City gardeners have problems no farmer in the country faces. Can you relate?
When you begin to garden in the city, the future is as ripe as the tomatoes you expect to harvest. But if a squirrel steals your first fruit or a neighbor complains, growing your own suddenly doesn’t seem like so much fun. Take heart—urban gardening nuisances are shared among friends of the soil.
1. Rules & Regulations
Most gardeners would rather pull weeds than comb through zoning regulations, but the rules where and how large you can plant your garden vary from city to city, and even among different sections of the same city. "Zoning and regulations for chickens and gardens vary by suburb in our city which can be confusing,” says Shawn Fiegelist of City Folk’s Farm Shop, a homesteading supply store in Columbus, Ohio. "The number of people who are interested in raising food on their property is growing, and some neighborhoods and townships are having a difficult time keeping up with the interest in requests for information and permitting.”
Solution: Plan Ahead
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Save yourself future trouble, and do your homework before planting your garden, Fiegelist advises. Talk with your local government or neighborhood association to find which rules apply to you, and even consult experienced local gardeners about how they’ve handled zoning restrictions.
"We like to connect newbies to more experienced homesteaders who are always ready to lend a hand,” Fiegelist says.
2. Poor Soil
Dense urban areas often lack "black gold,” the rich loamy soil of a gardener’s dreams. But the dirt in your backyard might be worse than clay—it could be contaminated with building materials and toxins. Lead is a particular problem, especially in neighborhoods with an industrial history.
Solutions: Test Your Soil and Build Raised Beds
An easy and inexpensive to find out if your soil is contaminated is to test your soil. If your state cooperative extension agency doesn’t already offer this service, they should be able to provide you with a list of local soil-quality labs. For a small fee, the labs can analyze the level of potential toxins in a soil sample, as well as the nutrient balance so you’ll know what amendments you need for optimum vegetable growth.
Another option is to build a raised bed and fill it with a custom soil mix so you know exactly what you’re growing in.