2021’s Best Cities for Urban Gardening

Group of friends planting crops on a rooftop garden

Growing your own food in the limited square footage of a big city can be tough — unless you live in one of the best cities for urban gardening. 

What exactly is urban gardening? It means finding creative ways to cultivate produce in the city and sharing it with your community. Think empty parking lot-turned-communal garden, rooftop or container garden, vertical plant wall, or — if you’re lucky enough to afford the land — traditional backyard vegetable plot.

But not every asphalt jungle is equally fertile ground for this growing global movement. So where can city-dwelling green thumbs find paradise?

LawnStarter ranked the Best Cities for Urban Gardening by comparing the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 12 key factors. Our dataset ranges from the average amount of sunshine between spring and fall to community-garden access to the availability of regional gardening clubs. 

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and insights from urban gardening experts. 

It’s Lawn and Garden Month, so grab your shovel, get your hands dirty, and plant some seeds.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Why This Study Matters

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreClimate RankGardening Environment RankProfit Potential RankSocial Environment Rank
1Fort Lauderdale, FL53.59426281
2Hialeah, FL49.96421110142
3Huntington Beach, CA49.918324915
4St. Petersburg, FL49.7097240120
5Atlanta, GA48.6822134251
6Glendale, CA48.4673211995
7Anaheim, CA47.923327737
8Baton Rouge, LA47.5691557319
9Miami, FL47.39312023105
10Ontario, CA46.79329678
11Mobile, AL46.3531085887
12Cape Coral, FL46.095136984
13Oakland, CA45.6734814556
14Orlando, FL45.4386212044
15Port St. Lucie, FL45.374236846
16Santa Rosa, CA45.1793218421
17Irvine, CA44.6632122667
18Santa Ana, CA43.73532106174
19Riverside, CA43.398321617131
20Santa Clarita, CA43.19832172557
21Tampa, FL43.147322248
22Rancho Cucamonga, CA43.061321533142
23Augusta, GA42.7693140852
24Fremont, CA42.53148291429
25Long Beach, CA42.48327252828
26Chula Vista, CA42.16755242166
27Tempe, AZ41.66986222745
28St. Louis, MO40.82104195155
29Winston-Salem, NC40.5655951465
30San Bernardino, CA39.87932307558
31Glendale, AZ39.845862637142
32Oxnard, CA39.47832391199
33San Francisco, CA38.921483824127
34Jersey City, NJ38.8796110634
35Tucson, AZ38.866713160122
36Grand Prairie, TX38.8477349396
37Fontana, CA38.608323552101
38Birmingham, AL38.4672364537
39Chattanooga, TN38.11157338440
40Brownsville, TX37.811682811183
41Paradise, NV37.6659427138142
42New Orleans, LA37.1229567650
43Scottsdale, AZ37.098864335115
44Virginia Beach, VA36.97517107713
44Chandler, AZ36.975863474116
46New York, NY29.0134797115139
46Modesto, CA36.736120423424
47Sacramento, CA36.65846652926
48Honolulu, HI36.544131241133
49San Diego, CA36.336554178124
50Cincinnati, OH35.822105671822
51Phoenix, AZ35.817863699136
52Los Angeles, CA35.6995237110140
53Montgomery, AL35.58129541128
54Shreveport, LA35.433304411347
