Urban gardening, past, present and future (Google / Sacramento History)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


Urban gardening, past, present and future

Lately I have been poking through my old issues of Mother Earth News and some of my cheap-living library, gleaning ideas for a class on frugal living for work, as well as inspiration for the ever-present desire to save money at home with fix-it tips and homegrown edibles. About 10-12 years ago I had a brief interest in backwoods homestead type living, and picked up quite a few old early-1970s issues of Mother Earth News and similar materials from that era. I read quite a bit of it, but ended up deciding against that sort of lifestyle–partially because a friend (Xeney) shared quite a few horror stories about growing up with hippie back-to-the-land parents, and partially because my wife and I, despite our grumpy and independent nature, are pretty much city people. Over the years, I channeled my interest in self-sufficient lifestyles by doing things like baking bread from scratch (including grinding whole grains) and other low-cost/high-reward eating strategies. I also got interested in backyard gardening. My first couple of attempts were fairly dismal, due to lack of sunshine, but my last house had enough sunshine and a tiny backyard (around 250 square feet,) enough to grow quite a lot of vegetables.

Since i moved to a new place two years ago, I had a fresh palette to work with. Tearing out all the grass from my monstrous 20×40 foot backyard proved to be too much for my social calendar, so instead I planted a few tomatoes and squashes on top of a pile of dirt in the backyard that used to be the front yard before I xeroscaped it. It’s fun having a garden to take care of, and hopefully I’ll get some nice tomatoes and such as the summer wears on.

So yesterday, this story on urban farming appears in the Bee.

Now, urban gardening is nothing new–anyone who followed the story of the Mandella Garden near Fremont Park (and the resulting, albeit smaller, community garden that is there now) knows that. But urban gardening is a traditional city activity, especially during rough economic times.

City neighborhoods occupied by working-class folks often become the site of urban gardens. Immigrants from farming backgrounds carried their knowledge and lifeways with them, and industrious families used their backyards as tiny farms to supplement their paychecks by lowering the food bill or even offering goods to trade or sell. If you wander through the alleys of Southside Park, quite a few homes still have backyards entirely turned over to gardens. During World War II, the United States government encouraged Americans to turn their yards into “victory gardens” to supplement large-scale crops, save gasoline, and help stretch ration cards.



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.