Greening Your Cities

How urban gardening is helping to green and feed our cities

Guerrilla gardening is an act of defiance. It says ‘no thank you’ to the paving, asphalt and concrete that pervades our cities. It is reclaiming the sidewalks, roof tops and parking lots on behalf of Mother Nature. Urban gardening is not only picturesque; it also provides food to local residents and shelter to city birds. Urban gardens give new meaning to the concept of eating locally, cutting down on the greenhouse gases created by transporting fruits and vegetables over long distances. Roof gardens and green walls can also help to insulate a home or building, saving money by producing food and reducing heating and cooling costs for the homeowner. Now ‘greening’ your home takes on a more literal (and delicious) meaning.

Urban vegetable gardens: pimping your pavement

Urban gardening can take on many forms. If you have a communal area in your neighbourhood; an abandoned parking space, an open lot or a portion of the local park, get together with your neighbours to petition the municipality to use the space for growing food. Here you can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for local consumption. If you live in a city where there is no space for a communal garden, consider container and indoor gardens. Use recycled containers for planting herbs and vegetables that can be gown indoors, even in the winter. Almost any container will suffice. Place the container in a south-facing window and fill with potting soil. Plant your veggie seeds and watch your food grow. If you live in a basement or other space that is unsuitable for plants, or you want to beautify the city with your edible efforts, then guerrilla gardening is for you. Under the cloak of night, or simply out in the open, the guerrilla gardener reclaims the small patches of land that are free of paving and asphalt. Unpaved alleys, the small patches of dirt around municipal trees or pots on the sidewalk are all fair game. Plant herbs, vegetables or flowers to help pretty your city. The ‘seed bomb’ is an essential weapon in the guerrilla gardener’s arsenal. These are mostly for aesthetic gardening and are made from seeds covered with soil and clay. Seed bombs can be thrown in cracks in the pavement, under municipal trees or anywhere that seeds may take hold. Watch this video to see how you can make them yourself.

Green walls: flower power

Green walls, vertical gardens or biowalls are indoor walls that are covered with living vegetation. The wall is either created from containers which contain a growing medium or are grown directly in grow mats hung over wall surfaces. Plants are planted into the containers and need to be replaced bi-annually. Growth mats can sustain plants for 4 to 5 years. In cities where heat islands form thanks to the absorption of heat by walls, streets and pavement, the green wall is a boon. This wall reduces the indoor temperature of a room as plant surfaces do not absorb as much heat and don’t rise more than 4-5°C above ambient room temperatures. The plants produce oxygen and are able to filter the building’s grey water. Although most biowalls are used for aesthetic appeal and to combat ‘sick building’ syndrome, vegetable gardens can be planted in the biowall so that it can provide food for building occupants. The green wall is the brainchild of Patrick Blanc whose vertical verdant creations know no bounds. His bold designs have seen entire buildings covered in greenery, both inside and out.

Plants filter impurities from water; they release oxygen and clean the air of volatile organic compounds which are carcinogenic to humans. Green roofs provide insulation. In the summer, plants absorb less heat than walls and keep your home cooler. If you plant veggies or herbs, they will provide a healthy, free source of food. Plants make our cities beautiful and help to elevate our
moods. Use your home, wall, pavement, old tires, soda pop bottles or anything you can get your hands on to bring some green into your home.

Catch the Amvic Exhibit at this year’s GreenBuild Expo in Toronto October 4-7. See them at booth # 4651S.

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