Urban Gardening is….


Seems like much of the gardening news in the last year has been about “urban gardening” (when it isn’t about the White House kitchen garden), and that got me wondering what folks think it IS.  So I did the requisite  Google-diving and found – not much.

So here’s what urban gardening is to me, as outlined in the new Urban Gardening section on my very own website, where I hope future Googlers wanting to green-up their cities will find dozens of great links to follow.

Send more links
Know of great examples?  Tell me in a comment and I’ll add them – by category or by city here on “Cities that Garden“.

Movies, too!
One of the many cool side effects of all these gardening programs are the documentaries about them, including this one by Cintia Cabib aptly called “A Community of Gardeners“.   At a recent showing the credits rolled and Judy Tiger, DC’s doyenne of garden activism, turned to me and sighed, “I could watch community gardeners all day.”  Me, too, girlfriend.

Top photo credit. Fire escape photo of Mike Lieberman courtesy Mike from Urban Organic Gardening.


  1. Susan, check out Austin TX for urban gardening. Austin has long focused on and valued all things eco-friendly/organic. OUr downtown area has seen a lot of condo/loft development, giving urban gardeners a small space opportunity, and Starbuck’s in the Circle C subdivision has a rooftop garden. We also have a very passionate farmers market community throughout the city.

    Thanks for a great article!

  2. Uhm, I’m all for making use of sunny space for growing more plants, but isn’t a fire escape best left more un-obstructed for a very important purpose—

  3. Thanks for the mention of my fire escape garden. Greg brings up a good point about it being a fire escape.

    When setting up the garden, I made sure that there is plenty of foot space for people and that the hand rails are free for people to utilize in case of fire.

    I’ve definitely seen some fire escape gardens that obstruct foot paths. Saw one that was using the ladder as a trellis.

  4. I wanted to second Jenny’s Austin suggestion. Specifically, check out the Rhizome Collective, which recently lost its’ original site because it was unable to raise funds to bring it into compliance with city code. Rhizome is developing a new homestead on a bio-remediated brownfield, with city support. In addition to growing veggies, they have a closed-circle permaculture approach including raising fish and fowl, harvesting rain, wind, and solar energy, and producing biofuel. They focus on low-tech, low-cost systems that urban-dwellers can reproduce using available resources.

  5. Ah Susan, a topic near and dear to my heart!

    For me, urban gardening is about making the garden part of an everyday lifestyle (even when you live in the city). It is urban homesteading with all the connections that come with it.

    At GardenFreshLiving.com, I report on how urban gardening can enhance our day to day lives by:

    – Growing food, raising chickens, canning/preserving the harvest.

    – Growing young gardeners. Implementing educational gardens at schools and teaching the kids about being stewards of the earth.

    – Growing a community by trading and bartering with other local gardeners.

    – Networking in neighborhoods and thru social media to connect with other urban gardeners.

    Urban gardening has so many facets and angles! It is just a web of exciting topics that all relate to how gardens connect us to the earth and to each other. I’m so glad you have added this segment to your website. It is a natural extension of all that you do.

  6. Austin has some truly revolutionary and amazing people working to promote urban gardening and farming.

    Boggy Creek Farm has been a fabulous urban farm! The owners are friendly and always out telling wonderful stories and helping customers at their on-site farm stand. You can buy directly from them and take tours of the farm.

    Also someone helping out with lower income groups, teaching urban gardening in Austin:

    The Sustainable Food Center

    The Green Corn Project:

  7. Haven’t yet seen a comment on city block gardens, such as the “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” contest sponsored by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s GreenBridge community outreach program:


    I would also add an obscure but important category, which Barry Yinger calls “street horticulture”, something he noticed mainly in Japan, but I’m beginning to see in NYC, which is simply the practice of businesses and storefronts putting plants in containers out in front of their stores as an informal public display (not to be confused with ostentatious boxed shrubs in front of hotels and boutiques, just potted plants). I’ve seen vines planted in old olive oil tins on Atlantic Avenue, a row of container plants outside a grocery, and a great display around one of the community service buildings in Chinatown. We need more of this!

  8. Community Gardening became a “Fighting City Hall” endeavor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We actually had a city counselor who feared that things would be grown that were illegal in publically held community gardens – I managed to write a letter to the editor that flat said if anyone wanted to grow pot, it was already there in the city. I actually live in a neighboring county but have been involved in the community gardening effort only because I am also a small truck farmer – very small but added to my greenhouse and U-Pick blackberries, I am still a very involved neighbor who started two Farmers’ Markets – Downtown Tulsa and Jenks Farmers’ Markets.

    One of the community gardeners started a blog – for which I add a few words of encouragement and the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign was started 3 years ago and is struggling with producing a Food Guide (this year it didn’t hit the streets). Community gardening struggles in Oklahoma – maybe the ideas are too progressive for the majority of Okies. Seems we often hit the bottom of lists on healthcare and education but we hold high on the lists of corruption, domestic and child abuse, poverty and humans going hungry. This last item breaks my heart.

    Oklahoma does have a huge beekeeping hobby group, the markets are expanding into other smaller towns but the struggle is still finding fools as dumb as I who put growing food high on their lists. Dealing with the Tulsa city counsel was irritating and drew a lot of comments and it finally led the city to allow even corn to grow in front yards that do not have neighborhood rules against such wonderful endeavors. I’m keeping fingers crossed that this grows across our state.

    Oh, another movement that I do not see included is the Native American move back to their native diets. This is highly important to Oklahoma as we have the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative which has opened a farmers’ market in Okmulgee. Seems that as a nation we have plundered this group of humans and pushed them into some of the worst and highest levels of diebetes – some Native Americans have upwards of 50% of their populations and it remains very high even in Oklahoma where we have few poverty restricted reservations. Beans, corn and squash have disappeared from their native diets and with all the white flour, refined sugar and processed cheeses (Native American’s are naturally lactose intolerant), they have suffered greatly from this drastic change in diet for 100 years.

    Maybe part of what I see is that community gardening is a political movement – away from big ag, and government subsidy. A movement toward self sufficiency that will lead toward less need for foods to be shipped so far. No, I don’t want to give up my air conditioning or my washer/dryer and I don’t want others to do the same but imagine a world without hunger – here in the USA.

  9. Street tree gardening is one chapter in my book GARDEN YOUR CITY.

    Re: fire escape gardening – a container or window box just can’t block anyone trying to escape! Make sure it’s secure if tipped over in wind, also!

    About time city gardening gets some press!

  10. Just found this site. I am trying to grow, evolve and get more green by the day. Started a garden blog and am “almost” overwhelmed with how much I am learning about buying in season food, organic methods and just plain better eating. Love that I found your site and will visit more often.
    http://www.nadiaknows.com thank you!

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