How to Grow Vegetables in Urban Areas


City dwellers are keen to grow their own vegetables but have limited space available, often only a balcony or rooftop. Fortunately, you can grow many vegetables in containers, even in small pots on a window sill. Tomatoes, peppers, green onions, beans, lettuce and radishes are just a few of the varieties suitable for container gardening. Visit your nearest garden center for recommendations on small vegetable varieties for your area and when to plant them; also purchase the seeds and supplies you’ll need to get started while you're there.

Step 1

Choose locations that get as much direct sunlight as possible and determine how many containers you will be able to plant with the space you have. Containers should be chosen to match the size of vegetable to be grown. Peppers and tomatoes will need 5-gallon pots, while onions and parsley will be fine in 6-inch containers. You can use a 1-gallon container for dwarf tomatoes. Make sure the containers have drainage holes and trays to catch the water that drains through. Drainage holes are best located on the sides of the pot within half an inch of the bottom.

Step 2

Mix a balanced, timed-release fertilizer with your soil-less mix at the rate of half a tablespoon for each gallon of potting soil. A balanced fertilizer is shown by numbers on the bag such as 10-10-10, which means it contains equal percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Step 3

Use the trowel to fill your containers with soil-less potting mix to within an inch of the top. Soil-less mix is sterile and therefore free of disease and weed seeds. It will also provide excellent drainage for your vegetables.

Step 4

Plant your seeds at the correct depth according to the seed package directions. Use a separate container for each type of vegetable. If you have large containers, you might be able to grow several smaller plants like green onions together in the same pot. Refer to the spacing information on the seed packet for how much room to allow between plants. For outdoor planting on balconies or rooftops, find out the correct planting dates when purchasing seeds at the garden center or by contacting your local county extension office.

Step 5

Water your plants once a day to keep the soil moist, but do not over-water. Saturated soil can starve the roots of oxygen and kill the plants. Also, be considerate of your neighbors below when watering plants on a balcony.

Step 6

Fertilize your plants with an organic liquid formula when the plants start to grow. Follow the label directions closely and apply every two weeks right through until harvest.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden trowel Planting containers Soil-less potting mix Vegetable seeds Water Fertilizer


  • Texas A&M University Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • Ohio State University Extension: Container Vegetable Gardening
Keywords: urban vegetable growing, urban vegetable gardening, urban vegetable planting, city vegetable garden

About this Author

Based in Surrey, British Columbia, Stephen Oakley is a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues, travel and all things outdoors. His background includes many years spent working in the Canadian wilderness and traveling worldwide.