Urban Garden USA. Community Gardening as a Tool of City Planning

Term Paper, 2014

32 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. The Origin of Urban Gardens
A. Challenges of Today’s Urban Environments
B. Characteristics of Community Gardens
I. The History of Community Gardens
II. Reasons for the Establishment of Community Gardens
III. Benefits from Community Gardens

2. Possible Urban Spaces to integrate Community Gardens
A. International Case Study: “Prinzessinengärten” in Berlin, Germany
B. Local Case Study: Smart Farm San Diego
3. Role of Urban Gardens in the Field of City Planning
A. Roots of Urban Planning
B. Planning in Relation to the Idea of Urban Gardening
C. How to implement Urban Gardens in the Field of City Planning
I. Creating “Agriculture Incentive Zones” within Cities
II. Vacant lot Asset Mapping
III. Vacant Lot Cadaster
IV. Integrate Urban Gardening as an Official Instrument of City Planning



“ In future ever more people will be living in cities rather than in rural ar-
eas. The city will therefore become the decisive place for the development
of more sustainable ways of eating, living and moving. The city of the fu-
ture should be a climate-friendly, pleasant place to live, where every care

is taken to conserve our natural resources. ”

(Prinzessineng ä rten, 2014)

List of Figures







List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. The Origin of Urban Gardens

In modern times society in most U.S. cities changed to “bedroom communities” where people stay home, watch television and forget how to live in the cultural, urban or even vil- lage sense (Register, 2010). At the same time, however, issues such as global warming and sustainability gained attention, which led to the re-emergence of a movement within the city: Community Gardening.

The question to be answered is if Community Gardens/Urban Gardens (CG) are planned as a means to other objectives or an end in itself. If it is a means to other ends, the CG is only beneficial until the other aim is achieved. If not, the gardens serve a greater use than only to overcome crisis. This in turn would be an indicator that CG should be more recognized as a city-planning tool instead of decrease in times of peace and wealth. In order to find out what role CG play in todays urban planning and how it can contribute to improve urban conditions, I first have to illuminate the current problems in today’s cities. After having a general over- view on the present urban conditions I than focus on the historical and current development of CG in general and in particular in the United States (U.S.). Later I take a closer look on the general objectives behind the emergence of urban garden movements and the benefits that they contained in the past and present. Looking at recent prime examples of urban gardens in Berlin and San Diego will shed light on the goals behind and particular the benefits CG have on today’s urban environments, communities and its residents. In the end I’ll give some rec- ommendations on how CG should be implemented in the field of city planning to improve the described urban conditions.

A. Challenges of Today’s Urban Environments

Only a century ago the typical American community was a small town where citizens knew each other and could find everything for their daily needs within walking distances.

Nowadays more than half of all Americans live in anonymous metropolitan areas of over a million residents, where you could walk all day in order to cross the vast geographical space taken by the connected urban and suburban districts. In those new city constructs where only few people can cover the totality of their daily travels under a ten-minute walk, the sense of community has changed and the automobile became omnipresent (Calthorpe/Fulton, 2001). Through the dominance of cars the urban picture changed insofar as that car lanes, parking lots and gas stations pushed out most other land uses. Further open spaces, parks and farm- land had to make way to new infrastructure and the emerging suburbs surrounding the cities (Register, 2010). Thus todays metropolitan areas don’t resemble the traditional towns any- more but rather include hundreds of places what used to be distinct and separate communities in former times (Calthorpe/Fulton, 2001). The author Robert D. Kaplan describes those places as sprawling post-urban pods being bigger than the biggest city but smaller than the smallest county (Kaplan, 1999). With this future vision Kaplan points out one of the major problems urban areas, all around the globe, are experiencing. Sprawl has the habit to fractures local communities, empty the cities and take up the agrarian and natural areas around the traditional towns. With it problems such as crime, failing transportation systems, lack of open space, pollution, and decaying neighborhoods occur. According to Calthorpe and Fulton, however, especially healthy neighborhoods are essential to the well-being of their residents. While those neighborhoods allow different kinds of people and activities to mix up and interact in close proximity, they simultaneously foster a sense of community between them (Calthorpe/Fulton, 2001). Urbanist Jane Jacobs reinforces this argument by emphasizing that strong neighborhoods can form the basis not only for a healthy social life for individuals or the whole community but also for a successful economy (Jacobs, 1985).