55Fresno, CA35.28184613077
56Richmond, VA35.27954693261
57San Jose, CA35.276484580118
58Moreno Valley, CA35.014324765142
59Jacksonville, FL34.7041166100138
60Durham, NC34.64863743841
61Bakersfield, CA34.576122464465
62Norfolk, VA34.542177267113
63Huntsville, AL34.34625539590
64Gilbert, AZ34.25865850142
65Columbus, GA33.987225512352
66Tallahassee, FL33.98312798389
67Mesa, AZ33.89786508863
68Stockton, CA33.75120524871
69Worcester, MA33.57911878885
70Sunrise Manor, NV33.5079448144142
71Newport News, VA33.49617945639
72Portland, OR33.3881097141102
73Chesapeake, VA33.329178759111
74Salt Lake City, UT33.174135595414
75Greensboro, NC32.93659777749
76Spring Valley, NV32.879460146142
77Corpus Christi, TX32.682585712959
78Vancouver, WA32.461109951642
79Austin, TX32.38910262101108
80Fayetteville, NC32.2876368106100
81Little Rock, AR32.276149010953
82Knoxville, TN32.2428818986
83Houston, TX32.185247312536
84Tacoma, WA32.159114864525
85Henderson, NV32.0879463107129
86Irving, TX31.926738072110
87North Las Vegas, NV31.81947081142
88Frisco, TX31.73273828638
89McKinney, TX31.70473856282
90Buffalo, NY31.223132142961
91Washington, DC31.149661341212
92Boston, MA31.0911001033176
93Las Vegas, NV30.98694849743
94Dallas, TX30.407738312233
95Baltimore, MD30.3381111043697
96Raleigh, NC30.308631186413
97Fort Worth, TX30.026739213117
98Arlington, TX29.98739111831
99Nashville, TN29.7798210510216
100Memphis, TN29.7011610213273
101San Antonio, TX29.6711077513568
102Overland Park, KS29.487691009488
103Plano, TX29.2997310810320
104Aurora, IL29.221126964993
106Newark, NJ28.978312143123
107Providence, RI28.9391131291380
108Laredo, TX28.82110776149119
109Seattle, WA28.6521141175532
110Tulsa, OK28.64729313496
111Charlotte, NC28.33826114104126
112Arlington, VA28.3266611970106
113Kansas City, MO28.2886998126112
114Yonkers, NY28.25611391594
115Garland, TX28.2447311679109
116Grand Rapids, MI28.241137994791
117Fort Wayne, IN28.07711789119121
118Oklahoma City, OK27.79353109117130
119Indianapolis, IN27.1311611110830
120Akron, OH27.101130127669
121Lexington, KY26.56410113013011
122Louisville, KY26.5318511213670
123Lubbock, TX26.47112101140117
124Albuquerque, NM26.28212411012823
125Cleveland, OH25.7281251359110
126Rochester, NY25.5631411156398
127Reno, NV25.51814588127114
128El Paso, TX25.4689312014275
129Des Moines, IA25.105123122105103
130Boise City, ID24.69614211311427
131Wichita, KS24.517106123141135
132Philadelphia, PA24.41810314182104
133Toledo, OH24.18513812512018
134Madison, WI23.9071431269235
135Pittsburgh, PA23.8931361375754
136Amarillo, TX23.11311912815092
137Minneapolis, MN22.36613913690137
138Denver, CO22.17614613298107
139Spokane, WA21.5614813112160
140Lincoln, NE21.552134133143125
141Omaha, NE21.29712913813972
142St. Paul, MN21.1781391448769
143Milwaukee, WI20.84613314511634
144Columbus, OH20.25712814713364
145Detroit, MI19.928131146124132
146Aurora, CO19.12214614993134
147Colorado Springs, CO18.58114414314762
148Chicago, IL18.575126150137141
149Sioux Falls, SD16.78414914814879
150Anchorage, AK12.975150140145128

