Urban Gardening for Dummies

Author: Paul Simon, Charlie Nardozzi, and the Editors of the National Gardening Association
Publisher: John Wylie & Sons
Book Publication: 2013

One sure sign of spring in my neighbourhood is the display of flowers, seed packets, seedlings, and other garden goodies in local shops. Neighbours eagerly buy as much as they can carry and spend hours in their little gardens with their new purchases, hoping to transform their winter-weary patch of dirt into a backyard oasis. Nearly everyone who has access to a garden wants to grow more than just grass and weeds, and many who don’t have access to a garden still manage to grow flowers, vegetables, or herbs in containers crowded onto balconies, fire escapes, and windowsills. Urban Gardening for Dummies will help those with limited space make the most of their little patches of earth.

This book has something for every novice gardener, including chapters devoted to apartment gardens, rooftop gardens, community gardens and urban farms, as well as a section on 10 kid-friendly ways to garden in the city. The book also covers some of the not-so-obvious potentials of urban gardening such as composting with worms, tips on moving plant containers, drip irrigation, and how to properly mow your grass.

Like other books in the popular Dummies series, this one has icons for highlighting certain parts. Examples include:

  • helpful tips, such as fertilizing roses with coffee (“Roses like dried coffee grounds … for the nitrogen. Add one cup of grounds around the drip line of the plant in spring and again one month later to give your roses a boost”);
  • “remember” points, such as taking into account the changing angle of sunlight as the year progresses;
  • warnings, such as what to avoid in terms of commercial plant containers. The book also features several sidebars which address subjects such as protecting young plants from frost (a realistic concern in most of southern Ontario until mid-May), and how to best harvest cut flowers from your garden.

Urban Gardening for Dummies also offers some fairly in-depth information. For example, the chapter on watering your garden addresses: conserving water, installing a rain barrel, utilizing grey water, and the different ways to water your garden.

The book was written in collaboration with Paul Simon, a nationally recognized landscape architect, public artist, horticulturist, master gardener, and urban designer. His co-collaborator was Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, and radio and television personality. Also on board are the Editors of the National Gardening Association (of America), so the book will have some clout.

Urban Gardening for Dummies has a number of black and white illustrations and diagrams, however there could certainly be more, especially for identifying common garden bugs, both good and bad. And flower fans will have to go elsewhere for colour images as this book doesn’t have any, which is a disappointment given the incredibly rich subject matter and the usefulness the pictures would serve. Seasoned urban gardeners will likely be left wanting more from the book as it doesn’t address the advanced aspects of gardening. And importantly for Torontonians, the book doesn’t offer any advice about dealing with raccoons and the mischief they can get up to in a garden.

That said, this book will give you the confidence to grow flowers, vegetables, and herbs in the smallest of spaces.


Victoria Moorshead is an editor and writer, and a former staff member of Vitality Magazine.

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