Urban Gardening for Dummies – a great resource to grow a green(er) thumb

9781118340356 cover.inddWith escalating food prices and growing concerns about food safety, more consumers are turning to gardening. Whether living in an apartment in a large city or a suburban home, gardening and sustainable living are becoming popular.

“People are gardening everywhere,” said Charlie Nardozzi, co-author of Urban Gardening For Dummies. “From fire escapes to rooftops, walls, containers, community gardens. So many people are gardening in cities who’ve never gardened before or have had gardens in suburban areas,” he said, “they have to adapt their skills to the environment.”

This book a great resource for beginners who have never planted a thing or those with some experience. As an organic gardener for years, I was delighted to discover a few new things in it for myself.

Well organized, comprehensive and easy to read, Urban Gardening For Dummies is designed to be used for problem-solving or as a complete read-through. It covers the why’s and how to’s of urban gardening, gardening basics, the wide variety of places and ways to garden, surprising benefits of gardening, and the positive environmental impact gardening can have. Its illustrations and explanations provide tips on how to save you time, money and resources as well as detailing potential problems you may come across along your gardening journey.

Its chapters focus on important issues faced by city gardeners, including:

  • the microclimate effect,
  • where cities are hotter and windier,
  • pollution,
  • and gardening in condensed spaces.
The soil in the White House children's community garden had been contaminated by toxic pesticides

The soil in the White House children’s community garden had been contaminated by toxic pesticides

It also features a chapter devoted to soil, which is a key factor when gardening.

“Knowing your soil is important,” said Nardozzi. There are a wide variety of them and many have contamination issues.

A lot of urban areas are just backfilled areas, he said. “It’s almost like archeology,” he said. What’s now a housing development might have been a cannery at one time. There could be contaminants in the soil you won’t even know about, Nardozzi said.

A great example was First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House organic garden project. Unbeknownst to her, the White House lawn had been saturated for years with toxic fertilizers. That had to be addressed in order to safely grow any edible plants.

People are) embracing greening up cities,” said Nardozzi, “for food production as well as for environmental aspects – to reduce pollution, stormwater run-off and to reduce (their) carbon footprint.”

The book addresses a growing urban trend – rooftop gardening. Although structural issues related to weight need to be addressed for complete rooftop gardens, you can use pots on a portion of a rooftop area to put in some trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers and even vegetables.

“That’s not really a structural issue and you still have a green space,” Nardozzi said.

The Window Farm - a great example of vertical gardening, photo by Britta Riley, flickr

The Window Farm – a great example of vertical gardening, photo by Britta Riley, flickr

Want to try something more unique?

Try a vertical garden. A variety of kits are available – at various expense levels. Along with expensive, sophisticated kits, choices include:

  • Wooly Pockets – carpenter’s pouches you can tack up on your wall and grow plants in
  • Windowfarms – a vertical indoor food garden perfect for apartment dwellers
  • Pallet gardens – wooden pallets lined with landscape fabric on 3 sides filled with soil. Once the plants are established, simply prop it up vertically. It uses little material and very little money.

Both rooftop and vertical gardens put oxygen into the air, combatting air pollution.

Community gardens are also producing great environmental and societal benefits.

“It’s a way to create a green space for yourself and your community,” says Nardozzi. They’re educational for kids and they’ve been shown to reduce vandalism, pollution and trash.

When community gardens come into communities, said Nardozzi, they become a better place to live. An Illinois study showed that areas with a lot of greenery had a lower crime rate than those with little greenery.

But, said Nardozzi, “gardens don’t have to be the traditional thing you think of.”

Community gardens are springing up in urban areas across the country

Community gardens are springing up in urban areas across the country

Cities like Seattle, Chicago and Santa Cruz are creating large community gardens for residents. Even corporations are getting in on the trend. Companies such as HP, Google and Timberland have converted lawn space into community gardens, where employees can grow their own food and work together.

There are a lot of ways to approach it. Container gardening works for small spaces or balconies. The book has a chapter on this.

“You can garden, no matter where you are, no matter how small a space you have or what level of expertise you have in gardening,” he said.

To learn more valuable gardening tips for whatever skill level you are, Both Nardozzi’s earlier book Vegetable Gardening for Dummies and Urban Gardening for Dummiesare available online at Gardeningwithcharlie.com, as well as on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

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