Skip to Content

Types of Urban Gardens

photo of a brightly colored pipe garden against a concrete background with many different plants

Urban garden-agriculture guide

In this article, I aim to explore the various types of urban gardens, the ways urban agriculture and gardening can be integrated into our cities, the steps by which we can make it scalable, and the vast benefits it will bring for our communities, environment, and our society. In this manner, I’m going to focus largely on urban gardening as a method of food production.

McGill University, a world-renowned academic institution located in Montreal, Canada, has made an effort at creating university-wide systems of urban agriculture. In their freely accessible and comprehensive McGill Guide to Urban Agriculture – written in conjunction with student-led sustainability initiatives – they list some of the key things to know when planning urban agricultural projects. This will be a key referential resource for this article, and I strongly encourage anyone interested to read through this beautifully-written and well-organized guide, which will be cited throughout and linked at the bottom.

Their guide defines urban agriculture as “the cultivation of food in a city environment. This includes traditional horticulture, beekeeping, animal husbandry, aquaculture, urban orchards, and other means of food production. Urban agriculture also provides city-dwellers a way to reconnect with the natural environment, engage with their community, and access fresh food. Furthermore, it connects those living in urban environments to their food systems, which may otherwise feel distant or opaque.”[1]

Sustainability is thus a central feature of urban gardening and urban agriculture, created with an awareness of the environmental, social, and economic facets of our food industries.

What can be grown? That depends on the setup!

Growing your own food in an urban environment requires careful deliberation about the many interrelated factors that could affect your agriculture. Scale, budget, technology, and space make each separate method useful in different contexts. Let’s take a look at a few examples of types of gardening that would be well-suited to a city agriculture project.

See also  How to Increase Your Vegetable Garden Yield (7 Steps)

leafy greens growin in a white hydroponic setup

Different urban garden setups

Traditional gardening

Tried, tested, and true, building a soil-based garden for food and flowers is an accessible and dependable method of urban gardening. This usually needs to be done outside, so space is a key feature to consider. Furthermore, the specificities and nuances related to growing in your local environment must be a part of your planning process: weather, the right crops, soil types, temperature, the length of the growing season, and more must all be properly identified in order to make your urban garden project successful.

There are a number of key benefits to this method, especially in terms of its relatively low start-up cost. Traditional gardening can be susceptible to many uncontrollable variables like urban wildlife but in the same breath it requires little technology and a shorter learning curve. This is the method we will explore in closer detail as to how to do yourself at home, in your backyard, or with your community.

Hydroponics

Hydroponic farming is an agricultural method that seems straight out of the future. Created with the idea of circumventing environments that may not be well-suited for scalable food growing (like cities or space), hydroponics is a rapidly-developing stream of gardening that is being heavily researched by NASA engineers and urban dwellers alike. Through hydroponics, growing crops without soil is possible by using liquid solutions that are infused with minerals and nutrients: the plant, with its roots inside the nutrient-dense liquid, is able to grow steadily within a controlled environment. Importantly, hydroponics require less water to grow vegetables when compared to conventional soil-based farming methods – in places like California where water must be budgeted, hydroponics are an extremely viable alternative to traditional farming.

See also  Ginger Root (How to Grow it Indoors & Beneficial Properties)

There are many different streams of hydroponic farming that are all differently-suited to different setups: static solution cultures that can be built out of mason jars may be well-suited for smaller-scale urban gardening setups – like for personal use within your apartment. Other types, like ‘fogponics’ and ‘aeroponics’ (which we’ll look at in a moment), require key technological features whose start-up costs and technical knowledge make it better suited to larger urban agricultural projects rather than personal use. This would be better for larger commercial urban projects or those with city-wide scalability.

Aquaponics

This is a pretty complicated type of modern farming technique that can be (and is!) implemented in the urban milieu. I personally wanted to add it in because I thought it was really cool, less so for its practicality or recommendation to the average reader hoping to start small-scale vegetable gardening in their apartment or backyard. The basic premise is the “cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment”, combining the concept of hydroponics and aquaculture.[2] Using the natural nutrient-rich bacteria resulting from fish waste, chemical fertilizers can be skipped altogether in agricultural production.

