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Tips for urban farming from Cultivate the City

The local organization is dedicated to helping everyday people fulfill their garden-growing dreams.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Looking for a positive way to impact the environment and get some time outside, too? Consider growing a garden. It's easier than you might think, even if you live in an apartment.

We took ECO9 to the Plants Alive urban garden in Silver Spring, Maryland. It's the home of Cultivate the City. We got some tips from the founder and CEO of the organization for those who want a green thumb, but not much space. 

Cultivate the City is a local organization dedicated to helping everyday people fulfill their garden-growing dreams. 

"We really try to teach people how to activate underutilized spaces. We teach classes on how you can grow your own food, as well as other things related to growing plans," Niraj Ray said.

Ray and his team use a practice called urban farming, which may sound intimidating, but the concept is simple.

"It's really just growing in the city," Ray said.

And there are plenty of spaces where that can be used.

"Rooftops are a perfect example," Ray said. "Pretty much every rooftop in Washington, D.C., gets full sun. As long as your rooftop can support the weight, you can grow pretty much any crop that you want.

Locally, you can find the footprints of Cultivate the City at schools, colleges and even the ballpark.

"We have a rooftop farm at Nationals Park. We grow a lot of strawberries. We do a lot of vertical farming," Ray said. 

Beyond growing your own food, urban farming has a significant environmental impact.

"Green space has a positive impact on air quality," said Neith Little with the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "It also has a positive impact environmentally on storm water management."

Little is an expert in all things urban ag. 

"When we have these huge rain events and when you have impervious surface like rooftops and streets, when the rain falls on it, it gathers more quickly and can overwhelm the storm water management system," Little said. So the more pervious surfaces you have -- the more places where there is grass and things that will slow the water down -- and soil where the water can trickle in helps slow down that storm surge and prevent flooding events."

If you want to start your own urban farming journey, Ray has a few tips.

"You just got to take into account how much sun you get on your patio. It's how much light you're getting really that determines what you can grow. If you're not getting as much light stick to leafy greens and herbs," Ray said.

We are all just one patio plant or rooftop garden away from making a positive impact on the environment. 

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