|Public Farm 1, by Work Architecture Company: a series of recyclable cardboard tubes that grows rainwater-irrigated veggies while providing solar-powered cell-phone charging and community playspace. At PS1 Contemporary Art Center, NY, 2008.|
While it's been a long time since I was a practitioner of the fine art of gardening, I retain an interest in it and confess to living an occasional rich fantasy life as an urban farmer. The benefits of urban gardening are not just personal to the gardeners; cultivating the land can revitalize neighborhoods, too. For an example, take a look at this 10-minute video about the current impact of urban gardening in Detroit, the much more ambitious plans for the future of agriculture in the city, and the challenges that kind of development faces:
"Seeds of Progress: How Urban Farming Is Changing Detroit's Future"
Of course, not all stories of urban gardening are cheerful. Robin Finn writes in The NY Times about theft from the 700 community gardens scattered throughout the city:
"...to hear urban farmers speak, no borough, and no garden devoted to edibles, whether sprawling or thimble-size, is immune to theft. 'Food is more attractive than flowers, especially in this economy,' said Marjorie J. Clarke, a caretaker at the flowers-only Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden, known as RING. On the Upper West Side, cucumbers are tops for filching; in Harlem, the main draws are chilies and herbs; on the Lower East Side, green and red peppers; in Brooklyn and Queens, tomatoes and squash."
If you have a green thumb that's itching to get into the dirt or if you just want to find out more about urban gardening, the following links can be helpful:
"A Starter Guide to Urban Gardening" : From Inhabit, a blog with the motto, "Green Design Will Save the World."
"Urban Gardening: You Can Grow Food No Matter Where You Live" : EarthFirst posts about indoor gardening, container gardening, community gardening and guerilla gardening.
Urban Garden Magazine: "We want to inspire everyone, no matter what their domestic situation, to get growing. Even somebody living in an apartment on the 37th floor can produce surprising quantities of their own vegetables and herbs."
"The Edible Garden: Breaking Ground" : An LA public TV special in which six expert gardeners demonstrate how they use sustainable methods to grow beautiful organic produce. Available on DVD.
Previous posts from The Thoughtful Consumer:
Off the Grid
If you do start an urban garden, or if you already have one or participate in a community garden, please share your experiences with it in the comments. Is gardening as satisfying as you hoped it would be? Does it help feed your family? Is the garden contributing to a sense of community?
And if it's just plain fun, please let us know that, too! Thanks.
UPDATE: I had just published this post and discovered within seconds this excellent story by Steve Lopez, also just published online in the LA Times:
"In the Weeds of Bureaucratic Insanity There Sprouts a Small Reprieve" : "Ron Finley planted a garden that fed both stomachs and souls in an area where healthful food is scarce. When the city demanded he remove it, neighbors protested and a councilman stepped in to mediate." ~ Please read this story of a man who planted his garden "between the curb and the sidewalk along his property in a 10-foot-wide, 150-foot-long strip of useless, scrubby grass" and discovered that it produced friendships as well as vegetables.