This is an extremely sustainable loop of food production creating two agricultural products with one nitrogen source that is extremely light on water use. Furthermore, it can be implemented within areas that suffer from non-arable lands within or close by the cities, lessening a dependence on transportation infrastructure and import goods.

close-up shot of some growing spinach in a hydroponic garden

Aeroponics

This is the most water-lite farming method out there, and likely the most technologically-intensive as well. It involves neither soil nor nutrient solutions – as such this is one of the only farming methods that does not require a growing medium. Instead, nutrient-rich mist is sprayed onto the plant’s exposed roots, which dangle in a controlled and closed (or semi-closed) environment.

See also  16 Different Types of Grevillea

Because of the greater root exposure to oxygen, many different types of crops can be grown with this method, which increases a plants ability to photosynthesize and increases their defences against disease.

Vertical farming

Vertical farming is a method that is extremely well-suited to the urban milieu as it finds an elegant solution to the lack of space needed to farm in a scalable manner. By growing crops in vertical stacks, more is able to be grown in smaller spaces. Vertical farming should usually be done indoors in order to better control the yields.

It requires quite a bit of initial investment however, necessitating large-scale grow light setups, specific building types, and unique technological approaches. Abandoned buildings in cities like factories with high ceilings are good environments for these sort of urban gardening projects, finding a useful way to repurpose space that isn’t in use. Vertical farming can make use of aquaponics, aeroponics, hydroponics, and traditional gardening alike.

 

What yields can be grown in small-scale urban agriculture?

While we all love the look of a flower garden, vegetables are the best for urban agriculture. Their relatively short growth period makes them adaptable to many different climates and growing seasons. What specific vegetables are best for where is a different question, and contingent on more contextual and localized factors.

Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company, has a good guide that breaks down different avenues to follow when planning an urban agricultural project. In this guide, they demonstrate which outdoor crops perform best in specific seasons.[3]

Winter

While we may assume that winter growing is difficult, urban agriculture can tailor specific conditions to ensure that yields can occur year-round. Whether indoors or outdoors (depending on where you live), wintertime can still be a time for veggie growth. Cold weather crops that are a bit hardier are worth looking into. Tomatoes (certain kinds), spinach, leeks, fennel, cauliflower, chives, and more can be good to read into.

See also  What is a Borage Plant?

Autumn

Fall is strange because temperatures fluctuate but can still be warm and humid enough to give veggies a chance. Hardy vegetables, especially root vegetables or those that grow covered are worth exploring. Iberdrola recommends looking into chard, carrots, onion, radishes, broad beans, celery, and cabbage.

Spring

Ah spring! It’s the time to plant! Depending on your local climate and ecosystem there is a lot of gardening that can be done in this season, especially with produce that is often a touch more fragile. That being said – especially in North America – the weather can be fickle. Make sure to account for this when picking out your seeds and desired crops. Look into melons for fruit, of which there are many varieties differently-suited to different conditions. Capsicum is worth exploring; grow some chilis or bell peppers to incorporate into your spice blends or salads. Equally, cucumbers, eggplants, and cauliflower are recommended by Iberdrola’s guide.

Summer

With high temperatures and lots of sun, leafy greens, vine crops, and underground veggies can thrive in this season. Lettuce, arugula, kale, artichoke, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and more are all excellent options.

Is there anything that can’t be grown well?

I guess that depends – the most obvious limitation in urban agriculture is space. It might be hard to grow prize-winning pumpkins out of your 2’x2’ backyard garden, but you can still get creative based on your own setup. The other main factor to consider would be your local climate and the average temperatures you experience. It might be hard to grow juicy tomatoes outside if you live in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them at all. Modifying your gardening setup, considering heating elements, shelter, and being specific about growing inside or outside – as well as the specific crops you’re looking for – will be the key to ensuring success in your agricultural endeavours.

See also  How to Care for a Photinia Plant

rooftop urban garden with many leafy greens in the sun

Indoor? Outdoor?

