Urban Gardening 101: Tips, Benefits, and History

Are you a beginner in gardening, let us understand what is urban gardening, benefits of urban gardening, and various urban gardening tips.

Urban Gardening 101: Tips, Benefits and History
home urban garden

What Is Urban Gardening

Urban gardening, also known as urban agriculture or urban horticulture, is the process of growing and cultivating various types of plants in an urban setting. On a large spectrum, urban gardening involves animal husbandry, aquaculture, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. Each type of urban garden has unique characteristics, depending on its urban location and the method of cultivation adopted.

Urban gardening encapsulates a number of gardening techniques that are used for this one type of method. Some urban gardening techniques include:

  • Container gardening. Occasionally adopted by people with small patios, balconies or front yards, this gardening method makes use of a variety of containers such as buckets, baskets, old tires, barrels, and watering cans. 
  • Indoor gardening. In cases of no yards and patios available, indoor gardening techniques are adopted which is also an effective urban gardening method. Here, plants are grown in smaller home-based containers such as recyclable jars or kitchen equipment because they are portable and easy to move around. Some advanced indoor gardening examples are also greenhouses or sunrooms.
  • Community gardening. This is a communal activity where a public or semi-private space is utilized to cultivate plants. The area is usually accessible to everyone involved in the gardening activity and the plant variants are pre-planned within the group.
  • Guerilla gardening. Not as common as all other urban gardening techniques, this is a method whereby an individual cultivates plants in an area that doesn’t necessarily belong to them. Some examples of such spaces include a vacant lot, a neighborhood park or strips of dirt on their block.

Urban gardening is a personal, communal, or professional activity that many employ for nutrient generation, food security, or solely aesthetic purposes. Either way, there are many benefits of urban gardening and it has positive impacts on the environment, society, and health of those involved.

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6 Benefits of Urban Gardening and Why You Should Give It a Try

If you live in a city surrounded by large skyscrapers and concrete walls, it can be difficult to grow even a limited number of plants. However, with some techniques mentioned above you can easily plant your own urban garden – big or small – no matter where you are.

Urban gardening comprises many benefits that can’t be missed out on. It is worth the time, effort, and investment because it helps an individual and the environment around them. Here are a few incredible benefits of urban gardening and why you should start yours right away:

Fresh and Healthy Food

Many people are now moving towards organic produce due to the high amounts of fertilizers and harmful chemicals used in store-bought fruits and vegetables. Such substances added to natural food are only detrimental to your body, resulting in illnesses, unstable metabolism, and overall degradation of physical health. Reports have shown that the rates of diabetes, blood pressure, and obesity in the United States have increased in the last decade, and the numbers are only rising. 

Urban gardening allows you to produce your own fresh fruits and vegetables, which are organic, healthy, and extremely nutritious. You are not limited to the type of food and have a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to choose from. This method of gardening is the most ideal way to ensure a healthy consumption for you and your family.

Cleans the Environment

Mass-produced food grown using traditional farming techniques has exhausted our planet. Other than the various resources that are used throughout the process, the United States spends around 1,500 – 2,000 miles of fuel costs for food products to reach the consumer. This means skyrocketing transport costs and tons of harmful pollutants exposed in the air.

Urban gardening can reduce these numbers significantly. It allows a reduction in the carbon footprint by using less fossil fuels, and making more efficient use of water compared to traditional farming techniques.

Furthermore, urban gardening increases soil yields and does not exhaust its nutrients at the same rate mass-production does. It even enables the construction of green zones, recycles municipal waste, and wins the ongoing battle against climate change.   

Employ a New Skill

Many people are so busy with their tech-based lives that they don’t think much about the food they eat. Some are extremely caught up with life’s responsibilities and opt for easy take-out options, while others rely on processed food that requires only a microwave to cook within minutes. What these people do not realize is that while such methods may be the best possible solution now, they will have detrimental effects on their cognitive and physical abilities in the future.

Urban gardening brings back an age-old craze of eating healthy, nutritious home-cooked meals that are beneficial for the body. It educates you on the importance of such meals and why they are necessary for daily consumption. Employing the basics of urban gardening is a skill that can be passed down to newer generations. You can teach your children about the advantages of healthy food and how urban farming contributes fully to this cause.

Less Is More

Gardening techniques are avoided due to the lack of space available in one’s home and neighborhood. With population numbers growing at an increasing rate, urban settlements are also getting more crowded with small houses or apartments to meet the needs of larger families. Due to this, many cities in the world are more concrete and less green, making them lose their original aesthetics to satisfy the economy.

Urban gardening challenges these problems. You don’t need a large garden or public space to cultivate the plants of your choice. Your rooftop, patio or small balcony are ideal spaces for your urban garden and you can still grow many different types of plants. It utilizes limited spaces efficiently, all while allowing you to grow the plants that you want. Remember, less space means more opportunity for urban gardening!

Communal Bonding

People think urban gardening is a very individual activity that is undertaken alone. Many have forgotten the advantages that come along with it, involving not just your family, but your neighbors and close-knit community also.

