The concept of “urban gardens” or “community gardens” has begun to hit the media and general public. However, what exactly is an urban garden? Who can benefit from the food that is grown?
Major urban areas in the United States, and in all other countries of the world, are often filled with concrete and buildings with very few green areas. Efforts have been made in some places to plant trees, but their large roots are often choked out by the constraints of the sidewalk or other cement barriers. Some people will have flower boxes or plants on their balconies, but often few flowers or vegetables to be seen.
Another common trend is that such urban areas are supported only by small convenience stores. The day of the corner market is long gone and is it next to impossible for people in such areas to get fresh fruits and vegetables. This is the worst in the poorest areas where people have little money and may not have a vehicle to allow them to travel to larger grocery store or a farmers’ market. Studies and surveys have shown poor health among people, especially children, residing in the inner cities.
However, a new concept is improving the green spaces and the lives of the local residents. Urban gardens are being planted in empty lots, between buildings, or in window boxes in even the most urban of neighborhoods. These gardens are not composed of trees and flowers, but rather vegetables and fruits. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, carrots, and all sorts of other delicious greens are being planted and maintained by the people living in the local neighborhood. People helping out in the garden have access to the fruits and vegetables or produce can be sold to other neighbors. The gardens are providing much needed nutrients to the diets of the local people and helping to reduce costs as less food is purchased from the pricey convenience stores.
It obviously is not easy to begin a garden in an empty lot. Permits may have to be obtained for the project. Vacant plots may be owned by someone not willing to support the project or donate or rent their land. Many places have been paved over or do not have soil with ample nutrients to allow for the propagation of food. A site must be chosen where the plants will gain ample sunlight and not receive run-off from nearby buildings. It can be difficult to secure the necessary funds to establish the garden. Black dirt and fertilizer must be obtained and brought into the site. The plants must be purchased and planted. Water must be given to the plants during dry times. Efforts also must be made to keep trash out of the plot. Whether dropped there by passing people or blown in from nearby streets, the trash can choke out the plants and kill them.
Although it may be difficult to begin the project, the benefits are many fold. The project of an urban garden is even helping troubled children and teenagers. People who ordinarily spend their time on the street because of a lack of other activities are helping in the garden. This is keeping them safe and out of trouble. It has provided purpose for many young people. The skills that they are developing, not only from gardening, but from working in a group and providing resources for the plants, is helping them to develop a better lifestyle and is creating opportunities. Hopefully, projects such as urban gardens will give young people the desire to continue or return to school and learn more skills for their futures. Some times just having purpose in the day inspires people in tremendous ways.
If the urban garden produces enough produce and products can be sold, the extra money is used to help the community. Funds may be distributed among the caretakers or put into an account to improve local playgrounds, schools, or other community areas. It also may help construct other urban gardens in the neighborhood.
If you would like to begin an urban garden in your neighborhood, check on the Internet to find examples of projects that are already underway. Follow their ideas and blueprints to secure the success of your project. Perhaps even contact the person in charge of similar projects to ask for suggestions on growing healthy plants, obtaining help from within the community, and securing necessary funds to get started. Although you will be in for some hard work in the beginning, an urban garden will be a fantastic project for your neighborhood.
Starting an urban garden will be very rewarding for you and all members of your community. Involve as many people from the neighborhood as possible in the planning, development, and care of the plot. Spread the vegetables and fruits around to as many people as possible and donate any funds you raise to the community. Finally, enjoy the connection with nature and the beauty of the green area you developed!
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