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City gardens add beauty, aromas, a sense of community and oxygen to a neighborhood. But the truth is, from an environmental standpoint, they are very wasteful. The EPA estimates that Americans use 9 billion gallons of water each and every day, simply to keep their personal outdoor landscapes looking green, and that does not include any municipal usage – a cost borne by taxpayers.
Which is why urban agriculture is quickly replacing those green lawns and flowers in our cities' common areas and transforming them into productive edible gardens that are open to the public or designed to benefit specific social service or nonprofit groups, according to earth911 and it’s happening around the world.
Andernach, Germany, is known as The Edible City, due to its commitment to planting fruits and vegetables on city land, rather than flowers. This initiative officially began in 2010, and has worked to transform over 86,000 square feet of city property into lush vegetable gardens filled with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. And they are creatively keeping their neighbors involved - planting hundreds of heirloom varieties of tomatoes one year for example, so the public could see and taste the differences between plant types.
In London, there is The Edible Bus Stop. This group works to change drab, dull and depressing urban spaces with bursts of color and fresh fruit and veggies. As the name would suggest, one of its first projects was to transform three bus stops along the number 322 bus route in London into edible gardens.
Victoria, British Columbia, has transformed part of a public square into a food-producing space, and, partnering with Our Place Society, plants, maintains and harvests vegetables and herbs to make meals for its lunch program. Seedlings will be provided by the city and will include oregano, kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, basil, dill, red cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes. Sunflowers will be planted to provide color and food in the garden. Existing plants in the edible garden include large artichokes, fig trees, goumi berries, chives and thyme, and all the produce will be harvested and donated to the Our Place Society, an organization that serves the poor, disadvantaged and homeless population of the city.
That's urban gardening with a purpose that goes well beyond beautification.