Urban gardening went from a gardening trend among environmentally conscious city dwellers to a real topic of the future. Here we shed the light on current trends – from the strategic creation of green spaces in the city to urban self-sufficiency.
On one of the wooden walls hangs a seed dispenser, which in an earlier life used to be a cigarette vending machine. Now you can stock up on tomato or carrot seeds. Meadow flowers, bright ranunculus and an ornamental shrub peep out of a car wreck sprayed with neon colours. A discarded bathtub serves as a water barrel, next to it the patio made of old planks invites you to stay a while. Our gaze wanders over numerous vegetable and flower beds, carefully bordered with old granite cobblestones. Silvia Appel, now a full-time blogger and urban gardening expert, proudly guides us through the 1,800 square metre area. The “City Horticultural Show” is a joint project between the Campus Garden of the University of Würzburg (Germany) and the association „Stadtgärtner Würzburg“, within the framework of the State Horticultural Show. "Here we want to show how you can create a green paradise for people, animals and plants in the middle of the city with the simplest means. We only had 5,000 euros to design the garden, but there is a lot of heart and soul in it. We built our raised beds using waste from surrounding construction sites. The hedge was created from trees that were surplus to the area. And since the ground is extremely rocky, we quickly realised what we could use to mark out the paths," says Silvia, who quit her job as an SEO specialist to pursue her passion for gardening. "Our little area is very well received by visitors." Even the city itself is now subsidising city gardeners with a municipal support programme. Up to 1,500 euros are available to create green spaces on house walls or rooftops. After all, such green spaces are "natural air conditioning systems". They save up to 10 percent energy because they provide additional thermal insulation in winter and protection from the heat in summer. And the air in the city is improved, too.
Public funding for urban green spaces
The trend for the state or local authorities to encourage urban gardening has models all over the world. Paris, a city with extremely little green space, decided in 2016 to open up 100 hectares of public space for urban gardening. The goal: by 2020, to have a total of one third of all green areas planted however the gardeners want. The largest urban funding programme was launched in New York already at the end of the 1970s. The city is regarded as the origin of the urban gardening trend. What began with seed bombs illegally thrown over fences has now established itself as an important component of green infrastructure through numerous workshops and community gardens. New recreation and participation spaces have emerged for people in the densely populated city.
Urban farms are flourishing
This trend isn't just down to environmental, social, infrastructural and economic reasons. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture estimates that, given the growing population, agricultural production would have to increase by around two thirds up to 2050. On average, only 1,500 square meters of agricultural land will be available per capita worldwide. In 1970, it was more than double that figure at 3,205 square metres. Urban rooftop farms or entire high-rise plantations could be one remedy. Take New York for example. The world's largest urban farm project is the Brooklyn Grange, with approximately 6,000 square meters of land on two rooftops and an annual yield of nearly 23 tons of organic vegetables. The initiative also keeps numerous bee colonies on the city's rooftops. Singapore, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, also has showcase projects: for example, one skyscraper façade houses the world's largest vertical garden according to Guinness Book of Records. The "Tree House" extends over 2,300 square meters and 24 floors.
Farmland inside a skyscraper
The keyword is vertical farming. In the future, urban skyscrapers could be used as huge greenhouses to feed the population in urban agglomerations. For example, high-rise farms for lettuce and vegetables that grow directly out of the water. The Floating Vertical Farms project is currently being planned in Singapore. Another idea for large yields on small areas is rotating aluminium towers with planters, which are said to yield ten times more than the same crop area on the ground. The company Sky Greens wants to install such towers on roofs all over Singapore and then sell the vegetables through local grocery stores. Even the cultivation of rice could soon take place in skyscrapers planned especially for this purpose. A research project in this area is currently running at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, named Skyfarming.
Urban gardening is a big issue in digital communities. Numerous blogs show how interested the population is in this subject. "Many people can now do something with the term urban gardening. They also know that it is an important topic for the future. Whereas a few years ago people just smiled at you as a green hipster, now the topic is mainstream. It is also attracting more and more attention in the context of international efforts to combat global warming," says Silvia Appel. She speaks from experience; after all, her own blog www.garten-fraeulein.de has been received with such lively interest that she has now published two books on the subject. The more abstract the everyday professional life of many people becomes, the greater their longing for direct contact with nature. "Harvesting your own vegetables or just having a few seasonal flowers on the balcony does many people a lot of good," says the blogger. That's why more and more urban gardening clubs are springing up. More and more start-ups are discovering that green is good and using planted terraces or balconies to create recreational areas for their employees. The city of the future promises to be green instead of grey.