Turnkey Urban Garden


Turnkey Urban Garden

The Unlikely Gardener
Ashley-Ann Foster

Sunday, February 21, 2021

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“Imagine small strips of land between apartment buildings that have been turned into vegetable gardens and urban orchards planted at schools and churches to grow food for our communities. The seeds of the urban farming movement already are growing within our reality.” – Greg Peterson

City Sustainability

There has been a universal drive for sustainable food production and security in urban areas by utilising existing space, no matter how small, for gardening and/or farming. The thinking behind this endeavour goes further than the creation of green space. It envisions that people and communities will not only be able to feed themselves, but that they will also have access to and play an integral role in economic avenues which are not typically available to urban inhabitants. There is also the view that urban gardening, if properly planned and implemented, will restore a sense of community and camaraderie in places where there has been moral and attitudinal erosion.

For clarity and context, the word urban is not synonymous with the inner city. Its etymology comes from the Latin word urbanus which means of or pertaining to a city or city life. Therefore, when we think of the importance of urban gardening, we must do so without the prejudicial lens of social stratification. The adoption of a more holistic lens is especially important since “rapid urbanisation has drastically reduced the agricultural land and over half of the world's population is living in urban areaa; according to the United Nations, by the year 2050, two-thirds of the world's inhabitants will become city dwellers” (Lauritsen, 2019).

The Vision: Instant & Urban

One of the most beautiful things about this little rock called Jamaica is that we are blessed with a wealth of big thinkers. Medical doctor Neggo-Shane Powell, and his business partner Michelle Baldie of Plant Smart Ja are definitely two members of the innovative club.

Similar to many Jamaicans, Neggo-Shane hails from a green-thumbed family of which he is the third generation. “My mother tended to her home garden daily and quite often this was the source of our meals. This highlighted for me the need to improve my food security, especially in financially challenging times,” he notes. With experience as life's best teacher, coupled with a sound understanding of ecological economics and the sustainable needs of the ever-evolving world, Plant Smart Ja was born as a turnkey urban garden provider.

Bridging the gap: Urban & agri

With the view that “people are often interested in gardening but don't have the space or knowledge of how to start”, Neggo-Shane seeks to bridge the gap between urban homes and farming. He explains that the“instant urban gardens provide plant seedlings that are already growing in ergonomically designed, finished, treated wooden planter boxes… each box, filled with a mix of vegetables and herbs, improves the food security of its owner's household with minimal space and effort, especially for beginner urban farmers… the plants in our boxes are selected by our customers and range from spinach, callaloo, hot and sweet peppers to mint, thyme, rosemary, cilantro and basil, to name a few”. Neggo-Shane shares that the instant urban gardening solutions “are designed to be turnkey and relevant to our customers while occupying minimal space…[the] planter boxes are convenient for customers to maintain…[the] goal is to support our customers' journey towards self-reliance in their food supply”.

Rejuvenating our spaces

As our leaders continue to preach the “eat what we grow, grow what we eat” sermon let's get into action and make our national food security and eco-sustainability dreams come true. Urban gardening debunks the myth that we need a few chain lengths of land to be successful gardeners. So, let's make the best use of our small spaces by using planter boxes or other upcycled containers to create our gardens. The boxes and containers provide an ease and flexibility that soil outdoor does not. In these receptacles, soil quality can be easily maintained without fear of contaminants. Also, the receptacles can be moved to suit the lighting needs of the plants. Once there's interest, urban gardening, even for the most unlikely gardener, is easily accomplished.

As we think about Jamaica and the world's big picture which highlights the need for easy access to healthy, affordable food; urban economic rejuvenation; long-term job creation; training opportunities for the upskilling of the unemployed population; and the re-establishment of safe and healthy communities, let's think outside of the box by promoting urban gardening. Share the idea.

If you're not in the mood to make your own box, you can upcycle containers at home or purchase a planter for yourself. You can also gift or donate a planter box to someone else. With cities of the world striving to move from grey to green, it can be safely said that urban gardening is the sustainable future. Jamaica must not be left behind.

PlantSmart JA



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