Urban gardening is where people practice cultivation, mainly of food, in and around urban areas. Basically, it is the traditional cultivation of crops, but in urban centers.
With urbanization and the desire for the majority of people to do their farming right where they are, urban gardening is considerably being taken up and has been a successful alternative – a shift from the traditional thinking that the cultivation of crops can only be done in rural areas.
As per Wikipedia,
“Urban agriculture, urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. These activities occur in peri-urban areas as well, and peri-urban agriculture may have different characteristics.”
The growth of plants in urban areas comes in many forms and is influenced by various factors such as land space, topography, capital requirements, and the type of plants. Urban gardening can, therefore, be done differently and includes aspects such as community gardens, urban farms, and aquaponics or hydroponics programs.
It is mainly characterized by cultivating crops such as fruits and vegetables and rearing chicken and fish in urban and peri-urban centers. It can be done in front and backyards, balconies, sunrooms, indoor greenhouses, rooftops, or patios.
Containers, old tires, barrels, unused buckets, shoes, watering cans, window boxes, or kiddie pools can be used to grow food crops, fruit plants, or flowers.
Urban gardening is, hence, a venture that helps urban communities in social and economic ways by stimulating the local economy. It also serves as an effective means of securing a family’s food security.
All these aspects make urban gardening a very interesting topic, and for this reason, here you can learn the importance of urban gardening as well as amazing tips and ideas for sustainable urban gardening.
Importance of Urban Gardening
Some of the top benefits of embracing urban gardening include:
1. It Puts School Lessons Into Practice and Can Boost Children’s Interest in Agriculture
Urban agriculture allows students to try things out at home and, more so, put their class lessons into practice. Through urban gardening, they easily connect their lessons to real-world gardening and how it is done, increasing their knowledge about cultivating plants.
Furthermore, school-goers who are still young can find interest in agriculture and even later pursue a course such as a degree in Agriculture when they experience cultivation through urban gardening.
2. It Can Boost Food Security
Urban gardening increases the land area utilized for agriculture, increasing food security as the world population soars and arable land constantly faces depletion.
Urban gardening involving simple food crops such as vegetables and fruits can help reduce the dependence on vegetable and fruit produce from farms or imported from other countries, thus increasing available food for families and urban dwellers.
It also gives urban dwellers access to readily available foods rich in nutrients, supplementing other food products. As a result, it can serve as a solution to food insecurity for the future amidst the mounting concerns about how the billions of people on the planet will be fed.
3. Urban Gardening Is of Economic Importance and Creates Jobs
Urban gardening can expand a city’s economic base by creating economic activities through production, packaging, and selling opportunities for food, vegetables, herbs, and fruit products.
As a result, jobs are created, food costs go down, and people consume more quality foods. A healthy community also translates to vibrant and hardworking people who can work towards building the economy.
At the same time, considerably big urban gardens may require the services of gardening experts, thus creating new jobs.
4. It Is of Social Importance and Creates Environmental Awareness
Urban gardening allows individuals to interact socially, contributing to society’s social and emotional well-being. It creates a sense of community participation for both the community and individuals and families, making community events more possible and easier to work on.
Also, since it involves matters of the environment, urban gardening bolsters environmental awareness through aspects such as protecting soil fertility, ensuring air and water quality, protecting urban ecological biodiversity, rainwater harvesting, water recycling, organic waste recycling, and green-neighborhood spaces.
5. Urban Gardening Improves the Overall Human Body Wellbeing
The ability to grow and produce one’s food or for the family has been identified to improve a person’s mental and emotional state and self-efficacy because gardening calms and refreshes the mind.
The process of digging, mowing, raking, and tending to plants provides maximum body movement and the stretching of almost all the body muscles, providing a productive way of exercise.
According to experts, gardening exercises burn calories fast (digging and shoveling: up to 250 calories, weeding: 105 calories, mowing: 195 calories, raking: 100 calories). Researchers have equally associated gardening with overall reduced risks of obesity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.
6. It Ensures Healthy Living
Urban gardening guarantees the consumption of healthy foods that are predominantly organic, “home-grown,” and free of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. In other words, it gives you and your family control of the nutrients you get from your food.
Aside from healthy foods, urban gardening has an element known as “horticulture therapy,” which is reported to enhance plant-human relationships that considerably reduce stress, blood pressure, anger and fear, and muscle tension by inducing relaxation.
