Urban Agriculture: Space and Soils

Last Tuesday, a friend and I attended a meeting for the Temple Community Garden here at Temple University. I wanted to go to their meetings before as gardening is my favorite hobby but never could seem to make it to them. When I came to Temple, I thought I would only be able to keep house plants and plant a garden in my hometown in the summer. I was thrilled to find out that I could participate in a garden project right in the middle of Philly. Although I wished I had started working with them earlier, I made a specific point to add them to my list of resources for the stewardship project for Green vs. Grey. At the meeting, I was shocked and disappointed to find out that the space TCG had for their garden was going to be taken away by the school only to be replaced by a parking lot. In light of the irony of this recent update, I began to realize the sacredness of space in a city.

Source: http://www.greensgrow.org/farm/index.php

Community gardens have been the cornerstone of each and every civilization and its people. Despite the trendiness of urban gardening, growing food for consumption is one of the most rudimentary things humans can do and carries great benefits. Authors of “Rethinking Urban Poverty: A Look at Community Gardens”, Autumn K. Hanna and Pikai Oh of Penn State University, cite a study sponsored by the Penn State Cooperative Extension saying, “…urban gardeners in Philadelphia ate more fresh produce from their gardens for at least 5 months of the year than a statistical control group of nongardeners (Blair, Giesecke, &Sherman, 1991). Many gardens shared fresh produce with neighbors and with their church” (Hanna, Pikai 2000). Vegetable gardening is necessary for life and often promotes a healthy demeanor and mental approach.  But, with the constraints of a city, urban community gardens and their caretakers often face a much greater challenge.

Space in a city is an issue that extends far beyond urban agriculture. Space in a city is sparse and coveted and there are often few areas of vast open space. Due to the lack of large amount of private space, urban dwellers often rely on community gardens to feel close to nature. A case study conducted by Ishwarbhai C. Patel, a County Agricultural Agent specializing in urban gardening, cites a 1982 Gallup Poll showed that “more than three million Americans garden at community sites; an additional seven million would garden if land were available and 76% of those polled would like community gardens to be a permanent part of their communities” (Patel, 1991). While the lack of space was a problem over twenty years ago, increasing concern comes in the statistics of the 2010 Census. According to the national poll, the population in metropolitan areas in the Unites States increased by over 10% from 2000 to 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). It is also reported that over four-fifths or 83.7% of the U.S. population resides in cities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).

On top of a lack of space, urban gardeners are often faced with very poor quality soil. Urban soils often hold remnants of buildings and other debris. According to a 2000 study “Urban Soil Management: A Growing Concern”, the layers of urban soils are often uncharacteristic of healthy soil and can be traced to anthropogenic sources. The layers of the soil are often heavily inundated with pollution and inorganic matter and soil becomes compacted and loses its health benefits. Unhealthy city soil Urban soils often contain many contaminants unless properly treated. Not unlike air pollution, soil pollution can be very detrimental to crops and not safe for growing crops to be consumed (De Kimpe, Morel). Although urban gardening has many great benefits, often it comes with a challenge.

Example of unhealthy city soil

Source: (De Kimpe, Morel, 2000)

Healthy soil Diagram

Source: (Cain, 2010)


For more information on urban farming, soil quality, and alternative to city soil:




http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-04-01/Lasagna-           Gardening.aspx



Works Cited

De Kimpe, C. R., and M. Jean-Louis. “Urban Soil Management: A Growing Concern: Soil

            Science.” LWW Journals 165.1 (2000): 31-40. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Hanna, A. K., and P. Oh. “Rethinking Urban Poverty: A Look at Community Gardens.” Bulletin

            of Science, Technology & Society 20.3 (2000): 207-16. Print.

Mackun, Paul, and W. Steven. “Population Distribution and Change 2000-2010.” U.S. Census

            Bureau. (2011). Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Patel, Ishwarbhai C.”Gardening’s Socioeconomic Impacts.” Journal of Extension 29.4

            (1991). Web. 30 Mar. 2011.


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