What Is The Meaning Of Urban Gardening?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:57 pm

What is Urban Gardening?

Urban gardening is private or community gardening on small, often neglected areas in the middle of the city or on one’s own balcony. The emphasis is on meaningful activity, environmentally friendly production, and conscious consumption of agricultural products. The growing popularity for urban gardening is related to the desire for self-sufficiency, vegetarianism and veganism, and increased sensitivity to environmental concerns.

What Is The Meaning Of Urban Gardening?

Small green biotopes in the middle of the city improve the microclimate and beautify the dreary concrete desert of many large cities. However, the rapid spread of urban gardening is also due to climate change, the increasing digitalization of life and the lack of access to nature. Furthermore, the trend is related to the lack of varieties in supermarkets and the increasing awareness of healthy eating. Urban gardens, also known as city gardens, provide bees with a rich food supply and strengthen human understanding of the origin of food. In addition to small growing areas in backyards and brownfields, green roofs, vertical gardens on walls, and private balconies are all possible options. Gartenbau.org provides you with all the information you need about creating urban gardens, choosing appropriate plants, and the different forms of urban gardening.

Where does urban gardening come from?

What Is The Meaning Of Urban Gardening?

The exact origin of urban gardening is not well defined, but it goes back 30 to 40 years. Some sources cite Cuba of the late 1980s as the cradle of urban gardening: after the supply of cheap oil from the Soviet Union stopped in 1989, the island nation had to convert its agriculture to post-fossil agriculture, that is, one that functions independently of energy sources from the earth such as oil, natural gas or coal. In the process, urban agriculture played a central role in the poor communist country’s survival production.

Another possible – and more likely – origin for urban gardening is thought to be 2000 km north of Cuba, in 1970s New York. There, residents of neglected neighborhoods protested urban decay and deteriorating living conditions with their “Guerilla Gardens” and “Community Gardens” political initiatives, transforming vacant lots in their neighborhoods into green oases. In Europe, there has been an independent development in “Intercultural Gardens” since the mid-1990s, where immigrants and Europeans from different social classes meet and cultivate community gardens in the city.

How does urban gardening work?

Strictly speaking, urban gardening on public land is illegal and requires the approval of the responsible green space office. For permission, green activists need a convincing concept and assured supervision of the gardens over an extended period of time. Many municipalities support urban gardening activities with plants, seeds or gardening tools. For an urban garden to function, it needs regular care, so potential cooperation partners should be approached in advance of the community action and asked the following questions:

  • How far away is the nearest water supply?
  • Is the targeted green space possibly a dog run?
  • Who will do the regular watering?
  • Who will weed the weeds?
  • Who will remove trash and green debris?
  • Who will fill in during absences?
  • Are there possible sponsors such as local nurseries (for plants), hardware stores (for garden tools), printers (for promotional materials), or savings banks (for garden furniture)?
  • What public relations work is necessary to make the City Garden project better known?
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What plants are suitable for urban gardening?

A beautiful garden lives from its plants and these must be well suited to the location, especially if you want to plant directly into the existing soil. It’s not just the amount of sun that matters, but also the quality of the soil and the proximity to trees and shrubs that may be in root competition with the seedlings. Depending on whether the soil is nutrient-rich or nutrient-poor, loamy or sandy, moist or dry, and whether the site is in sun or shade, different plants may be considered.

In your planning, you also need to consider growth habit (slow-growing or sprawling) and necessary plant spacing. Most vegetables do wonderfully in boxes and containers and don’t need acreage at all. These include nasturtiums, pickling lettuces, carrots, radishes, strawberries, peppers or tomatoes, as well as marigolds, of which the flowers are edible. Space-consuming species such as zucchini, squash or rhubarb are less suitable for containers and raised beds. If you do not dare to create a City Garden on your own or from gardening books, you can access professional help.

Home-grown fries: it is easy to grow potatoes in flower pots with generously cut walls:

How to create an urban garden?

Depending on the location and the size of the area you have available for urban gardening, there are different ways to create an urban garden. You can consider the following forms:

  • Raised bed
  • Gabions
  • Herb spiral
  • tub / balcony
  • vertical garden

Peanuts from the garden instead of from the bag Yes! Peanuts are easy to grow in a window box on the balcony and in a pot on the windowsill from any peanuts that are not roasted or salted. Waiting time: 180-200 days. So if you need snacks for a video night, you need to plan half a year in advance.

Raised bed: Back-friendly alternative to the field

As a raised bed or growing area in the garden, a raised bed is perfect for cultivating vegetables and herbs. Urban gardening in a raised bed is easier on the back than on lower areas and also offers good protection against slugs. Vegetables also have optimal conditions in raised beds: The green waste in the lower layers provides an all-natural fertilizer and slightly increased soil temperature. The walls of the raised bed can be made of weather-resistant wood or stone, and possibly metal. The inner walls of wood or stone should be lined with pond liner to protect them from rotting fill and moisture. A tight wire mesh spread over the entire footprint will prevent the entry of voles.