Indoor urban agriculture

The indoor urban garden can be a great option to explore; controlling temperature, humidity, and exposure is significantly easier in this sort of setup. While the scale of these sort of projects is likely smaller than what is possible with an outdoor garden, the variability of what you can grow is significantly greater given the control over more factors. This is an excellent avenue to follow if you want to start growing your own food on a smaller scale.

Indoor gardening can be anything from growing microgreens in your apartment’s kitchen to large-scale greenhouse projects that are climate-controlled with the right humidity. Space is the key limitation for most urban gardening endeavours, and the indoor agricultural project is where this limitation can exist most prominently. Being creative with your space is important – look into vertical farming to maximize your crop yields and ‘arable’ surfaces. You can see some really interesting uses of indoor urban agriculture around the internet. Among my favorites are the shipping container gardens, which can be stacked, linked, and even wired to automate the use of grow lights and irrigation.

Outdoor urban agriculture

While there are more variables to consider in outdoor urban gardening, there are also significantly more possibilities regarding space and accessibility. For non-commercial gardening projects, this is likely the most feasible option. Outdoor growing within a city can be anything from a small plot in your backyard to the repurposing of unused spaces like alleys.

Rooftop gardens are great ideas, especially when planting perennial crops like rhubarb that don’t need to be rotated. If you rent or are involved with your local building’s decision-making board, reach out to make sure your gardening project conforms with local bylaws and your contractual obligations to the building. Push hard for these initiatives and get your neighbors involved in order to increase the momentum of your claims. Equally, the scale to outdoor projects is varied, and one needs to consider municipal permissions for larger endeavors involving public land, the community, and the neighbourhood.

See also  64 Outdoor Steps Decorated with Flower Planters and Pots (Pictures)

For instance, say there is an unused/vacant concrete lot in your neighbourhood that you believe could be well-suited to a not-for-profit community garden initiative. It’s a bit overgrown, there’s no space for parking, and it’s a general eyesore. Before bringing the lumber, seeds, and mulch to start building and planting, reach out to the local city authorities to inquire about the permissions needed and how they can help. These sorts of initiatives are often good press for a city trying to ‘greenify’ its image and they can also help raise the value of the neighborhood.

Working with municipal authorities and directly engaging with your city council can be quite helpful, especially if there is an already-existing infrastructure for urban agriculture (like in Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, and other large North American cities). Equally, reach out to local non-governmental agencies within universities and non-profits that specialize in food accessibility and urban gardening. They often have access to key resources and networking connections that can make your slog through annoying bureaucratic procedures – which are sure to arise – significantly easier.

For smaller-scale, personal projects like backyard farms, there isn’t really a lot of asking to be done if you own the property – maybe the dog should be consulted as to why they won’t be allowed to dig in that corner of the yard, but other than that you can head to your local hardware store and get the necessary materials when inspiration strikes. If you rent, it’s worth asking your landlord just to make sure.

See also  59 Annuals that Thrive in the Sun (A to Z List with Photos)

In terms of inspiration for commercial urban agriculture endeavors, look no further than Lufa Farms based in Montreal. Founded in 2009 by couple Mohamed Hage and Lauren Rathmell, Lufa Farms is the perfect representation of how commercial urban garden projects can be worthwhile and scalable business ideas. Using a hydroponic farming technique and relying solely on local insect populations for pollination and insect control, they manage four rooftop greenhouses on top of several industrial buildings throughout Montreal, one of which is the largest in the world.[4] They supply to restaurants, grocery stores, and directly to consumers through their ecommerce platform, which grew massively over COVID-19. An example of how to modernize a commercial urban agriculture project, Lufa Farms is a case study to carefully examine when researching the application of applying a feasible business model to urban gardening.

photo of small seedlings freshly budding in soil

Do some research!