Highlights and Lowlights

It’s Always Sunny (and Wet) in Florida

Florida dominates our urban gardening ranking, with Fort Lauderdale at No. 1 and three other Sunshine State cities in the top 10. Why? A winning weather combo: above-average performance in sunshine and top marks in precipitation. After all, plants can’t grow on light alone — they need to drink, too.

Bonus points: Eight of the top 10 cities in the climate category all hail from the Sunshine State — a misnomer, considering Florida’s biggest cities aren’t actually the sunniest in America (that title belongs to Arizona). 

SoCal, So Good

California cities give Florida gardeners a run for their money — particularly around the Los Angeles metro area. With four cities in the top 10 overall and half of the top 20, the Golden State also sweeps the gardening environment and profit potential categories. 

Where the state fails to impress: climate. No California city made it to the top 25. While many get plenty of sun, they get little rain between spring and fall. In fact, all of the Golden State’s biggest cities rank in the bottom third of average precipitation — with Bakersfield dead last. 

Stars of the South

Two Southern cities — Atlanta and Baton Rouge — landed at Nos. 5 and 8 on our urban gardening ranking. Both cities have ideal weather for growing greenery; each also excels in the gardening environment category. 

Atlanta leads the nation’s community gardening movement (and food forest movement), with over 51 community gardens per 100,000 residents. Baton Rouge outshines the Southern region and the rest of America with the biggest yards, an average of nearly 24,000 square feet of lawn.

Northern Gardening Exposure

One thing is clear from our ranking: Urban gardening is tougher in colder regions. Our worst city by far is Anchorage, Alaska, for obvious reasons. It ranked dead last in sunshine, precipitation, and was tops in the number of very cold days. 

Cities like Chicago, Detroit, and St. Paul didn’t fare well, either. With more very cold days, residents of these Northern cities have to work harder at urban gardening — making the most of those warmer days and investing in greenhouses and hoop houses. 

Ask The Experts

Urban gardening has many advantages, but getting started can be tricky — especially during a pandemic. We asked a panel of experts in the field to help our readers navigate the urban gardening landscape. See what they had to share below.

  • Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?
  • What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?
  • For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?
  • The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?
Francesco Di Gioia, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Vegetable Crop Science
Susan Barton, PhD
Professor and Extension Specialist
Kathy Kelley, Ph.D.
Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Austin Little
Horticulture Educator
Dr. Carolyn W. Robinson
Department of Horticulture
Ashraf El-kereamy, Ph.D.
Director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, Cooperative Extension Specialist
Lucy Bradley
Associate Department Head and Department Extension Leader
Cale A. Bigelow, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Turf Science, Management and Ecology
Francesco Di Gioia, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Vegetable Crop Science
Pennsylvania State University, College of Agriculture

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

  1. Reconnecting with nature and with yourself
  2. Contributing to the preservation of the environment
  3. Contributing to your own health

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

  1. Observe and learn.
  2. Educate yourself, asking who knows more.
  3. Experiment/try and exchange seeds/plant material/tips.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

Use an indoor space or a balcony/patio, and produce microgreens, even on a windowsill.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I think that the pandemic increased people’s awareness and attention to what is essential and more important. Food and nutrition security is clearly very important for everyone, and discovering that the availability of food is not something to take for granted changed the mindset and way of thinking/living for a lot of people.

Moreover, being more isolated at home, more people discovered the pleasure and multiple benefits of gardening. I think this trend will continue even post-pandemic because this pandemic is leaving a big mark on everyone, and people will continue to value the benefits of gardening. Gardening could be associated also with well-being, and it is difficult to ignore something after you benefit from it.

Susan Barton, PhD
Professor and Extension Specialist
University of Delaware

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

Gardening is great physical exercise. Ornamental gardens provide spaces you can enjoy outdoors, and vegetable gardens provide great access to healthy food.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

  1. Use plants in masses; don’t plant just one.
  2. Pay attention to the soil; everything starts there. If your soil is not healthy (loose and rich, moist enough but not wet) your plants won’t do well.
  3. Pick plants that flower or fruit over a period of time. Don’t go to the garden center and pick everything that is blooming now. You want to have extended interest in your garden and food to harvest throughout the year.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

You can garden in containers on balconies or on the roof (if it is flat).

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I believe the trend will continue. Of course, when people go back to traveling there will be less time or need to garden, but once you’ve caught the bug it is hard to give it up. Once you realize the benefits of having an active relationship with the outdoors, you won’t want to stop.

Kathy Kelley, Ph.D.
Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Penn State College of Agriculture, Department of Plant Science

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

  • For many years, gardening has been promoted as an activity that engages seniors and keeps their bodies and minds active. An elevated gardening surface, such as a raised bed, makes it easier for someone who might be older, or have mobility issues, to garden. Learn more about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s views on gardening and healthy aging.
  • Parents, teachers, and others who interact with children use gardening as a way to help them learn “where their food comes from.” Young children may not understand that food in the grocery store or the flowers they see in a shop have to be sown/propagated and nurtured to reach a certain size and maturity level before being harvested and/or eaten.
  • Specific plants are shown to help build pollinator populations, such as bees, butterflies, other beneficial insects, and hummingbirds. Several plants are available that are visually appealing and provide shelter and nectar/pollen for these and other valuable pollinators. The U.S. Forest Service provides an overview of gardening for pollinators.
  • Home gardeners also tend to enjoy the benefit of harvesting their food. Satisfaction can range from growing something from seed to having access to specific vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are not available in their local area.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

