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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 13, 2008

Urban Gardening

By Worker Bee
28 Comments

Those of us who live in larger cities value the diverse culture, the big-time arts and sports, the good job market, the easy travel access, and the many other lifestyle options city living provides. Among those aspects you don’t hear as often: the gardening. The fact is, you don’t have to live in Green Acres to raise a rich, plentiful, even income-generating (yes, you read that right) garden. Check out this video of the Dervaes family and their quest to live close to their 1/5 of an acre of land.

And this local news coverage of the family and their garden:

Now that’s motivation and ingenuity. Let’s just say their example is both humbling and inspiring to those of us who celebrate getting young berry bushes through the winter. Most of us can’t imagine what it would mean to grow even a fraction of our own food let alone enough to feed our families and the restaurant down the block. Four hundred food items! Now that’s veggie and fruit diversity!

While the Dervaes family is truly exceptional, urban gardens (popular for decades in Europe) are taking off in a number of American cities these days. Urban singles and families appreciate the simple enjoyment of the pastime as well as the budget-sparing fruits of their labors. City governments, on the other hand, value the “greening” and beautification of city lots as well as the increased social investment gardening residents make in their urban neighborhoods.

And the benefits don’t end there. A study published in this month’s Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that, among 766 surveyed adults in Flint, Michigan, those who participated in community gardens “consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate, and they were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times daily.”

Not only do urban gardens offer the chance and incentive for better dietary health, we’d argue they offer other health advantages as well, especially for young urban seedlings, who, as we shared last week, stand to benefit from the time outdoors.

For more information on the Dervaes family and their project, check out their website, Path to Freedom. You can find their online journal, Little Homestead in the City.

And send us your thoughts, experiences and tips for urban (or rural/suburban!) gardening.

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28 Comments on "Urban Gardening"

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Judy
Judy
8 years 5 months ago
I’ve just started my own little backyard garden. My husband had already planted some fruit trees (mango, avocado, orange, lemon, banana in our backyard, and peach and plum in the front – we’ve already gotten bananas, and have more almost ready), and so I dug up a couple small plots and planted some veggies and melons. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I have beans and okra coming up and my tomato plants are doing well. My husband, who doesn’t like to eat his veggies, said he’d eat whatever I grew, so I saw… Read more »
Stephen Hubbard
Stephen Hubbard
8 years 5 months ago
Home gardens are such a better use of property and time than the perfect lawns and floral arrangements that mark almost everyone’s front and back yards. Imagine the benefits if families in the suburbs started digging up their front yards to plant zucchini and tomatoes and herbs ect. It might even mean LESS water and time expenditure seeing how some many yards are perfectly manicured. The fresh food provides for the family and occasionally the neighbors and such sharing provided for stronger sense of community. Such a garden would be a huge, visible statement for organics and other great ideas.… Read more »
primalman08
primalman08
8 years 5 months ago

Stephen,

You took the words right out of my mouth. My wife and I have been talking about starting a small scale veggie garden and building up from there once we learn what we are doing. Neither of us has a green thumb, but are interested in learning how to do it. We need the resources your are talking about.

Jen
Jen
8 years 5 months ago

I tried posting a few minutes ago, but I think there was a problem. Sorry if this ends up being a repeat!

We’ve just started to get into the gardening scene. Here are a few resources we’ve found helpful, but we’re always looking for new recommendations too.

http://www.gardeners.com (great supplies and expert tips)
http://www.seedsavers.com (farm that collects and sells heirloom seeds from the Midwest and around the world)
http://www.organicgardening.com (great magazine)

