A garden in a city is a refuge. A space for good, growing things amid steel and concrete. Down the street, machinery grumbles, buildings hulk about, and asphalt chokes the land. But in a backyard garden, life grows. These urban gardens help both the environment and their caretakers.
For the environment
In a world of strip-mining, rainforest-burning, and the recent de-clawing of the endangered species act, urban gardens facilitate life.
1. Improve Air Quality
Garden plants filter airborne contaminates like CO, SOx, NOx. In a place filled with exhaust fumes, every bit of improved air quality matters.
2. Mitigate Urban Heat Islands
If left unchecked by gardens, cities can be ten degrees hotter than the surrounding natural environment. But wile parking lots and roofs amplify heat all day long, green spaces reduce local temperatures. And far beyond the cooling effect of well-manicured yards: garden plants, with their broader leaves and taller height, both things that provide more surface area and more shade—all key cooling properties.
3. Increase Biodiversity
Beyond the plants themselves, urban gardens increase microbial biodiversity. They also support rich insect populations, which, in turn, attract local and migrating birds. Even in a city, life can abound.
4. Improve Soil Quality
Soil and dirt and two different things (soil is alive; dirt is dead), and urban gardens give you the former. Urban gardens help the soil by reducing compaction, improving pH level, increasing nutrient content, and facilitating drainage.
For their caretakers
Helping the environment helps us, the people who live in that environment. But urban gardens affect their caretakers even more directly. A scientific study of gardening and the benefits on caretakers found:
5. Beautiful environment
Your environment affects mood and development, and a backyard garden creates a beautiful setting. That comes into play with curb appeal, but let’s forget about dollar signs for a moment. A garden is a place a homeowner can spend time in, just appreciating and enjoying their surroundings.
Contact with plants has well-documented therapeutic value. Escaping to the wilderness can rejuvenate and restore like nothing else, but an hour in a well-developed urban garden can, too. You don’t need to take a weekend trip into the mountains.
7. Contact with the seasons
Life in the city often feels disconnected from nature’s cycles, other than whether you wear a sweater or a tank top. Tending a garden lets you connect intimately with the rhythm of growing and dying, planting and rebirth.
Each garden reflects its caretaker’s ideas and personality. Much like an easel or a woodshop, an urban garden lets people express themselves.
As with anything, urban gardens aren’t perfect. The biggest downside of urban gardening: the initial investment. You have to find a good location, prepare the land, and obtain the right plants and/or seeds—all of which take time and money.
But urban gardens don’t have to be massive. A well-lit corner and few plants can get you started, or if you’re thinking about buying a new house, you can incorporate gardens into your search criteria.
One of our current listings, for instance, has one of the best urban gardens any of us has seen in Seattle. The owners even offer to give the buyer a walkthrough and detailed care instructions this fall and this spring. People with well-tended gardens have poured their love into their plants, and they’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of gardening. Odds are, if you buy a house with a garden, the seller will love to acquaint you with all the ins and outs of their urban garden sanctuary.