There are certainly those who will always garden- for food, for pleasure, for the feeling of productivity, for health and excersize, for nutrition, for love of the outdoors.  There are thousands of reasons people find a relationship with plants important.  

It is certainly also true that some people need gardens and seek them out where ever they are, while others do not feel that pull.  City-dwellers are not fundamentally different for those who live in less populated areas, the too want healthy food, time outdoors in lush, green spaces.  Cities draw people for many reasons- potential for financial success, access to knowledge, art, literature, others, a close community with little need for transportation, the list goes on and on.  

Gardening has woven in and out of style throughout history and culture.  Sometimes it is integral to survival as in the gardens of the Jewish ghettos of Europe in the 1930s and 40s.  Sometimes it brings simple pleasure as in the lush gardens of the Roman and Arabic cultures.  Here is a very brief history of cities and the green the surrounds and infiltrates them. mostly for subsistence, but also for pleasure…..

Since the settlement of nomadic peoples into settlements and communities, cities have been inextricably connected with the crops that sustain them. Food production had to take place close to cities because transportation was slow and food was perishable.  Food was grown either within or directly bordering the limits of the town.    Many civilizations have complex and efficient forms of growing and transporting foods to sustain cities.


In ancient Sumer, said to be one of the first agrarian civilizations in the fertile cresent, about 90% of the population living in cities were food-producing peasants working in the surrounding well irrigated fields (Wikipedia, Sumer).


Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city in what is now Peru was well known for supporting its self on terraced and irrigated fields surrounding the mountain city(Machu Picchu Main Website). 


There were frequently kitchen gardens and orchards within the walls of medeivil fortesses (Williamson). 


Not only were urban gardens important for food, but also to bring pleasure and and create a community space in the community. 


In Pompeii each household had its own gardens used not only for food but also as a central place for the family to socialize (Williamson). 


Arabs grew beautiful gardens full of fruit trees and ornamental irrigation in the form of pools and streams throughout their towns and cities, and spread these gardens to every place they moved. 



Click on the examples below to find out more about a few unique and impressive urban gardening strategies from the past…

Tenochtitlan and the chinampas: a brilliant Aztec waterway irrigation system: 1500s

The vast salad gardens of Marais in Paris: 1800s

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