Starting an Urban Garden: First Things First

Urban_Garden_Street_Box1) Consider the quality of your soil.
2) Determine what side of your house your green space is on (Ex: North, South, etc.).
3) Determine how many hours of sun the area you want to plant will get.

Soil Testing
I recently read a story about an urban gardener in Brooklyn, NY who tested the soil of his established vegetable garden and discovered that it contained 90 times the recommended level of lead in it.  The lesson here… if you are planning to have vegetables in your garden, you should test your soil OR grow them in containers with new soil.  I currently have herbs and vegetables in my window boxes.  Having your soil tested is easy -just take a section of dirt and mail it to a testing facility for evaluation.

Recommended Mid-Atlantic soil testing facility:
A&L Eastern Agricultural Laboratories, Inc.
7621 Whitepine Rd.
Richmond, Virginia 23237

Here is a link to the A&L Eastern Agriculture Laboratory site where they explain how to take a soil sample:

What direction does your house face?
Many people have never considered what direction their house faces, but it is important to know when gardening.  So, when you step out the front door, what direction are you facing?  If you do not know, pay attention to where the sun comes up in the morning –that is east.

The best side of the home to plant a garden (if you have the option) is the south or west side.  That is not to say that you cannot have a garden on the east side, but a vegetable garden will be difficult.  Therefore, if you live in a row home that is attached on both sides and the sun never directly shines in your window, a shade garden may be your best option.

How much and when will your planted area get full sun? Urban_Garden_Walkway
You will save a lot of time and energy if you just spend one day examining exactly how much sun your prospective garden will get.  Whether it is a window box or a yard, it makes a big difference.  Set an arbitrary object in the area and see exactly how long and when the sun shines upon it.  Then you will be fully armed and ready to pick your plants.  Look at the tags on the plants for sale or ask the seller what works best where.  Don’t be intimidated by plants that require “full sun” as this does not mean that it must have sun all day, but 5hrs of sun with 3hrs of afternoon sun will work just fine.

Where to buy plants in downtown Baltimore:

•    Local Farmers Markets – For a link to Baltimore City Farmers Markets, CLICK HERE.

•    Baltimore Contained: Gardens For The City – Flowers and vegetables as well as gardening tools & materials in Canton.

•    The Dutch Connection – Plants and decorative containers at Belvedere Square and Harbor East.

•    Green Fields Nursery & Landscaping Company – Full service garden center at Falls Road & Northern Parkway.

•    Mill Valley General Store – Herbs, vegetables, gardening tools and more at the 29th street exit off 83 in Remington.

•    Whole Foods – Carries seasonable herbs, vegetable plants, and insecticides.


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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Greetings, Could you possibly provide me with the number to go about getting my soil tested for lead? I live in Baltimore city

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