7. It Benefits the Environment
Urban gardening reduces carbon footprints by reducing carbon emissions while transporting food, vegetables, and fruits from their production area to their consumption points.
It also relieves the farms where agriculture was traditionally practiced, freeing the land for natural regeneration.
Besides, urban gardening does not contaminate as much soil as the traditional agricultural setting does through fertilizers, hazardous chemicals, and other wastes.
Moreover, it provides wholesome environmental regeneration by improving air and water quality, protecting urban ecological biodiversity, and promoting water and organic waste recycling.
Amazing Tips and Ideas for Sustainable Urban Gardening
If you’re contemplating urban gardening, having knowledge of some of the tricks and tips for doing it right is crucial. Let’s explore some of the benefits that come with this practice:
1. Pick Your Plants Correctly
Urban gardening can incorporate tens of plants. However, based on your setting, you must choose the crop to plant correctly. Herbs and leafy greens are ideal as they are less complex than fruits, peppers, and tomatoes.
2. You Have to Consider the Sun
Most crops will not do well if your garden is in a dark place. Exposure to sunlight is vital for a plant’s survival, and without such light, most crops won’t do well.
So, if you intend to grow your crops in a dark place, ensure you work with plant species that can thrive in such conditions. Otherwise, you may need to invest in artificial lighting to simulate natural light.
3. Consider Your Space
Urban gardening can incorporate the growth of trees, which can be unviable if working with a small amount of space, vertically or horizontally. Limited space will not only squeeze the crop but also you and your access to space.
4. Overwatering Sometimes Kills
Most urban gardens use containers and have limited space for draining excess water. Overwatering will kill some plants, as there will not be enough space to take the excess water.
To fix this, consider adding drainage holes to your container so the soil does not become waterlogged and eventually kill the plants. But then, keep in mind that similar to lighting needs, water requirements vary from plant to plant, so find out the ideal condition for the plants you intend to grow.
5. Consider Vertical Gardening
Instead of filling the limited space with crops and lacking a spot to walk on, it is advisable to use the space upwards. As such, you can plant them in pots that can be hung, utilizing all the space going upwards.
Alternatively, you can consider vertical farming, especially if you want to plant a great deal of plants but lack the horizontal space to support your idea. It produces just as impressive results, albeit with limited horizontal space requirements.
6. Planting Right
When planting, you must put gravel at the bottom of the container before adding some soil. You should also leave about an inch at the top of the container for watering.
7. Choosing Your Soil
The soil you use is vital to the quality of the crop harvested. Some go for soil sprayed with pesticides but forget that it is loaded with chemicals. As such, the end result will not be purely organic.
8. Watering Hours
It is impossible to pinpoint the time best for watering the plants as this may vary due to rainfall patterns and soil water retention capacity.
However, watering your garden in the evening and early mornings is ideal, so the crops use the water longer before the afternoon heat.
9. Start Small
Some might get overexcited by the idea of urban gardening, then start big and fail to harvest as expected, which may kill drive and interest. As such, it is advisable to start small and work towards adding more in the future.
10. Potting Soil Is Better
Potting soil is lighter, is sterilized to kill weeds and disease, and drains better. It is, therefore, preferred to direct planting on the soil.
11. Plastic Pots Are Better
The choice of the container or pot is personal, but plastic containers are better than clay ones. Plants in plastic pots tend to dry out less quickly as plastic pots are not as porous as clay ones. You need to add about 5 centimeters of mulch at the top to reduce water evaporation from the soil
12. More Benefits of Vertical Gardening
In addition to utilizing the vertical space more efficiently, vertical growth of crops can serve more purposes. For example, if a container has a wall pocket, you can plant more crops with additional commitments or use more containers.
13. Use the Surroundings as Well
Using the surroundings works well with climbing plants, like tomatoes, which can climb up walls or a pole. You can, therefore, hook the climbing plant onto that pole in your backyard and leave the rest to the plant.
14. Shelf Your Plants
The alternative to hanging your plants and growing them vertically is to make shelves where you will place the pots. This method uses less space and makes the most out of small balconies, allowing for an illusion that one’s balcony is spacious.
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Erickson, A. (n.d.). 17 Urban Gardening Tips That Are Perfect For Small Spaces. Reader’s Digest Canada. Retrieved from https://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/gardening/10-urban-gardening-tips/
McCoy, M. K. (2019). 5 Tips To Start An Urban Garden. Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.wpr.org/5-tips-start-urban-garden