After out chat with Tamara, we’ve been itching to get going on an urban garden ourselves. Luckily enough we’ve been able to meet another Plantparken gardener, Will, who’s lent us a stretch of his plot and is showing us how to get started.
Will’s a transplanted Aussie who lives here in Malmö. Along with the plot at Plantparken he has 2 other urban gardens as well as part owns a vineyard.
Despite the credentials Will’s still getting comfortable with the gardener title.
“Gardener? Yeah for sure. Well, maybe I’m a bit of a cowboy. Is there a category for cowboy gardener? In all honesty, I just get a kick out of growing things for home and sharing with friends.”
Will’s been growing here at Plantparken for the last couple of seasons, and the former industrial environment has given him a knack for growing in difficult conditions.
“In my opinion you can plant anywhere, you just have to pick your plants wisely. I’ve got plots that are sunny, rainy, shady, windy — it’s all about what you put in. If I’m in a windy spot with good soil, root veggies can be really hardy, if it’s shady and protected I might be going with lemon balm or thyme.”
His advice for finding an urban gardening location all comes down to observing the environment.
“The first thing I look at is the aspect. Is it sunny? Shady? What’s the soil like? Then I check out the neighbourhood. Sometimes people take things, so I keep my gardens really simple if I’m not there so often. Or I try to plant in an established place like this.”
The garden section that Will’s lent us hasn’t been used for a while, but we’ve pulled out the grass and given it a rake to flatten it out.
“Gardener? Yeah for sure. Well, maybe I’m a bit of a cowboy. Is there a category for cowboy gardener?”
Will, Urban Gardening Enthusiast
The first task is preparing a place to plant.
“Often when you’re planting in an urban environment the soil isn’t really suitable.” Will says. “There might be leftover rubbish or pollution too. The easiest thing you can do is use boxes to raise your growing place above the ground, and use soil that’s either store bought, prepared from an uncontaminated area, or even better a mix of the two.”
But first comes lining the boxes.
“It’s really important to line the boxes. Bin liners work, or you can buy plant box liners too. They’ll keep the soil, water and moisture in, and keep the weeds out. My method is just to use a stapler to fix them in place.”
Once the boxes are lined and filled with soil, there’s a few different ways to plant. If it’s still early in the season Will’s a big fan of using seeds, because that way the plants can become used to the environment from the beginning. Planting them is pretty straightforward.
“Read the instructions, but a general rule of thumb is one seed per hole about 2 to 3 centremetres deep. Then you want to just add some water to make a happy little micro environment and lightly feather over the hole with some soil. Give them a good water over and they’re good to start growing.”
Then wait a little.
“It might seem like not much is happening, but once they start going they’ll just pop out. This is where you can have a look again and pluck out a few if they’re too clumped together. Plants like squash, zucchini’s or pumpkins grow like mad, and if your box gets a bit full, you can always transplant them to a new spot or add them to a compost box.”
For those less patient, hardy whole plants like herbs work too.
“Herbs are so good because you can just start eating them from day one. They’re easy to plant too; just dig a hole and water the bottom, before teasing out the roots and putting your plants in.”
Will’s third planting method is to transplant existing plants from one spot to another. He explains this is one of his favourite ways because the plants are already used to the conditions, plus it’s a chance to share produce and have a chat with other gardeners.
“Actually one of the former gardeners here, planted a whole bunch of jerusalem artichokes, that’ve now spread out and become a bit wild. They’re really simple to transplant, you just dig them up around the bulb and replant in your box. Potatoes, shallots, garlic are also easy to transplant in the same way.”
Will’s last piece of planting advice is to enlist the help of some flying friends.
“Urban environments can be a bit short on bees so I like to pop in some flower seeds to attract them in and help pollinate the veggies — plus I reckon they look pretty nice too!”
“For me the garden is pure escapism. Somewhere I can just shift gears, slow down and reconnect with nature.”
Will, Urban Gardening Enthusiast
Thanks Will for lending us a space for our garden and teaching us how to plant it. We’re going to keep it going all summer, before checking in for a final episode to see how everything grew.
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