  1. Start small. As with any hobby, it is easy to invest a fair amount of money to buy seeds, plants, supplies, etc. It may not be until someone goes through an entire growing season to decide whether they enjoy grown plants and gardening. While a flower garden certainly can increase the visual appeal of an outdoor space, there is a bit of work involved before, during, and even after the season ends.
  2. Talk to neighbors and gardeners in your area, and ask them what grows well for them. Ask where they get seeds and plants and if there are any groups or clubs in the area that allow gardeners to get together, in person or online, and learn from each other.
  3. Contact the local Extension services, and learn about programs and educational opportunities for home gardeners. Gardeners can find a calendar of events for in-person and online classes ranging from one-time seminars to a series of sessions, some for free and some for a fee. Master Gardeners volunteers associated with each state’s Extension service are often the ones who provide educational programming to homeowners. The American Horticultural Society website includes contact information for the Master Gardener program in the U.S. and Canada.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

There are many options for city dwellers with a small patio or balcony or no exterior space to grow some flowering plants, vegetables, small fruits, and herbs.

Containers work for outdoor and indoor gardening, but there are many planters that will fit over outdoor balcony railings if there is a lack of floor space. There are lightweight containers that attach to glass for indoor gardening that can be used to grow microgreens, herbs, and small houseplants.

Hanging baskets will also work for areas with limited floor space.

Additionally, several small hydroponic systems are available that only require homeowners to plug the unit in to an electrical socket, fill it with water, add fertilizer every other week, insert seed pods, and wait for flowers to bloom or plants to be ready for harvest.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I expect those who have come to enjoy the hobby and who derive benefits from the activity, whether for the beauty, ability to harvest foods from their backyard, the therapeutic value, etc., will continue to do so post-pandemic.

For others whose demands on their time greatly increases, either due to resuming leisure activities or returning to work, it may be more challenging to find the time to garden — though with container gardening, limiting the space a garden occupies, low-maintenance plants, and even the technology available to alert a homeowner when a plant needs to be watered or fertilized, there are ways to continue gardening even when life returns to “normal.”

Austin Little
Horticulture Educator
University of Illinois Extension

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

I think a big benefit of home gardening, both for produce gardening and landscaping, is that it of course offers a pleasurable hobby, but it improves our outdoor environment in a multitude of ways.

There is the improved economic value of gardens and landscaping from a real estate standpoint, but it also creates more outdoor living space for a home, where we all have spent more time recently.

An inviting garden or landscaped back porch can do a lot for our overall health and well-being as a place of refuge and relaxation.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

For first-time gardeners, I recommend to start small, and learn as you go. Start with a small garden or even container gardening to get an idea of what you like and how things grow. My other tip is just keep learning — as long as we’re learning, we’re growing.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

For small spaces, container gardening is a great option with lots of possibilities and flexibility. There are endless options for size, material, style, and function, depending on the space and what the goals of the gardening are. A small back porch or deck can be transformed with container gardening.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

We are seeing a massive boomerang effect in the horticulture field because people are ready to get out and get going on projects that have been postponed. I think there is a ton of new interest in home gardening not only because people want to grow their own food, but they want to spend more time in their home landscapes.

I expect it to be a growing trend for years to come, which is really a great thing for gardeners and for the landscapes in our cities and neighborhoods. I hope the trend continues!

Dr. Carolyn W. Robinson
Department of Horticulture
Auburn University

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

There are physical, mental, emotional, and social benefits to gardening. To reduce it to one sentence is certainly an oversimplification, but there is growing research evidence for each of these areas in youth, adults, and older adults.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

My top three tips for new gardeners:

1. Ask your garden center for a plant that is easy to grow and/or forgiving of water stress. New gardeners tend to over- or under-water, having a plant that can handle this will give them more success and confidence for future plants.

2. Read the labels, and look up the plants for mature size. Put the plant in the environment it needs, and give it the space that it needs. Water, sunlight, nutrition, and mature size should be considered. (If you have children or pets that like to put things in their mouth, check for toxicity also.)

