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Environmental Benefits of a Roof Garden

A roof garden is any type of vegetation established on the roof of a building. Apart from the decorative benefit, roof garden serves the purpose of providing architectural enhancement, temperature control, recreational opportunities, habitats for wildlife and food. The method of cultivating food on the rooftop is referred to as rooftop farming. It is usually carried out with the help of container gardens, air-dynaponics systems or aeroponics, hydroponics or green roof. Additional platforms known as “aero-bridges” can also be formed between high-rise buildings in addition to the roof space.

I have been intrigued for years at their use and whether they infact provide an environmental benefit that best befits the cost of creating and running your own “roof-top eden”.

Types of Roof Garden

The following are the three basic types of roof gardens classified based on roof vegetation and maintenance.

Extensive roof gardens

This type of roof garden requires minimum layer of soil substrate and hence it is easy to maintain. These gardens are suitable for storehouses, garages, roofs or other additional buildings around the house. At the same time, it has less aesthetical value as the types of vegetation that grow on this is very limited. Lichen and moss are the best-suited vegetation for this type of garden. Lichen can easily grow on surfaces like plastic, metal and glass. Moss, on the other hand, is a small plant that requires less nutrition for its survival and high soil humidity for its growth. This roof garden is less expensive in terms of vegetation types and construction and ideal for a humid climate.

Semi-intensive roof gardens

This type of roof garden requires a deeper soil layer that increases the diversity of plant species. More stable construction is required for this type due to vegetation, greater burden to soil and water retainment. Vegetation can be done with lower species of the Sedum genus. As these species are succulent, they do not need frequent watering. However, vegetation requires additional watering during prolonged dry periods. Wild flowers that do not require maintenance can be grown easily in such roof gardens.

Intensive roof gardens

Vegetation similar to that of a backyard garden like flowers, shrubs, trees and several park elements can be planted in this type of gardens. However, this roof garden requires large, stable constructions and hence most of the buildings are not suitable for intensive roof gardens. Besides basic maintenance needs, it also demands special attention during irrigation.

Roof Garden Design

The cross-section of a roof garden typically begins with an insulation layer at the bottom, a waterproof membrane for preventing leakages from the building and a root barrier for preventing the penetration of roots via the waterproof membrane. A waterproof membrane that can withstand the effects of acids released from some plant roots must be employed.

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A drainage layer made of lightweight plastic, clay or gravel is the next. Besides maintaining the water level, this layer also aerates the growing media. Drainage points must be accessible from the top as the roof system covers the entire roof. In certain designs, the drainage layer can also store water for later use by the plants. On top of the drainage layer is a geotextile or filter mat that allows water to soak through and also prevents fine soil particles erosion.

Finally, the top layers are composed of a wind blanket, plants and growing media. The growing media is light in weight and helps in drainage while supplying nutrients to the plants. The wind blanket is used to hold the growing media in place until the roots of the plants are formed.

Roof Garden Maintenance

The maintenance of roof garden is perceived to be one of the major hindrances to their installation. However, it is essential to consider the maintenance schedule during the design process itself as all types of roof gardens require maintenance. All commercial buildings with roof garden are required to undergo roof and gutter checks atleast twice a year. The maintenance rather depends on the desired outcome of the client, which may vary from weekly checks during summer in case of an intensive roof garden to quarterly or even twice yearly checks in case of the most extensive roof garden.

Biodiverse roofs and the roofs designed to be low-maintenance will anyhow require maintenance checks once or twice a year to clean drains and gutters and eliminate unwanted debris. Extensive sedum roofs would require a more intensive maintenance system with an application of fertilizer once a year or weeding three times. However, a less intensive regime of sedum roofs will result upon the development of more mixed vegetation. For extensive roof gardens, it is necessary to develop a wildflower meadow. Low fertility substrates will in turn give rise to short vegetation that does not require cutting back yearly.

The following are some of the key factors to be considered during maintenance:

  • Efforts should be made to prevent blockage of drains and growth of undesirable plants.
  • Application of fertilizer should be kept to a minimum as high level of utilization may result in increased nutrient levels. which may negatively impact water quality.
  • Vegetation barriers are important as they prevent the spread of fire.
  • It is necessary to have fall-protection systems as maintenance will be carried out within 2m edge of the roof. These systems are required to be maintained once a year.

Benefits of Roof Garden

The key benefits of a rooftop garden are listed below:

  • It converts CO2 emissions
  • It produces oxygen
  • It reduces the heat of buildings and energy costs
  • It creates a habitat for wildlife
  • It reduces ambient temperature
  • It captures and harvests rainwater
  • It reduces storm water runoff and discharge
  • It creates large catchment areas.
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Urban Agriculture: Can it Feed Our Cities?

From rooftop gardens and indoor vertical farms to community plots and edible landscapes, urban agriculture is on the rise. As more of the world’s population resides in cities, city farming is touted as a sustainable solution. But are there enough rooftops to make it work?

New Jersey has been known since the late 19th century as the Garden State. But today its 12th largest city, Camden, is anything but lush and green. It is the country’s poorest city — an astonishing 42 percent of the population lives below the poverty line — and one of the country’s most dangerous. A recent Rolling Stone profile of the city began: “The first thing you notice about Camden, New Jersey, is that pretty much everyone you talk to has just gotten his or her ass kicked.”

And yet.

A small food economy is blossoming in Camden. AeroFarms, an indoor agriculture firm, plans to break ground as early as this year on a 78,000-square-foot vertical farm that would grow 12 stories of red-leaf lettuce, kale, bok choy and more.

Meanwhile, more than 100 of the city’s thousands of vacant lots have been transformed into community gardens. In 2009, at the dawn of enthusiasm for urban farming and during the last available year data were collected, gardeners at 44 sites harvested almost 31,000 pounds of vegetables. Had it not been an unusually wet and cold summer, it might have been more.

It’s all very inspiring: Whizz-bang technology that offers healthier food and much-needed jobs. Communities taking charge of their food destiny in a place that the almighty market has neglected. (Camden, population 77,000, has just one supermarket within its city limits.) But it’s not only struggling cities that see the promise of urban farming.

