Urban gardening and the rise of urban meadows

17/11/2014

Urban Gardening and the Rise of Urban Meadows

Our Head of Innovation discusses the importance of urban gardening in the UK

While the urban garden is experiencing a resurgence, it is in no way a new concept. Its roots trace back to ancient Egypt where community waste was used in urban farming. More recently in London, Mayor Boris Johnson and the London Food Board have developed a food-growing network called Capital Growth, which helps people who grow food at home, on allotments or as part of a community group. The board offers advice and promotes gardening not just as “a nice hobby” but an activity that encourages healthy eating habits too.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations defined urban gardening as “an industry that produces, processes and markets food and fuel, largely in response to the daily demand of consumers within a town, city or metropolis, on land and water dispersed throughout the urban and peri-urban area, applying intensive production methods, using and reusing natural resources and urban wastes, to yield a diversity of crops and livestock.”

Urban gardening is usually grouped into two segments: container gardening and rooftop gardening. Container gardening is very common for people with small patios, gardens, or balconies. They utilise all sorts of containers such as buckets, raised beds, window boxes or anything else creative. Rooftop gardening usually sees a roof of a building transformed into a garden, through adding soil and garden beds and is traditionally used to grow vegetables and larger plants.

But urban gardening is used for more than just food security. People find solace in having plants in the home, office, schools, in prisons, on canal banks and in housing estates – the list goes on. Plants increase general emotional and social wellbeing while reducing stress and depression levels. It may seem trivial, but, as a result of urban gardening people actually become more physically and psychologically healthy. In some cases, urban gardening is carried out in a communal place, like a rooftop where every person is given a designated area in which they can sow their plants. But even the simple act of planting a plant on a balcony or window sill is a great way to become an active urban gardener.

In public areas, the styles and plants used in the urban environment are beginning to shift. We’ve noticed a big demand shift away from green, pristine lawns to more varied and colourful “urban meadows”. The increased variety offered by a mixture of plants and flowers like those found in meadows, enhances the biodiversity of an area – and in my view is simply much more interesting to look at! Butterflies and, more importantly, honey bees, which are continuing to decline nationally, are attracted to colourful, plant-rich meadows, creating a more diverse food chain.

We’re also beginning to see an increase in the planting of fruit trees to encourage foraging in the city. The blossom found on apple and cherry trees offers a bounty of nectar for bees, while also being visually attractive and providing plenty of fruit for the general public or office workers to pick on their lunch break or when going about their daily lives.

Tips and ideas for starting an urban garden

For those interested in starting an urban garden, don’t be afraid to get stuck in. Although growing plants require care and affection, luckily they only need three basic things: light, soil and water. The plants do not even need to be planted in the ground, most actually grow very well in a container. Here are six tips to get you started on your urban garden:

  • Sunlight is crucial: Make sure that you find a place where the plant has access to at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day
  • Plants can be grown on the roof (with permission of course), in window boxes, on patios, as well as from balconies with hanging baskets
  • Soil depth is key: Shallow rooted plants require at least six inches of soil depth if they are less than one foot tall, whereas deeper rooted plants need at least one foot of soil depth.
  • Drainage is important to remember for potted plants as excess water needs to be able to escape, so make sure that your chosen pot has drainage holes
  • Soil content is vital: It is best to stick to a potting soil instead of soil from the ground because potting soil is lighter and drains excess water better
  • Remember to water your garden! It is important that you soak the entire container each time you water, but ensure that you do not over water and dump out any excess water in the saucer under the plant to prevent root rot

For more information contact us on 0800 085 8744 or ask our Plant Doctor a question using our enquiry form.

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