Urban gardening – a boost for sustainable development
Both consumers’ growing interest in the origin and freshness of food and the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic have boosted the city gardening movement. Various forms of using land and rooftops in urban areas for gardening or even farming are cropping up worldwide. A positive side effect is that these urban oases also promote sustainability.
Urban gardening or farming can take many different forms: a garden on the rooftop of a high rise or in a backyard, a farm in the underground, a colonial or community garden, or even tactical gardens, where unused plots of land in cities are used. Here are some exciting examples:
Lush fields on the rooftops of Paris
Using rooftops or balconies is the most well-known type of urban garden. Three years ago, the world’s largest urban farm – Nature Urbaine – opened on the roof of Parc des Expositions in Paris. Today, over 30 species are grown organically on an area spanning over 14,000 square meters: strawberries, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, and many herbs. Up to a ton of seasonal fruits and vegetables are harvested daily by 20 gardeners during peak season. The products are then sold to nearby restaurants, hotels, and inhabitants. Locals can also rent a one-square-meter plot to grow their fruits and vegetables for 320 euros per year.
An urban farm in a London bomb shelter
Just as you can grow plants on a roof, you can do the opposite below earth. This is precisely what Zero Carbon Farms does 33 meters below the streets of London. The company claims to be the world’s first underground farm. Founded in 2012, it has been set up in a former air raid shelter dating back to World War II in the Clapham district. The tunnels have been transformed into a futuristic farm where LED lights and hydroponic technology – a method where plants are grown in water rich in mineral nutrients without soil – produce lettuces and herbs without pesticides. This farming approach consumes 70 percent less water than traditional open-field farming methods, has year-round production, and reduces transport distances significantly.
Colonial gardens in Zurich
Urban gardening or farming does not have to be at a commercial scale like the previous examples. Europe has a long history of colonial gardens in its cities, and Zurich is no exception. Today’s allotment plots are no longer focused on self-sufficiency for the working class as they were a hundred years ago but have transformed into places for leisure and recreation. Today, The city of Zurich leases around 5,500 garden plots to its residents. These cover a total of 132 hectares, which is equivalent to 185 football fields. Families with children are preferred to individuals when renting new allotment plots.
Community gardens in Berlin
Not motivated enough to grow vegetables on your own? Being part of a community garden may be right for you. In Berlin, several such gardens offer residents, businesses, schools, and associations a place to cultivate and tend vegetables and fruits and also an opportunity to meet. The harvest is then processed and conserved by the community. One of these gardens is located on the grounds of the former Tempelhof airport.
Tactical gardening in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, a grassroots movement named Guerilla Gardeners NL urges people to use flowers and plants for greening their neighborhood – tactical gardening. They plant bulbs in the tree beds around trees in city streets, scatter wildflower seed bombs onto bare road verges, or turn unused plots of land into an allotment. It’s a type of guerilla gardening, so before transforming neglected corners in your proximity, check out the municipal laws. It is not necessarily illegal. The movement has found that more may be accomplished in consultation with local authorities on larger city greening schemes than is generally thought possible.
Did you get inspired? Why not set up your urban garden and grow your produce alone or with others in your neighborhood?
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