What Is Urban Gardening And How To Get Started

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What is Urban Gardening?

Urban gardening, put simply, is the process of growing different types of plants and vegetation in an urban environment. Urban gardening creates a city garden in a small and relatively enclosed space.  That is instead of creating a rural garden in a wide open space. Urban gardening, also known as urban horticulture or urban agriculture, has been gaining a lot of momentum and has been covered by National Geographic, the New York Times and nearly every other major prestigious publication.

While it has also been increasing in popularity within the past few years, it definitely is not a new concept. Urban gardening and urban farming has been around since the first settlers landed in America. Farming and gardening began on a small-scale. One could say that it is simply being rediscovered anew, especially in the midst of so many ecological and “green” movements. Rightly so as it has a fantastic effect on the environment.

Urban gardening encompasses many different types of city or concrete gardening techniques.  Techniques such as raised bed gardening and container gardening.  Both of which are both great ways for city dwellers to bring a little bit of green space and vegetation to their porches, patios, rooftops or the insides of their houses. It is also a great idea for people with small yards.

Urban Gardens Are Gaining Momentum

Why is urban gardening gaining so much momentum? Inner-city residents from all around the world are finding new ways to reclaim their cities.  By creating meaningful and beautiful spaces out of vacant lots, roadway medians, railway lines, subway stops or barren plots of land. These spaces are becoming beautifully green and at the same time purifying dirty and polluted city air.  Providing locals with fresh food is another benefit.

The High Line in New York City is a great example of how cities, not just individuals or small families, are transforming old spaces into new ones.  Bringing “green” life into formerly used and currently vacant spaces at the same time, specifically with the use of a raised bed garden.

Benefits of Urban Gardening

Urban gardening provides a multitude of social, economic, aesthetic, environmental and health benefits. It is a great way to save money, grow organic (chemical free) produce, eat healthy and beautify a dull or lifeless space into something aesthetically pleasing and attractive. That is not all though, there are many more benefits to urban gardening:

  • Growing your own produce (fruits and veggies) is a great way to save money and cut down on grocery costs each week; this is especially great for low-income urban residents
  • Great source of fresh, healthy produce
  • Provides an alternative to mass production, buying and selling of food, offering locally grown and sourced food
  • Can create community and shared spaces for gardening together
  • Educates the community, especially those far removed from the growing process, about the origin and growing process of food
  • Adds beautiful green space to gray cities
  • Helps prevent soil erosion
  • Mitigates storm-water runoff
  • Helps clean and filter the air
  • Provides an opportunity to use rain water, not fresh water, to water plants and produce
  • Helps to render the urban heat island effect
  • Creates leisure and recreational spaces for people to enjoy

Container Gardening

Container gardening is precisely what you would expect it to be: gardening inside of containers. This unique type of gardening utilizes a variety of containers, big or small, such as buckets, old tires, homemade containers, recycled materials, raised beds, window boxes, kiddie pools, old pop cans, beer barrels, reinforced shoe boxes, rain boots and watering cans. These containers are used for growing plants or food. Making a container garden is also a great way to city garden and create an ambiance of creative and crafty aesthetics.

Creating your own container garden is a rich breeding ground for creativity. It encourages people to think out of the box and ask themselves, what type of container could I use to plant something? How can I use this space to grow food or “green up” the place? It teaches recycling, healthy living, reducing and reusing.

Raised Bed Garden

Raised bed gardening is a form of container gardening but on a slightly larger scale. A raised bed garden is usually made into a rectangular box and is at least 3 to 4 feet wide and anywhere from 5 to 20 feet long. They are typically made out of wood, tin, rocks, concrete blocks or salvaged scrap materials. These raised beds, which rise up anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet off of the ground, are made for growing fresh fruits and vegetables in urban or tiny spaces. While this may seem simple there is quite a bit of technique and structure to creating a healthy environment for your raised bed to flourish.

Raised beds utilize a form of geometric planting where vegetables, when fully grown, will create a space where the leaves just barely touch each other. This creates an ideal micro climate for the vegetables to grow in, in which weed growth is suppressed and reduced and moisture is held in the soil for longer periods of time. It is, on a smaller scale, what an ideal farming environment should be.

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening


  • Reduces weed growth
  • Extends the planting season
  • Conserves moisture
  • Recycle and conserve water
  • Maximizes available space for optimal production of fresh produce
  • Creates healthy hobbies and activities for people of all ages
  • Easier for the elderly or those with back problems to use because they are raised in height and do not involve as much bending over
  • Great DIY project
  • Can be easily constructed and implemented into any home, outdoor garden or greenhouse

City Garden

While the concept of a city garden has been gaining a lot of popularity lately, it has also been raising a lot of questions, particularly around the subject of safety. Cities are highly polluted places, to begin, and scientists are concerned about the extent of their pollution in relation to the plots of land we are planting urban gardens in.Modern Farmer has written a brilliant and informative article about urban gardening and all of the pros and cons that cons that come with it. Urban gardening is, without a doubt, an incredible concept. But is it a safe one? That is the topic on the table these days.

Is it safe to teach and tell our urban children that they can pick a tomato straight from the vine and eat it? Many would think so. There are huge movements urging us back to this simple and natural way of life. But cities are different from the country and this stark contrast cannot be overlooked.

Oftentimes marginal land that has been plant-less for a long period of time can have polluted soil and cities on the eastern seaboard with a history of demolished buildings and rebuilding have a far greater history and risk of lead being present in soil. In light of this, it is always a good idea to have the soil professionally tested before planting produce and for consumption.

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