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close this bookAmaranth to Zai Holes, Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions (ECHO; 1996; 397 pages)
View the documentOther ECHO publications
View the documentAbout this book
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contents1: Basics of agricultural development
Open this folder and view contents2: Vegetables and small fruits in the tropics
Open this folder and view contents3: Staple crops
Open this folder and view contents4: Multipurpose trees
Open this folder and view contents5: Farming systems and gardening techniques
Open this folder and view contents6: Soil health and plant nutrition
Open this folder and view contents7: Water resources
Open this folder and view contents8: Plant protection and pest control
Open this folder and view contents9: Domestic animals
Open this folder and view contents10: Food science
Open this folder and view contents11: Human health care
Open this folder and view contents12: Seeds and germplasm
Open this folder and view contents13: Energy and technologies
Open this folder and view contents14: From farm to market
Open this folder and view contents15: Training and missionary resources
Open this folder and view contents16: Oils
close this folder17: Above-ground (urban) gardens
View the documentOverview of above-ground gardening
View the documentTechnical details of above-ground gardens
View the documentUrban agriculture resources
View the document18: What is ECHO?
View the documentAdditional ECHO publications
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes - issue 52
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes: issue 53
Open this folder and view contents28 additional technical notes about tropical agriculture
Open this folder and view contentsPrinciples of agroforestry
Open this folder and view contentsGood nutrition on the small farm

17: Above-ground (urban) gardens

Urban food production is an area which has been too frequently overlooked by development planners, considering global urbanization and the surprisingly large amount of food already produced in cities. Beyond the sites traditionally used by urban gardeners, there is considerable potential to involve millions of urban families, who may not at first thought seem to have a location to garden. This untapped potential is found where there is plenty of sunshine but either no soil or the soil does not lend itself to cultivation. ECHO and others have developed several "above-ground" techniques suited for such sites.

Where might sites for these above-ground gardens be found? For starters, in many cities there are countless hectares of sturdy, flat cement rooftops and many more hectares of tin roofs on insubstantial shanties. There are also steep hillsides, extremely poor soils, yards of rock or cement, spaces around tree roots, and places where land tenure is so unstable that only portable gardens are attractive.

Such areas were a natural challenge for us, since one of ECHO's purposes is to help people grow food under difficult conditions. There are few "soils" worse for gardening than a cement slab, a pile of rocks, a corrugated roof or a mass of tree roots. However, large areas of such unused but potentially prime growing space are often located in cities, near large markets and numbers of underemployed people. The potential value of creating growing areas in such locations is obvious.

Since 1982, ECHO has been working on methods for gardening in such situations, which are not nearly as difficult a challenge for gardening as one might think. In fact, cement slabs have become one of our favorite gardening spots in Florida, where sandy soils and nematodes make in-ground gardening a challenge. Urban gardening has a reputation of not being very successful. This chapter takes a second look at growing food in the city.

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