Each day on social media I have the privilege of meeting many fascinating people who enjoy growing, cooking and sharing from around the world. During the months of October and November I’m going to be sharing short interviews and blog post featuring a few of these people I recommend my readers to follow.
4 Ways to Garden in the Big City
guest post by Abby Lee Hood.
When I moved to Chicago from my home state of Tennessee, my parents said, “You’re going to that concrete jungle?” and they really meant it. Most people do. I have plenty of friends who think of urban areas as being glass and concrete, with little greenery or nature to speak of. Thankfully, that isn’t the case at all! Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities I know, with tons of green space. You’ll find similar situations across urban areas anywhere you go, because deep down, everyone has a little farmer in them. There are so many ways you can garden no matter where you call home. For those who are lucky enough to live in urban areas and want to spruce up the surrounding area with a little Mother Nature, here is a list of four ways you can garden in the big city.
1. Indoor gardening – Indoor gardening is pretty popular and there are tons of blogs, websites, and other literature dedicated to the subject. This is the type of gardening I do as well! You can grow ornamental or functional plants indoors, depending on your space, schedule, and dedication. I’m currently growing romaine lettuce, ornamental peppers, succulents, ornamental grass and ivy. They are all in separate pots and have different needs, but my college student schedule means I’m home frequently enough I can give them adequate care. In a city, a major concern is sunlight. I’m luck enough to have an apartment with huge windows and wide window sills – my main “garden patch.” If you don’t have access to natural lighting, you can purchase tiny indoor greenhouses or growing lights, like this one from Wayfair for $20.99
2. Community Gardening – This is a great option for those with little indoor space, like college students who live in dorms. It’s also a great way to give back to your community and make new friends. In Chicago, there are tons of community gardens. According to the Chicago Community Gardeners Association’s website, the city “is home to hundreds of community gardens.” The Chicago Community Gardeners Association is an organization dedicated to helping support green spaces. But other cities have community gardens too, and not just the ones as large as Chicago. Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where I was born, recently started a community garden. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen in town! Check with your local park district to ask which gardens are in your area, and if there aren’t any, don’t you think it’s time to start one?
3. Seed Bombs – This is possibly the most low maintenance, hands-off form of city gardening. It’s sort of like being the Robin Hood of greening urban areas. Seed bombs are balls of soil and clay that contain seeds, and then you launch them with slingshots or your hands onto rooftops, hilltops, over fences onto vacant lots. You get the idea. I’m not telling you to break the law or vandalize, so you’ll want to refrain from causing trouble, but it’s easy enough to make these. You’ll want a good amount of clay/dirt mixture, some water, and seeds. Make the “bombs” hard enough that birds won’t be interested in pecking them apart, and wet enough they’ll stick together and won’t lose the seeds when they’re thrown. An important note about the seeds you choose: check to see what’s native in your area, what can thrive easily, and what is considered an “invasive species.” You do not want to introduce a harmful plant species! Where I grew up, kudzu would knock down power lines because it grew so rapidly it covered them up. As long as you are responsible and caring, seed bombs are a great way to introduce new plant life to an area. In the spring, I attended a great seed bomb workshop from Food is Free Project founder John Edwards. To check out his ideas on seed bombs, visit the Food is Free Project’s website.
4. Working at a greenhouse or botanic garden – If you cannot, or don’t feel comfortable, participating in the above ideas, are you looking for a new career? Working at a greenhouse is a great way to be outdoors and work with plants. It’s also a great opportunity to learn! Many greenhouses operate all year, although if you are looking for seasonal work this may also be a great option. Check for local greenhouse in your area with a simple Google search. Update your LinkedIn profile and your resume with any gardening experience you may have, and apply to greenhouses with open positions. You can also volunteer at public botanic gardens. In the Chicagoland area, the Chicago Botanic Gardens has loads of open positions and volunteer opportunities. You can look through the list here for some ideas, but check with your own local botanical gardens to see what’s available near you!
Gardening in the city is not as hard as you may think. It’s uplifting in so many ways to have a simple windowsill full of plants, like I do, or to work full-time at a greenhouse or garden. How do you garden in the city? Do you have more ideas about ways to nurture nature in your area? Respond in the comments below
About Abby Lee Hood
Abby Lee Hood is a “garden variety” amateur indoor gardener living in Chicago, IL. You can find her indoor gardening posts at urbanbotanical.tumblr.com She is a journalism major at Columbia College Chicago and a communications strategist. She’s also a proud big sister and a bluegrass fiddle player. Find her on Twitter @urbanbotanical or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.