Tag Archives: landscape urbanism

urban farm in the heart of Philadelphia

I am so intrigued by the rising interest in urban agriculture.  It seems like not a week goes by that I do not see an article somewhere discussing the topic or showcasing a new project.  Here in Charleston especially, I think it so easily fits in with our culture of gardening and the love of local food.

In the gardens of Charleston and the surrounding areas you find a plethora of fruit trees, fruiting vines, and herbs filling containers and growing underfoot in gaps in patio stones.  A traditional vegetable plot even makes an appearance here and there.  We have recently had much interest in residential projects for incorporating vegetable plots, fruiting vines and trees in the design.  Even small urban homes can creatively incorporate climbing vines, tomatoes, cucumbers or containers for herbs in their outdoor space.  Utilizing underused or forgotten spaces for an urban farm is not such a stretch.  Urban farming on a larger scale is a very different animal requiring a system of management by volunteers or a paid staff or both.  But I think it can be a wonderful addition to the urban environment.  As Landscape Architects we are uniquely qualified to bring different interests together to create a space that functions well on all levels.  Urban agriculture has the potential to be more than a little community garden.  With good design it can be a ‘farm’ within the framework of a larger community space that functions as a beautiful respite from the urban fabric, a gathering space for community events, an educational tool, a much needed source of fresh produce for ‘food deserts’, a place for rainwater harvesting, and a place to integrate native plants and vegetables to promote wildlife.  One local urban garden I’m aware of is at MUSC, designed by a local Landscape Architect.  Another great example, although not local, is the Lafayette Greens in Detroit.

I grew up in the suburbs and rural areas of Georgia, but my maternal grandfather almost always had a garden growing.  They moved around, but he would have a space for a rather large garden even if it was adjacent to a cul-de-sac.  I have fond memories of him in his worn overalls and straw hat, helping to pick snap beans and husking corn.  We live on a small lot in a dense neighborhood, so my own backyard garden is quite small.  Still, we’ve managed to squeeze in an heirloom pumpkin plant, heirloom cherry tomatoes and cucumbers growing up a fence, a Meyer lemon tree and sunflowers in a narrow 3ft x 15ft plot.  Another small plot about 4ft x 5ft has carrots, beans, native rosemary, strawberries and green pepper.  The rest of our backyard is a modern take on a Charleston garden and boasts many native plants.  The size may be small, but the benefits have been great.  My children love running out to see the status of the vegetables and have been tempted to try new things.  They are learning the value of patience, hard work and the beauty of each season.  The number of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and frogs has greatly increased as well.

I’m hooked on the idea of urban agriculture.  The possibilities of landscape architects being able to beautifully combine the much needed functions of community gathering spaces, food production, education and opportunities for healthy living, water harvesting and wildlife habitat are exciting.  Hopefully this will not just be a trend, but have staying power.  Who knows, you might see a few vegetables, fruits or herbs working their way into some of our current projects.  As a mom, I’m always looking for a way to sneak in a few veggies here and there!   -HRK

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A rain garden is a garden that is designed to function both as a stormwater collector, and an aesthetic feature in the landscape.

What is the advantage of having a rain garden as part of the designed landscape?

  1. reduce the effects of erosion and water contamination caused by stormwater runoff
  2. support habitat for wildlife
  3. provide an attractive feature in the built environment
  4. provide opportunity for water infiltration and the recharging of the water table

We are all familiar with the typical rain event that produces a sudden amount of water that needs to be removed from roads, parking lots, sidewalks and away from our houses.  Typically, this water is directed as quickly as possible to the closest storm sewer, into a pipe and out of site.  From there, the water usually empties into our waterways filled with everything it picked up along the way including oil, fertilizers, pesticides and anything else it came into contact with.  By utilizing rain gardens, we can take back this natural resource by providing a place for it to be cleaned and discharged gradually.  And at the same time we are able to enjoy a beautiful feature in our urban and suburban environments.



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