Urban agriculture — which by definition includes indoor farms, rooftop and backyard gardens, community plots and edible landscapes — is often hailed as a solution to daunting global challenges. It addresses climate change by allowing food to be grown close to home, rather than hauled thousands of miles. It could affect obesity and chronic disease by making healthy options more available. And urban farming could help feed a quickly growing world population, because many of the predicted 9 billion people on the planet (by 2050) are increasingly headed to cities.

SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION?

But can urban farming sustainably feed cities? A close look under the agri-hood suggests that it’s a lot more complicated than advertised.

For starters, let’s examine the history. The Industrial Revolution quickly and dramatically severed ties between consumers and the farmers who grew their food. Efficient train networks transported food more rapidly, from farther away, and more people moved away from rural areas to cities for work in factories. Since then, there have been regular waves of enthusiasm for urban gardening in the West, motivated by social reformers, who made a moral connection between the land and healthy living, or by the innate human desire for self-sufficiency.

To wit: One of the Salvation Army’s first initiatives in late 19th-century London was “farm colonies” designed to help city folks feed themselves. Beginning in the 20th century, Israel’s early Zionists created thousands of small urban farms. But the only examples of urban farming feeding substantial numbers of people occur when there is little other choice.

In Israel, urban farms soon gave way to rural kibbutzim (collectives based around agriculture). The United States saw Americans plant more than 5 million household plots during World War I and 20 million in World War II. Those 1940s victory gardens produced 9 million pounds of produce each year — what amounted to 44 percent of the U.S. harvest. (Read more about how people cope with food shortages during wartime in our story about rations.) But when the war ended, citizens largely abandoned their gardens and returned to the convenience of shopping at the supermarket.

World War II: Glass balls for forcing early cabbages are placed in position at a Salvation Army farming colony in Hadleigh, Essex, 1940. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

HIGH-TECH FARMING

Proponents of urban farming say this time could be different. Besides the global challenges of climate change and population, there is wide consumer demand for locally grown food. Moreover, technology that makes urban farming more productive and more sustainable could tip the balance. The technologies include lightweight beds that can be stacked, efficient LED lights and hydroponics and aeroponics, by which plants grow without soil and fed a calculated diet of nutrients by water circulating beneath them.

“By some estimates, we will need 50 percent more food by 2050,” says David Rosenberg, CEO of AeroFarms. “We need transformational changes. Vertical farming does more with less.”

A decade ago, not even one of these so-called vertical farms existed. Today, there are dozens of them — one in Singapore, one in a former bomb shelter in London and one in Japan, built by researchers to provide safe food after the devastating Fukushima earthquake in 2011. That farm, formerly a semiconductor factory, now produces 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.

AeroFarms operates nine vertical farms. Its largest, in Newark, 90 miles northeast of Camden, produces 2 million pounds of leafy greens each year. The 70,000-square-foot complex is a poster child for futuristic farming. Inside, so-called grow tables are stacked 12 levels high and enveloped by a glow of pink LED light. (Plants, it turns out, require little from the yellow part of the light spectrum, which requires greater amounts of power to produce.)

Rosenberg sees AeroFarms less as an agricultural producer than as a data-science company, delving into the intersection of plant biology and engineering with the goal of controlling every aspect of growing and maximizing efficiency.

“We take data on plants and understand what makes them grow,” he explains. “You can’t do it this way in the field. There are too many unknowns.”

AeroFarms’ vertical gardens grow under energy-efficient LED lights and use up to 70 percent less water, compared with more traditional soil-based or horizontal farming. Its largest facility, in Newark, New Jersey, produces 2 million pounds of leafy greens each year, which don’t have to travel far to reach urban markets. Despite these efficiencies, critics of vertical farming say using electricity rather than renewable sunlight doesn’t add up for high-volume production. Photo courtesy Aerofarms.

RESOURCE CONSERVATION: PROS AND CONS

The biggest boon of vertical growing may be water conservation. Drive through California’s Salinas Valley, where the vast majority of America’s salad greens are grown, and you’ll see hundreds of sprinklers shooting great arcs of water across the fields. Some of that is used by the plants, but much is lost to evaporation and runoff.

In contrast, hydroponic and aeroponic systems give the plants only the water they need, and it is recirculated through the system. On average, indoor farms and greenhouses use at least 70 percent less water than traditionally farmed lettuce in California.

There are other benefits, too. The produce doesn’t have to travel — unlike the lettuces that journey as far as 2,800 miles if they are shipped from coast to coast. This all but eliminates the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with transport, though those are only a fraction of the total associated with producing food. (Read more about greenhouse gases tied to food waste in our feature on page 18.) And because they are fresher, the greens last longer in consumers’ refrigerators, which means less lettuce thrown away because it’s gone bad before it could be eaten.

No wonder vertical farms are catnip to technology investors looking for the next big disruptor. According to AgFunder, in 2016 funders poured $126 million into indoor agriculture- related startups (including things like lighting and software). But critics say that the environmental benefits of indoor farms don’t add up.

For one, to grow even a fraction of the fruits and vegetables needed to feed cities would take vast amounts of space. According to one analysis, it would require a 150-foot-by-150-foot, 37-story building to provide the vegetables for a city of just 15,000. This would cost $250 million to build and $7 million in electricity to run annually.

Indoor farms also fail to take advantage of a free and renewable source of energy: the sun. “If you’re not taking advantage of the sunlight, then the process will inherently involve excess energy consumption and carbon emissions,” says Stan Cox, a researcher at the Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas.

Substituting electricity for sunlight is costly. Using current technology, the equation just about works out for leafy greens, which are 90 to 95 percent water and don’t require as much light to grow. But do the math on denser fruits and vegetables or other crops — carrots, potatoes or wheat — and the amount of power required to grow them soars. According to Cox, it takes about 1,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity for each kilogram of edible matter (excluding the water stored inside). Or to put it another way: You need the same amount of electricity to grow one kilogram of tomatoes as you do to run your home refrigerator for an entire year.

