As someone stuck in an apartment in a big city, I understand all too well the pains of trying to garden. From lack of space to lack of options for which crops you can grow, trying to garden in the city can seem impossible. But after trying my hand at different gardening styles for the last nearly 10 years, I can honestly tell you the perks of urban gardening vastly outweigh the negatives.
Smaller Carbon Footprint
With estimates that the produce we consume in the United States travels a whopping 1,500 to 2,500 miles to get to our plate on average, urban gardens’ ability to squash transportation costs and pollution immediately becomes apparent.
And while many crops that are more difficult to grow in an urban garden have the highest travel rates –such as apples, where 76% of the fruit consumed in the U.K. are from overseas, giving them a journey of 10,133 miles from the U.S. — some very easily grown crops make the list too. Potatoes making their way from Israel to the U.K. travel an average of 2,187 miles. Though, that’s not to be outdone by tomatoes from Saudi Arabia and carrots from South Africa that travel 3,086 and 5,979 miles, respectively.
Grewal. et al. (2012) found in Cleveland, Oh, urban agriculture could potentially meet between 46-100% of fresh produce demand, 94% of poultry and shell eggs demand, and 100% of honey demand. However, this is only if 80% of every vacant lot, 9% of every occupied residential lot, and 62% of every industrial and commercial rooftop are used for urban agriculture.
Helps Reduce Runoff From Heavy Rainfalls
The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, found that by converting vacant lots to urban gardens, stormwater runoff could be reduced by 85%.
High and uncontrolled stormwater runoff causes flooding that damages public and private property, erodes streambanks which cause sediment to clog waterways, lakes, and reservoirs that kill fish and other aquatic life, and causes a number of pollutants such as trash to enter into public spaces.
Enjoy High-Quality Crops Year-Round
During the winter months, the quality of our fruits and veggies at our grocery stores can really take a hit. Urban gardening is a great way to enjoy fresh and high-quality produce year-round. Even a small herb garden can give you constant access to leafy greens with short shelf life, such as lettuce, spinach, and cilantro.
An Answer To Urban Heat Islands
Even before the term “urban heat island” was coined in 1958, there was a growing concern over the high temperatures that come along with cities. Then issues such as cooling costs and energy waste, general discomfort, and the threat to the elderly and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions are all only going to get worst due to climate change.
But as the University of Pennsylvania’s Heather Knizhnik noted in research in 2012, adding green space in a variety of forms is potentially our best means for helping urban areas that struggle with high temperatures.
A Hobby That Teaches You The World
Between getting a sense of how our ancestors fed themselves to learning how we grow all the delicious crops we grow, urban gardening gives you a better understanding and appreciation for the world around you.
Frees Up Land
You might think that urban gardens are going to take up more space and require more land than traditional soil-based farms, but thanks to vertical farms, we can significantly reduce the amount of water we currently use as well. And the great thing about vertical farms is they can be set up anywhere — even in your home.
Reduces Food Insecurities
A new analysis from the Association of American Medical Colleges and USDA showed that 54 million people (1 out of 6) are food insecure (limited access to fresh food) in the United States alone. Coined food deserts, experts say those living in these areas see higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.
Described as places with few to no grocery stores in sight but littered with fast food places and liquor stores, it quickly becomes apparent how urban gardening is a vital measure for combating this growing epidemic.
Enjoy Better Quality Crops
From selecting the best crop seeds for maximum flavors to eating crops grown free from pesticides with zero risk of diseases like salmonella, urban gardens can easily bring healthier and more nutritious crops to urban areas. And as we saw with all the issues places like food deserts experience, this alone is an incredible perk of urban farming.
Builds A Stronger Community
While urban gardening can be a single person growing an herb garden on their kitchen counter, it can also be a place where the community comes together. More and more, we are isolating ourselves, but a healthy and close community is at the core of what makes us humans.
An urban garden can be a place where children learn to care for and tend to crops, giving them a greater appreciation for nature. It can be a place for the older and younger generation to connect, bridging the gap between those with different cultures and socioeconomic classes. Speaking of time, as we age, our time spent with family and others plummets, but with a prosperous and thriving community garden, it doesn’t have to be that way.
And not only does it build a stronger community among humans, but urban gardening can also provide a healthy habitat for several pollinators, such as birds, bats, bees, and butterflies.