3. Be kind to yourself. If you don’t succeed with your first plant/crop, don’t give up; try again. Try to determine what might have gone wrong and do things differently next time, or maybe pick a different plant. Don’t beat yourself up over a plant that didn’t make it. Learn and move forward.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

There are some great small-scale hydroponic systems that can go on the floor in a corner or smaller for your countertop. Interior plants in pots around your home are great for air quality and connecting to nature. Vertical gardening on a balcony adds life to a space also.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I hope the gardening boom of the pandemic does continue and that people have a new appreciation for plants and confidence in their growing skills. I do not think it will be quite as big as last year, although growers are having a great sales year this year, as well. A lot of people are back on site with their work and children are back in schools, so our time is being pulled away from our homes again.

Ashraf El-kereamy, Ph.D.
Director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, Cooperative Extension Specialist
University of California Riverside, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

  1. Unlike humans, plants use carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. Growing new plants and maintaining our landscape’s health improve our environment and reduce pollution.
  2. Exposure to sunlight while protecting our skin improves vitamin D in our body and increases calcium level to benefit our bones and immune system.
  3. It is a free exercise and reduces stress.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

  1. Take time to get the correct information; many resources are out there, including the UCANR Master Gardener Program website.
  2. Do it right, and do not be shy to ask for help.
  3. Be sure to get the plant materials from reliable, safe, certified sources.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

Gardening is very beneficial even when using small potted plants; some plant species grow indoors, and also, I would recommend the succulents for people who do not have time, as they do not need too much care.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I believe that is one of the positive things that happened during the pandemic; I believe we rediscovered gardening benefits on clearing our mind and reducing stress. I think most people will continue gardening since they have already seen the benefits of gardening.

Lucy Bradley
Associate Department Head and Department Extension Leader
NC State University

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

  1. Health (mental and physical)
  2. Beauty
  3. Fun

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

  1. Start small.
  2. Walk around the neighborhood, look at what is doing well, begin with things that thrive.
  3. If possible, plant in the fall so roots have time to develop before hot weather.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

  1. Garden on your balcony.
  2. Grow shade-loving plants indoors.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

I hope it will! Many people found themselves home with time and developed a new or renewed interest in gardening and in growing food. Some people were initially inspired by a fear of a food shortage and wanted to be more self-reliant.

I think one of the ways we will feed the world is by continuing to grow some of our own food. Many people learned a lot this year and have done the hard work of preparing the soil for vegetable gardening. Keeping it going will be much easier than starting was.

There are lots of reasons people grow food: some want more control over what pesticides are applied; others like the wider selection of varieties available in a seed catalog than in a grocery store; others appreciate the health benefits; while others are inspiring their children to steward the earth while improving their nutrition.

Those people who became gardeners during the pandemic have lots of reasons to continue.

Cale A. Bigelow, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Turf Science, Management and Ecology
Purdue University

Besides sheer pleasure, what are the top three benefits of gardening?

Complex question, but studies have shown that connecting with nature helps restore the soul. There is also “pride” in your home/landscape. Some who mow their own lawn mention good exercise. Overall, personal DIY satisfaction.

What are your top three tips for first-time gardeners?

Don’t try and be too ambitious, know what you can/can’t do, and hire pros for certain things.

Most homeowners are highly capable of mowing their own lawns and even feeding and basic spot-spraying for pesky weeds like the dandelion. If you are thinking of core aerating your lawn, you might consider a professional.

Know where to find reliable, unbiased help like university websites. There are also a few apps out there to help ID pests like our Purdue Turf Doctor or TurfPath.

For those who live in big cities with few or no community gardens, what are the best alternatives?

Not an easy answer, but I have heard a number of stories about people gardening on their apartment balconies (container gardening). This is preferable to simply finding an area and planting veggies.

Many urban soils are not very good for growing much of anything due to poor soil structure and a lack of soil organic matter, which can affect plant growth.

Additionally, there are some small hydroponic systems for growing spices.

The pandemic spurred a gardening boom in the U.S. and around the world. Do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic? Why or why not?