“The claim of indoor farming is that we can spare the land by getting rid of industrial farming,” Cox says. “But of course, this vision uses more industrial inputs than anything done on the landscape.”

AeroFarms’ Rosenberg counters that lighting technology is getting ever more efficient. And though he concedes that indoor farming may look industrial, it addresses major challenges including the depletion of arable land, water pollution and conservation: “We don’t use soil. We don’t use pesticides. We use a fraction of the water that field farms do. We have a much softer footprint.”

In sunlit greenhouses on the outskirts of urban areas where land is more plentiful, BrightFarms raises greens and tomatoes using hydroponics — a system in which plants grow directly atop pools of fortified water. These and other crops like strawberries, cucumbers and peppers benefit from growing near where they’ll be consumed, a selling point for cities that have an urban-adjacent BrightFarms facility nearby. But hydroponic agriculture isn’t the right fit for all crops; apples, for instance, store well and travel more easily than delicate tomatoes, making traditional orchards a better option, for now. Photo by Chelsea Clough.

GREENHOUSE GROWING

An even softer footprint comes from other types of commercial urban and peri-urban farms that use greenhouses. Take BrightFarms, which operates three commercial greenhouses and sells directly to grocery stores in seven states and the District of Columbia.

BrightFarms uses hydroponics, which means that trays of greens grow atop vast ponds. But rather than place its farms in cities, where land is generally more limited (and much more expensive), it locates its greenhouses just outside of urban areas. With more space, it is not necessary to stack plants to turn a profit. The use of hydroponics also means that the farms can be, well, horizontal — and take advantage of (free) sunlight.

Today, the crops that make commercial sense for hydroponic farming are greens and tomatoes, says BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot. Both crops travel long distances, unless you live on the West Coast. Both too are highly perishable and sell for a premium price. And, as anyone who has eaten a winter tomato knows, these crops benefit from being grown closer to home.

One day, Lightfoot hopes that BrightFarms will expand to other crops that meet the same criteria: strawberries, peppers and cucumbers. But there are limits to what he can produce. BrightFarms, he says, will never be able to compete on a crop like apples, which grow in many geographic areas, store well and travels easily. They will always be cheaper and more sustainably grown in the field.

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HYDROPONICS

A method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Nutrients may be delivered a variety of ways, including fish waste, duck manure or a fertilizer containing key macronutrients.

In a hydroponic set-up, plants get the nutrients they need through irrigation water. The process eliminates soil and increases yield. For this process to be successful, ventilation and temperature modulation are key. Solar panels provide renewable energy to power irrigation pumps and ventilation systems, and rainwater is captured in roof tanks for use as irrigation in dry periods. Water is constantly recirculated in a hydroponic system, wasting none. Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room.

CLOSING THE GAP

Commercial farms, of course, do not have to produce everything. Could community, rooftop and backyard gardens make up the difference? According to a 2016 report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the answer is no. While a significant proportion of fresh produce needs could theoretically be met in some places, it would only work in those locations if urban farms are widely implemented and focus on intensive forms of production such as rooftop gardens.

To feed Cleveland, for example, 80 percent of every vacant lot (of which there are many), 62 percent of industrial and commercial rooftops, and 9 percent of every occupied residential lot would have to be put into food production. Those are daunting numbers before you even consider practical constraints such as property values, infrastructure limitations and zoning regulations.

Urban agriculture’s limits do not make it a failure. Community, rooftop and backyard gardens make significant impacts in the lives of the people who tend them, and give poor communities like Camden access to fresh, free food.

Dominic Vitiello, a professor of city planning and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied urban farming in cities including Camden, concludes that in the United States, perhaps urban farming’s greatest potential is to effect “inside-out” community revitalization. Urban farming offers opportunities for social enterprise and supplemental income for low-income families. It also helps to build and sustain vital social networks that go unmeasured by traditional economic-development research.

In other words, urban farming may not feed a city like Camden. But its gardens can help rejuvenate the city and make it a worthy representative of the Garden State.

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The Surprising Benefits Of Gardening Go Way Beyond Your Health

We love organic gardening and can’t imagine life without being surrounded by plants, wildlife, and garden-fresh food. We also think there’s convincing research showing that EVERYONE would benefit if they had access to an organic garden, whether in their own yard/patio or through a shared community garden.

That’s why we’re crazy garden nuts who spend our days shouting from the rooftops to try to convince people to start gardening and spending more time outdoors – for their own sake and the sake of the communities they live in.

Ultimately, we want to live in a world that no longer recognizes the arbitrary distinctions between garden, lawn, park, and farm. Instead, why not recognize that all areas humans inhabit can be designed into multifunctional, edible organic landscapes that perform a wide range of ecosystem services?

Here’s a few things for you to chew on…

What Are The Benefits Of Gardening? A Picture Says A Thousand Words.

The image below gives you a quick visual summary of some of the main benefits of gardening. If you want to get more details and see the referenced sources of where this info comes from, keep reading further down the page.

the benefits of gardening - www.GrowJourney.com

The Benefits of Gardening: A Deeper Dive

1. GET A HIGH RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

Imagine you had a magical piggy bank. For every $1 you stuffed into the oinker, it gave you $8 back at the end of the year. Would you invest in that piggy bank? Yep.   How to get continual kale harvests from your organic gardenPlay Video

The good news is you can grow your own magical piggy bank: it’s called a garden. If you’re reasonable about your approach and learn the basics of organic gardening, it’s not at all outlandish for you to get $8 back for every $1 you invest in your garden, according to research from the National Gardening Association.

What about community gardens? A 2014 study by University of California Cooperative Extension found that members of community gardens in the area grew $435 of food per person in the spring & summer alone. Now, considering most areas of the country can also grow cool weather food crops in the fall and winter relatively easily, that’s some serious grocery savings.

2. INCREASED HOME VALUES

Humans like plants and green spaces. Whether we realize it or not, it’s been proven that gardens, parks, and forests (nature) make us feel much, much better.

So it should come as no surprise that neighborhoods and communities with more gardens and parks are considered more attractive (thus more valuable) to people.

