You don’t need to have acres of tillable land to grow a bumper crop of vegetables. FFA members at Green Street Academy in Baltimore, Md., produce food on a campus surrounded by row houses, convenience stores and busy intersections. Agriscience teacher and FFA advisor Cole Bishop offers four tips for growing a successful urban garden.
1. Pick the right site. In the absence of a farm field, build raised beds in vacant lots or parking lots. Rooftops are also ideal urban sites, but Bishop warns, “You’ll need to pick plants that love sun or put up a shade cloth because it gets hot up there.”
2. Go vertical. Green Street Academy grows tomatoes, lettuce and herbs in hanging baskets to maximize every square foot of its urban garden.
3. Think big. It might be tempting to stick with small crops like tomatoes and peppers, but with good soil and sunlight, even corn will grow in urban areas. “Not every plant is going to work in every environment, but don’t be afraid to try,” Bishop says.
4. Spread the word. Urban agriculture is getting more popular, but Bishop believes it’s important to share information about garden projects on social media. “The more food growing in cities, the better, and you could help inspire others to start urban gardens,” he explains.
An urban garden can also make for a great supervised agricultural experience (SAE). Find SAE inspiration at FFA.org/SAEVideos.