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Gardening in the city

Urban gardeners have many opportunities to grow vegetables and flowers, even if they live in apartments.

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Any extra produce that she cannot use is often traded with another gardener or given away to friends and neighbors.

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Gardening has changed many of Gayla’s perceptions about the environment, making her more aware of the changes that come with each season. Like many others who enjoy nature, Gayla finds gardening is good for her spirit. Where there is not a lot of greenery, her garden has created a green space where “I have the opportunity every day to step out on my roof and enjoy nature.”

A new and often extreme approach to vegetable gardening is occurring in cities across the US and Canada. Urbanites are replacing lawns, even entire front yards, with vegetable gardens.

Supporters of these “minifarms” feel growing food is a better use of land and water resources than cultivating an expanse of grass. In addition to growing vegetables for personal consumption, many of these urban farmers are generating income by selling their produce at farmers markets or to restaurants.

However, these front yard gardens are not without controversy, as neighbors and homeowner’s associations may oppose them saying the vegetable gardens detract from the general appearance of the neighborhood.

Community gardens offer many city dwellers access to land where they can grow their own productive garden. As food costs rise, families, especially those with a low or limited income, find that fresh vegetables and fruits become unaffordable for them.

Some community gardens are specifically for children to help them understand the importance of where their food comes from, ecology and to make a connection with nature; while others use the garden as a way for kids to earn money by selling the fresh vegetables they have grown.

Benefits of gardening in the city
Whether it’s a small backyard garden, containers on a rooftop, or a large community garden, urban gardens contribute to the community in many ways.

The green space adds to the quality of life in the city and can contribute to increased property values. It is estimated that green vegetation reflects as much as 25 percent of the sun’s radiation, reducing the heat island effect found in cities.

Gardens also provide areas for rain runoff, minimizing soil erosion as well as recycling water back into the environment. The open space, food and water found in a garden provide important areas for wildlife inhabiting urban areas.

For more information
Seed companies, garden centers, books, magazines, and gardening websites provide a wealth of information about garden designs, variety selection, gardening techniques, harvesting, and even recipes.

The National Garden Bureau’s website has a gardening section filled with fact sheets containing detailed information about growing a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Your local county Extension office has extensive resources about gardening specific to your area of the country. To locate an office near you, go to www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension.

Or if you are interested in community gardens including locations in your area, visit the American Community Gardening Association.

Urban areas offer as many ways to garden as there are people who live there. Start small, have fun and enjoy all the benefits of growing your own, healthy and flavorful fresh vegetables.

– From the National Garden Bureau