Judy
Judy
8 years 5 months ago
Jen – thanks for the links! Stephen – I’m so with you on the waste that is a front lawn. I might feel differently if people actually used them, but more often than not they are just ornamental. I admit to being guilty as charged – we have a front lawn that we rarely use – but at the same time, we don’t water it or take too much time making it look perfect either. (No neighborhood association thank goodness – part of the reason we picked this house!) I’m not ready to turn the front lawn into a garden… Read more »
Ki
Ki
8 years 5 months ago
I’m psyched for the urban garden movement! I’ve started my own indoor urban garden with aerogardens, hydroponics, and sprouting. I’m growing enough food indoors to supply my breakfast green smoothies, lunch salad, and sometimes dinner salads for me and my husband. What I can’t grow is being supplemented by a local organic coop I joined. This allows us to have more money available for grass fed meat. We live in a townhouse, and I never thought growing my own food would be possible. It is very rewarding and grounding. I love just walking over and picking my food. It saves… Read more »
Heather
Heather
8 years 5 months ago
I’m with the other lawn-haters. I have a decent yard, but hate that it’s mostly lawn. We do almost nothing to keep it up aside from mowing every few weeks in the summer. We still haven’t mowed this year, all the other neighbors have several times already. The chemicals people dump on their lawns concern me, and the noise (from mowers, weed eaters, chippers, etc.) all summer long makes me crazy. I’ve been thinking about planting a garden, but feel a little overwhelmed at the idea sometimes. I guess I need to just get over it, find some instructions, and… Read more »
Jessica
Jessica
5 years 5 months ago

Have you looked into square foot gardening? It’s pretty overwhelm free.

Nancy S
8 years 5 months ago
When we had a front yard we did use it. Well, our 3 kids and the rest of the neighborhood did too! I wished we had a larger back yard so that we could turn part of it into a garden without cutting back on the room the kids needs to run and play. We are living in a duplex now (it Italy) and our landlords have a big garden in the back they haven’t planted yet, plus they have their own chickens and rabbits. Her sister lives next door and grows the corn that feeds the animals. They grow… Read more »
Stephen Hubbard
Stephen Hubbard
8 years 5 months ago

Nancy S:
Its cool to hear examples of neighborhood farming working so well.

Please, please, please stop using “lol”. Please.

Jen
Jen
8 years 5 months ago

Hey, everyone,

Found another good source for seeds and tips.
http://www.seedsofchange.com/

Happy Planting!

John H
John H
8 years 4 months ago

Hey Hubbard,

Please, please, please provide a comprehensive guide to what words are acceptable for other humans to use, in your view, so poor, silly Nancy doesn’t mess up again. Please.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop
8 years 4 months ago
Great post, and comments too! It’s my first time to this site and I’m enjoying it. Couple things: first, we are one of those “bad” people with a lawn that my husband likes to keep beautiful, BUT, he does it with mostly organic applications. We have a great guy here in town who is very knowledgable about all this and he came out to tell us how we could keep it looking good without having to worry about all the chemicals our kids (and all the neighbor kids) were being poisoned with through their feet. Also, I’m starting a container… Read more »
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Rebecca
Rebecca
6 years 8 months ago

An old post, I know, but I just wanted to throw a warning out there. A backyard garden is awesome, but I do have to point out that if you change your front yard into a garden (as we once tried), you may not see many of the ‘fruits of your labor’. Somebody kept stealing the produce out of our front yard.

Especially annoying since we would have shared if they just asked. :/

chipin
chipin
5 years 6 months ago

Good fences make good neighbors.

Jillian
Jillian
6 years 2 months ago

For those of you thinking about planting in the front yard, why not use that area for some fruit trees and herbs? Things like basil, rosemary, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, etc. would all be great in a front yard setting.

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6 years 2 months ago

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DaiaRavi
5 years 6 months ago
First off – a not so nice fact – that the Devraes family has somehow cajoled the trademark office into letting them trademark the exceptionally common and already well used phrase “urban homestead” and they have started to go after anyone else using that phrase – even a book author that used the phrase 2 years BEFORE they received their highly-questionable trademark – nice urban homesteading or not – this is totally uncool (they are going after non-profits using the phrase as well) Secondly- we have a small organic greenhouse and have some very good articles on re-mineralizintg your soil… Read more »
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