In one study, an 11% increase in the amount of greenery (which equated to a 1/3 acre garden/park within a radius of 200 to 500 ft from the houses studied) increased the sales price of the houses by approximately 1.5% relative to other comparable homes.   

This result isn’t just true for higher socioeconomic neighborhoods. In fact, it’s even more true for poorer neighborhoods. Researchers studied the economic effects of 54 community gardens in St. Louis, Missouri, over the course of ten years (1990-2000). The results? Median rent, median home values, and homeownership rates all increased the closer the homes were to the gardens. 

“We find that community gardens have, on average, significant positive effects on surrounding property values, and that those effects are driven by the poorest of host neighborhoods (where a garden raises neighboring property values by as much as 9.4 percentage points within five years of the garden’s opening).” 

Cut crime with a garden

Interestingly, gardens can even be used to reduce urban crime in blighted areas! In Philadelphia, “burglaries and thefts in one precinct dropped by 90 percent after police helped residents clean up vacant lots and plant gardens.” 

Now, would a garden or fully edible organic landscape increase your home’s value? It will likely depend on two factors:

  • the prevailing culture where you live (Portland, Oregon has a different culture than Birmingham, Alabama); and
  • how visually attractive the garden space is.

Personally, if we were house shopping, we wouldn’t even consider a house that didn’t have edible perennials (fruits, nuts, vines, canes) and soil that hadn’t been contaminated by years of poison applications from various lawn treatments. If there was an established edible organic landscape already there, we’d likely swoon and be ready to make an offer long before we ever saw the inside of the house.

3. CREATE LIVING SOIL INSTEAD OF LOSING DEAD DIRT

Did you know that conventional farms in the US lose 6 pounds of topsoil for every 1 pound of food eaten? While this is actually “good” compared to other countries like China which loses 20 pounds of topsoil for every pound of food eaten, it’s absolutely unsustainable.

What’s the alternative? Well-managed biointensive/sustainable mini-farms (certified organic, permaculture, etc) can actually REGENERATE up to 20 pounds of soil for every 1 pound of food eaten.

Considering estimates that we have about 60 years of arable topsoil left on the planet at our current rate of depletion and that good soil is critical to producing healthy food, which option do you think makes more sense? Losing soil when we grow food or building soil when we grow food?

You can support farmers that are using regenerative growing practices AND you can jump on board and use these same practices in your own garden by learning about no-till organic and permaculture approaches to food production. By saving money growing some of your own food, you’ll be able to buy higher quality organic foods at the store without your overall grocery budget going up.     https://3b6c29d1506bc502cf822a42e1c35da2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

4. REDUCE ENERGY WASTE

In the US, it takes a whopping 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food on a conventional farm.

Don’t want coal ash in your rivers and lakes, fracking-induced earthquakes and pollution, etc? Would you rather reap the economic and health benefits of seeing the US lead the world in innovating new technologies and community designs necessary for a clean energy and clean food economy? Even if you don’t have an engineering degree from MIT, you can still help.

It doesn’t take much fossil fuel for you to walk outside into your garden or down to the community garden to harvest food.  

5. PUT SOME OF YOUR CARBON EMISSIONS BACK IN THE SOIL

Let’s say the combined gardening space available to you and some of your willing neighbors is 1 acre. Together, you decide to convert those areas to gardens and/or edible organic landscapes.

At your starting point, the topsoil is about 6″ deep (about average), of which 1% is soil organic matter (SOM). 58% of that SOM is carbon. That means you have roughly 11,038 pounds of carbon in your topsoil when you start.

Over the next year, using organic and permaculture practices, you increase your SOM to 2% (not unreasonable). You now have 22,076 pounds of soil carbon, which also corresponds with more soil microbes (carbon isn’t just lying dead in your soil, it’s tied up in carbon-based organisms: plants and microbes).https://3b6c29d1506bc502cf822a42e1c35da2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

More carbon and microbial life in your soil generally correlates with much better plant health, better soil water storage capacities, cleaner water runoff, cleaner air, etc..

Given that the average carbon dioxide emissions per person in the US are 44,000 pounds/year (5x higher than the world average), you’ve just managed to put a pretty big dent in your carbon footprint.

Your reward? Delicious fresh food at a lower cost.

Each year that passes, you can continue to increase your SOM and soil carbon, especially if you mix lots of perennial plants/trees in to your garden system.

6. PUBLIC INVESTMENT / LOCAL TAX BENEFITS

Studies have shown that cities and municipalities get an enormous return on investment from supporting community gardens and green spaces. Why? 

These environments make for happier, healthier people, more cohesive communities, and more attractive living spaces, which then increases property values while reducing government expenditures.

In New York: “gross tax benefit generated by all community gardens over a 20 year period amounts to about $563 million. Under the scenario in which the local government would have fully subsidized the garden provision [which is rarely the case], the city’s total investment would have amounted to about $83.5 million. Thus, the estimated net tax benefit would be, in the aggregate, about $480 million or, per garden over $750,000.”https://3b6c29d1506bc502cf822a42e1c35da2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

In Milwaukee, it was found that the average community garden added approximately $9,000/year to city tax revenue.

7. IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH

There are literally piles and piles of studies showing the many health benefits you can enjoy as a direct result of gardening. Not just physical health, but mental/psychological benefits as well. 

In fact, there’s so much research and so many documented health benefits associated with gardening, that we’d need to write a book, not a few paragraphs, to cover them all.

Here are a few of the proven benefits of gardening to make the case:

a. Gardening to reduced the risk of the most deadly diseases 

What kills more people in the US than anything else? The top four: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer.

The easiest “cure” to these awful diseases is prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), perhaps the best preventative measure is gardening.https://3b6c29d1506bc502cf822a42e1c35da2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Doing other moderate-intensity activities like walking and biking for at least 2.5 hours/week works great too, but those who choose gardening, exercise for 40-50 minutes longer than those who choose other activities. (Any spouse who’s shouted “honey, it’s time to come inside now,” knows why this is.