Urban gardening can help bring women, men, children of all ages together to cultivate different plant variants together. It can help people feel connected and grow the need for more sustainable and healthy food in the current world. Such forms of communal activity lower the cases of isolation that often cause mental health problems such as depression and dissatisfaction.

Urban gardens also promote employment. For the elderly who are retired, this is a healthy activity that can earn them some needed cash on the side. Many elders are reported to feel lost after retirement, losing a sense of purpose. Urban gardening will help them gain that purpose back and reconnect with their friends and families. Interestingly, it is reported that urban gardening can create one job for every 100 square meters of land cultivated. Imagine how many disadvantaged communities would benefit if this is implemented on a larger scale.

Saves Money

Families that are about four or five in number spend much of their lives planning monthly investments; rent, utility bills, gas, and monthly grocery bills. Many times there is no money left to save because everything is wiped out by these investments. Now, imagine a situation where you can have separate savings account for yearly vacations or that dream car you’ve been eyeing. How? Simple, by cutting a huge percentage of your grocery bills.

Urban gardening means growing healthy food on your own. This saves unnecessary trips to the grocery store, less junk food consumption over the weekend, and having something to cook all year round. If you’re able to grow your own food, you can even make some extra cash by selling it to other people.

Urban gardening only requires an initial investment of buying all the necessary equipment and raw materials. As a result, your monthly bills will drop significantly and you will consume healthy food simultaneously. 

urban gardening tips
home urban garden

Important Urban Gardening Tips and Tricks

If you’re motivated to set up your own urban garden, there are some important tips to follow. Luckily, there’s nothing too complicated other than the three basic requirements; soil, water and sunlight. However, it is always crucial to understand how much quantity of each is needed, and some other tricks for a flourishing garden at home. Below are some simple and important urban gardening tips:

  • Sunlight. Pick a location that gets natural light for most of the day. A plant should have access to at least six to eight hours of sunlight so they don’t end up drying out. If the weather is not cooperating, you would want to take advantage of those summertime months when the sun is at its peak.
  • Pots and Containers. Choose containers that hold the greatest amount and volume of soil. There are numerous options available that are deep and pretty-looking to add some aesthetics to your urban garden.
  • Soil Depth. The amount of soil you put in your pots and containers is also important. Shallow rooted plants require approximately six inches of soil depth, whereas deeper rooted plants require approximately one foot of soil depth.
  • Soil Content. Potting soil is highly recommended compared with ground soil because of its lightweight and ability to drain excess water. An example of an organic soil mixture is 60% vermicompost and 40% coconut fiber because it has the ability to retain the most nutrients.
  • Water Quantity. Another crucial urban gardening tip is water quantity. Don’t forget to water your urban garden. Adapt different ways such as deep irrigation for larger gardens and water cans for smaller ones. Soak out the entire container, but also don’t overwater. You can dampen excess water to prevent the roots from rotting.
  • Transplanting. This is a technique of moving a plant from its original place. Transplanting is a necessary step when the newly sprouted plant is taller than its container, and several green leaves appear to be growing around.

Urban Gardening Throughout History

Did you know urban gardening techniques have been around ever since humans existed? The history of urban gardening is fascinating, and an understanding of the way it has evolved will give us relevance on how and why it still remains important in today’s world.

Throughout generations, the significance of urban gardening has progressed; serving as means of social reform, as means of survival and even as a simple pastime. The way urban gardening developed showcases how we can creatively implement and utilize this not-so-new concept in current times as well.

3500 BCE Mesopotamia

Some of the first urban gardening techniques were noticed from Mesopotamia. Farmers installed small plots of land for farming within city walls and historical evidence shows cases of elaborate gardens and large irrigation systems set up during that time.

2500 BCE Egypt

In ancient Egypt, fruit and nut trees were employed as urban gardens. They served to provide shade and as a means of subsistence and greenery within the expanding cities. Many plants such as these were also observed in tombs and worship sites.

Industrialization Era

With the onset of the industrial era growing in Europe during the 19th century, urban architects were concerned about keeping city dwellers connected with nature. Sir Ebenezer Howard implemented the Garden City Movements during this time which was a symmetrical map of seven towns, separated by large green spaces and evenly divided with residential, industrial and agriculture zones. This was supposed to make self-sustainable food available to small communities and shorter distances to green areas, all while urban growth increased.

World Wars I and II

During World War I and World War II, food distribution was prioritized for the military and armed forces, leaving shortages in the mainland cities. As a result, ‘victory gardens’ were cultivated by citizens in private and public spaces. Not only did they uplift the food security strains during the uneven distribution, they even developed patriotism to work for the economy of the country. In the United States alone, victory gardens contributed to 41% of all vegetable produce in 1943.

These are just some of the examples that showcase urban gardening that existed before we can imagine. Whether they were personal means for survival or helping your country, similar means can be adopted during our time today.

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The Giveaway

Now that you have a detailed idea of some important benefits and tips of urban gardening, you can set up your own home garden easily. Take it as motivation, rather than a burden. Remember, you are not only benefiting yourself, but your community, surrounding environment, and the overall economy. I hope, you are ready to start urban gardening and got the benefits of urban gardening and various urban gardening tips.