While doing any type of design research into gardens and garden buildings, you will eventually trip over the urban garden concept. Urban gardening and agriculture brings food production into the city or urban area. Urban locales can turn into food deserts, and urban agriculture allows a dweller to grow and source edibles locally. Northern Virginia is in a tense relationship between its necessity for urban and suburban growth and preserving our wild and beautiful landscape. On the extremes we have the urban designer’s ultimate nightmare: Tyson’s Corner; and counties like Rappahannock whose commitment to farmland and rural landscape has stunted its population growth and lead many of its young people to find jobs and homes in other areas. The NoVA region is not alone in this fight and many areas across the United States face the challenge of smart design for the best options to growth. While urban gardening is not a new concept, it is an ever growing passion of many people working to balance the rush of the city with their want of something more natural.
Ancient civilizations struggled with keeping food sources local just as we are today. Evidence of urban agriculture has been found in ancient Egypt and Machu Picchu. In the late 19th century Detroit, while struggling through a depression, prompted its citizens to farm any vacant lot in the city to help feed themselves and neighbors. More recently, allotment gardens and victory gardens were both used during the World Wars as food security measures. Living in the United States today modern urban gardeners may be seeking a different type of food security: knowing where the tomato you are eating came from, what pesticides (if any) were used on it, and if it’s a true plant or a genetically modified one. The Eat Local movement has many people turning away from shipped in fruits and veggies and searching for fresher, closer produce. Urban agriculture and gardening can create these choices!
The High Line, an urban garden park in Manhattan, offers an English meadow in the middle of busy New York! Most green spaces and urban parks attempt to shelter its visitors from the city, but The High Line does not! Views of the steel and glass are all around while strolling through the meadow garden. A lot of modern urban gardeners are taking this approach, with the creation of green space that is part of the cityscape. Many urban areas are giving owners the ability to create green roofs. A green roof can be designed for multiple purposes: anything from insulation and drainage only, to something more useful like outdoor patio area, or community vegetable and flower gardens.
Not looking for something as complicated as a green roof? Urban gardens can be built in abandoned lots, in containers on your patio or balcony, or even in vertical hangers that hang on the wall. The possibilities are endless! Always check with your local governments and see if there are any rules for an urban garden in your area especially if you live in an historic district. Ultimately, if you find yourself living in the city it doesn’t mean you will lack a garden and the connection to nature that you might be craving! So get creative and start planting!