Intro to Urban Gardening
What is Urban Gardening?
Urban gardening is the practice of growing plants in urban areas such as cities. Urban gardens can show up in many shapes and forms around your city including rooftop gardens, hanging window baskets, community gardens, and container gardening. Container gardening is the most common form of urban gardening. It utilises containers such as buckets, window boxes, and raised beds or any other container you can think of to grow different plants. Container gardens are a great way to start learning how to garden without getting overwhelmed. Community gardens are another up-and-coming common urban garden. Community gardens are areas or plots of land where people in the local community can grow and harvest different fruits, vegetables and herbs. The GARDENS Project at Humber is an excellent example of urban gardening as it utilises unused areas around South Etobicoke that can fit pods or planters to help grow food for the community. (Reference 1)
These two photos were taken at two of the GARDENS pod sites, where vegetables and herbs are grown for community members in garden pods.
There have been many civilizations before us that have utilised and considered the idea of urban gardening in some way, shape, or form. In ancient Egypt, communities used waste to help fuel their urban farming in times of food shortages. During the time of Mesopotamia, farmers made sure to section off portions of cities to ensure that there was room to grow food. In the late 1800s when the Salvation Army first began, one of its first projects was “farm colonies” which was designed to teach people living in urban areas how to sustain themselves. (Reference 1)
There are many positive outcomes from urban gardening. For starters, it allows users to grow their own food when faced with food insecurity. It also generates a sense of community. Whether urban gardening is communal or not, you can share a common interest with your neighbours and community. Urban gardening can help increase your overall health as it will get you to take control of what you eat and in some cases get you moving and out of the house to get to a community garden. It can also motivate you to get up and walk around your city to see the beautiful gardens around you. Urban gardening also has positive economic effects. Growing your own food can help save money as well as help fuel local food markets and in some cases, create jobs in the local community. (Reference 2)
How to Start Your Own Urban Garden - Container Gardening
Now that you know what urban gardening is, you may be wondering how you can start your own.
Here are a few tips for beginners:
Make sure to use the correct soil — most container gardens can benefit from potting soil; however, make sure to do your research on what soil is most suitable for what you intend to grow.
Choose the most suitable container — a container can range from a tea cup to a glass bottle to a bucket. However, proper drainage is very important. You want to pick a container that has some holes on the bottom, or ones where holes can be easily made. It is extra helpful if the material of the container is made of breathable material, such as clay.
Choose wisely what to grow — vegetables are the most common and practical plants to grow, as well as herbs for container gardens. The reason for this is that you can grow almost any kind of vegetable in a container.
Consider the location of your plants and their container(s) — along with proper watering and drainage practices, lighting is also something important to consider.4 If the container is large enough to grow more than one type of plant, make sure that each plant requires the same amount of sunlight. It is also important to consider where you will be keeping the containers to ensure that the plant(s) you intend to grow will thrive in the sunlight provided. (Reference 3 & 4)
Green, J. Urban agriculture isn’t new. The Dirt. 2012. https://dirt.asla.org/2012/05/09/urban-agriculture-isnt-new/
Urban gardening tips. Ambius. 2014. https://www.ambius.com/blog/urban-gardening-tips/
Michaels, K. How to start a container garden. The Spruce. 2022. https://www.thespruce.com/before-you-make-your-first-container-garden-847850
Michaels, K. Vegetable container gardening for beginners. The Spruce. 2022. https://www.thespruce.com/vegetable-container-gardening-for-beginners-848161