Urban Gardens: Where It's Always Cool to Be Green

Urbio Vertical Garden System

People want to feel they are doing something good for themselves, their community, and the world.

Robin Horton, Urban Gardens

Robin Horton

It's amazing what can grow out of a little ingenuity and creative energy. Just ask Robin Horton, a designer, writer and the creator of Urban Gardens – a stylish site devoted to sharing her love affair with city life, design, and nature with urban dwellers. On a given day on Urban Gardens you'll find ultra-modern compost planters, sleek hydroponic vertical gardens, surprising outdoor fire pits, creative containers for growing things in tight spaces, and an amazing rooftop urban farm in Manhattan. 

We caught up with Robin to find out garden trends she's excited about now, what her all-time most popular posts have been – and the garden products she's coveting this season.

What are some of your favorite garden trends right now?

1. Small Space Gardens Urban Gardens explores designs that extend and blend the boundaries of indoor and outdoor spaces. More and more people are gravitating to city living, where they may have limited living space. By 2050, the proportion of people living in cities will increase to 7 out of 10. Small space gardens can become outdoor rooms that function as additional living space. To optimize the use of these small spaces, people are looking for creative designs that can serve multiple purposes - so these outdoor spaces can be at once a garden and a living/dining room, and in some cases, even office space.

2. Food Gardens People are installing creative vegetable gardens adapted to their small spaces. Edible gardens can be both practical and beautiful.

3. Urban Farming Even in small spaces, people are raising chickens and bees, and in some cities, goats. Lawn reform has opened up many front yards to small urban farms.

4. Thinking Outside the Planter Box Repurposing materials and adapting them to new uses like turning an old wheelbarrow or suitcase into a planter, even a bra (yes!) into a vertical garden. I did a contest that showcases some great ideas.

5. “Urban Knights" According the Garden Media Group, this is a growing number of city dwellers cultivating gardens in under-used and other available limited spaces-rooftops, balconies, alleys (as in Baltimore), abandoned buildings, and even in potholes!

6. Gardens for the Rest of Us Easy to care for plants that breed success. We don’t all have to be super experienced gardeners to have gardens. Novices can plant roses like Conard-Pyle’s Knock-Out roses which are easy to grow and maintain.

7. Sustainable Gardens Composting, rain barrels, using less water, greener/organic and chemical-free products…

8. Vertical Gardens Growing vertically is still “on the rise.”

9. Miniature and Fairy Gardens Tiny gardens like dollhouses complete with miniature structures and plants.

10. Terrariums! Either ready made or DIY versions for tabletop or suspended from ceiling.

11. Kitchen Gardens Using vertical pocket systems, containers, and window boxes, small gardens from which fresh veggies and herbs can be plucked and used immediately while cooking.

12. Multipurpose Furniture and Products Lights that function as planters, illuminated seating, rain barrels that also provide seating.

For people new to your site, what are your all-time most popular posts or sections? One of the most popular posts, about a tiered raised bed garden system, was also one of the most controversial and received many comments both in support of and against the design. I think this sort of dialogue is important and welcome it. Among the other popular posts was one about the Urbio modular vertical garden system and the MiniGarden distributed by Earthbox; a story about seed bombs; one about how to grow a living house; and one about NYC busses with green roofs.

Minigarden Kitchen

What was your breakout post or series of posts that put you on the map?
I’m not sure if there was one particular breakout post, but certainly the Webby nomination drove loads of traffic to the site. Urban Gardens was in good company—we were one of five nominated in the Lifestyle category including Epicurious.com, Mother Nature Network, Yahoo! Shine, and Cornell Ornithology Lab. 

You're a principal in your own communications design firm. Any advice for marketers looking to work with site creators like you? As with any endeavor, it’s essential to know one’s objective as well as whom one is trying to reach and influence. Social media is about developing relationships and trust, which involves a lot of good listening. Marketers who do a good job of monitoring the conversation in their industries will gain understanding of their customer’s needs and be better prepared to respond with what they want. It’s like a built-in focus group.

In the same way, serious content publishers should be interested, as I am, in developing ongoing relationships with marketers rather than one-off engagements. I have worked hard to grow my readership and build their trust and want to bring them the best content possible. If marketers can work with me in that effort, then it’s a win-win for all of us.

And you host Blog Workshops … What's your best advice for writers looking to take their site to the next level? It depends what one means by "next level." For some, that may mean monetizing, and for others it may mean becoming known in order to attract book publishers or establish speaking engagements. It goes back to knowing your goal for the blog. If you blog about something you are passionate about and are serious about developing a loyal following, the next level will almost develop itself. I don’t believe there are any magic formulas. I have never followed any rules and have really grown the site organically—partly because when I started I didn’t know what I was doing and kind of stumbled along learning as I moved forward. Urban Gardens has developed like a living thing—it has transformed itself over time in response to new things I have encountered. I have so many ideas that I’d love to develop outside of the blog, I now look at it more as a brand than just a blog.

Where do you go online for gardening inspiration or eyecandy? Who are your soulmates in gardening? I find inspiration in a lot of places. I love searching Google Images for inspiration as one image will spark an idea that will develop into something completely different. I love Apartment Therapy, 3rings, Freshome, plusMood, Dezeen, Remodelista and their new garden site, Gardenista. There are so many great sites out there, many of which are on my blogroll.

Best Urban Gardens

Any favorite gardening products you're coveting right now? 
Oh, in my never-ending scouting, I have come across so many fantastic things. I would love the Zen outdoor fireplace by AK47 for my patio, which I would place in the center of four great new chairs I just purchased from Target (which look much more expensive than they were!). I also lust for Fatboy’s Rockcoco outdoor chandelier to hang over the table in my small covered outdoor dining area.

Follow Robin on Twitter @urbangardens on Facebook and on Pinterest.

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