New Leaf New York: From Pharma to Farm

Apartment gardening

A lot of New Yorkers scoff that they can’t possibly garden in the city. If you barely have enough space to cook, how can you have room to grow the ingredients? Well, doubting Thomases, not only is it possible, but there are several ways to go about it, depending on how dedicated and creative you’re willing to get.

Container gardening. Do you have a window that gets direct sunlight for at least some of the day? You’re in luck. You can plant individual containers of herbs, flowers or vegetables and maintain them on a windowsill or nearby table. Careful attention and knowledge of the varieties you choose will help to ensure your containers go on producing bundles of mint, basil, cucumbers or zinnias for months. In our apartment, we have two Kentucky Colonel mint plants that just won’t stop growing, which is great for filling our self-imposed mint julep quota! Companion planting, based on the idea that certain plants can benefit one another when planted closely to one another, is a great way to maximize your output in a small space. If your landlord will allow it, you can also consider building or buying window boxes as well.

Vertical gardening. Vertical gardening is designed to grow vegetables and other foods more efficiently and with greater food value than in agricultural field conditions. Though this method of gardening is growing in popularity on a large scale (high density vertical gardening, or HDVG), it’s easily adaptable to a small scale — a perfect fit for a rooftop, balcony, fire escape, or even a small backyard plot, if you’re fortunate enough to have access to one! If you’re searching for vertical inspiration, go on a free tour of the Science Barge, a project of New York Sun Works now in its second season that grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and many more vegetables and herbs in densely packed vertical plots, nourished with recycled rainwater and powered by wind and sun.

Community gardens. Lucky for us, New York is teeming with neighborhood community gardens with plots available for residents to plant, tend and reap the benefits in the form of produce as well as community-building. If you’ve seen one around your ‘hood that you want to learn more about, there’s usually a contact person mentioned on the sign whom you can get in touch with to get involved. If you can’t seem to connect with anyone, try contacting Joanne Morse at the Trust for Public Land (, or get involved with Green Guerillas, a nonprofit that helps out the city’s grassroots community garden groups.

Any other bright ideas for gardening in a small space? Add yours in the comments below.


6 Comments so far
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If you’re looking for some info on vertical gardening without leaving the room just yet, you and your readers may be interested to find out the New York Academy of Sciences just did a Podcast all about the Science Barge. You can hear from a couple of the staff there and get a taste of what you’ll see and hear about on the tour.
You can listen to the podcast here.

Comment by Michael Stoll

Thanks, Michael! I can’t wait to have a listen.

Comment by Meredith

Great blog, btw!

Have you read a book called “You Grow Girl!”? It is all about urban gardening and container planting, and it is very hip. I think she might have a website too.

Comment by Iain

This is the first I’ve heard of vertical gardening – so cool! My roommate and I have herb planters that sit on our fire escape – just two long, narrow planters that are now teeming with mint, basil, rosemary, cilantro, and more. I’m not lying when I say it’s super easy, and super delicious.

Comment by badenbaden

Iain, I haven’t read it, but now I’d definitely like to!

badenbaden, I highly recommend a weekend visit to the Science Barge to see it in action, if you get a chance.

Comment by Meredith

Hi, I’ve developed, and am just starting to market a new type of vertical aeroponic garden called AeroFalls. They work amazingly well, grow a pretty good range of plants, and put a lot of garden in a tiny space at a low price. This is an entrepreneur thing, not a mega-corp, so I’m working to get the word out.

Comment by Mark Waterbury

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