How to Become an Urban Gardener
A difficult but not impossible task
In my steps towards becoming a green citizen, growing my own organic vegetables was in my top priorities. Unfortunately, when living in an apartment in the heart of the city it is difficult to go beyond growing herbs and tomatoes on the balcony. But it is not impossible either.
First step, localizing community gardens
If, like me, you wish to become a city farmer, then the first step to take is to look for community gardens in your neighborhood. Just walk around the blocks and look for a fenced garden subdivided into plots where flowers, vegetables and sometimes even fruits are tended to by local urban dwellers. Usually the contact information to join the waitlist is located somewhere on the fence. If you do not find any community garden in your direct neighborhood, then try contacting your city’s park and gardens board or visit their website. Another place where you can look for information about community gardens is your city hall or your city’s website. There, you can get information not only about current community gardens but also on how to apply to start and manage a new community garden.
Picking the perfect community garden
When choosing a garden, make sure that it is at a short walking distance from where you live. Your motivation could indeed be seriously affected in the cold winter days if your plot is too far. You should be able to have the motivation to visit your plot once a week. Once you have found the perfect garden for you, contact the direct contact person without any delay. Indeed, community gardens are increasingly popular and most new gardens have all their plots reserved before they are even open.
Other alternatives for urban gardening
Unfortunately, this is what happened with me. I have noticed a new garden just a block from my place but took my time before applying. Now I am 36th on the waiting list. If you are in my situation, do not despair. This only means that it’s either time to take the steps to create an association dedicated to the creation of a new community garden, or time to get in touch with your city’s gardeners and street scape planners. Indeed, some cities allow its residents to plant and tend to a few plants on the city’s plots in parks and traffic circles.
Becoming a street gardener
If allowed to sponsor a traffic circle you will be responsible for tending to it, weeding it and ensuring that your plants stay within the height guidelines as well as being visually pleasing. This is very restrictive when you are hoping to grow your own food but you can solve that by growing root vegetables that have nice flowers such as onions or garlic. You can also grow edible flowers like artichokes and purple cauliflowers. Also try to aim for a traffic circle in an area with as little traffic as possible and plant your edibles in the heart of it surrounded by leafy plants that would filter part of the pollution.
Tips for street gardening
Here are a few other tips to help make maintenance of your street garden an easier task:
– Use plants that are low maintenance and adapted to, or tolerant of, dry conditions. This will reduce the amount of maintenance and watering your street garden will need. It is especially important if you have to carry the water there by foot.
– Use compost as a mulch (matter used to cover the top layer of soil to protect and insulate it) to reduce the drying effects of evaporation. Compost will also provide essential nutrition to your plants.
– Keep the garden clean, tidy and weeded. Weeds compete for soil nutrients and can contribute negatively to the health of your own plants. Please refrain from using any herbicide and weed regularly by hand.
– Add yard trimmings to your compost if you can (you can set up a compost bin on your balcony).
– The use of pesticides to solve plant problems is discouraged. Good gardening practices are the foundation of smart pest management. Indeed, healthy, strong plants are more resistant to pests and disease. You can also add local predator insects such as ladybugs to your garden.
– Diversity is the key. Different types of plants need different types of nutrients, amounts of light and water. Make sure that your plants do not compete against each other too much.
Now that you know about the various alternatives to your balcony for urban gardening, it’s time to get your tools and seeds ready and join the green revolution!
Karin Femi is a BBA graduate in marketing and communications who has also studied biology, anthropology, economics, sociology and modern art history. She is passionate about environmental and social issues linked to the flaws of our current society. She aims at eliminating these flaws one person at a time starting with herself. Follow her quest for a more fun yet green lifestyle through her articles.
Karin Femi is currently available for hire as a marketing and communications coordinator or as a journalist. She is also looking for an internship in the publishing industry in Vancouver, Canada.