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How to start an urban garden with Niche Urban Garden Supply

Posted by Melissa Massello  June 27, 2013 10:00 AM

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niche-garden1.jpg A new local business has sprouted on Tremont Street in the South End. Lindsey Swett opened Niche Urban Garden Supply a few months ago, and it is quickly becoming the go-to resource for horiculturists in the 'hood. A landscape architect by trade, Lindsey offered up 5 steps for starting an urban garden, whether you're naturally green-thumbed or not.

Step One: Place & Space.
Before getting into the specifics of planting, one thing to consider is how you'd like to use your slice of the outdoors. If you are starting from scratch, some things to keep in mind are whether you want to put down pavers and start with a container garden or leave some space for a planting bed. 

Containers can be good for keeping plants away from pets (I’m speaking from personal experience here. If you have a dog, they might be a good idea.), and they allow for versatility. Planting beds are great for fuller plantings that are intended to become more established. A good baseline for bed size is a minimum of two feet deep, other wise you end up with a straight row of plants, which can lack interest. 

Step Two: Light.
Take note of how much light your space gets. Four to six hours is the breaking point for full sun. At the shop, we find that many customers have either full shade or extreme sun. There are a variety of annuals and perennials that will work in those situations, so either way, no worries! You can experiment with some really interesting plants in both environments, from woodland-esque mossy gardens to sedums and cacti on the roof. 

Step Three: Soils.
For in-ground planting, a mix of topsoil and compost with some slow release fertilizer is a great place to start. If you have inherited a garden, and it looks less than loved, it might be a good idea to add these things. Soil, for lack of a better description, should feel like crumbly chocolate cake. If yours is parched and crusty, add 4-6 inches of topsoil/compost mix, or better yet, turning over your soil with a shovel and mix in topsoil/compost. 

For containers, choose pots that have a drainage hole in the bottom, or make your own with  hammer and nail or a drill,  if you're up to it. This will save you a big headache after rainy days. Potting soil mixes come readily available and are commonly a soil and peat moss mix. The peat helps to retail moisture and is lighter than soil. 

Step Five: Planting.
The fun part! Once the above conditions are sorted out, you can feel confident entering the garden center. If you feel a little iffy, just ask for help. People who work at garden centers LOVE to talk about plants. Choosing can be tricky, but to be honest, even “pros” make mistakes. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, sometimes it does!  The amount of light a plant receives is one of the biggest factors.

Some basic tips on choosing plants:
• Most annuals like sun. If it says full sun, it will produce the most flowers in 5+ hours of sun.
• Coleus is a great shade annual for those with less rays, as are shade begonias.
• For easy shade perennials: ferns and hostas.
• Full sun perennials include sedums and yucca.

There is a huge range in between. Feel free to experiment. If you feel like making a trip to the South End, the Niche staff really does LOVE to talk about plants and will help you with any questions you may have! 

Thanks, Lindsey!

Niche Urban Garden Supply is located at 619 Tremont Street, South End.


This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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