Gabions: Wire mesh baskets misused for other purposes

Gabions – wire baskets usually filled with stones – represent a special type of raised bed. Standard gabions can be used to construct a variety of raised-bed arrangements by assembling individual elements. However, in stores there are also ready-made gabion raised beds, which consist of an outer and an inner basket. Plants are grown in the inner basket, which is lined on the sides with additional protective mats. The outer one can be filled decoratively with different materials.

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Herb spiral: Different climate zones in the smallest space

A herb spiral is best placed in a fully sunny spot, because most herbs need a lot of light and warmth. To ensure that the herbs can develop well, do not calculate the layout of the plant too narrow: about three meters in diameter are necessary. The lower end of the spiral should face south. An optimal herb spiral in your urban garden has four zones:

  • at the very bottom, the wet zone for water-loving plants such as watercress, water mint or American calamus
  • a little higher, the wet zone for plants like basil, wild garlic, dill, chervil or chives
  • adjacent the normal zone for borage, nasturtium, coriander, mint, parsley, rocket or lemon balm
  • the Mediterranean zone at the top for lavender, bay, marjoram, oregano, rosemary sage and thyme

How does urban gardening work on the balcony?

Urban gardens by no means require only arable land: a great many vegetables grow almost as well in tubs or balcony boxes as in vegetable beds: strawberries, carrots, lettuce or tomatoes are grateful pals that make do with even the smallest of spaces. The pots and tubs can either stand on the ground or – to save space – hang from the balcony railing. Even the smallest balcony can be used for urban gardening.

Creative Urban Gardening Ideas

Plants will grow in just about any container if they have enough light and nutrients: A thick bamboo cane, with holes drilled in it, is perfect as a “salad tree” and empty tin cans can easily be turned into planters for seedlings and look stylish at the same time.

Vertical garden: field on the wall

A vertical garden is an alternative when space is at a premium or an ugly wall needs a makeover. Suitable vertical gardens include potted towers (clay pots built on top of each other, from large to small), planting pockets or stairs, converted euro pallets, hanging hanging baskets and more.

What are community gardens?

“Community gardens are gardens, green spaces, and parks created and operated collaboratively and through volunteerism with an orientation toward a general public.” (Marit Rosol “Community Gardens in Berlin”). So it is a special kind of Urban Gardening, where gardeners jointly cultivate a piece of land in the city. The operators are neighborhood initiatives, associations, political groups, churches, schools or guerrilla gardeners. Public access for people from different backgrounds promotes cohesion, enables participation in public and political life, and gives everyone the opportunity to get involved in community projects.

Advantages of community gardens

The benefits of community gardens are many. Community-operated gardens:

  • Improve the neighborhood’s green supply and the quality of life for residents.
  • promote contact and communication as well as bonding with the neighborhood
  • can be individually modified – unlike public parks
  • represent a sensible (interim) use for brownfield sites
  • open up often closed areas to the general public
  • offer access to a garden for people with low income
  • allow individual development
  • contribute to soil improvement, groundwater recharge, rainwater utilization and noise protection
  • provide a habitat for animals and plants
  • promote environmental education, show how to grow vegetables in an ecological way
  • reduce waste by using existing waste materials such as wood and metal scraps to build fences, as design elements, or as bed borders.
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Disadvantages of community gardens

Negatives are nowhere near as numerous as the benefits. Community gardens:

  • usually do not have elements that conventional parks provide, such as water, sports facilities, or seating areas
  • unlike private gardens, do not offer privacy and undisturbed space
  • Often evoke uncertainty regarding use permits
  • are usually intended for temporary use only (unsatisfactory for people and not conducive to a garden, which, after all, thrives on the continuity of working an area)
  • sometimes develop into slums
  • suffer from a lack of ecological education (in some projects chemicals are used as pesticides or fertilizers)
  • are affected by destruction and theft
  • pose a great challenge to the internal organization of the projects

How and where can I find community gardens in my city?

The trend of urban gardening is becoming more and more widespread and it is also becoming easier to obtain the necessary information. If you are interested, you can contact your local green space office or find out more on the web.

What is the difference between urban gardening and urban farming?
Although the terms “urban gardening” and “urban farming” are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a crucial difference in scale and purpose: Urban gardening is practiced by individual residents and is intended for self-sufficiency. Urban farming, on the other hand, is commercial in nature and aims to provide agricultural products to the entire population. The popularity of both forms of cultivation in urban areas is growing.

What is Guerilla Gardening?

When urban gardening gets political, it’s called guerrilla gardening. It is about unauthorized – i.e. not permitted – greening of fallow land in protest against a usually powerful opponent. The word “guerrilla” comes from the Spanish and means nothing other than “small war”. Thus, the covert actions of green activists also bear the character of a quick attack. Following the principles of a guerrilla war, as many areas as possible are greened as quickly as possible in a night-and-fog action.


The triumph of urban gardening in cities – and also the increase in urban farming services – suggest that the trend toward urban gardening will not remain a short-lived hype. As a counter-development to the alienation from nature, digitalization, gentrification and also to fast food and convenience products, urban gardening has every chance of becoming a long-term movement with sustainable consequences.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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