Analyses of household urban agriculture have demonstrated a wealth of personal, economic, social, moral or political uses for self-provisioned food, yet have often understood the practice itself as merely a production process. This 'means-to-an-end' perspective is especially pronounced in studies of locations undergoing economic hardship. Urban gardening in postsocialist Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has been framed as an element of an informal economy, enabling household savings, access to informal networks and avoidance of industrial goods deemed ethically dubious. In this article, I present evidence from participant observation and interviews with urban gardeners conducted in 2014-2015 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where urban agriculture proliferated during the European debt crisis that began in 2009. I interpret the material through an ecological perspective that focuses on labour in nature and highlights the interconnected, situated role of the gardener. My analysis of gardening styles, behaviours, attitudes and life-narratives of long-term urban growers challenges the utilitarian interpretation by arguing that urban agriculture in Ljubljana is in fact a means in itself-not an informal economy, but a narrative practice. While undertaken to ameliorate the effects of economic hardship, household urban agriculture first and foremost promotes individual wellbeing and restores a stable sense of self. I outline a series of self-making benefits of working with cultivated, edible nature that helped gardeners reconstruct their biographies after their previously established self-making processes collapsed in the economic downturn. © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2021.