Now that you have the preliminary ideas as to what kind of project you want to pursue, it’s time to do some more pointed research. The scope of this article isn’t nearly large enough for me to break down absolute specifics for different biospheres, which are themselves varied from within (microclimates). Instead, it’s up to you to start looking into the different factors that will affect your growing project. In this manner, from now on I’ll talk mostly about outdoor, traditional gardening projects. I’ll leave the hydroponics and nutrient-rich mist machines to the engineers.

Firstly, think carefully about your local ecosphere.

Do you live in a humid climate with lots of precipitation, like tropical zones? Lucky you! This year-round growing season makes it easy to plant and cultivate such exciting crops as kale, chili peppers, mangoes, pineapples, citrus, yams, and more. However, it also means you need to avoid such plants that require a ‘chill time’ or those that taste best when picked in the cooler times of fall harvests. As such, you may not be able to have an apple orchard or large berry bushes.

See also  16 Varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes for Your Garden (Alphabetically Listed!)

If you live in sub-tropical zones that can still get a little colder – like parts of the American South and the Gulf coast – you have lots of options based on what and when you plant. Tomatoes, melons, corn, salad greens, and many fruits tend to thrive in this environment from February to November.

Alternatively, more arid regions of the Southern US that are characterized by long summers with high heat are also blessed with relatively warm winters. Grow during the March-November period and find yourself blessed with bountiful harvests of corn, leafy greens, tomatoes, beans, and squash.

Colder, northern parts of North America have a bit of a longer growing season but are plagued with extremely cold winters. As such, careful planting from April to October will allow you to yield delicious tomatoes and leafy greens, as well as berries, winter squash, radishes, and potatoes.

Now that you have an idea as to what your local ecosphere can support in what seasons, you want to learn a little about the soil you want.

This can be a bit more complicated and get pretty scientific – certain crops require different levels of nitrogen and fertilization, some interact with the soil differently in different climates, some are just straight up stubborn. Fertilization is a delicate game – too much and you can create a surplus of nitrogen that will negatively affect your soil health for future growing seasons. Depend on compost for the natural rot that our plants love so much. There are a few key rules of thumb to keep in mind for any set up, largely that veggies like sunlight and soil with lots of organic matter.

See also  35 Awesome Wooden Fence Ideas for Residential Homes

Compost is key to get the soil to that lovely moist quality that is neither too compacted nor dry and sandy. Leaves, shredded bark, food waste, and more are great to have in your soil in order to foster a good environment for the many microorganisms that are going to give your veggies the strength and nutrients they need to grow. You want a soil that retains water but doesn’t saturate it, meaning aeration and drainage are factors to consider. Furthermore, you want to consider your mulch, which insulates your soil, regulates moisture, suppresses weeds, and reduces chance of disease to your crops. Some mulches can be full of nasty chemicals – make sure you do your reading as to what you want to put in your garden, because that’s what you’ll be putting in your body a couple of months down the line.

Lastly, your urban agriculture project needs to consider the non-human neighbours we share our cities with, who are often quite hungry and not shy about procuring it any way they like. The urban environment has many smart animals like racoons and birds who can threaten to snatch your prize veggie you’ve been working on all season. Here’s something all farmers will tell you: pests are a part of working on a vegetable garden. While setting up wire enclosures and other similar guards can help mitigate mammalian and avian intrusion, you may be tempted to look toward insecticide to tone down the bug populations that may nibble up your leaves or spread disease. I’d caution against this if you can – most of the insects in your garden are not harmful to your crops and actually serve to keep the soil and plants healthy and happy.

See also  How to Care for a Scilla Plant!

You do not want to accidentally kill the crucial pollinating species that bless you with their visits to your garden, lest mess up the entire growing operation. Instead, look into disease-resistance plant species that are native to your ecosphere. Much like humans, a plant’s ‘immune system’ is strengthened if it is well-fed and happy – care for your plants closely and be surprised at how much it impacts their ability to resist. Furthermore, look into planting non-food crops like marigolds and flowering herbs, which are themselves proven to deter certain pests. Let nature handle the work and step back a little – these crops can grow without our help, let’s just give them the right environment to thrive. In this way, if you have to use insecticide, use it extremely sparingly and never in the mornings (when the bugs we like are active). In general, I’d recommend against it.

image of shovel dug into soil with seedlings peeking out

A (very) basic growing guide

Lastly, we’ll go over some brief growing and construction guidelines for your outdoor urban agriculture project. The McGill Guide to Urban Agriculture recommends starting your seeds indoors before transplanting them to your outdoor set up, which allows the gardening season to begin a little earlier and can make your seeds a little hardier.

