Plots of agriculture can help communities of any size. Locally grown produce can ease food insecurity by providing access to nutritious and low-cost, locally sourced fruits and vegetables. Garden plots can produce vegetables within 60 days of planting. There is evidence that community gardens have a calming effect on residents who tend them as well.
If you’re a city dweller, here’s how to start urban farming.
Find Your Location
Many communities are setting aside plots of land for neighborhood gardens. Size doesn’t matter – many successful spaces are container gardens where produce is grown in stackable or moveable containers. While shopping for a space, the Iowa State University Extension Office recommends you consider under-utilized spaces like rooftops, corporate land, churches and parks for your garden.
Preparing the Soil
If your land plot has been used previously used and could be chemically contaminated, don’t despair: You have a few options. For example, you could rehab the soil with the help of local conservation specialists who will work to level the pH balance of the soil. They may recommend replacing the existing soil with fresh soil, or using organic fertilizers and compost.
You also have the option of creating raised beds for your garden. You can find simple designs online and customize them to suit your needs. When searching for designs, be sure to consider the height of the beds, and how the community will use the space. Try not to create beds that are too high, and make sure that people tending the garden are able to reach the center when they maintain the garden.
Choose Your Crop
Urban gardens make use of rooftops, balconies, alleyways, sidewalks or whatever little space the gardener has available. Because of this, container gardens (growing in pots or raised beds) are a popular option. Whether planting flowers or vegetables, you need to know the ideal growing conditions for your crop before planting. Make sure you set pots or containers in places that will receive adequate light, and are close to water sources. Discuss your plans with your gardening supply store or a gardener friend – some plants can share space in the soil.
Sample Vegetables Ideal for Container or Community Gardens:
- Cherry and bush tomatoes
- Summer squash
Be creative! If you want to grow a vegetable not listed here, check with your local garden supply store and ask them about ideal growing conditions – required light, temperatures, and growing seasons. Some vegetables mature in two months, and others take six months. Create a plan for your garden.
Many plants can weather inconsistent water, but vegetables require a consistent water supply to perform their best. Be sure you mark where you plant so you can judge what sort of care each plant needs. Markers don’t have to be expensive to be effective; they could be something as simple as a plastic spoon with a tag attached. Know what your plant looks like so you don’t accidentally uproot it while weeding and cleaning your beds.
Community gardens can be a great source of fresh, local produce for residents. They can also provide countless educational opportunities for school-aged children, and help revitalize an urban neighborhood. The key to a successful urban garden is going in with a plan of action and a little community buy-in from neighborhood residents.