America’s Best Cities for Urban Gardening

Rows of community gardening plots with lots of plants and greenery are surrounded by palm trees in South Beach, Miami, Florida.

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?

The Top 12 Best Cities for Urban Gardening

  1. Miami, Florida
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Tampa, Florida
  4. Santa Rosa, California
  5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  6. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  7. St. Petersburg, Florida
  8. St. Louis, Missouri
  9. Augusta, Georgia
  10. Riverside, California
  11. Mobile, Alabama
  12. Port St. Lucie, Florida

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

Rav-Eck Community Garden | Seattle Parks | FlickrUrban 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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John Egan

John Egan is the former editor in chief of LawnStarter.com. Now, he is a freelance writer extraordinaire. He lives in Austin, Texas.