Urban Gardening Taking Root - Earth Week

By Meredith Schneider

Photo courtesy of Urban Garden Center LLC.

Maintaining a green habitat in a bustling city environment might seem counter-intuitive, but it is actually allowing for healthier lifestyles for some people, an improvement in the overall aesthetics of major cities, and a decrease of pollution. As the environmental movement and different respective cities begin to grow, so have new gardens within them.

In general, big cities started planting bushes and trees in medians on highways years ago. Driving down interstate I-5 in California, there are plenty examples of this green effort. Cities are ideal for low maintenance plants that will clear the air of pollution and, of course, add a bit of greenery to an otherwise concrete jungle.

“Trees, bushes and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed,” reports the American Chemical Society. Trees and other green plants can remove the nitrogen dioxide and other unhealthy particles from the air, making city settings much more tolerable to the human body.

Which leads us to what could be considered a boom in urban gardening options. After the restoration of Central Park in the ’80s, urban projects such as The Highline and the upkeep of smaller areas like Washington Square Park and Union Square became a reality, but not every agricultural project in New York City occurs on a grand scale. Local gardening businesses have become staples in the city, especially with the increase in interest in healthier food options and organic lifestyles.

Urban Garden Center LLC is a shop located on East 116th St. and Park Avenue. The family-run business provides New Yorkers with pesticide-free and environmentally conscious products, as well as garden design, maintenance, and installation services to the tri-state area. All garden design services operate under the brand name GRNRF.

“We have a great Community Compost Program,” explains Dimitri Gatanas, head of the design team at GRNRF. “We take in food scraps and mix it with our chicken waste and garden cuttings to make compost. The compost is then made available to anyone who wants it for FREE. Our customers’ loyal support makes this business a reality and it also compliments the wonderful collection of community owned and operated businesses.”

What’s amazing about the urban gardening phenomenon is the skill, innovation, and artistic ability that is necessary to integrate green space into such small living quarters in a city. Companies such as Midwest-based Cultivate KC and New York’s GreenThumb and Green Guerillas provide gardening workshops, educational material, and volunteer opportunities within the community. Green Guerillas even provides college students with a way to earn credit toward their degree. People who work for non-profits such as these are looking to provide city dwellers with organic, fresh, and healthy food choices that might otherwise not be available to them.

Community gardens are popping up everywhere thanks to organizations such as these, making healthy living a viable option for many. With all of the other benefits to urban gardening, it’s easy to forget its capacity as a stress relief outlet for those who are interested.

“My mother was the reason I started gardening,” admits college student and avid gardener Victor DeMarco. “[I like] how therapeutic and relaxing it can be. Some people may view it as work, but if you boil down the reason why you are doing it, it saves you money by not having to buy some produce and vegetables, and it is actually a decent form of exercise.”

Add that to the aesthetic and holistic benefits of gardening, and you’ve got yourself both a worthwhile and insanely rewarding hobby.

If you find that you don’t have the time or resources to start your own garden in whatever environment you currently dwell, farmers markets are always a good source for information and products. “I say stop at every farmer’s market you could find in your neighborhood,” urges Gatanas. “The farmers really need a boost and they will provide you healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables.”

Still not sure where to start? Check out this site for registered urban gardens located worldwide.