What is a City Farmer?

Amy Hunter

The growing interest in fresh, locally grown food has led to an increase in the number of people that plant their own garden. Gardening is not limited to those that live in rural areas. There are a growing number of city farmers, or people who grow vegetables in small gardens within city limits. While urban gardening presents particular challenges it is not impossible.

City farmers do not have access to the land used in traditional, large-scale farming.
City farmers do not have access to the land used in traditional, large-scale farming.

The biggest challenge facing the city farmer is a lack of room. While traditional row gardening does require plenty of room, the savvy city gardener can work around this in a number of ways. Perhaps the most important thing for a city farmer to consider is what he really wants to grow. While the rural gardener can experiment with a variety of vegetables and grow a wide selection of plants, the city gardener must consider carefully which vegetables he really wants to grow.

City farmers grow vegetables that are best suited to small plots of land.
City farmers grow vegetables that are best suited to small plots of land.

Some vegetables are better suited for small plots than others. Tomatoes and peppers grow relatively upright and bushy, so they take up little room. Sprawling plants, such as cucumbers and pumpkins, do take up a great deal of room, but are also very prolific. Corn, on the other hand, takes up a great deal of room and is not a particularly high yielding plants. The city farmer may be better served to purchase corn from the local farmers' market.

A city farmer needs to keep their garden free of weeds.
A city farmer needs to keep their garden free of weeds.

City farmers may want to invest some time in improving the quality of the soil in their garden. If the soil is nutrient-rich, vegetable plants can be planted closer together than in a traditional garden. Not only does this increase the number of plants that you can put in a city garden, but it also creates an attractive landscape.

City farmers may focus on crops that can be sold at a local market.
City farmers may focus on crops that can be sold at a local market.

Many city farmers improve their soil quality by purchasing such soil amendments as mushroom compost or peat moss. While this is an effective way to improve the quality of the soil, there are some low-cost options as well. If you have close neighbors, you may not be comfortable building a compost bin, but there are a variety of covered compost solutions that allow you to create compost with no smell or mess.

Composting is a green solution, as not only does it reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, but it also helps to reduce the amount of trash that goes to the landfill. You can compost a wide variety of household scraps. Coffee grounds, including the filter, used tea bags, eggshells, vegetable scraps, grass clippings and leaves are all wonderful additions to a compost bin.

The amount of time that it takes to create compost depends on a number of factors, including the size of the bin, how frequently it is turned and how wet it is. Generally, compost is ready for use in about four months. You can tell when it is ready because it will look like black dirt. There will not be any recognizable scraps in the compost.

Adding compost to your garden improves the soil quality, which improves the yield. Rich, fertile soil that is kept free of weeds is the best way for a city farmer to have a generous yield from his garden. Gardening on a small plot allows you to reap the rewards of homegrown vegetables without the intensive labor that a larger, rural lot requires.

Handful of peat moss, which city farmers often use to improve soil quality.
Handful of peat moss, which city farmers often use to improve soil quality.

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