One of the biggest green trends for the coming year is urban farming and even those who have never lived or worked on a farm are taking to the concept of raising their own food – at least partially. Urban farms are becoming so popular all over America and elsewhere too. Often there are extra challenges as, with less space to work with, projects must be scaled down and efficiency becomes crucial ensuring that every inch of space is used.
In fact, many academics, scientists, environmentalists and even the man in the street believe urban farming could be the green solution to future food shortages instead of relying on the worrying and downright dangerous GMOs as a way to resolve such shortages. It is all about trying to become more self sufficient and less reliant on others to provide for you. It is also about eating a more health-promoting and organic diet and even caring for a few chickens who will reward your devotion with a regular supply of free range eggs.
Urban farming could be the answer to so many modern problems
Only last year, there was a huge outcry on the internet when Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan was facing 93 days in jail after being charged with a misdemeanor. Her crime was planting a vegetable garden in the front yard. Julie explained that she planted the garden after her front yard was torn up for some sewer repairs. Rather than wasting the opportunity to start with a clean slate by planting a lawn, she decided to really put the area to use, and plant a vegetable garden. Her garden consists of 5 raised beds, where she grows a mix of squashes, corn, tomatoes, flowers, and other veggies. She was threatened and persecuted by her local council but in the face of such opposition, the council soon backed down. In her own small way, Julie was instrumental in sowing the seed (pun intended) whereby people were encouraged to start their own vegetable gardens or fruit orchards in place of water guzzling and labour intensive lawns.
Allotments are a great idea
Urban farming is generally practised for income-earning or food-producing activities, though in many communities the main impetus is recreation and relaxation. In the UK, town and village allotments have been popular for decades. An area of land is divided up into small plots and rented to interested people to grow veggies and fruit. Such urban farming can contribute to food security and safety in two ways: firstly, it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities and secondly, it allows fresh vegetables fruits, eggs and even meat products to be made available to urban consumers.
Less ambitious schemes
While there many urban farming schemes, you can also benefit from growing your own city vegetable garden. All you need is a window, balcony, patio, deck or roof that receives six or more hours of sun together with a few containers. These can produce an adequate supple of produce for you without the need for a large garden plot. With containers, you can grow anything from lettuce and tomatoes to beans and peppers. You can even grow potatoes and vine crops, such as squash and cucumbers. As long as there is adequate drainage, nearly anything can be used to grow vegetables.
Just remember that
1. Smaller containers are used for more shallow-rooted crops like carrots, lettuce, and radishes. Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and beans will benefit from using containers that are big enough to accommodate their larger root systems. In fact, the use of five-gallon buckets is not uncommon. To make use of all available space, consider growing vegetable plants in hanging baskets too.
2. In order to help improve drainage and airflow, it may be a good idea to raise your containers about an inch or two off the ground with blocks. Place vegetables in a sunny area that is well protected from wind, which can dry out plants. Container plants usually require daily watering particularly when it is dry, hot and sunny.
I live in a mostly warm and sunny climate but only have a small city courtyard garden. In spite of this, we manage to have a successful urban mini farm! We have 4 blueberry bushes in containers, raspberry and gooseberry canes, a prolific lemon tree plus newly planted grapefruit and tangerine trees. We have a container garden for herbs plus two large deep containers for growing spinach, carrots, shallots, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers and cabbages. The tomato plants have their own 5 gallon pots. Everything is organic including compost (we make our own in 2 compost bins) and fertilizer. It is great fun and very satisfying. The image for this post is our very own first cucumber! The image for the front page of the blog shows the wonderful veggie garden of my friend in Maine.
If you plan on starting your own city vegetable garden, you will find so much help and advice on the internet. There are even specialist web sites and magazines devoted to the urban farmer so there is no excuse not to get going.