Are you looking to start an urban garden this spring and not sure where to start? I hear you on that. That's exactly where I was back in the spring of 2009 when I first started urban gardening. I'm now a successful urban gardener in Los Angeles, and I'll help you to grow your own food.

At the time, I was living in one of the least garden friendly environments in the world — New York City. I barely had enough room for my bed, let alone a garden. After spending weeks researching and not coming up with anything at the library that spoke to me and my needs, I decided to just get started and figure it out.

I want to share what I've learned with you. This isn't a magical formula that is going to allow you to grow 25 pounds of tomatoes or 300 cucumbers. It's practical advice that will help you to utilize and maximize your limited space (not everyone is privileged enough to have flat roofing or a yard. Don't worry! You'll still be able to grow food in the city.)

Pick a location for your urban garden

There are plenty of options in and around your apartment for you to have your garden. You just need to be creative with the space. Some options include:

  • Fire escape
  • Balcony
  • Deck
  • Windowsill
  • In closets
  • Unused bookshelves
  • Patio
  • Railings
Determine amount of sunlight that hits your urban garden spot

This is a critical and often overlooked step that will help to ensure your success. It's important to understand what is sun and what is shade when it comes to gardening.

For whatever reason when people talk about starting a garden, they immediately think about tomatoes. In order to grow most varieties of tomatoes, you'll need at least eight hours of direct sunlight. Most urban gardens are shaded not only by trees and nature, but by other things as well such as awnings, fences and other buildings.

If you get only three hours of sunlight, you'll have to grow what does well in three hours of sunlight.

Questions to ask before planting an urban garden

Now that you have the space decided and figured out how much sunlight it gets, you'll want to figure out what to grow. You'll want to ask yourself a few questions such as:

  • What do you eat most?
  • What makes the most financial sense?
Buy seeds for your urban garden

There are a lot of seed companies out there. It's hard to know the difference between all of them. You want to support a company that shares the same values as you do.

The next steps are choosing containers for your urban garden, starting seeds and planting the seeds. I'll cover these in future posts. Check back, and ask me any questions you have in the comments. In my next post, I'll walk you through building a self-watering container system.

Mike Lieberman is the publisher of This article was reprinted with permission and originally appeared here on

Photos: Lieberman in Los Angeles/Networx; thumbnail photo: dogeared/Flickr

Step-by-step guide to starting an urban garden
Here is practical advice that will help you to utilize and maximize your limited space for an urban garden.