Like question 1, many people like to connect with nature, and I would expect this trend will continue for lots of reasons, including taking a mental pause in working and feeling the satisfaction of growing something.

Methodology

We ranked the 150 most populated U.S. cities in descending order — from best to worst — based on their overall scores, averaged across each city’s weighted scores in the 12 individual metrics listed below. 

The city that earned the highest overall score — out of a possible 100 points — ranked No. 1, or “best.”

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. Value
Average Amount of Sunshine (Spring to Fall)544.0087.78
Average Monthly Temperature (Spring to Fall)543.0680.93
Average Monthly Precipitation in Inches (Spring to Fall)53.0555.99
Average Number of Very Cold Days (Min. Temp. = 32 Degrees F or Lower)50103
Average Number of Very Hot Days (Max. Temp. = 90 Degrees F or Higher)51171
Climate Category Total25
Number of Days in Growing Season15137355
Average Yard Size15274423951
Number of Nurseries and Gardening-Supply Stores per 100,000 Residents100.5021.48
Number of Community Gardens per 100,000 Residents150.0051.55
Gardening Environment Category Total55
CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) per 100,000 Residents50.0017.77
Rank in LawnStarter's “Best Cities for Locavores”51150
Profit Potential Category Total10
Number of Regional Gardening Clubs per 100,000 Residents10011.31
Social Environment Category Total10
Overall Total100

Sources: The Almanac, American Community Gardening Association, LawnStarter, National Garden Clubs, Inc., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

With spring finally here and vaccinations in full flow, we all need an excuse to get outdoors. 

Starting an urban garden is a good one if you live in the city. 

At the height of lockdowns in spring 2020, people turned to gardening as a welcome respite from indoor confinement. 

But urban gardening offers more important benefits besides giving an answer to boredom. On a personal level, it’s simply good for our health, wallet, and well-being. Socially, it fosters community and helps address food insecurity in food deserts

And if you love our planet, urban gardening is one of the best ways to live sustainably. With fewer or no pesticides and no packaging (paper, plastic, cardboard) and no shipping, urban gardening is as simple, flavorful, and enjoyable as watching your garden grow.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, but it deserves another nickname — the Gardening State (not to be confused with New Jersey, the Garden State). Three cities in Florida are at the top of our list of America’s Best Cities for Urban Gardening, and another three Sunshine State cities finished in the top 12.

Another sunny state — California — boasts two cities in the top tier.

What about the four other cities in the top 12? Well, they might be as surprising as a rose bush blooming during the winter in Minneapolis.

LawnStarter ranked the 150 biggest cities for urban gardening because tending to herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees is especially popular during the coronavirus pandemic.

With more of us stuck at home, gardening gets us outside. It also provides food security at a time when store shelves are running bare.

So, what are the best U.S. cities for urban gardening?