-Source: https://www.cdc.gov/family/gardening/ 

b. Gardening for improved mental outlook 

Want to feel great? Less mental fatigue, improved life outlook and life satisfaction, improved ability to recover from illness, and more? Diet certainly helps. Exercise certainly helps.

However, “green exercise,” aka exercise conducted in beautiful outdoor environments will help even more. We still do intense weight training sessions for optimal health/lean muscle mass, but nothing makes us feel better than working in the garden.

Source

c. Gardening to feel younger 

A study in the Netherlands found that “a ten percent increase in nearby greenspace was found to decrease a person’s health complaints in an amount equivalent to a five year reduction in that person’s age.” 

How would you like to feel five years younger?

Source

d. Gardening to reduce/prevent depression and other mental health problems

A Norwegian study found that 50% of participants with depression, bipolar II disorder, or persistent low mood, experienced significant measurable improvement through six hours of gardening per week over a three month period… and the mental improvements persisted when tested again three months after the program ended.https://3b6c29d1506bc502cf822a42e1c35da2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Source

e. Gardening to avoid picky eating children 

Don’t want to raise picky eaters? Want to break your child’s picky eating habits?

Studies have shown that children who garden eat more fruits & veggies, AND they’re more adventurous about trying new foods.

Source

f. Gardening to prevent dementia 

Multiple studies following people in their 60s and 70s for 10+ years have found that people who gardened regularly had significantly lower risk (36% -47%) of dementia than non-gardeners (even excluding other factors).

Source

g. Gardening for a better diet 

Gardeners and their children eat healthier, more nutrient-rich diets than do non-gardening families. They also eat far more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Source

h. Gardening to lower cholesterol & blood pressure 

Gardening causes significant beneficial changes in total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure.

Source

i. Gardening for stress relief 

Gardening drastically reduces stress, increases positive mood, and decreases cortisol levels (stress hormones) — and the effects were still present 30 minutes after the study participants had stopped gardening.

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Basics & Advantages of Protected Culture

Why Grow in a Greenhouse?

Greenhouse Eggplant TrialOur greenhouse varieties undergo intense scrutiny in our trialing program, and are selected for outstanding performance across multiple criteria.

Greenhouse Trial Criteria & Recommendations…

View All Our Greenhouse Performers…

Each year as the autumnal equinox passes us by, daylength dwindles to an increasingly noticeable degree. By the winter solstice, it becomes too cold and dark in many regions for much of anything to grow in the field. But greenhouse growers are gearing up to start tomato, lettuce, eggplant and pepper seeds, or other carefully chosen vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The seedlings may be started or transplanted into a heated or unheated greenhouse or hoophouse, depending on the latitude, crop, and a host of additional variables unique to the greenhouse grower’s operation.

If working in the greenhouse sounds to you like an antidote for the midwinter blues — not to mention a way to make some year-round cash — then read on to learn more about how greenhouse growing might fit into your business plan…TOP ˆ

The Greenhouse Advantage: Extended Season; Higher Quality; Higher Yield

The obvious reason to grow greenhouse vegetables, flowers, and herbs is to have crops at a time of year when they can’t be grown outdoors. Out-of-season tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, basil, and other vegetables command high prices in some markets.

It’s important to note, though, that the cost of winter production of warm-weather crops like tomatoes is very high, so prepare to jump into it only once you are certain you have a market and a price that will provide a return on your investment. Heating will be your biggest cost, followed by labor. And if you intend to remain in production through the very coldest, shortest winter months, you may also need to provide supplemental lighting — particularly during a long spell of overcast weather.USDA’s Virtual GrowerPreliminary research to inform your greenhouse decisions and strategies is time well spent.

Virtual Grower allows you to run multivariate “what-if” scenarios for your geographic region.

Learn More…

If you have never attempted to grow greenhouse vegetables in winter, you should do a great deal of preliminary research to determine whether it can be profitable for you, given your climate, greenhouse structure, and fuel costs. Fortunately, there are many freely available resources to help you calculate costs and potential returns. An internet search for greenhouse tomatoes enterprise budget, for example, will return a lengthy list of references to inform your research. Look for those published by your regional universities and cooperative extension agencies.NOFA-VT’s Cost-of-Production ResourcesNOFA-VT worked with organic farms in Vermont to track and analyze their greenhouse costs of production, aggregating and presenting the data in a set of factsheets for growers to use, including the cost of production workbook developed as part of the project.

Learn More…

For predicting heating costs, an invaluable tool called the Virtual Grower is available through the USDA. This free software program prompts the user to enter information such as nearest weather station (from which it calculates average weather conditions), type of greenhouse structure, condition of the structure, type of heating system, and price of fuel.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) offers several cost-of-production resources on their website for greenhouse crops, including a summary of metrics, crop-specific analysis, and a cost-of-production workbook.Factors to Weigh for the Greenhouse GrowerClimatological / Geographical:
Circadian and seasonal variations in temperature, light, humidity, air circulation, pollination requirements, disease pressure and resistance

Cost Considerations:
Construction, maintenance, energy, tools, supplies, seed, human resources

Market Forces / ROI:
Ability to offer unique, high-end, and/or off-season products

As for timing, the broad rule of thumb for a beginning grower in the northern half of the US or Canada is not to plant into a greenhouse until February 15th, because the low light conditions earlier than that make the crop a riskier venture. More experienced growers and southern growers, however, can often produce all winter. By mid February, many crops can be grown with only minimal heat, and still provide a month or more of earliness compared to field crops.

If you have a market where you can sell vegetables in spring, greenhouse production can be profitable, especially when combined with early field crops. You may, for example, have field-grown spinach ready in April, but that’s hardly enough to fill a market stand. If, however, you can also bring head lettuce from the heated greenhouse, and arugula, radishes, and carrots from the unheated hoophouse, you’re ready to put on a good display. Alternatively, think about the possibilities for Mother’s Day: greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, cut flowers, and hanging baskets of flowers and fruiting strawberries, in addition to a full range of spring vegetables.