The McGill Guide recommends drawing out a ‘garden plan’, which will allow you to visualize the placement of garden beds and allow you to place the right crops in the right place. For instance, knowing the orientation of your garden and how light hits it will allow you to intentionally plant in a way that benefits all your seeds – you don’t want a large leavy bush to block all the sunlight from your solar-thirsty tomatoes, resulting in sad and dry veggies. In the same sense, you may want certain crops like salad greens to have adequate shade to avoid getting burnt up, so understanding where the foliage neighboring your garden is located in will be helpful.

See also  18 Different Types of Jade Plants

Given that you’ll want to rotate certain crops from season to season (to promote soil health), having a visual idea of how they will fit and move in your plan will save you infinite headaches. Furthermore, knowing how your garden will be accessed – thus how you will enter it to work on it – will be very useful to avoid disturbing more delicate crops. Draw out a basic diagram with your garden’s square-footage, identify orientation, sun direction, and other factors that are useful to know (trees, buildings, etc) – now you can section off parts of your garden and begin the fun part about picking what you’ll grow.

It is generally recommended to water in the mornings and evenings to limit the evaporation of water. Equally, pruning certain plants will help them direct their energy more efficiently – remove flowers and fruitless branches (suckers) to make sure your veggie comes out full and delicious.

In terms of setup and maintenance, there is much to learn (and always more) but don’t let it frighten you. Talk to local growers that know what they’re doing and ask lots of questions. The internet is also your friend, and you’ll find many in-depth instructions online that are uniquely suited to your ecosphere, level of experience, and crop type.

woman holding and admiring turnips in an urban garden

What’s the point? Why should I grow my own food in a city?

In many ways, the story of humanity is the story of agriculture, and the story of agriculture is largely a story of power – where our food comes from, how we grow it, and who grows it is fundamentally indicative of hierarchical dynamics in the world we live in today. In the present time of our modern capitalistic societies, monocultures of food are mass-produced far from our cities, increasing our dependence on specific crop types and requiring extensive transportation networks to make it to the mouths of those that pay for it.

See also  What is a Butterfly Bush?

Large-scale operations, in the hopes of maximizing profits and maintaining a bottom line, make liberal use of hormones, pesticides, and GMOs to ensure their market share and hyper-competitive prices. Health-effects aside, this business model has had a significant impact on the modern agricultural economy: small-scale farming has been consistently pushed out of the market for many years, a phenomenon that only continues to increase as food production becomes increasingly niche and centralized. While being able to have a pineapple in Canada in mid-January is a luxury representative of our interconnected and wealthy societies, in the scope of our impending climate crisis now is the time to radically and critically assess how the ways we grow food have a fundamental impact on our day-to-day reality.

The story of humans and food – put overly simply – can be depicted as a movement from nomadic, hunter-gatherer cultures to settlement-based, animal-rearing, agricultural societies. Many of our earliest cities would come to be built out of the fertile lands that would better-feed their populations, which would in turn grow steadily with stable food supplies. The accumulation of resources by cities and their rulers (owners of the agricultural lands) would herald the advent of feudalism, mercantilism, and later, the roots of capitalism – now-dominant in all features of our political, economic, and social reality. In such a sense, power and food have long-been linked together in human societies through vertical, hierarchical structures.

Fast-forward many, many years to the megacities of today. Superhighways and our efficient transportation networks exist alongside glass and steel monoliths, themselves towering testaments of engineering and technological prowess. The modern city is a monument to human achievement and the infinitely complex bureaucratic institutions that are needed to maintain a modern capitalistic society. Present-day metropolises have shifted away from centralizing themselves around agriculture, and are instead designed as global nodes of economy, politics, and bureaucracy.