Unfortunately modern planning often fails to create the fundamental elements necessary for a community-supporting neighborhood including walkable streets, human-scaled blocks, and usable public spaces like parks, town squares, main streets, and plazas (Calthorpe/Fulton, 2001). The result is a loss of a sense of place and the loss of community-ties, where neighbors know each other, interact and communicate on a daily basis.

In addition to that, Gorgolewski, Komisar and Nasr stress the point that neighborhoods devolve into food deserts where nutritious and affordable food is difficult to get. Originally food availability was a motive power in the formation of former human settlements and the production was closely tied to it. Nowadays, however, the distance between food sources and its market has increased dramatically due to industrialization, affordable transport and new food preservation technologies. Spaces for food production seem to have disconnected from urban design and urban policy. While agriculture became oriented to global markets, zoning commissions started to change formerly to agriculture designated land into profitable districts for future development. Thus the transformation not only promotes sprawl but also neglects the huge potential of urban spaces in contributing to their residents’ food supply and the local food security. Equally worse it contributes to the fact that food is being transported over hun- dreds of miles while loosing its freshness and nutritional value due to polluting transportation and the processing. Over and above that the alteration of the food supply system is connected to the worlds major problems such as pollution, climate change, global poverty, obesity and energy supply, which makes a locally based food systems inevitable in the future (Gor- golewski/ Komisar/Nasr, 2011).

Looking at the described transformation of society and the worsening of urban conditions, it is not surprising that people have always created their own green spaces in order to enhance food security and make their neighborhoods more vibrant and sustainable.

B. Characteristics of Community Gardens

According to Hou, Johnson and Lawson (2009), “the term “Community Garden” is probably best understood as a defined area of tillable land made available to groups of indi- viduals, households, classes, and others to garden” (p.11). Depending on the social and eco nomical situations, there have been different kinds of garden projects such as the vacant-lot garden, School Gardens, Depression-era relief gardens, War gardens, Victory gardens and current community gardens, which can be seen as neighborhood urban garden, children’s gar- den, horticultural therapy gardens, and entrepreneurial job-training gardens (Lawson, 2005). Some of those projects gain for neighborhood improvement and civic activism, while others put focus on job training and environmental education and still others concentrate on the basic gardening for nutrition. Nevertheless, all share the same purpose by supplying diverse people a shared place to meet up and participate in the care of a garden (Hou/Johnson/Lawson 2009).

In the following the historical background of the divers Urban Gardens will be illumi nated. Further the specific reasons for their appearance will be explained whereas a particular attention is drawn to the benefits it brings to the individuals and the community of each movement.

I. The History of Community Gardens

The first modern Community Garden (CG) was built in England in the eighteenth centu ry. England at that time was the world’s first modern nation with a great transformation of its rural and urban environment. Whereas fenced commercial farms dominated the countryside, the urban picture consisted of narrow workers’ houses with no open spaces or gardens sur- rounding them. Before that time city dwellers cultivated the open spaces within the towns as gardens. Those open spaces not only helped to provide nutrition, but also helped to balance the bad drainage and coal-fouled air that was common and problematic at that time. Unfortu- nately, Warner emphasizes, those benefits of the gardens were not enough appreciated, which is why almost all remaining open spaces were sold to developers and replaced by buildings with no gardens. This transformation refused many people access to the land they depended on for nutrition and pleasure. This refusal than let to a new social movement: the “self-help” movement, where residents joint to rent parcels at the edge of the city to grow food there. When those got sold for railways, roads and housing developments too, dwellers had to find land further outside the city, which made the venture often impossible (Warner, 1987). Only after a century this movement led into a national policy for the municipal provision of land for the today known: Community Garden (Warner, 1987).

In America the food shortage in World War I led to the so-called “War Gardens” (Law son, 2005). In order to cope with rationing and high prices, city dwellers supported the do- mestic food supply in the way that they maintained CG in the vacant spaces of their hometowns. In that sense more food could be send overseas. Later the national organization “National War Garden Committee” took over the task to embolden residents to grow plants. Patriotic slogans such as “Sow the Seeds of Victory” encouraged the planting of many urban gardens between 1917-1919 (Warner, 1987). During the Great Depressing in the 1930s, al- most 23 million households took part at several garden programs and achieved to grow pro- duces that were valued at $36 million.