Season extension is just one of the advantages gained from greenhouse growing. Protected crops are less apt to be damaged by wind, rain, and hail so the percentage of marketable products is higher. Yield is often higher as well, if you can provide optimum growing conditions for each crop. Greenhouses protect crops from many diseases, particularly those that are soilborne and splash onto plants in the rain. And greenhouse crops may be protected from common field pests. Of course, greenhouse crops have their own particular problems such as foliar disease, aphids, and whiteflies, so vigilance is still required.TOP ˆ

Tools & Supplies for the Greenhouse

DuraTool Taper SystemLearn how to maximize efficiency with tutorials, tools and supplies expressly designed to facilitate greenhouse tasks, such as the DuraTool and Rollerhook systems for trellising, lowering & leaning your vining crops.

See Resources below to learn more…

Greenhouse vegetables, herbs, and flowers can be grown in three main systems:  in-ground soil culture, container culture, and hydroponics. The first is easiest for beginners because watering and fertilization requirements are not as exacting. Growing in containers, though, has the advantages of no weeding and reduced incidence of soilborne diseases. So the determining factor may well be the type of greenhouse you own. If you have a transplant house with a concrete or gravel floor, you will have to grow in containers such as grow bags, bulb crates, or large pots. If you have a soil floor, you can choose which system to use.

In either case — unless you’re using hydroponics — drip irrigation is recommended to reduce labor, improve watering consistency, and prevent problems caused by overhead watering such as soil splash and wet foliage. Plastic mulch may be used to prevent weeds while also conserving soil moisture. An inner layer of row cover held above growing crops by hoops may be used to keep soil warmer without increasing fuel usage.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants require trellising onto vertical lengths of twine. Vines can be attached to the trellis with the Duratool Taper, a device (formerly called Ty’mup) that wraps a flexible band around the stem and trellis string. Rollerhooks provide for maximal time-saving, space-conserving trellising in a Lower-&-Lean system. Other greenhouse crops such as basil and cut flowers may need to be held upright with a horizontal trellising system such as Hortonova netting. Take time to learn about the various crop support tools and accessories available, to select the system best for your application.

For in-ground cultivation of salad mix, a seeder speeds up planting greatly. And a greens harvester makes short work of cutting baby lettuces and other greens.TOP ˆ

What to Grow in Your Greenhouse, Hoophouse, or Poly Tunnel

Always in demand, and offering the grower a wide range of sizes, shapes, colors, flavors, and production methods, tomatoes are the number-one greenhouse crop in the US.Read Our Research Team’s Recommendations for Greenhouse Tomatoes…

You can grow virtually anything in a greenhouse, but that protected space is prime real estate — with careful variety choices, you can maximize profits and produce crops that don’t do well outside for you. At Johnny’s, we breed, trial, and select seed specifically for greenhouse culture. To learn more about what we look for and recommended greenhouse performers, read our article on Greenhouse Trial Criteria.

Tomatoes are the number-one greenhouse crop grown in the US, probably because demand is high and consistent year-round. Cucumbers are the second most popular greenhouse crop, followed by lettuce and salad mixGreenhouse peppers are also extremely popular in the US, and offer diverse options though more exacting in their cultural needs. Microgreens, too, are in steady year-round demand, and offer several advantages, including short turnaround time, relative ease in growing, tremendous diversity, and appreciable ROI.

Cut flowers can also be profitable in a greenhouse. Among seed-grown flowers, the best choices are those that don’t do well outside in the wind, such as delphiniumlisianthus, and snapdragons. In cool climates, heat-loving flowers such as celosia are good candidates for greenhouse growing.Hortonova in the HoophouseHorizontal trellising helps provide correct spacing, as well as support, for premium cut flower production.

Learn More About Crop Supports…

Among the herbs, basil can be grown earlier and later in the year in a greenhouse, and there is a consistent demand for it. Tender perennials herbs such as rosemary and thyme can be kept in the greenhouse as mother plants, then propagated in late winter to sell as container plants or culinary cut herbs in spring. Strawberries are another valuable greenhouse crop, and can be grown in hanging containers to keep floor space free for other crops.

Whichever crops you choose, variety selection is important for greenhouse success. Varieties are identified as good for greenhouse production for many reasons. They may have increased resistance to common diseases, or grow better in the lower light conditions of the greenhouse. In the case of cucumbers, many greenhouse varieties are parthenocarpic, meaning they don’t require insect pollination to set fruit — and gynoecious, meaning all flowers are female, resulting in a higher yield since every flower has the potential to turn into a fruit. Remember to look for the red greenhouse symbol next to variety names here on our website and in our catalogs.TOP ˆ

Opening up to Year-round Possibilities

As the days get shorter with the approach of winter and you find yourself inside more frequently, spend some time reviewing the possibilities for greenhouse or hoophouse production. If you decide to go for it, now is the time to lay out your production plan and schedule purchases and sowing dates. Wherever you live, you could grow a greenhouse full of crops, ready for market through winter and earliest spring!

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Ecological, Social and Economic Benefits of Urban Agriculture

A connection between urban agriculture and keep urban runoff, food insecurity, urban heat island effect, energy efficiency, air quality, and climate change, quality of life in residential areas, social isolation and preventing crime has been documented. Based on a program that runs as food for townspeople by FAO, it helped citizens to involve in the production of food and feed themselves. The majority of these programs include the use of lands and green urban environment spaces in the production of fruits and vegetables in apartments.

Various aspects of urban agriculture in vacant lands within the city, balconies, walls, rooftops, and streets that are visible in many developed and developing countries such as Cuba, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland and etc. The following considers aspects of ecology, social and economic urban agriculture sustainability. Urban agriculture can bring many benefits in three main categories including:

The ecological benefits: Restoration of biodiversity is one of the important environmental benefits of urban agriculture. Urban agriculture with producing different products can have interaction in the production of special products. In addition, urban agriculture helps to protect endangered or scarce species, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and shrubs. If urban agriculture is planned in a suitable way and integrated with the urban design, it can provide a pleasant space for citizens. Furthermore, green spaces around apartment blocks and houses, help to improve climate, because it can increase moisture, reduce temperature and provided a pleasant smell in the city; absorb dust particles and gases from polluted air through the foliage of trees and plants, broken wind speed, buffer solar radiation and create shade. Urban agriculture also improves air quality by removing pollutants which are in the air such as chemicals and allergens like pollen. Noise pollution in urban areas is usually common as a result of increased density, heavy traffic and a lot of hard surfaces. Urban agriculture, especially green roofs and vertical gardens are very effective in reducing noise pollution in urban areas. This noise reduction is due to the absorption of sound waves through the soil and plants.

