Cities face immense challenges when creating attractive green spaces for their inhabitants, striving to create beautiful, engaging public space while also walking the narrow tightrope of budget and resource allocation. Formerly, city landscaping meant well-tended flowerbeds and the immaculately manicured sprawling green lawn which has become a symbol of wealth and luxury.
This type of public green space is attractive, but the truth is that it’s also incredibly wasteful. And yet, a relatively new trend is taking root again — urban gardening in the form of cities being turned into micro food producers. But before we take a look at this movement, lets take a look at how wasteful the current landscaping status-quo is.
- Statistics for municipal water use are tough to track down, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans use 9 billion gallons of water each and every day, simply to keep their personal outdoor landscapes looking green.
- Add municipal water use to this already absurd number and we’re looking at a lot of water going to grow something just so we can cut in a week.
It’s not just the waste of these aesthetic landscapes, it’s also the financial cost borne by taxpayers. It can seem downright frivolous sometimes, prioritizing the installation and maintenance of giant expanses of grass or ornamental flower baskets instead of directing those funds toward improving the health and welfare of its citizens, instead. For ages it’s seemed like an either/or proposition, but a new trend in city planning may have found a way to elegantly balance both.
Urban gardening takes root
Urban agriculture is a unique way for cities to prioritize food over flowers, and a growing number of cities are embracing this concept wholeheartedly. Urban gardening seeks to reclaim unused or ill-used public spaces and transform them into productive edible gardens which are open to the public or designed to benefit specific social service or non profit groups. Some forms of urban gardening look to replace cement or vacant lots with vibrant growth while others try to reframe gardens from just looking good, to tasting good, too.
Wondering what these rich urban gardening projects look like? They truly are as diverse and unique as the vegetable varieties they grow — here are three great examples of urban gardening projects taking root in Europe and North America.
The Edible City
Andernach, Germany, is known as The Edible City, due to their commitment to planting fruits and vegetables on city land, rather than flowers. This initiative officially began in 2010, and has worked to transform over 86,000 square feet of city property into lush vegetable gardens filled with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetable. This urban gardening initiative has met with resounding success, due in large part to incredible community support and involvement. The creative minds behind the project keep community members engaged and interested by continually reinventing the program to feature different plants — planting hundreds of heirloom varieties of tomatoes one year for example, so the public could see and taste the differences between plant types — and constantly innovating and explaining the program.
This creative rethinking of public space wasn’t without its challenges, but an unexpected stumbling block described in an article about The Edible City was that the public was initially quite reluctant to pick the fruits and vegetables as they began to ripen.