How To Grow Your Own Veggies In The Inner City

July 30th, 2020 - by Brad Gillespie

COVID-19 has seen many of us embracing a slower pace of life.

Gardening and growing your own food is great for giving perspective, easing stress and instilling hope. The good news is that vegetables can be grown just about anywhere, and spring is the ideal time to get planting.

What Should I Grow?

Start with a list of the veggies that you and your family enjoy and eat often. Consider choosing veggies that are expensive or hard to find at the shops, like herbs and cherry or heirloom tomatoes. Cut-and-come-again crops like loose-leaf lettuce varieties are also useful.

How Much Space Do You Have?

If you don’t have a backyard acreage, don’t worry. There are plenty of veggies that do well in small spaces. Any climbing vegetable that makes use of vertical space, such as peas and beans, is a good choice. Radishes, spring onions, rocket and beetroot don’t need a lot of space to thrive. Dwarf crops are also a great alternative for urban gardens.

In fact, you don’t need a garden at all. Veggies can flourish in pots on your balcony or in your courtyard. Pots are great for renters too because you can take them with you when you move. Herbs are an ideal choice for pots, and you can also get great results with tomatoes, eggplants, chillies and capsicum. Leafy greens such as spinach, silverbeet, Chinese cabbage, lettuce and bok choy do well in pots too. If you fancy growing zucchini or squash, make sure your containers are at least 40cm deep.

How to Choose the Right Veg for a Shaded Garden

The backyards and courtyards of Sydney’s inner-city terrace houses and worker’s cottages are often partially shaded or receive dappled light. If this sounds like your garden, the trick is to choose veggies that are harvested for their leaves, stems or roots, as these do well in part shade. Spring onions and leafy greens like rainbow chard, perpetual spinach and silverbeet are good choices for shady gardens. Root vegetables such as potatoes and beetroots also do well without a lot of light.

Be careful not to overwater your shady garden. Because they don’t receive much sunlight, the plants are less likely to dry out and too much water can lead to fungal problems.

What to Plant Right Now in Inner City Sydney

Plant these veggies in early spring to enjoy a summer harvest.

Cruciferous vegetables:

  • Broccoli (green sprouting)
  • Cauliflower
  • Mizuna
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Rocket
  • Radish
  • Mustard greens

Leafy greens:

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce oakleaf
  • Endive


  • Peas
  • Broad beans
  • Sugar snap peas

Carrot family:

  • Carrots
  • Celery

Onion family:

  • Onions
  • Leek

How to Create a Veggie Garden in Pots

Buy two or three large pots - about 60cm across the top is ideal. Use the best potting mix you can find, rather than garden soil, which may not drain as well, and put the pots in the sunniest and most wind-sheltered spot you have. Pots can dry out quickly in summer or windy weather. A simple soil moisture meter can help you keep track of how much and how often you should be watering them. Pots will also need to be fertilised more often than garden beds.

Growing Veg in Garden Beds

Given inner city Sydney’s industrial past, it’s a good idea to get your backyard soil tested before you start planting. Metal contaminants can remain in soil for hundreds of years and may lead to adverse health effects. Getting your soil tested is easy. Send a sample to Macquarie University’s VegeSafe soil metal testing program. They’ll evaluate your sample and send you a formal report, including information about what to do if your results show elevated concentrations of metal.

Once your soil is sorted, add compost and manure to your garden bed to raise the soil level. This improves drainage and provides nutrients.

No-Dig Gardens

Another option for inner-city gardeners is a no-dig garden. A no-dig garden is made by laying newspapers, hay, fertiliser and compost until you’ve created a raised garden bed. When the organic matter rots, you’re left with nutrient-rich soil. This system works well in pots and containers as well as yards and offers an alternative to potentially contaminated soil.

Tips for All Veggie Gardens

  • Planting seedlings, rather than seeds, will give you a head start. The exceptions are peas, beans and root vegetables. They don’t respond well to being moved, so sow them from seed.
  • It may sound obvious, but consistent, regular watering is essential. Not too much and not too little.
  • As your plants start to produce veggies, it’s a good idea to give them a dose of liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.
  • Nutrients leach out of soil over time. Topping up with compost when you replant is a good idea for any garden type to keep soil and nutrient levels high.

Community Gardens

If all else fails, you can always turn to community gardens. Get your hands dirty at the urban farm at Camperdown Commons, or just pick up some of their chemical-free produce. Angel Street Permaculture Food Forest in Newtown has been going strong since 1991 and features established fruit trees and ever-changing communal vegetable beds. Or, you can volunteer at Sydney City Farm in St Peters, where the focus is on agricultural crops and all food grown is donated to OzHarvest. More inner-city Sydney community gardens can be found here. Remember to check with each garden for opening hours and rules of operation under COVID-19.

Contact our team today to find out more about why Sydney’s inner city is a great place to live and buy real estate.