See also  17 Different Types of Agapanthus flowers

The result is the urban milieu, which explicitly juxtaposes the extremes of wealth and poverty – often within the same city block. If you live in a city, walk around your downtown: it won’t take long before you see a Louis Vuitton store or a BMW in direct proximity to homelessness and poverty. For someone at the economic fringes of our urban society, accessibility to subsistence becomes limited to the unhealthy realm of fast food, directly impacting their health and even their ability for socio-economic mobility.

The preservation of and access to healthy produce has been incorporated into the marketable movement of ‘organic’ and ‘free trade’ food, often with a hefty price tag that limits its benefits to a select few. Furthermore, in the context of COVID-19, the fragility of our supply-chain infrastructure has been thrust into the spotlight. It is harder now more than ever to directly control what goes into our bodies, a phenomenon that is reflected in the epidemics of obesity and heart disease plaguing North American society.

While governments are beginning to recognize the issues inherent in our modern agricultural systems, the pace of change is slowed by conflicts of private, economic interests built into our political societies. A question arises: how do we, on the grassroots level, take food accessibility into our own hands? In the urban environment, the answer is simple: we grow it ourselves. Urban gardening as a method of bottom-up institution-building is an important avenue to explore in order to combat the perils of mass-production agriculture and to continue to create healthy and well-fed societies.

See also  4 Different Types of Parsley (Plus Tips on How to Grow and Use Them)

bearded man with glasses planting carrots in an urban garden

I’d like to briefly break down some of the key elements of urban agriculture that make it worth exploring.

Environmental Concerns

The first is the environmental angle, which urban agriculture can serve to directly impact. For one, it challenges the traditional transportation infrastructure that our modern food systems are built around. For the most part, the places in which the food we eat is grown is outside of our cities, oftentimes outside of our countries. Our produce arrives in the grocery store through a vast logistical array of air travel and ground transport.

The environmental effect of this is obvious, and any opportunity to minimize our consumption of traditional fuel sources in the absence of readily-available renewable resources makes urban gardening a viable green movement to explore. Furthermore, many of this produce must be packaged in order to survive shipping and arrive on our shelves looking as if they were picked off the branches yesterday. The result is a massive dependence on single-use plastics, which make their way into our garbage and then into our environment.

This waste, which sits and bleeds chemicals into the soil, makes it back into our produce and in our bodies. The growing wealth of evidence toward the existence of micro-plastics in our food and bodies is indicative of a society that risks worsening health across the board, even when consuming fresh and raw produce.

It is well known[5] that our modern food systems are directly related to climate change, generating more than a third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. From transport to packaging to our meat industries, it must be understood that food distribution and processing has become even more energy-intensive in the last 30 years.

See also  30 Ideal Get-Well-Soon Flowers

Furthermore, food waste is a massive issue. A good friend of mine worked at a large-scale grocery store for many years and he would share horror stories with me about the insane amount of food that would be thrown in dumpsters every day for being a day over its expiry date. For the purpose of maintaining a continuous cycle of mass-scale production and consumption, thousands of dollars, perhaps even tens of thousands of dollars, of perfectly edible food would be discarded daily just by one grocery store. When considering the hundreds of grocery stores that exist in a large city, paired with the growing food insecurity faced by economically-marginalized people, facing this fact makes you want to rip out your hair.

When it takes such a significant environmental impact to get the food to your stores, the notion of throwing so much away while others go hungry indicates a fundamental error at the core of our food systems. Urban gardens aid to minimize this wastage by growing on a smaller scale and directly servicing clients, lessening a dependence on the middlemen of transportation and stocking. Through this, the environmental impact of our food systems is drastically reduced, paving the way toward a greener, well-fed future.

wicker basket full of vegetables like tomatoes, turnips, mint, peppers

Social concerns

The social element of urban agriculture is worth exploring. Cities, while being densely populated, often have the effect of atomizing people – many of those living in large cities can feel isolated from each other and from any involvement in their civic environment. In today’s busy world, it may feel difficult to directly engage in your neighbourhood and your city. Urban community gardens are a beautiful solution to this sort of social estrangement that can often occur between neighbors in city environments: having a project that is a part of your community and can be shared by people regardless of age and background does significant wonders to connecting people.

