If you live in an urban area, there are certain things that seem like they may be impossible, such as having a yard to enjoy or finding a place to park your car, but gardening does not have to be one of those things. Urban gardening is the practice of growing plants in an urban environment. You may be surprised to know that urban gardening has a positive impact on the economy, the environment and food security.

If you live in a big city, urban gardeners are doing their work all around you. From lush rooftop gardens to colorful window hanging baskets, more city-goers are practicing their green thumbs. Although there is not one steadfast definition of urban gardening, it is usually grouped into two segments, container gardening and rooftop gardening.

Container gardening is very common for people with small patios, yards, or balconies. They utilize all sorts of containers such as buckets, raised beds, and window boxes. Rooftop gardening is when you transform the roof of a building into a garden, by adding soil and garden beds. Rooftop gardening is traditionally used to grow vegetables and larger plants.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defined the impact of urban gardening as “an industry that produces, processes and markets food and fuel, largely in response to the daily demand of consumers within a town, city or metropolis, on land and water dispersed throughout the urban and peri-urban area, applying intensive production methods, using and reusing natural resources and urban wastes, to yield a diversity of crops and livestock.”


History of urban gardening

While it is recently making a resurgence, urban gardening is in no way a new concept. Its roots trace back to ancient Egypt where community wastes were used to help feed the urban farming that existed during those times. Since those times, urban gardening has been used as a response to food shortages. The infamous Victory Gardens were planted throughout the United States during World War I and World War II to respond to food pressures that occurred as a result.

During its peak, the Victory Gardens program saw as many as 6 million people participating in the movement. It produced nearly ten million pounds of fruits and vegetables and accounted for almost 50% of the U.S. grown produce at the time.

Impact of urban gardening

More recently, urban gardening is used for more than just food security. People find solace in having plants in the home and office, as well as increasing their general emotional and social well-being while reducing stress levels. It may seem silly, but as a result of urban gardening people actually become more physically active as well as there is much to do to maintain a garden, such as tilling soil or digging holes. In some cases, urban gardening is done in a communal place, like a rooftop where every person gets a designated area where they can sow their plants. Even the simple act of planting a plant on a balcony or window sill is a great start!

Tips for starting an urban garden

Although growing plants requires care and affection, luckily they only require three basic requirements light, soil and water. The plants do not even need to be planted in the ground, most actually grow great in a container!

  • Sunlight is crucial. Find a place where the plant has access to at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.
  • Plants can be grown on the roof (with permission of course). They can also be grown in window boxes, patios, as well as on balconies in hanging baskets.
  • Soil depth is key. Shallow-rooted plants require at least 6 inches of soil depth if they are under 1 foot tall. Deeper-rooted plants need at least 1 foot of soil depth.
  • Drainage is important so that the plants don’t get root rot. Make sure that your chosen pot has drainage holes.
  • Soil content is vital. Potting soil is lighter and drains excess water better than regular ground soil.
  • Remember to water your garden! It is important that you soak the entire container each time you water. It is also important to ensure that you do not overwater. Dump out any excess water in the saucer under the plant to prevent root rot.