Did you know that 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050? As both the population and urbanization grow, urban gardens represent an innovative way to meet the rising demand for food. Cultivating crops in urban and periurban areas, also known as urban agriculture, helps secure access to fresh and healthy food, reduce food’s carbon footprint, and create a healthier social environment. Some of the most common locations to transform into gardens include rooftops, patios, backyards, front yards, and sunrooms.
Repurposing urban areas into gardens is not a new concept. It was an essential way of getting fresh food during World War I and II, and interest in this activity peaked again during COVID. Even Singapore, a wealthy country that mainly depends on imported foods, is tapping into urban agriculture.
Access To Fresh, Healthy Food
Fresh, healthy food is more accessible when it comes straight from your garden. Instead of making frequent trips to the supermarket for vegetables and fruits, you can pick them directly from the source.
Growing your food reduces personal dependence on the food chain supply. Additionally, you have control over the growing conditions so you can avoid chemical pesticides, conserve water, and use natural amendments like compost for naturally healthy soil.
Gardening also improves your physical and emotional health. Gardening can help you burn approximately 300 calories per hour just by pulling weeds and planting. Also, recent research finds that gardening is linked to higher emotional well-being scores.
Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Improved Air and Soil Quality
By practicing urban agriculture, you can help cut down CO2 emissions from transporting produce and processed foods hundreds or thousands of miles from the source. By sharing your excess fresh produce, you’ll help your neighbors reduce their carbon foodprints, too.
You can also contribute to the health of the local ecosystem by being mindful of the tools you’ll use. For example, tillers, leaf blowers, and other gas-powered gardening tools are among the most polluting tools humans use. As an urban gardener, consider opting for electric or manual equipment to eliminate the emissions directly associated with growing your food. Your plants can improve air quality and soil quality. Learn about regenerative gardening techniques and employ the methods to restore soil health.
Moreover, you can transform urban gardens into city wildlife habitats and support pollinators, which means you’ll help create a more biodiverse system even among concrete and steel buildings. Transforming concrete-covered areas into urban gardens with trees, you’ll also be fighting the heat island effect, which raises the temperature of cities compared to surrounding areas.
Create Tight-Knit Communities and Break Social Boundaries
Urban gardens, especially community gardens, boost social engagement, stimulate local food production, and offer the opportunity for healthy outdoor activity. Getting out and being physically active with others is a way to return to more basic connections — between people and with nature.
Interacting with your community through urban gardening helps you meet new people and work on your physical and emotional wellbeing. By increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables in your neighborhood, you’ll help reduce the risks associated with obesity and other diseases of affluence.
Urban agriculture can reduce the amount of food waste in your community because you can use leftovers by composting. Working together to reduce waste is a social benefit, it makes everyone aware of their shared responsibilities. People of all ages and backgrounds meet in community gardens, expanding their circles and breaking social boundaries.
Urban Garden Supplies To Get Started
Do you want to start an urban garden in your community? If you find the concept of urban agriculture interesting, these are the basic supplies and equipment you need:
- Essential tools (spade, trowel, shovel, pruning shears, rake, hoe, trimming scissors). Since most of the gardening tools in community gardens are shared, you should build a shed. If that’s not an option, you can create a small, covered, fenced area with lockers to keep the tools safe.
- Watering system: watering cans, hose, drip irrigation system, watering wand
- Smart ways to manage hoses such as a hose hanger or retractable hose reel
- High-quality gloves. Although you can share most of the tools, you should get gloves and hand tools that fit your hands and are comfortable to grip for your personal use.
If you plan to open your space to the community, you’ll need a way to collaborate on planning, planting, and tending the garden as a group. Here are a few tips that will help you plan and tend the garden:
- Create the design plan and decide on the size of the plots.
- Decide on the layout of the plots and beds.
- Decide if there will be a membership or a fee.
- How will others in the community get plots (by age, group, family, etc.)?
- How will you use the money from the garden?
- Which activities will you do together?
- Will children have access to the plot?
- When and how often will you meet with the other gardeners?
- How will you protect the land from vandalism?
- How will you keep the shared tools safe?
- Create a list of rules everyone has to follow.
- How will you assign plots when community members leave?
Start Your Garden, Grow a Community
Urban agriculture is already a vital part of many cities. As more communities realize its value, you’ll find more people ready to help create an urban garden and enjoy all the benefits.
Growing some of your food is a simple way to create more sustainable cities and build local food resilience. It can help reduce food waste and encourage people to practice more responsible consumption. Are you ready to start the next big thing in your life?
About the Author
Annie Morton is an avid nature lover from rural Australia. After some international adventures, she has settled in New York City. She currently works for Hoselink USA.