Put Down Roots: 4 Unexpected Ways to Grow an Urban Garden

Gardening is a skill and a hobby; it is a lifestyle and a talent. It is something that can either be bred into one’s soul or cultivated like a delicate flower, but once the love of growing things takes root it is impossible to dislodge. As addicting and love-inspiring as gardening is, it also defies all efforts to contain or restrain it. Those with the love of green things will find a way no matter what the circumstances. If we don’t have a  flower bed we grow herbs and flowers in tiny containers on the kitchen windowsill. In the absence of a yard we grow tomatoes and peppers in buckets on the balcony. But these compromises are small in comparison to what some gardeners are willing to do in order to carve out their own little green spaces.

Crack Gardens

(images via: CMG)

The urban environment is typically filled with far more grey than green; vast expanses of concrete take over the spaces where trees, shrubs, flowers and grass may otherwise have grown. CMG Landscape Architecture is putting forth a valiant effort to carve out a little piece of nature in the city with their Crack Garden project. The project was inspired by the tough, wily plants that somehow find purchase in the tiny cracks in city sidewalks.

(images via: CMG)

Instead of waiting for cracks to form in the concrete naturally, the Crack Garden utilizes jackhammers to intervene in the city’s landscape. The sharp breakage of the cement may seem violent, but it is necessary to open up space for new roots to gain a foothold. The neat, orderly lines created by the repeated blows of the jackhammer are perfectly offset by the random plants coaxed into life within them.

(image via: CMG)

The project won a 2009 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) award for its ingenuity. Gardening in purposeful cracks in the urban crust not only brings a welcome splash of life to the largely-lifeless areas we inhabit; it is also much more cost-effective than other urban greenification methods.

Dumpster Gardens

(images via: Ohio State University)

If there is one sight nearly as ubiquitous in the urban jungle as concrete, it is the large trash receptacle colloquially known as a “dumpster” in the US and a “skip” in the UK. They sit outside of apartment complexes, office buildings, shopping malls and schools, simply waiting to collect our refuse. But they have a great deal of potential to add living beauty to city landscapes around the world.

(images via: Oliver Bishop-Young)

Several landscape architects, artists and creative souls have taken it upon themselves to transform dumpsters into little islands of placid plant life. Ken Smith installed three dumpster gardens at Ohio State University, each with a different type of plant life. Oliver Bishop-Young’s inspirational Skip Conversions project featured a skip garden and a skip lawn, both finding homes in bright yellow garbage containers.

(images via: King’s Cross)

In fact, the English seem to have a soft spot for skip gardening. An entire set of skip gardens were planted by community volunteers at King’s Cross, London in 2009. The gardens, being highly portable, can be moved around whenever needed or wanted and their bounty of fresh vegetables shared.

The Truck Farm

(image via: Eating Well)

Even more mobile than a garbage receptacle is the Truck Farm, an inspired creation of Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney – the same guys who brought you the fascinating documentary King Corn. The Truck Farm is a simple but unusual concept: a farm in the bed of a pickup truck. The crops included arugula, tomatoes, lettuce and hot peppers – all grown in the bed of a 1986 Dodge Ram pickup. Being the duo’s only vehicle, the truck farm was driven every all around Brooklyn during the growing season.

At the end of the season, the team was able to feed 20 people with the food grown in this tiny, mobile space. The purpose of this project (and, arguably, every single one of the projects featured here) was to prove that an effective garden can be made anywhere at all. This mobile space that even the most experienced urban gardener might overlook can easily be made into a productive garden to feed those who would not ordinarily have access to fresh, wholesome foods.

Crater Garden

(image via: Faslanyc)

In the midst of World Wars I and II, it was not at all uncommon to find Victory Gardens in yards all around the world. The gardens served several purposes: they strengthened communities, took people’s minds off of the war, and lightened the burden on the already-stretched food supply. But the garden above is an exceptional specimen: it was created inside a crater that formed following a bombing in London.

(image via: Pruned)

The highly unusual garden location goes to show that gardens can indeed take root anywhere – even in the destruction created by the ugliness of war. Whether growing flowers to add a bit of beauty to each day or vegetables to feed the hungry, an unconventional garden in the middle of the city can truly transform lives.

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