The organic vegetable garden in urban areas

The organic vegetable garden in urban areas

In our Twenty-first century of absolute convenience and consumerism, we have become disconnected from nature. We somehow believe that not only can we live separately from nature, but that we can also take as much as we want without giving anything back. That is not how a successful relationship works. We are a part of nature and if we continue to live as if we are a privileged and separate species, we risk losing everything. The multitude of problems facing us as human beings on this planet can be overwhelming and daunting. But one thing each one of us can do is to take personal responsibility to cultivate a better relationship with the piece of planet on which we live”. Jane Griffiths (Television producer and writer).

Up until the twentieth century, people in rural areas commonly produced a significant proportion of their own food in their vegetable gardens. This was an age-old practice that dated back beyond memory; it was what people had always done. In those more uncertain times, the garden was the most secure and reliable source of food. At many points in history, it became a matter of life or death; it provided the food that kept people alive in times of crisis. Even when it was not essential for survival, the garden provided a margin of comfort and security, supplying its inhabitants with a better and more varied diet and making their lives easier. Indeed often, the only difference between a comfortable family and an impoverished one was whether they had access to land for growing food.

In the twentieth century, industrialization and greater affluence broke the old bonds with the land. People moved to the cities and suburbs and the self-sufficient home vegetable garden became outdated. To most people food is now just another commercial product, like shampoo or detergent. It is available year round, ready packaged from the supermarket. It is no longer our most vital link to the earth and as a result, our view of nature has become distorted. We now see ourselves as so separate from nature that the health of the economy seems more important than the health of the planet.


Making life more sustainable is an incredibly good reason to plant a vegetable garden, but there is also a much more personal reason. It is one of the most satisfying things you can do in your life and provides a wonderful contrast to the chores of daily life. So many of us have mundane jobs that do not require us to use our minds or bodies and do not produce anything of any real significance. Gardening is the perfect antidote to such work, as it uses both mind and body and is highly productive. It also provides us with food, the most essential thing in life. Gardening can also enhance our health, by providing us with exercise, psychological satisfaction and as a source of healthy and delicious food. The art of coaxing food out of the earth is such an elemental activity that it also speaks to us on a deeper level; it is a natural activity of humans.

Urban Vegetable Gardening:

Increasing the amount of food grown in our cities will do more than provide fresh, affordable, organic vegetables, fruit, and herbs on our doorstep. Urban food gardens create greener spaces in our cities, reducing food miles and recycling waste that would have gone to landfill sites. City areas are heat-creating islands of concrete, tarmac, and glass, with increased air pollution from traffic and industry. Greener spaces within the city lessen air pollution, as plants clean and filter the air. Vegetation absorbs heat and insulates buildings, reducing the need for energy-hungry air conditioners and heaters. Storm water, instead of running off flat roofs, walls, and pavements and out of the city, is slowed by plants and their growing media. Green spaces attract and provide habitat for birds and insects, reconnecting city dwellers with nature and relaxing green havens.

Urban farms give urbanites an increased appreciation of our food and its food, and are more likely to want to eat it, leading to better eating habits and a healthier society. Gardening opens eyes to the importance of recycling and conserving precious resources. A city farm is an effective way to teach children practical aspects of science, biology, and how the world around us works. This increased knowledge leads to opportunities for job creation and entrepreneurs. Finally, green havens simply look and feel good, improving the quality of our lives. Whether you are growing vegetables in your own back garden, a patio or on a large city rooftop, a basic understanding of soil, plants and how to grow them is the first step to success.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

Author

  • Manager, Aquaculture, Department of Animal Sciences, Stellenbosch University

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