle changes of the day.

I prefer the no-till method of gardening. I have raised beds that I plant intensively and continually throughout the year. I plant, mulch the weeds, pick off the occasional bug, and harvest. I am constantly reading about new ways to grow more food in less space.

I have season extenders, such as cold frames, and I make little plastic tents to save my squash and tomatoes from light frosts in mid-fall. Having fresh off the vine tomatoes and squash in November is a real treat. If the night temperatures drop too low, place plastic milk jugs that you have painted black and allow them to sit in the sun all day or pour very hot water into them. Then place them in your tented tomato or squash greenhouses and bury in the thick mulch. They will help keep the temperature warm enough to prevent frost damage. Cover with a blanket over the plastic on truly cold, windy nights. Success varies with the drop in temperature, but experimenting is half the adventure.

Filling the garden with herbs, ornaments, and little fairies adds to the pleasure of being in the garden. I love to plant new varieties and explore gardening with new heirloom seeds. Saving the seeds and sharing them with friends helps expand bio-diversity. Saving seeds each year also greatly reduces the cost of gardening. Learning to grow your own transplants from seeds brings a great deal of satisfaction as well.

Gardening brings me peace and a tangible connection to our Mother Earth. Growing fresh food for my family to eat is very satisfying, knowing that I am providing for them the best that I can. Filling the larder with pints and quarts of canned vegetables for the winter is a way of expressing my love for them. My advice to you is go out and dig in the dirt – even if it’s a modest city garden.

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