Home-grown: Gardens, practices and motivations in urban domestic vegetable production

Food production is of symbolic and practical importance in sustainable cities. Vegetable gardening in public spaces and community gardens is better understood than the same activity on private residential property. In suburbanised western cities most vegetable production is likely to be on private blocks. To increase vegetable production in cities, we need to understand private vegetable growing. We used a questionnaire administered in person with a diverse sample of 101 gardeners in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia to determine variation in gardens, gardening practices and gardener motivations, relationships between them, and potential for planning and other interventions to increase domestic vegetable production. Vegetable gardens varied from highly species-rich to species-poor and from staple production to expressions of culinary fashion. Gardening practices varied from integrated, organic and displayed, to strongly constructed and reliant on synthetic inputs. While all respondents were motivated to grow vegetables for pleasure, many were activists who wished to promote social change, while others wished to ensure affordable access to vegetables or to improve health. Activist gardeners used integrated organic or permacultural practices and produced highly complex garden outcomes. With the exceptions of the activists and food fashionistas, garden type, gardening practice and gardener motivation were not strongly interlinked. A large majority of respondents identified family members as important sources of information and inspiration. Gardeners without family role models were either influenced by new food cultures or were on low-incomes and wanted affordable access to vegetables. This latter group could be expanded through appropriate education and incentives.

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