Urban Gardening for Fun, Food and Function

Urban Gardening for Fun, Food and Function

Of the many things I take into account when moving, access to green space is top of mind. I’ve had the best-case scenario-a yard and room for a full garden, the worst-no outdoor space to speak of, and the compact option- a planter garden on a terrace. However much space one has to work with, it is worth the effort- some studies show that access to green space actually makes people happier than money, and for a longer period of time.

Access to green space has been shown to offer a host of benefits for mental health and performance, such as reduced stress, improved mental clarity, resulting in improved performance at work and/or school. Studies consistently demonstrate that living closer to urban green spaces is linked to lower mental distress (such as anxiety or depression). As American’s are moving en masse to cities rather than away from them, this is no small consideration for us urbanites. Where urban planning has yet to catch up, urban gardening can step in.

This weekend, I replanted my terrace pots with buttercrisp lettuce and Russian red chard, renewed my herb garden with rosemary, lime thyme and sage, and planted a camellia plant for the tantalizing scent it gives off. My mother, visiting from out of town, added snapdragons to the base of my three rose plants, a touch of whimsy that makes me smile each time I look at them. I trimmed back the garlic chives and African blue basil plant, which has become a miniature basil tree, flowering year round and doing its part for the bee population. I repotted jade, the heartiest plant I have ever encountered, and bid farewell to last season’s straggling kale.

It was a glorious few hours of plant shopping, dirt hauling, shoveling and sweating, digging and planting and watering. As I went, focusing on the tasks at hand, watching my wee garden transform, I noticed how relaxed I was. How much fun it is to have a little dirt under my fingernails, how happy each individual plant makes me just to observe. Every time I step out my front door, I am thrilled again- checking each plant to see if it thrives, inventing new ways to use the herbs, dreaming up dinner party menus.

I am not the only one to have noticed- bees, birds, and butterflies have taken to visiting, each one offering an invitation to a moment’s meditation, another formidable ally on the path of wellbeing.  Whether you start with one plant or four, for flowers or food, give it a shot- even a little green goes a long way.

For some tips & tricks on setting up an urban garden of your own, see here and here, a few fall planting ideas here, and here. To find your regions “hardiness zone”, click here.

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