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What are the Benefits of Urban Gardens

March 16, 2020

More and more citizens are using their living space as a playground for gardening: Urban gardening combines ecological ideas for your home with the creative greening of open spaces.

Whether you are longing for country life, wanting regional organic vegetables or just enjoying gardening with your neighbours: there are many reasons why more and more townspeople are spending their free time in urban garden projects.

From the spacious roof garden in New York City to the planted traffic island in Cologne, the trend of urban gardening has spread across the globe. But how do you garden without an actual garden?

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What is Urban Gardening All About?

First off, gardens are ecosystems. If you manage it naturally, a natural balance can be maintained: A holistic system of plants, animals and non-living matter, which mutually need each other to survive and live in a specific habitat.

The trend towards urban gardening emerged in the 1970s with the New York community gardens, the community gardens in which every city dweller liked to help. But the trend of urban gardening is much older. In the past gardening was done diligently in the city, on assigned areas in the allotment settlements.

This form of gardening, which is also in vogue again, has a lot in common with urban gardening: the desire to work in and with nature, the fun of seeing your harvest grow and, to a certain extent, your supply of guaranteed local products.

From small-scale urban gardening in open spaces to almost industrial dimensions in high-rise buildings or the like. You can find urban agriculture, for example:

  • on house roofs
  • on fallow land
  • on house walls (vertical farming)
  • in high-rise buildings - from vegetable growing to pig farming (indoor farming)
  • on any green space in the city


More Than Just Gardening

Urban gardening developed as a citizens' initiative into a political statement and mouthpiece for the residents of the corresponding districts. The organizers would like to take the future of their city into their own hands. In regular discussion meetings, e.g. they informed about new urban development and construction plans.

Urban horticulture should serve everyone. It is a feeling of togetherness, of a shared neighbourhood, friendship and joy, an opportunity to get to know the neighbours better and to shape something together. The gardens don't just work and harvest.

Young and old are welcome in the urban gardens, regardless of their social background or position. The little ones experience nature closely and the growth cycles of different types of fruit and vegetables.

Even adults can engage in various working groups such as composting or sharing experiences with others. It's about coming together, about helping each other and spending time in the green. And that directly in the city.

Discover, Be Creative, and Recycle

When it comes to planting small beds, creative recycling is in demand: leaf salads, radishes or strawberries thrive excellently in used wardrobes or converted car tires. Small plants such as garden herbs find their place in old shoes or sliced tetra paks.

With a little manual skill, even house walls can flourish with vine plants, and with the right crops, mushrooms can be grown in old jute bags. Many city gardeners indulge in their hobby in precisely managed projects, which leads to an active exchange of knowledge.

In case there is not much space in your apartment, try this creative vertical gardening method:

Urban Gardening is Environmentally Friendly

Regardless of whether in Zurich, Basel or Bern, London, Berlin or Chicago - urban gardening, urban farming or urban agriculture projects are being created all over the world. They have several goals: to grow fresh greenery on unused areas and an environmentally friendly one because it is close to the consumer.

As a result, more and more urban gardening projects are being created in empty parking lots, in industrial areas or in other open spaces that provide interested people with at least part of their food. You can be even more creative by following our lifehacks for your garden.

Ultimately, health doesn't come short either. Urban horticulture generally does without pesticides or herbicides, not to mention the unbeatable freshness of the products.

Less Waste and Fewer Chemicals 

In urban agriculture, the use of genetically modified seeds and chemicals in planting is wholly rejected. Attention is paid to seasonal production and thus to the reduction of wasteful overproduction.

In contrast to the supermarket chains, farming is done here in smaller quantities - for yourself and the community. Also, the leftovers are composted and used for the new harvest for a greener footprint.

Urban Horticulture for More Bees

Some projects in large cities prove that urban horticulture provides more biodiversity and that bees, for example, are pleased to visit the new green with all its blooming fruits and vegetables.

Current view from my sewing studio from r/gardening

An urban garden project in Berlin is particularly exciting: Since 2015, 250,000 bees have found a home on the roof of the "Berliner Sparkasse". With this, the financial institution supports the initiative "Berlin hums!".

Depending on the weather, beekeepers can bottle one hundred to two hundred kilos of honey a year. Even if it sounds paradoxical: bees find more food in parks and gardens, on the green traffic islands and balconies than in the countryside. There are often monocultures there. In addition, parasites and pesticides are a much smaller threat in cities.

Green growths in no man's land

Even though the number of city dwellers is growing worldwide and two-thirds of all people will soon live in cities, many medium and small towns are shrinking. 

With the change of company locations, workshops, and the loss of jobs, many people are drawn to the big metropolises. With them, businesses and companies move. Many buildings and areas are useless and abandoned. However, the resulting free space also harbours new opportunities.

For example, in Detroit: in the past, it was the factories that gave people hope, today it is the gardens. Where cars were built until the 1990s, carrots are now being pulled out of the earth. At the Earthworks Urban Farm, e.g. volunteers grow organic fruit and vegetables on 8,000 square meters. A total of 1234 private and non-profit gardens are now thriving in Detroit - and the number is continually increasing.

Our Tips for Your City Garden

  • Experiment and watch carefully. Balconies are very different biotopes. The orientation towards the sun, the floor and last but not least, your preferences and skills make the gardener himself an important biofactor. By observing, you will learn from year to year. Besides better yields, you can use compost to your advantage or even the seeds for the upcoming season.
  • Choose the largest possible containers. The limiting factor on the balcony is the floor. However, a plant can only grow as beautifully, vigorously and healthily as its "base" allows. A healthy root system can only form with sufficient nutrients, moisture and space, the basis for a good yield (e.g. with tomatoes). Make sure to check out this gardening container guide
  • Suitable varieties for the balcony. Leafy greens, lettuce, and salads are particularly easy to grow on the balcony or terrace. So are strawberries or common beans. Larger plants such as tomatoes, peppers, peppers or cucumbers need pots that can hold at least 15 litres of soil. Either use old rice sacks or plastic boxes for them.
  • Urban Garding inside. Herbal pots from the supermarket are already satisfied with a spot on the windowsill. And stylish variants such as vertical gardens, herb ladders, hanging pots or room dividers flourish even the smallest room. So-called pillar fruit is grown extra so that it stays small - for example certain apples, cherries or plums. Berries don't take up much space either.

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