There’s an old Middle Eastern story about a little bird who, when she heard the sky was falling, lay down on the trail on her back with her feet up. A horseman came thundering down the trail, stopped, and asked what the little bird was doing. “I heard the sky is falling and I’m helping to hold it up.” “What can a little bird like you do?” the horseman replied. The bird replied, “I do what I can!”
There are many benefits of urban gardening. These include fostering a healthy physical and mental environment, combating food insecurity, combating global warming, creating a sense of community, and saving money.
Gardening is good for your health. Sunlight produces vitamin D. Lifting, digging, bending, and walking, all contribute to muscle and heart health. Success in growing vegetable and flowers is good for your self-esteem and mental health. Gardening reduces stress; plants don’t talk back.
Plants, like people need a healthy diet. A generous amount of compost, added yearly, provides the trace minerals they need from the soil to provide the vitamins and minerals we need for our health.
Commercial fertilizer damages soil structure, kills many of the beneficial micro-biotic life, including earthworms, and is deficient in many of the trace elements needed by plants for optimum growth. Over time, microorganisms die off, the soil does not retain water as well, and the soil structure deteriorates. Commercial food you eat is not as healthy as your own produce.
In the fall of 2023, the website Made in CA stated that 20.3 per cent of Alberta households were food insecure, to a greater or lesser extent. This implies that they are not getting enough food, or enough healthy food, to feed themselves and their families. Currently, the St. Albert Community Village and Food Bank provides approximately 550 hampers per month to people who are food insecure. Home gardens can provide healthy food.
In older areas of a city, a community garden creates a social network, builds a community, develops a love for the outdoors and gardening, and provides healthy food. And on vacant lots, makes the neighbourhood more attractive. In the Saturday morning gardening program on PBS, the host stated that a 450-square-foot planting space could provide a family of four with food for 20 weeks at 33 pounds a week. Children get to see how food is grown. Many even eat vegetables they previously refused, when they grow their own.
Urban gardening reduces carbon emissions by reducing the costs of growing, processing, transporting, and selling commercial food. Today, the food industry is estimated to contribute 10% toward the total amount of greenhouse gas in Canada.
And urban gardeners save money. This year in an older larger city lot in St. Albert I harvested approximately 1300 pounds of food, with an estimated value of about $3000. No tax.
Taking care of all aspects of your urban garden — plants, soil, insects, and birds not only increases your fruit and vegetable production, it also helps to make your urban lot far more enjoyable. The song of birds, the flutter of butterflies, the scent of flowers, the delicious fruit and vegetables, and the satisfaction of helping to create a cleaner and safer world make it all worthwhile. The example of care for the environment is so important in helping children to do their part as they grow up to become responsible adults.
Every bit of gardening, large or small, on balconies or in containers helps. Now is the time to start. Start small and grow and through trial and error develop your yard, acreage, or even your balcony, into a beautiful and productive garden. Start small and grow.
Our environment is a legacy to be passed on to our children and our grandchildren and their children. Let’s hope they will thank you for what you have done for the environment. And so, be like the little bird, do what you can.