The Case for Urban Gardening

Are you living in an urban sprawl, limited by big box grocery store chains that provide less than adequate, expensive produce? Does your entire body groan when your supply of fruit and veggies is limited? Fear not. There is a way around this, and with a little planning, seed, water, soil, and containers, you can start growing your own food today. Even if you only have a staircase, balcony, or a tiny patch of grass, you can get creative and grow your own food.

The boring peer reviewed article first…

According to the Journal of Environmental Horticulture publication, the immediate health benefits both physically and mentally from growing your own food have been researched and proven to positively influence many areas of our lives. Examples include decreasing stress, improving concentration and memory, promoting better sleep, community beautification, helping patients heal in hospitals faster, and improvement of mood and happiness (link). Just Google or Bing “Health Benefits of Gardening” and you’ll get an eye load of research conducted on this topic that is mind blowingly calming.

What do I eat?

It’s as simple as asking yourself “what do I (or my family) like to eat?” What herbs and veggies do I frequently throw in my soups, sauces, main dishes? And also ask yourself-can one really eat too many greens or carrots? If there are leftovers, you can walk some over to your elderly neighbors that lost their Meals on Wheels program. You’ll make their day. Trust me.

Gardening does not have to be this huge expenditure of time or money unless you get obsessed and want it to be. I started out gardening by putting a few plants around the house that required little attention since I had no idea of how much or when to water them. BrightNest reported the benefits of houseplants has been confirmed by NASA that include everything from decreasing the amount of dust in the air while increasing oxygen to improving your immune system.

Tap into community resources.

If you want to take that next step beyond houseplants, but need help, check out local community resources such as a non-profit. Urban gardening programs are popping up around the nation that offer programing at low cost or free. Local Parks and Recreation programs are even offering gardening classes at low cost. I was lucky and found an organization where I could not only give back to low income families but also learn the essentials of basic gardening.

You are what you eat!

I have also been very aware of the mantra “you are what you eat.” It took me some time to realize the food I was putting in my body was starting to take a toll on my health. I decided to take action and take control of my health by simply growing some of the food I regularly enjoy. While some of the things I simply cannot grow because of the amount of work and space it would require to process, such as my own organic wheat, I have turned to gluten free flours. Since becoming gluten free over the past year, I have ceased having diarrhea and terrible stomach pains.

Herbs count!

Oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil are great starter plants that keep on giving. You can begin by going to your local nursery and purchasing some starts. Or, you can start from seed at home. If you’re starting from seed, a trick I recently learned is to sprout the seeds overnight by laying the seeds on a paper towel in a bowl with a lid.

Place another paper towel on top and dampen the paper towels with water. The seeds should begin to sprout overnight. Once sprouted, you can get a pot, put some soil in and stick your pinky finger in about ¼ inch down and plant the seed. Water again, but don’t drench. Place under a grow light (LED grow lights are a super efficient and energy saving option you can find on Amazon) or in a South facing window. Check the back of your packets for a timeframe of when to expect sprouts.

Practice makes perfect.

Come springtime, I have a small plot of dirt just outside my kitchen window. It’s perfect for planting the herbs together as well as some tomato plants. I never have grown tomatoes from seed, but have opted to purchase some starts at the farmer’s market. My favorite are the yellow pear tomatoes that pack a punch and are delicious right from the vine. Tomatoes can grow well in containers, but require more watering which is typical of container plants.

Companion planting and zoning are your friends.

Try planting basil together with the tomatoes. The flavor exchange is wonderful between the plants. The reason I use the plot outside my window for these specific herbs and fruits is that it’s considered to be zone 1 or otherwise known as the closest spot to my front door that I’m least likely to neglect. Within permaculture design, zones are distributed throughout the space to determine the most appropriate plant placement.

Social media makes it so easy to learn.

These are just a few ideas. Pinterest is my best bud in searching for urban gardening ideas. You can find tips for rooftop gardening, vertical gardening, container gardening-you name it. Best of all, Pinterest is loaded with visual how-tos galore! There are many reasons to garden in your urban or suburban landscape and the choices are endless. You will not regret the healthy choice to plant a row or two as you are challenging your brain to learn new things and feeding your body nutritious goodies straight from your efforts and home.