Gardening surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as people stayed home. With much time to spare, they sought ways to keep themselves occupied and dispel stress, depression, and anxiety. Planting and seeing plants grow has a beneficial effect on mood and mental health. The physical activity of gardening also benefits the body.
While some people like decorative plants and flowers, many choose to plant fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs instead. According to a study published in June 2020, people who do vegetable gardening develop higher emotional well-being than those who do ornamental gardening. The Garden Media Trend Report states that 67 percent of adult Americans were already growing an edible garden or are planning to grow in 2021. There is a thrill and a sense of satisfaction in preparing food that you have grown yourself.
Community Food Farms
Some communities have edible gardens tended by volunteers, with the harvest made available for free to the public. Several of these were started before the pandemic and stand as models for best practices.
At the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, seven acres of public land are maintained by volunteers, including an orchard and an edible garden with the harvest given away as donations. At the George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, North Carolina, fruit and nut trees tower above edible plants like strawberries on the ground. All produce is free for everyone.
In Atlanta, the city council planted seven acres of public land with fruit and nut trees. It will ensure that 85 percent of the population will have fresh food within a half-mile after a year. Fruit trees were planted in urban land in Los Angeles by the Fallen Fruit artists’ collective. The public will take care of the trees, with their fruits for free public consumption.
In Chicago, a group put up a crowdfunding page in 2020 to plant an edible garden to supply the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the organization Community Meals CLE which delivers free meals to people in need. The fundraising was successful then, and the garden produced a harvest of more than 300 pounds. Their next goal was to grow 1,000 pounds of food this year.
For communities planning a community food farm, there are several options they can take so the rest of the community can pitch in and take what they need. Some communities might take a small patch of land and start growing from there. But a more modern approach that maximizes land use in modular vertical hydroponic farming systems can potentially produce a much larger harvest from the same land area and even smaller acreage. Enclosing this in a container with solar-powered temperature control will ensure that the yield remains constant even in extreme weather. This will provide a more stable food supply for many communities.
Edible Gardens at Home
People with ample space in their backyards or front yards cultivate edible gardens for their families’ consumption. Many of them create edible landscapes that look just as attractive as ornamental landscapes for the front yard. The effort previously put into lawn mowing, and the trimming of hedges was diverted to the care of edible plants that give back more than just a pretty facade.
Those who live in apartments or condominium units grow edibles in pots in balconies and window ledges. There are also small vertical hydroponic systems designed for indoor use. These can take the place of ornamental indoor plants.
It is fulfilling to snip herbs right from the plant and throw these into the cooking pot. It is fun and healthy to plan dishes based on what is ripening or ready to harvest. Households that grow their vegetables, herbs, and fruits tend to eat more nutritious meals.
Home food gardeners can also ensure that the vegetables, herbs, and fruits they harvest are organic and pesticide-free. They can make compost recycled from their kitchen scraps and create their natural fertilizers. They can also make natural pesticides using hot peppers, garlic, and onion blended with water and allowed to sit for 24 hours.
If there are children at home, involving them in the garden can be a bonding activity. It will also be like having a hands-on science lesson. Nurturing the plants and watching them grow will create in children a deeper appreciation of the cycles of nature and the ecosystem. They will become more aware of their role in keeping the earth and its environment healthy.
Edible gardening, whether in the community or at home, is the way of the future and part of sustainable living, allowing the gardener to connect with the essence of nature. If all homes have an edible garden, people will become more respectful of the earth and more responsible toward the environment.