150 Biggest U.S. Cities Ranked for Urban Gardening

CITYRANKTOTAL SCORECLIMATE RANKGARDENING ACTIVITY RANK
Miami, FL158.6016
Orlando, FL250.64714
Tampa, FL348.16819
Santa Rosa, CA447.81498
Fort Lauderdale, FL547.58152
Baton Rouge, LA645.81559
St. Petersburg, FL745.77640
St. Louis, MO845.601151
Augusta, GA944.54647
Riverside, CA1044.512822
Mobile, AL1144.305212
Port St. Lucie, FL1243.68579
Birmingham, AL1343.46805
Tucson, AZ1443.332927
Huntington Beach, CA1543.111153
Cincinnati, OH1642.801182
Cape Coral, FL1742.634111
Hialeah, FL1842.311136
Ontario, CA1942.301848
Anaheim, CA2041.301180
Sacramento, CA2141.284632
Oceanside, CA2241.192064
Oakland, CA2340.771687
Irvine, CA2440.2711104
Santa Clarita, CA2539.841790
Long Beach, CA2639.819115
Virginia Beach, VA2739.797413
Elk Grove, CA2839.292189
Winston-Salem, NC2939.219210
Salt Lake City, UT3039.151174
Salem, OR3139.011243
Jacksonville, FL3238.913569
Phoenix, AZ3338.9010127
Santa Ana, CA3438.782499
Las Vegas, NV3538.474758
Tallahassee, FL3638.446123
Scottsdale, AZ3738.373970
Tempe, AZ3838.173972
Peoria, AZ3938.0222119
Atlanta, GA4037.836721
Los Angeles, CA4137.7715135
San Diego, CA4237.7625120
Oxnard, CA4337.763293
Glendale, CA4437.7111138
San Francisco, CA4537.553396
Chula Vista, CA4637.4425125
Fresno, CA4737.424581
Shreveport, LA4837.306825
New Orleans, LA4937.1636102
Montgomery, AL5037.087817
Brownsville, TX5136.9931110
Glendale, AZ5236.9622133
Modesto, CA5336.935451
Chandler, AZ5436.893998
Knoxville, TN5536.8510311
Henderson, NV5636.8137109
Rancho Cucamonga, CA5736.7318137
Bakersfield, CA5836.705363
Fremont, CA5936.6430124
San Bernardino, CA6036.4738108
Mesa, AZ6136.0339117
Chattanooga, TN6235.919615
San Jose, CA6335.6133131
Little Rock, AR6435.546042
Richmond, VA6535.499016
Corpus Christi, TX6635.295195
Houston, TX6734.8850103
Fontana, CA6834.7527142
Huntsville, AL6934.138230
Gilbert, AZ7034.1039139
Moreno Valley, CA7133.9844140
Honolulu, HI7233.807335
Austin, TX7333.465875
Raleigh, NC7433.389826
Columbus, GA7533.355976
Portland, OR7633.147749
North Las Vegas, NV7732.5047143
Norfolk, VA7832.3857107
Dallas, TX7932.076586
Chesapeake, VA8032.057961
Vancouver, WA8131.6010434
San Antonio, TX8231.506991
Stockton, CA8331.3466100
Greensboro, NC8431.329938
Fort Worth, TX8531.307677
Durham, NC8631.2210039
Oklahoma City, OK8731.128166
Memphis, TN8831.1263106
Fayetteville, NC8931.119447
Plano, TX9030.548368
Lubbock, TX9130.499750
Tacoma, WA
9230.3510841
Nashville, TN9330.1511043
Tulsa, OK9430.069362
Grand Prairie, TX9530.0270121
Albuquerque, NM9629.9411146
El Paso, TX9729.8462132
Arlington, TX9829.5175118
Irving, TX9929.5070128
Newport News, VA10029.4672126
Charlotte, NC10129.368584
Laredo, TX10229.2656148
Seattle, WA10328.798992
New York, NY10428.529583
Indianapolis, IN10528.4112828
Fort Wayne, IN10628.3512533
Frisco, TX10728.3088105
Amarillo, TX10828.0411454
Lexington, KY10927.9111656
Washington, D.C.11027.8786113
Cleveland, OH11127.8512044
Denver, CO11227.8313920
Overland Park, KS11327.8111271
Kansas City, MO11427.7210294
Reno, NV11527.5112145
Boston, MA11627.4810788
Rochester, NY11727.3614618
Garland, TX11827.3387123
McKinney, TX11927.2983130
Wichita, KS12027.0211378
Louisville, KY12126.68109101
Pittsburgh, PA12226.4413829
Boise City, ID12325.9113536
Baltimore, MD12425.6291134
Spokane, WA12525.5714824
Grand Rapids, MI12624.5414431
Akron, OH12725.4813637
Toledo, OH12824.9913255
Lincoln, NE12924.4013357
Des Moines, IA13023.9912785
Omaha, NE13123.8813073
Jersey City, NJ13223.25105146
Columbus, OH13323.1614160
Philadelphia, PA13423.07101149
Colorado Springs, CO13523.0614259
Worcester, MA13622.84126112
Madison, WI13722.2114565
Newark, NJ13821.95105150
Aurora, IL13921.69131116
Buffalo, NY14021.6014774
Providence, RI14121.47119141
Minneapolis, MN14221.3813797
Milwaukee, WI14321.12134114
Chicago, IL14420.45123145
Yonkers, NY14520.36122147
St. Paul, MN14619.59140129
Aurora, CO14719.59143122
Detroit, MI14819.43129144
Sioux Falls, SD14918.8614982
Anchorage, AK15013.9715067

How the Best Cities for Urban Gardening Made our List

To dig up our list of America’s Best Cities for Urban Gardening, LawnStarter compared the 150 most populated U.S. cities. We used 11 metrics grouped into two categories: climate and gardening activity.

