Bucket Gardening: Urban Farming for Beginners

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The anticipation of biting into homegrown produce is exciting. There is no feeling like waiting for crisp, crunchy cukes to ripen, the right-sized green tomatoes for frying, or little sweet grape tomatoes to eat right off the vine!

Increasing numbers of people are interested in growing their own food after experiencing food shortages at some grocery stores experienced during and post-pandemic. As a result, seed companies have been flooded with orders, and during the pandemic — companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds temporarily stopped taking orders.

Food costs continue to rise across the board as inflation in the United States grows. Increased consumer demand, climate change, labor shortages, and supply chain issues are contributing factors.

California, experiencing a megadrought, provides over 25 percent of America’s food supply. Droughts in Brazil and Argentina are driving up the costs of coffee, soybeans, and corn. Brazil is facing its worst drought in ninety-one years. Climate change events across the globe will continue to contribute to rising food costs in the future.

Growing food in urban areas like Chicago comes with its own unique set of challenges. The first thing that must be done before growing anything is always to have the soil tested.

Many areas in Chicago have high rates of lead and other contaminants in the soil. Do not take a gamble and get the soil tested. Soil tests kits are available online. Always assume the soil is contaminated until test results are back. If the test comes back high for contaminants, do not be discouraged — bucket gardening is the way to go.


Bucket gardening is straightforward and effective. A family can have an impressive harvest by utilizing food-grade buckets with self-made drainage holes, growing mediums, seeds, or transplants. In addition, using simple integrated pest management strategies for local pest populations from feasting on the harvest.

If the soil is contaminated or a family is looking for an easy, affordable way to start growing produce, bucket gardening is the way to go to ensure a robust harvest.

“Soil remediation is very cost-prohibitive for the majority of the city’s Black residents. Many of Chicago’s Black families emigrated from the south during The Great Migration and had a connection to farming and growing, and harvesting their own food. Bucket gardening provides an affordable, easy to manage, and maintain system where a family can start growing, and harvesting produce all four seasons,” according to Barbara Pillow-Sidibeh, Agriculture Educator at Marshall High School, and one of the few Black Agriculture educators in the state of Illinois.

Stay tuned for next week when Ms. Pillow-Sidibeh will provide instructions on setting up bucket gardens in backyards across Chicago.

Written by Ebonee Stevenson
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


Business Insider: Your next meal is getting more expensive. Here’s what’s driving the surge in food prices.; by Grace Kay
NPR: Fearing Shortages, People Are Planting More Vegetable Gardens; by Alan Yu

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Morten Siebuhr’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy Barbara Pillow-Sidibeh – Used With Permission

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