From Barcelona to Belfast and Copenhagen to New York City, record numbers of urban gardeners are growing their own fruits and vegetables in community gardens; front and backyard plots, in raised beds, and in container gardens on rooftops, patios and balconies.
Food and flower gardening is big business. Home gardeners spend an estimated $3.6 billion growing vegetables, fruit, berries and herbs and $2.7 billion on flower gardening. That means that one of three households (or 36%) are raising food, while flower gardening households are at 34%.
Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont cites recent trend reports from Garden Media Group that show a move toward growing food inside as well, with indoor gardening growing 8.2% in the last five years. Some 37% of Millennials and 28% of Baby Boomers are growing herbs indoors. “From growing arugula to bok choy, clean fresh food will be available to plant, pick and plate every season. From herbal tea gardens on the window sill and healing herbs under lights to vitamin-packed microgreens on the kitchen counter, medicinal gardens are blooming indoors,” writes Dr. Perry.
Two-thirds of parents feel children should be involved with activities relating to healthy food as concerns about childhood obesity grow. More households with children also tend to plant at home, which makes sense since students are first exposed to planting in classrooms and school gardens. “According to the 2016 IKEA Life at Home Report, 60% of people worldwide grow vegetables or flowers indoors. Growing under lights is forecast to increase by 6.3% each year through 2021.”
The 2016 National Gardening Survey reports that the $36.9 billion DIY yard and garden industry is growing at a slow and steady rate, led by Millennials, growth in food gardening, and trends in “clean” eating. The highest spending was among Baby Boomers, married households, those with annual incomes of more than $75,000 and college graduates. But the most important new market segment, 18-to-34-year-olds, have become five million of the six million “new” gardening households.
The National Gardening Association claimed that food gardening in the U.S. is at its highest levels in over a decade at 17%. A 2014 report, “Garden to Table: A 5-Year Look at Food Gardening in America,” showed that 42 million households in America are growing food at home or in community gardens. The trend should continue as more consumers move toward “clean” organic gardening, the use of natural pest control methods and the planting of heirloom seeds, in place of harmful pesticides and hybrid and GMO seeds.
Want to join the sustainable food movement but afraid you don’t have enough space? No worries. Here are a few simple ideas for new urban farmers to get you planting in no time.
Plants need air, water, soil and exposure to sunlight (approximately six hours per day). If you have enough ground space, raised garden beds are a great alternative for starting a small garden. You can build your own 4’ x 4’ bed from untreated wood like cedar with various DIY videos or purchase one made of recycled plastic or wood that is easy to assemble. These are great for growing small plots of vegetables, fruits and flowers. They keep weeds from raiding your soil, prevent soil compaction, thwart certain pests, and offer better drainage to prevent root rot. Some traditional garden beds are at ground level while other elevated containers allow for easier gardening.
If you don’t have enough horizontal space, then vertical gardening alternatives are best for you. You can use an existing fence, build a trellis or arbor, or opt for an innovative tower garden, which can fit in a 2.5 square foot space. Some tower gardens operate with aeroponic or hydroponic features. Aeroponics, a soil-less food growing system, uses air, water-soluble nutrients, and light to grow vegetables, herbs, and a variety of fruits. Hydroponics, on the other hand, uses a growing medium of Rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, coconut fiber, gravel and sand etc,. instead of soil that is supplemented with a nutrient-rich solution for easy food intake by the roots.
Both systems usually produce greater yields in smaller spaces. Container and 5-gallon bucket gardens are also convenient for planting tomatoes and berries on terraces and patios; however, you must make holes on the bottoms for proper drainage.
Also trending with gardeners are living green walls using outdoor or even indoor space, provided there’s adequate sun exposure. Do-it-yourselfers have used all kinds of found items to create these walls, including step ladders, pallets, shelving, stackable baskets, and even shoe pockets and racks. You can create beautiful pocket gardens by using a Wooly pockets. These vertical garden planters are handy modular, green, and breathable. They quickly and easily create lush living walls and vertical gardens on any indoor or outdoor wall, fence or railing. You can design green walls of any shape or size by combining multiple planters. The possibilities are endless!
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title for more information.
Vertical Gardening: The Beginner’s Guide
by Olivia Abby
All New Square Foot Gardening
by Mel Bartholomew
Easy Container Gardening
by Lynda Goldman and Patti Pokorchak
Urban Gardening: How to Grow Food in Any City Apartment
by Will Cook
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