Among the factors we looked at? The number of nurseries and gardening stores, number of community gardens, length of the growing season, yard size, and the average percentage of sunshine in the spring, summer, and fall.

Miami blossomed in our rankings, thanks to a top showing in the climate category and a No. 4 showing in the gardening-activity category.

“With its warm, humid climate, abundant rainfall, and sandy soils, Florida presents unique challenges and unique opportunities for residents who enjoy gardening or just want to maintain a beautiful landscape,” according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

How did the non-Florida, non-California, and non-perfect weather cities end up in the top ranks?

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A city blanketed in the purple and gold colors of Louisiana State University, landed at No. 6. Baton Rouge’s No. 1 ranking for the largest yards among the 150 cities in our study helped cut a path to its sixth-place finish.

St. Louis, Missouri

File:Gateway Arch - panoramio (3).jpg - Wikimedia CommonsSt. Louis ranks eighth on our best cities for urban gardening list. YvesSch CC BY-SA

Better known for beer and baseball, St. Louis earned an eighth-place ranking on our list. But it didn’t make it there because of its climate. St. Louis’ position as the city with the highest number of community gardens per 100,000 residents helped lift its overall score.

Two other cities in the South join Baton Rouge.

Augusta, Georgia

Professional golf’s annual Masters Tournament put Augusta on the map, so that could explain why there might be so many master gardeners there. In our ranking, it scores a hole-in-one (no. 9) for the highest share of gardening clubs per 100,000 residents.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile hosts the country’s oldest Mardi Gras celebrations, where attendees might spot a lot of the city’s signature plant: the flowering azalea shrub. Mobile comes in at No. 11, getting high marks in the temperature, precipitation, and yard-size groupings.

Infographic showing best cities for urban gardening, listing top 3 and bottom 3 cities for average monthly precipitation, average days of sunshine, yard size, number of community gardens per 100,000 residents, growing season (number of days), and number of gardening stores/home improvement stores per 100,000 residents.

Methodology

Here are the factors we took into account to come up with our ranking.

Gardening activity (total points: 55)

  • Number of nurseries and gardening stores per 100,000 residents: 15 points
  • Number of community gardens per 100,000 residents: 15 points
  • Number of regional gardening clubs per 100,000 residents: 10 points
  • Yard size: 10 points
  • Number of farmers markets per 100,000 residents: 5 points

Climate (total points: 45)

  • Growing season (number of days): 15 points
  • Average percentage of potential sunshine (spring to fall): 10 points
  • Average monthly temperature (spring to fall): 5 points
  • Average monthly precipitation (spring to fall): 5 points
  • Annual mean number of days with minimum temperature of 32 degrees or below: 5 points
  • Annual mean number of days with maximum temperature of 90 degrees or above: 5 points

The Benefits of Gardening

Urban gardening at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center. Seattle Parks / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

As explained by The Miami Times, gardening delivers a bushel of benefits, including:

  • Exposure to sunlight, which produces vitamin D.
  • Exercise.
  • Reduces the risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.
  • Boost in mental health.
  • Sense of community.

But with these benefits comes some risks, especially if you ignore the basic safety rules in the garden. The advantage of joining a community garden is the safety equipment and rules are already in place.

Gardening as a Pandemic Respite

The growing season in Miami doesn’t hit its stride until October, yet gardening has grown in popularity in South Florida since the coronavirus pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders.

“It’s glorious to take care of a living being,” Miami horticulturist Mike Heckart told Miami New Times. “It definitely makes you more connected. There’s this realization that none of us exist in a vacuum. We are connected to the world around us, and it’s not just people.”


Data sources used in this study

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, almanac.com, Yelp, American Community Gardening Association, National Garden Clubs Inc., and LawnStarter.

Main image credit: Urban gardening in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Kristen Taylor from Brooklyn, U.S. / CC BY-SA 

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Staff Writer