Posted on 19 June 2012 by

Citizen Scientists and the Urban Garden


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Have you really wondered why we garden and why gardening topics, movies, books, organizations and the such seem to sprout up like weeds in a spring lawn.

Well, I wondered the same thing.

I also wondered if these reasons were the same all the way around the planet or if there were regional reasons for gardening?

I also wondered, how do people get gardening information and is this information retrievable based on generations? To answer these questions and more, I have created a survey for individuals to take but one may wonder why?

The reason is simple; if we know the answers to these questions we as a society can better plan communities in preparation for this movement but before I get ahead of myself let me talk about gardening history.

Gardening, along with plant and animal domestication, is what allowed us to stay in one place. We learned that we did have the power to tame the wild, harvest it, manipulate it and eat it too, all in the comfort of our cozy village. This behavior continued for centuries.

Then, as a society, we learned how to preserve our food and in doing so we could travel beyond our village in search of other plants and animals that we could domesticate. Villages became larger and the pressure to feed these people increased.

We developed chemicals to take care of gardening problems and began to divide society into “farmers” and “professionals.” Farms were now located on the outskirts of towns and we as a society became disassociated with our food.

WWI and WWII brought on a new interest in gardening and it was now “patriotic” to grow food for the war effort. The government provided gardening spaces including the White House lawn, which by the way housed what we call now urban homesteading or plants and animals. Instead of hearing terms like urban gardens, windowsill gardens, home gardening, individuals referred to this movement as “Victory Gardens.”

And by the way the “Mobile Garden” concept is also an old one. During this same period, if you did not have land to garden you were expected to garden in what you had. This could mean inside your model T or in the bed of a pickup truck.

Once the war was over, good fortune arose, building resumed and a professional life was encouraged, which pushed farming farther and farther away from the city. We disassociated ourselves with where and how our food was grown for convenience and along with that the knowledge on how to grow it.

Today, we as a society are trying to bring farming back and not traditional monoculture farming but instead one that is conducive to nature. But again, the question remains why and how do we learn this lost skill.

If you would like to contribute to this research, please contact me through my Facebook page, Mindar the Gardening Gnome. The results will be used in an independent study class at the University of Louisville. I hope to use the results to develop recommendations for urban planners so that we can create smart garden growth that addresses today and tomorrow’s issues.

So until we blog again, we are all citizen scientists that have a say about our present and future but to have that say we must know what is going on before we can plan the next logical step.

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