DIY Civil Engineering: Home Grown Cities


A truly modern city is one that’s overgrown.

I love cities. In Rome last month, I was fascinated by how Italians utilized every corner of their balconies and gardens (more so in the Republic of Georgia) – admittedly as much for rusting motorbike/moped parts as for greenery. That’s men for you. But it struck me how this most ancient of European cities has evolved – in some places at least – into the very synergy of nature and culture that modern designers are falling over themselves to create from scratch.

That means growing things. That’s the personal call to arms of the city dweller, the would-be guerrilla gardener, the committed gastronaut. It’s a cinch to line windowsills and balconies with pots and baskets. There are even kits to do half the work for you, like the Miniature Edible Garden Kit, or the “herb eggs” we reported on recently. Your own fresh oregano and mint makes dishes like this toe-wigglingly delicious – grow nettle and dandelion, and you’re on the way to a free, healing green tea every morning. The list heads over the horizon. Feeling more adventurous? Have a read of this blog from a balcony-growing enthusiast.

But it’s not just about saving money, it’s about ownership. The best way to live in a city is to care about it; to want it to have a positive effect on yourself and those around you. A city neglected by its occupants feels ugly and unappreciated. So let your plants run riot over the wood and concrete – beautiful and useful. Bring your city to life!

Image: bluelemur

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Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.