With the growing cost of food in supermarkets these days, many people are turning to urban garden plots. Whether these are back yard plots for family use or organized groups making use of vacant lots or patches in some parks that are allotted to nearby apartment dwellers, the practice has been growing for some years.
As well as the economic benefit of growing your own vegetables or fruit there are many other benefits. You know where the seeds you are using come from and whether they have been genetically modified or a natural seed cultivated from plants in your growing area. You can decide whether you want to use a growing medium or fertilizer that is organic or even use your own composted material.
If you become part of an organized group or just join a couple of neighbors in the adventure of growing a few tomatoes, carrots, lettuce or trying out new vegetables you can benefit from socializing with your neighbors giving you the opportunity of making new friends who also have an interest in gardening.
Urban agriculture can even reduce the carbon footprint in some neighborhoods as plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, depending upon what type of crop is grown. Plants like strawberries for instance retain their green leaves while only the berries are harvested, allowing the plant to release oxygen as long as the climate allows them to grow.
One study in Flint, Michigan found that those participating in community gardens consumed more fruits and vegetables when taking an active role in urban gardening. Produce is perceived to be more desirable, fresher and better tasting than store bought produce. When children take part in the process it has also been reported by an Idaho study that a positive association with school gardens resulted in increased intake of foods high in Vitamins A, C and fiber among the children involved.
Urban gardening improves dietary knowledge.[i] Community gardeners were better able to communicate specific nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables on the body than those who had not participated in a community garden. They also tended to consume fewer sweet foods and drinks in a Philadelphia study.[ii]
Saving the Environment:
In large urban areas even rooftop gardens can be utilized for growing trees to improve air quality as well as growing garden vegetables and fruits. These gardens can apparently cut down on noise pollution as well. Most roofs or vacant lots consist of hard flat surfaces that reflect sound waves instead of absorbing them. By adding plants that can absorb these waves it has great potential to lead to a vast reduction in noise pollution.[iii]
In the case of vacant lots where contaminated soil or water may be present, vegetable gardens would not be suitable or probably safe to eat. However urban agriculture can be used as a method to rid an area of chemical pollution. Non-edible plants can be used to remove chemicals and hold the soil in place to prevent the erosion of contaminated soil thereby decreasing the spread of pollutants and the hazard presented by the lots.
If there is any doubt about contaminated soil in your garden areas, soil testing should be done beforehand to avoid growing food crops where lead, mercury or other similar contamination may have leached into the soil. This is where containers, garden boxes or hydroponic (soil-less) gardening is an ideal solution.
There are also community groups in many cities that grow extra food to be delivered to food banks in order to provide fresh produce along with other food items. Extra produce is also shared in some cities where low income families do not have the space to grow, nor the income to access fresh produce.
Last, but not least, what a great way to get outdoors and exercise with planting and maintaining your garden patch. Keep yourself active and maintain good flexibility with regular check-ups with your chiropractor.
[i] Bellows, Anne C., Katherine Brown, Jac Smit. “”Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture” (paper and research conducted by members of the Community Food Security Coalition’s North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture)”. Foodsecurity.org.
[ii] Hale, J; Knapp, C.; Bardwell, L.; Buchenau, M.; Marshall, J.; Sancar, F.; Litt, J. (2011). “Connecting food environments and health through the relational nature of aesthetics: Gaining insight through the community gardening experience”. Social Science & Medicine. 72 (11):1853-1863. doi:10.1016/j. socscimed2011.03.044 PMC 3114166.PMID 21596466:
[iii] Passchier-Vermeer, W.; Passchier, W.F. (2000). “Noise exposure and public health”. Environmental Health Perspectives. 108(1):123–131.