See also  18 Ideal Indoor Plants for Your Bathroom

Montreal, Canada has a city-wide project of ‘green alleys’ which involves repurposing back alleys for garden and green spaces, focusing on native species of plants and vegetables as well as communal living. Anyone who has ever seen one of these alleys is immediately taken by how much they seem to represent the people who live around there: decorations and art by local children decorate the spaces as much as the vegetable gardens do, turning a once-drab concrete pad like an alley into a source of community involvement and community pride.

In the Montreal summers (pre-COVID) you’d often see large groups of neighbors hanging out in their green alleys, cooking and drinking while their kids run around and play with each other. In a dense urban environment, there is rarely enough space or accessible playgrounds close by for children to play freely. With busy roads and metropolitan drivers, there is an additional safety risk posed by allowing your kids to play out in the streets if you live in a city. Urban garden initiatives like green alleys combat this directly, giving a safe and nearby space by which kids (and parents) can run around, exercise, and socialize. These projects have historically been great successes, especially in the social realm.

Much like the green alleys, urban gardens are often pitched in places where unused spaces can be repurposed. It is not uncommon to see urban gardens in areas that were once vacant lots or within abandoned buildings whose foundations remain strong. There is a significant social element to urban gardening as well as a method of directly interacting with your community and the civic environment. Seeing the eyesore abandoned lot on your street turned into a joint community project is inspiring and empowers people to become more involved in making direct actionable change in their immediate surroundings.

See also  22 Creative Lattice Fence Ideas for Gardens and Backyards

Urban agriculture also has a significant institutional force: by giving people direct agency over what they grow and eat, especially in how they grow and eat, people indirectly reclaim power over areas of their life that are traditionally shaped by external economic and political forces. This is most obvious in the nutritional aspect of urban agriculture as the producer and consumer are – in effect – the same, thus able to have a direct voice in what sorts of techniques are used to grow their food. Pesticides or not, hormones or not, the choice is up to the community, which is what matters.

Furthermore, with the absence of a need for transportation networks and other costs, urban gardening makes vegetables and fresh produce accessible across socioeconomic lines, transcending the growing classism around healthy food that is emerging with organic veggies. Access to clean and healthy food should be a right for all people regardless of what’s in your bank account: the urban garden movement will help normalize this.

Economic concerns

There is also an economic element to urban agriculture that should be mentioned, albeit briefly. Urban agriculture can exist in not-for-profit manner, funded and worked on through volunteering of community members. This is the most commonly-understood type of urban garden: members of a neighbourhood get together and through their own work and incentive decide to build this type of project. Yields are later split amongst the neighbourhood or coordinated to be donated to those in need, cyclically working their way through the community.

There is, however, the entrepreneurial urban garden that is becoming increasingly popular. This sort of project treats urban agriculture through a scalable business model, hoping to offer affordable produce to urban dwellers in a manner that can actually create jobs and stimulate the local economy. There are many advantages to this sort of approach, as with greater capital different types of technologies can be implemented into the urban garden and thus produce different kinds of food that can be sold at low cost.

See also  15 Different Houseplants that Climb (and how to care for each one)

The promotion of a local economy is thus key here, creating jobs and building skills for local workers that can be translated into a multitude of different industries. This circulates money within the local economy, supporting small, local businesspeople and increasingly community self-sufficiency. In a system where the majority of our produce is being grown outside of the city (often outside of the country), creating a greater focus on local businesses and local farming can often come with net-positive results.

 

Take back the power to choose what you put in your body and your environment – start a garden in your city TODAY!

 

-Graham

 

References

  1. McGill Guide to Urban Agriculture
  2. Aquaponics Info
  3. Iberdrola Seasonal Recommendations
  4. Lufa Farms, Montreal
  5. Food systems and climate change