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Small space gardens
University of Minnesota's Extension website for a wealth of gardening info: extension.umn.edu
List of available open areas to start a community garden and existing gardens in Minneapolis: minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/homegrown/WCMS1P-129871

By Vetris Pate

I have never let living in an apartment stop me from gardening, and you shouldn't either. I want you to know - city dweller or owner of a tiny yard - that you, too, can create an oasis filled with colorful blooms, sweet scents and tasty edibles. No matter your experience, get digging and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Are you ready?

The first step: Be realistic with yourself and what you have, i.e. light and placement options. I know that I tend to overwater so I stay clear of succulents. I have a sun-filled south-facing window, so I line the windowsill and the area below with a dozen containers of herbs, tropicals and vines. If you are known to underwater, try an aloe (that I would eventually oversaturate).

Do you have full sun, part sun, or shade? These questions are essential in choosing what to plant. If you have the time and desire to weed, deadhead, and amend soil, sow directly in the ground. If not, containers or a raised bed are better options.

Are you limited to a windowsill and want more? Why not ask your landlord if you can set a few containers outside?

If you only have a balcony or a window ledge, containers are a great choice. Is that window ledge in the shade? Try ferns and shade-loving annuals like begonias and coleus. If you have a sunny window ledge or balcony, those pots will support plenty of flowering annuals and edibles like herbs and lettuce.

Community gardens are also an excellent resource and they are everywhere.

The second step: Know the habits of the plants you decide on, and what will grow in your soil conditions. I've learned that mint takes over an area fast and that you must tie up or cage tomatoes. Vegetables and herbs do well in containers and require full sun and plenty of water. Annual flowering plants thrive in pots. Perennials generally need to be planted directly into the ground - if you are thinking of Clematis to grow on a trellis, it needs to be planted in the ground.

If you have a tiny yard, the options are endless for sun-loving and shade-loving perennials. If your soil is clay based, daylilies are a safe bet, or try Liatris and Echinacea to attract butterflies. Otherwise you will need to amend the soil, i.e. add compost, as you plant for optimal growth and survival of perennials. A good practice is to always add compost regardless of the quality or type of soil. If you have consistently moist and poorly drained soil in your yard, try Joe Pye, turtlehead and Filipendula. A raised bed can support most perennials, annuals and edibles, and rather than amending soil you are filling your bed with the best quality compost mixture.

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The third step: Get dirty.

Don't be deterred if you are fearful of killing your plants. Know that even green thumbs experience loss, and you can't always control nature or naughty cats knocking over your pots in the windowsill! Have fun!

Vetris Pate is a lead gardener at Home Sown Gardens. homesowngardens.com

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