Monday, April 26, 2010

The 'Grassroots' of Urban Gardening

This post is part of The Coil, Hosted by A Green Spell for the Scorpio Full Moon. Please go on over and check out the lovely posts!

One of my favourite things about my banner, is my attempts to capture the disconnect between 'EcoYogini', Yoga, Environment and the city. Having grown up in the sticks, surrounded by ocean, trees and woods any city seems like a big slab of concrete with stinky smog. (tugboats at the warf! Theodore was just around the corner, srsly)

 eatin' icecream and being all 'I love ocean-y' while I looked at our beautiful oil refinery across the harbour... 

I say this even as I adored living in Montreal and I love living in Halifax. As our population moves to the city, I strongly believe that our disconnect as a community and to our Earth is a direct result. We live in our tiny boxes, little cubes of lives and no matter how many parks or trees that live cornered into their designated 'green space' it's a much more controlled, regulated process. Nothing like Nature's chaos, wildness or Strength. We view these little flower beds and trees as being 'permitted' to be there as opposed to having that right to space.

 Monsieur Homard with a terrible paint job- obviously he was attempting tree
This is the reason why I feel Urban Gardening is so essential to healing our community and how we treat our Earth. As Dr. Jay points out (in the comments!) city living actually decreases dependence on oil, gas and cars (sadly, Halifax is still a car-dependent city). What we're missing from our city centre is that connection to Earth and Nature. We still haven't found the balance.

Yes, decreasing mileage on our food, growing local and without pesticides is important and a great result of urban gardening, but it doesn't resonate with me as much as the cultural subtleties.
 A nice example of my fav aspect of Halifax- the cute shingled houses
Gardening is a direct way to view how our efforts and the way we treat soil can have a direct effect on our health. It's a bit more disconcerting, trying to eat something we've sprayed ourselves with chemicals and how much more appealing it is to use organic methods. How wonderful it is to care and nurture our food from a tiny seedling. 
How curious, a concrete empty building, like a city without Gardens...
There's been a lot of thought as to how we view our public spaces and how converting more and more unused city space for urban and community gardens is the way to go. Instead of growing small plots of pesticide-rich, water gulping, not really functional grass (I mean, who really just hangs out on their front lawn anyways?) why not grow a beautiful 'potager' garden. You know, growing pretty edible things.

Many cities are fighting for more community gardens, land shares, roof top garden spaces than ever. I find it fascinating to consider how such a grassroots experience can create social ripples in how we urbanites view our surroundings. The more people realize they can urban garden, the more they will appreciate and care for the land space, spreading the word to convince others and creating a cultural shift. 

After you've begun growing in the city, it feels inherently wrong to drive exhaust spewing cars past other edible gardens. Each concrete abandoned lot is seen as such a colossal waste. We start to see how plants and vegetables have a *right* to be in our concrete jungle. We start to consider them a necessary part of urban living. Which will result in different uses of taxes, of public spaces, of how we treat our public spaces.

The ultimate form of non-violent urban food protest: 'Guerrilla Gardening is a direct response to the neglect and under-use of public spaces. It is a form of nonviolent, direct action focusing on taking over abandoned public or private lands, to plant crops or other vegetation...' (Halifax Garden Network)

Who can be upset over eggplants and lettuce being grown in a space that was neglected and forlorn in the first place? For more info on Halifax Guerrilla Gardening, or to join their group go to Not in Halifax? Do a quick search, ask local urban gardeners and community gardeners... you'd be surprised how much it may be a part of your city.

 Squint! See the purple 'yoga'? Look up- Alexander Keith's Brewery, 108Yoga Studio and current Farmer's Market Location... très Maritimes
Coming up... how all this results in a contingency plan for our balcony garden. Being flexible in the non-asana sense...

(ps- Photographs for Bob Weisenberg, who on twitter asked if I really was surrounded by water here in Halifax. Thought I'd take some 'tourist-y' photos for him :) ).

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at 


  1. Paradoxically, even though we may feel a disconnect from the natural world in the city, and, certainly, tend to have a lot closer contact with pollution, it's actually far easier to reduce one's impact on the planet in the city. Those who move to the country to get "closer to nature" (as I've done) end up using up a lot more gas, as there's no public transit and everything's too far away to walk or bike, as well as a lot more land, etc. And, really, if we're going to have a truly eco-conscious society, it's not going to involve everybody moving to the sticks but, rather, for millions of people to leave the sticks and move to the city.

  2. gorgeous buildings though...a bicycling community waiting to happen if it's not already....?

  3. Oh Dr. Jay, I completely agree! :) Thank you, I wondered about putting that in there... but thought I might ramble a bit. However, this is a perfect 'extra'. Thank you! :)

    EcoGrrl: ummm, Halifax is actually pretty terrible for bicyclists. There are a few bikes lanes, but often cars park or drive there. I think it could be a lot better... and I do believe there are a couple of 'halifax cyclist' organizations working on it :) So hopefully!

  4. Great idea ~ i love the community garden idea.

  5. Apartment report?
    Any luck: :)

  6. I always wanted to try guerrilla gardening, but wouldn't know where to begin! I'm keeping my mind open to opportunities there.

    I think what Dr. Jay said is very compelling. I could never give up my semi-country life, and if I could live on a mini-ranch in the country like my folks, I would. is very discouraging that we end up using so much fuel, and can't share resources as easily. BUT I think there are advantages that balance out in the end, especially if you are super conscientious about how you use resources.

  7. I just checked in on your site rather than in the reader and saw your new banner. "ecoholic" -- love it. :)

  8. Hey Eco . . .
    First, I love the new header. Second, I love the way you view things! So refreshing. We live in a small town in Northern Appalachia. It is rather poor in general and there are no zoning laws. This is both bad and good . . . bad because people can trash their homes with little say from the local government. Good because we can grow trees, gardens, plants, etc. also with little say about how it's done. We grow most everything we can in the Summer in the little space we have. We also have our little piece of land lined with trees, bushes, shrubs in much the same manner as those who live in a more rural location - not what you'd usually find in the middle of a town. I'm so excited to be back. Hope you are well and looking forward to more refreshing posts from you!

  9. ditto on dr. jay. ive had lots of conversations on environmental impact of city vs country living. or maybe i just use this argument as an excuse when the idea of living on a farm scares me..

  10. I love it! I listened to a tale by an older gardening couple who now have an organic farm in Ohio, and the man discussed guerrilla gardening in any space he could find back in the 1970s. By train tracks, edges of parking lots, you name it! EcoYogini, thank you for sharing this, and I love the header, too :)


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