Dr. YS Bagal
Do you know urban farms? Have you ever considered growing food in your own garden or in specialized freezers? One of the biggest environmental (and financial) pollution problems in the world today is the transport of food for consumption in cities. You don’t generate something in the city that you consume there. Because they can’t see the cow, that’s where the kids felt like the milk was coming out of a little box. And because they don’t see the source, the water comes from the tap or the bottle. Have you ever considered the possibility that the apple you are eating has traveled hundreds of miles or crossed international borders? A huge expense of gas, packaging and shipping for a fruit. We also lose touch with food and the natural world. Children who are unaware that cashew seeds are the source of nuts and that potatoes grow underground are not uncommon. We don’t cherish what’s on our plate when we don’t know where it comes from.
Urban agriculture initiatives use the rooftops of buildings to produce vegetables with the aim of increasing the amount of green space in urban areas. Urban agriculture is certain to grow and gain public and political attention as urban residents become more aware of the effects that food production and transportation have on the environment, as well as the source and the safety of the food they eat. Bringing food production closer together is educational in addition to being environmental. However, the issues of growing food in cities often differ from conventional farming due to small size and other limitations.
Urban gardens can be found in a wide range of places and at different scales, including window sills, balconies, flagstones, vacant lots, schoolyards, public parks, and even unexpected places like metro tunnels. In any case, it is crucial to take into account a few factors. When designing a garden, set aside space not only for planting, but also for storing tools and supplies, and maybe even for compost. For good growth, vegetables need plenty of light. It is advisable to get at least 7 hours, and ideally 11, of sunshine per day. Look for plants that can thrive in the best spot currently available, as some can tolerate less sun. For optimal growth, vegetables also need plenty of water. Make sure there is adequate access to good water in the area. Even cold-adapted plants cannot tolerate extremely high winds. If there isn’t already a windbreak on the property, try adding some by planting shrubs.
Growing plants requires commitment. Some plants need more frequent watering and pruning for pest control and maintenance. Some animals, for example, can quickly adapt to any habitat. It is also important to consider the size of the plant: if nothing is done, the branch of a potato plant could cover the whole balcony.
Rooftop farming uses areas that would not otherwise be used. Green ceilings absorb solar radiation to reduce urban heat and absorb precipitation to reduce the pressure of rainwater in sewer systems. More sun is good for plants. In raised beds or in pots, roofing can be done. There are many ideas for creating gardens in tiny places on the internet. On the windowsill, some vases can grow delicious spices. You can also generate a few pounds of food in a small outdoor space.
As in fields, direct planting is the most typical type of planting. It is necessary to prepare the soil, usually by removing the top layer and replacing it with a suitable soil combination for planting. This might not be so easy in urban areas though. Urban soils are more susceptible to contamination by chemicals or physical detritus. To ensure that there are no chemicals, heavy metals or other contaminants present, it is essential to remove remnants of asphalt, concrete and glass and test the floor frequently.
Raised beds are all beds that are higher than the surrounding floor, whether placed directly on the floor or higher. The main thing is that they extend to the roots of the plants, whether they look like boxes with bottoms and sides or are just sides. Brick, stone, wood and concrete blocks are among the many materials used. However, since bricks and wood can contain harmful compounds and pollute soils, it is essential to assess the origin and safety of the material. Raised beds allow urban farmers to grow food despite contaminated soil and plant on asphalt or concrete without having to undertake costly excavation operations, while being more time-consuming and expensive to produce. They are also a more cost-effective alternative to growing in the ground for short-term gardening.
Containers can, however, be bought ready-made on the market and are often smaller and portable. Additionally, urban farmers can create a wide range of potting choices using urban waste, including milk cartons, bins, wooden pallets, and more. You should consider volume, drainage, and material when selecting a vessel type. The volume should be rooted in the plant, there should always be sufficient drainage and the materials should not contain hazardous components, especially when using recycled or reused containers. Avoid using wood, metals, and plastics painted or treated with solvents or high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
Raised beds and vases can benefit from a secondary irrigation system. This is an irrigation technique also known as infiltration irrigation where water is kept in a reservoir under the plant, which only draws from the roots the amount it needs. This technique is perfect for regular travelers since it gives the plants an autonomy of several days or even several weeks. With this approach, pots are already available on the market, and there are several online instructions for building raised beds with irrigation using pipes and hoses. This collection of information may be useful as you begin to understand and build food cropping closer to your residence. Besides bringing empty places to life, it can provide healthy vegetables. There are countless options!
The future of food should be collaborative: communities would buy and grow food collectively in programs similar to urban farms, then share that ready-to-eat food among themselves. Planting will be done by one group, while cooking for those who need to work or study will be done by another. Exactly like what our predecessors did in the Neolithic. I see this as a future survival.
(The author is Assistant Professor, School of Agriculture, Lovely Professional University, Phagwara Punjab)