An interesting snippet for you all from George Hallett's regular column in the December 1934 National Municipal Review:
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How urban gardens can be better than many real fieldsTake Part - [A] study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology in April, looked at the allotment plots—the U.K.'s version of community gardens—in Leicester, England, and compared the soil quality with what's found on the farms surrounding the city. Both the organic carbon density—a general measure of soil health—and the nitrogen density in the allotment plots were higher than on nearby farms. The most depleted farmland tested had 65 percent lower organic carbon density than the city gardens. Dirt with a higher carbon content is better able to hold water, is more nutrient-rich, maintains an even temperature, and functions as a habitat for beneficial bugs and other organism. It's the dirt you want to grow food in—and the dirt that will readily nourish whatever's planted in it. In another sign of good soil health, the bulk density—a measure of how compact the dirt is—was lower in the urban gardens.
In a survey of the gardeners who work these allotments, some of whom have been growing food on the same plot for as long as 50 years, 95 percent said they practiced composting, and 75 percent said they added manure to their soil. In doing so, they're taking better care of the earth that's supplying their families with tomatoes and greens to serve alongside food from the supermarket or elsewhere than the vast stretches of dirt that are tasked with feeding the world.
The report notes that some 800 million people around the world are growing food in urban areas—many of them are farming out of necessity, not as a hobby. The authors conclude that drawing from the management practiced by the allotment gardeners could help make those gardening for fun and those gardening to survive both reap better harvests and become part of the fabric of more sustainable cities—especially if municipalities can feed urban soil with their own waste. It sounds like traditional farmers can relearn something from these model urban gardeners too.
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