Later on during World War II many brought back the War Gardens of World War I. Back than people started participating in the Victory Garden Campaign to cultivate own food for consumption, recreation, and morale (Lawson, 2005). At that time 44 percent of the vege- tables produced in the United States (US) came from the 20 million victory gardens across the country (Warner, 1987). In the 1970 some schools and community garden projects remained, inter alia to connect residents of an area in times of social unrest (Lawson, 2005).

Examples of CG such as Victory Gardens or current models like Havana, where residents grow huge amounts of own food, show that local food production can replace large parts of importing produces form distance places. Nevertheless agribusiness and commercial food systems led to the evaporation of CG after World War II. This discouraged planners to include spaces for CG in their master plans by making it a valid use of land.

In current times, however, urban gardening and urban agriculture slowly gain in importance due to its many benefits to individuals and communities (Gorgolewski/ Komisar/Nasr, 2011). Hou, Johnson and Lawson also made the observation that CG have returned to urban landscapes in current times, since their value to the ecologies of cities are more acknowledged and understood. They even go so far as to argue that CG shifted from being temporary spaces to long-lasting places that include community engagement and even professional design (Hou/Johnson/Lawson 2009).

II. Reasons for the Establishment of Community Gardens

As outlined above different garden projects emerged in the past decades, depending on the social and economical situations at the given time. For each period of time different edu- cational, social or economic reasons played a role why CG had been established (Lawson, 2005).

Lawson subdivides the reasons why CG emerged in the first place and maintained over time, into three main themes. First she emphasizes the importance of CG as a green physical and emotional oasis in a concrete-dominated urban environment to not only the operators but also to other city dwellers who enjoy viewing them. In this sense “nature-in-the-city” is a counterbalance to urban stresses and represent a bridge to the countryside and agrarian life- style. As a second theme Lowson highlights the educational role of CG that appeared with the introduction of school gardens in the 1890s to 1920s. It is not only about how to maintain an urban garden, but also to learn about the benefits of teamwork and the importance of patience and commitment. Both, learning how to work and see the rewards of one’s labor serves as the basic for future employments. The third theme Lawson talks about is “self-help”, where CG are low-cost and direct means to receive food. In this sense, CG turn into social open spaces and bring diverse people, from varied ethic backgrounds, together to work for a common in- terest. They take matters in their own hands in order to improve their situations. For example in times of war or depression, urban gardens offered neighbors the opportunity to work together and to help themselves by obtaining nutrition. Thus, the community helped to solve a national problem by working, instead of waiting for charity (Lawson, 2005). This theme matches with the explanations of Warner, described above.

III. Benefits from Community Gardens

While there was mostly a dominant objective behind each program (e.g. producing food in times of food shortages), there have always been additional benefits that have survived over time (Lawson, 2005). Due to those multiple personal, social, and environmental benefits, it is not surprising that researchers from different professions currently show increased interest in CG and their impacts. According to Hou, Johnson and Lawson (2009), however, “there is no clearinghouse or easily referenced source that bridges the literature or provides information on recent publications about research related to community gardens“ (p.21). Nevertheless, even though CG plays a fairly small role in planning and design literature yet, the benefits they have on the health and sustainability of communities, cities and its residents were analyzed within many studies (Hou/Johnson/Lawson 2009).

As described before many CG are established due to the reason of growing food for consumption or flowers to simply enjoy “urban nature” within the city. A resulting benefit is that people could grow healthy food that may be difficult to obtain otherwise or food that is important to the residents because of their ethnic or cultural heritage. Due to their engagement in urban ecology and conservation (e.g. organic farming, composting, reuse of materials etc.) some CG serve to educate and inspire visitors. For others being separated from daily urban stressors such as traffic and noise, the process of gardening contributes to their well-being and even has healing effects. Very important elements for the physical recreation and emotional restorations of individuals tend to be the proximity to nature, the enjoyment of leisure and the interaction with other people.


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Urban Garden USA. Community Gardening as a Tool of City Planning
City Planning
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Theresa Löwenstein (Author), 2014, Urban Garden USA. Community Gardening as a Tool of City Planning, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/299817


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