City Gardening: How Do You Deal With the Mess?

One of the biggest difficulties of city gardening is the mess of getting started. When you're gardening in pots and containers you need to fill them up, turn the earth, water it and plant seeds or small seedlings. This is hard work, and messy. How do you get those unwieldy bags of potting soil home? What about your three-story walkup?

Here are a few tips for the logistics of city gardening. We have muddied our kitchen floor a few times, playing in the dirt, and it's always worth it in the end. But there are a few things that can help you keep the process manageable - even in a small apartment.

Buy smaller bags of dirt - Obvious, yes, but sometimes we get carried away at the garden center and forget that we are going to have to sling those giant bags of dirt around all by ourselves at home.

Take a friend - Go in with a friend on all your container gardening shopping; you can split things that you don't need, and you can keep each other from getting too excited by all the plants you could grow! Sometimes it helps to have a reality check when confronted by eight kinds of tomatoes and five kinds of lavender.

Have a party in the park - Meet up with other friends and a few bags of potting soil in the park or a green public space. You can fill pots and trade plants there, leaving any extra soil behind where it won't be a mess. You'll need a cab and a lot of help to get home, though; those filled pots can be heavy! This works best with small pots of herbs and other houseplants.

Use your bathtub - The tub is the most contained spot in the house for dumping soil, filling pots, and washing them down. Yes, you'll have to clean the tub afterwards (and make sure that no gravel or thick chunks go down the drain) but if you have no outside spot to garden, then this is the best. It keeps all that wonderful yet messy dirt well contained.

Start and end on the same day - One of the best tips we have for keeping gardening manageable is to buy dirt, plants and seeds - and get them all set up right away. The longer that our gardening stuff sits around, the less likely we are to do actually use it. It also takes up a lot of space in a small city apartment. Make your plans so you can buy dirt, fill pots, start seeds, transplant herbs and get everything done that you can in just one day.

What other tips do you have for handling the logistics of gardening in the city?

(Image: Faith Hopler and Carrie M. Burke)

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Gardening, Healthy Living

Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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