The economic benefits: Urban agriculture has several economic benefits to society. Urban gardens can promote economic development and tourism. The gardens will attract businesses and residents and are catalysts for business development and promotion of city life. In studies of urban gardens, was determined that they improve ideality of residential and commercial areas and increased value of the property. Urban agriculture can also create local employment and income. A study shows that agriculture with 6% covering annually Toronto buildings, directly and indirectly, will provide jobs for about 1,350 people. In addition, the commercial value of products in annual urban agriculture will be about 5.5 million dollars. Food markets and price paid for such products can affect the size and nature of food products. Urban agriculture is a local potential to create local economic activities and if the performance is good it has the ability to attract investors. Food production in urban regions and areas close to them creates this opportunity that food chain associated with the production-consumption become limited. Organic household waste can be turned into fertilizer and used in gardens and fields. This process brings ecological and economic savings. In third-world cities, due to three factors: experience (rural migrants experience in agriculture), requirement (a large number of unemployed and informal workers) and opportunities (marginal agricultural areas and arid lands within the City are provided acceptable reasons for the development of urban agriculture and preservation of green areas.

The social benefits: The social dimension of urban agriculture has several factors that mentioned in the following:

1. Increasing physical activity: In societies where obesity is a problem, urban gardens provide an opportunity for residents to increase their physical activity through gardening.

2. Health (garden therapy): Psychological studies have shown that the effects of landscape renewal, speedup health improvement of a person. A variety of sounds smells, and colors of the plants can have significant effects on the health and welfare of people. Access to healthy and fresh food is also one of the important issues; urban agriculture emphasizes the existence and availability of food. In Uganda, more than 60 percent of the food consumed by low-incomes is produced by them. Ecology psychologists study the relationship between psychological stress and the characteristics of the urban landscape in two approaches. The first approach is the belief in the healing of nature and impact of the plant on the intellectual and psychological pressures. The second approach is the health landscape, the landscape therapist takes a wide variety of landscapes. That experience of each can play a  vital role in improving human health, may include personal experiences. So the landscape is a good memory that is a personal past, or a collective and cultural past is a landscape therapist.

3. Increased security:  Crime reduction has been observed in communities that have urban gardens. People who have spent their time in urban gardens are reluctant to commit the crime. Urban gardens also provide a safe environment for the residents, especially children.

4. Green space of community and aesthetic values: Urban agriculture can improve the aesthetic values and provide more exterior space for residents and visitors. Vertical gardens provide a quiet and pleasant environment for residents.

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Organic Gardening Benefits and Tips

There are many benefits to organic gardening. Not only is going chemical-free better for the environment, but you and your family can have peace of mind knowing that the delicious food you’re eating is all-natural. Aside from raising delicious food, organic gardening will save you time, money, and even water. Let’s dig into the details on the multiple benefits that organic gardening has to offer.

blue metal tub with fresh picked garden carrots onion and beets

Fresh, Delicious Organic Food

We guarantee that what you pluck off the bush, vine, or tree will taste better than any fruit or vegetable purchased in a store. Homegrown might not be as uniform in size and color as what you buy in a produce section, but you can expect an explosion of flavor. And not much tastes better than something you are proud of growing.  

Health Benefits of Organic Gardening

Because organic gardening eliminates chemical pesticides and fertilizers, right from the start you are handling fewer chemicals. No spraying, no spreading, no touching. You are also reducing the number of nitrates your food absorbs when you skip nitrate-based fertilizers. On the flip side, it has been proven that organically grown produce delivers more antioxidants, which are known to help ward off cancers. But the biggest health boost might come from the fact that you will probably eat more fruits and veggies because they are right there and taste great.

gardener placing mulch on ground of perennial flower garden

CREDIT: BLAINE MOATS

Environmental Benefits of Organic Gardening

Organic fertilizers are made from plant and animal sources, such as manure and compost. Applying compost and mulches reduces topsoil erosion. And as they slowly break down, they provide nutrients to plants and improve soil structure. Once your soil has been improved, you need less fertilizer, period. Improved soils hold onto water better, which means less runoff. Even better? There won’t be any chemicals from your yard finding their way into the water supply. Plus, if you are making your own compost with your kitchen scraps and yard waste, you are helping relieve pressures on your local landfill. Some organic herbicides and insecticides (e.g., vinegar, Epsom salts, castile soap) work toward preserving your crops while protecting bees, butterflies, and birds. This means pollinators, beneficial insects, and our garden friends all stay safe.

How Organic Gardening Helps Conserve Water

Organic gardening reduces how many natural resources, especially water, we need for our backyard crops. Soil rich in organic compounds holds moisture better, which means less watering is needed. Adding several inches of organic mulch on top of the soil chokes out weeds and reduces the rate of evaporation. Plus, mulch’s propensity for retaining moisture means extra humidity for the plants.

How You Can Save Money with Organic Gardening

When you garden organically, you’ll spend less money on gardening supplies. You won’t be buying chemical fertilizers. Instead, kitchen waste and yard clippings become rich, black end product that replenishes nutrients and helpful organisms in the soil. And you can mix up herbicides and pesticides from items you probably have in your pantry. Don’t overlook the cost savings of growing your own organic produce instead of spending top dollar at the supermarket. And if you have bumper crops, learning to preserve the excess means you’ll save money in the winter by not having to buy greenhouse-raised produce.

adding soil to metal tub with garden shovel

Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Garden to Organic

Feed Soil with Compost

Compost is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is the dark, nutrient-rich amendment that works as a natural fertilizer. Compost is full of organic materials that help conserve soil moisture. As a verb, composting is using kitchen scraps and yard and garden waste (grass clippings, leaves, faded or dead flowers) to make compost.

Put Down Organic Mulch

Adding a layer of organic material around the plants in your organic garden serves two purposes: It discourages weed seeds from germinating and conserves soil moisture. So you have to do less weeding and watering. Plus, mulch makes gardens and landscapes look neater and more pleasing to the eye.

Use Safe Pest Control

If you discover bugs are eating your produce, research before you spray to get closer to practicing organic gardening. It’s important to treat pests with specific remedies. For example, if tomato hornworms have moved in, you’ve got to pick them off your tomato plants and drop them in a cup of soapy water. Safer soap and neem oil are two effective alternatives to chemical pestic

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What Are the Benefits of Agriculture and Farmers?

Humans once subsisted by hunting and gathering, foraging for available food wherever it could be found. These early peoples necessarily moved frequently, as food sources changed, became scarce or moved in the case of animals. This left little time to pursue anything other than survival and a peripatetic lifestyle. Human society changed dramatically approximately 12,000 years ago, possibly related to the ending of the last ice age, when agriculture began. People began planting collected seeds, harvesting them and selecting successful crops. This encouraged people to make permanent homes. With a settled lifestyle, other pursuits flourished, essentially beginning modern civilization.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Agriculture gave people the opportunity to create civilizations, fight hunger and work to combat challenges in population growth and climate change.

Early Agriculture

Early farmers domesticated cereals, fruits, vegetables and animals. This helped to preserve many species selected for their high nutrient content and reliable harvests. In turn, the stable food supply created by farms kept people from starving, and in fact led to a rapid increase in population around the world.

Modern Agriculture’s Opportunities

While at first farms grew a large variety of foods depending on their location, this eventually changed with the advent of rail transportation in the 19th century. Once rapid transport of crops began, a shift in farming methods took hold. An emphasis on producing high yields of a few reliable grain types resulted in a reduction in global hunger.

Today, agriculture relies on global trade. As the human population approaches 10 billion people by 2050, agriculture is poised to continue growth to meet the demand for food. Farming creates opportunities to lift people out of poverty in developing nations. Over 60 percent of the world’s working poor works in agriculture. Farming creates more jobs, beginning with farmers, and continuing with farm equipment makers, food processing plants, transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing.

Developments in Farming Sustainability

Modern agriculture’s huge reliance upon a few crops invites challenges, given changes in climate and the potential for harvest failures. New farming endeavors promise to battle the opposing problems of both malnutrition and obesity. To create better crop diversity for human health and food security, farmers are working to create markets for new crops. More environmentally friendly farming techniques offset climate challenges and protect local ecological systems while securing the food and water supply. Sustainable farming methods create better food diversity, preserve water with more efficient facilities and drought-tolerant crops, and encourage better livestock health. Farmers represent a front line to defend against the risks of climate change.

Organic agriculture forges a path for sustainable food supplies. Organic farmers work to improve soil fertility by rotating crops, using cover crops and tilling the soil. By not using pesticides, farmers allow groundwater to maintain greater quality and cleanliness. These methods encourage biodiversity in crops, maintain more natural environments in and around farms, and create habitats for flora and fauna.

Farmers Improve Their Communities

Humans once subsisted by hunting and gathering, foraging for available food wherever it could be found. These early peoples necessarily moved frequently, as food sources changed, became scarce or moved in the case of animals. This left little time to pursue anything other than survival and a peripatetic lifestyle. Human society changed dramatically approximately 12,000 years ago, possibly related to the ending of the last ice age, when agriculture began. People began planting collected seeds, harvesting them and selecting successful crops. This encouraged people to make permanent homes. With a settled lifestyle, other pursuits flourished, essentially beginning modern civilization.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Agriculture gave people the opportunity to create civilizations, fight hunger and work to combat challenges in population growth and climate change.

Early Agriculture

Early farmers domesticated cereals, fruits, vegetables and animals. This helped to preserve many species selected for their high nutrient content and reliable harvests. In turn, the stable food supply created by farms kept people from starving, and in fact led to a rapid increase in population around the world.

Modern Agriculture’s Opportunities

While at first farms grew a large variety of foods depending on their location, this eventually changed with the advent of rail transportation in the 19th century. Once rapid transport of crops began, a shift in farming methods took hold. An emphasis on producing high yields of a few reliable grain types resulted in a reduction in global hunger.

Today, agriculture relies on global trade. As the human population approaches 10 billion people by 2050, agriculture is poised to continue growth to meet the demand for food. Farming creates opportunities to lift people out of poverty in developing nations. Over 60 percent of the world’s working poor works in agriculture. Farming creates more jobs, beginning with farmers, and continuing with farm equipment makers, food processing plants, transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing.

Developments in Farming Sustainability

Modern agriculture’s huge reliance upon a few crops invites challenges, given changes in climate and the potential for harvest failures. New farming endeavors promise to battle the opposing problems of both malnutrition and obesity. To create better crop diversity for human health and food security, farmers are working to create markets for new crops. More environmentally friendly farming techniques offset climate challenges and protect local ecological systems while securing the food and water supply. Sustainable farming methods create better food diversity, preserve water with more efficient facilities and drought-tolerant crops, and encourage better livestock health. Farmers represent a front line to defend against the risks of climate change.

Organic agriculture forges a path for sustainable food supplies. Organic farmers work to improve soil fertility by rotating crops, using cover crops and tilling the soil. By not using pesticides, farmers allow groundwater to maintain greater quality and cleanliness. These methods encourage biodiversity in crops, maintain more natural environments in and around farms, and create habitats for flora and fauna.

Farmers Improve Their Communities

Another positive development in farming is the rapid expansion of farmers markets. Farmers markets allow small farmers to interact directly with consumers. The food system remains within the local economy by being locally produced and eliminates the need for long-distance transportation. The opportunity to purchase locally grown food proves invaluable as the demand for it rises. Consumers benefit from healthier food options, and farmers benefit from new opportunities to sell their crops. Consumers and their children can learn first hand from farmers about products, and how they are raised. Farmers interact with and improve the communities they serve.