Across China: Young urbanites embrace balcony gardening

CHONGQING, June 9– While Zheng Yadou, 27, enjoyed his freshly-made tomato soup, Wang Jun, 26, sipped her favorite drink of mojito with mint leaves. The plants they savored were all from their balconies. Both borne after 1995 and living in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, Zheng and Wang call themselves “urban farmers”– mostly young urbanites who grow fruit…

CHONGQING, June 9 (Xinhua) — While Zheng Yadou, 27, enjoyed his freshly-made tomato soup, Wang Jun, 26, sipped her favorite drink of mojito with mint leaves. The plants they savored were all from their balconies.

Both borne after 1995 and living in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, Zheng and Wang call themselves “urban farmers” — mostly young urbanites who grow fruit and vegetables on their balconies.

Zheng started growing stuff on his balcony in 2020, when he was spending most of his time at home due to the COVID-19 epidemic. His crops include grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes and various other vegetables and fruits.

“I used to help my mother and grandmother plant vegetables on the balcony, just to kill time. Gradually, balcony gardening became a hobby for me,” said Zheng. “I was born and raised in the city. This was a good opportunity for me to get close to nature.”

What started as a pastime soon developed a more practical significance.

“We now have ample vegetables to eat and don’t need to buy them from the market, which provides me with a healthier and greener lifestyle,” Zheng added.

In Wang’s view, balcony gardening is a matter of practicing environmental protection, as well as a means by which young urbanites can interact.

After seeing so many plastic bowls discarded in trash bins, Wang came up with the idea of planting vegetables in them. “It’s an innovative way to turn ‘waste’ into wealth,” said Wang. “I also raise several earthworms. They feed on my coffee grounds and their excrement is used as compost for soil.”

The mint leaves are a celebrity product on Wang’s balcony. “I often give mint leaves to my family members, friends and neighbors, which has strengthened my bond with them, especially during the epidemic,” she said.

Zheng and Wang are not alone. As the epidemic brought changes to people’s lifestyles across the country, an increasing number of urban youths took up the hobby.

According to a report released by Taobao, China’s e-commerce platform giant, in the first quarter of this year, sales of vegetable seeds on Taobao’s Tmall rose dramatically year on year, and the number of seed buyers increased by more than 100 percent for three consecutive years.

Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou became the cities with the largest number of seed buyers in China, while about 60 percent of seed buyers are young Chinese people born after 1995, the report said.

The market volume of balcony gardening is now worth tens of billions of yuan, it added.

“Although many young Chinese people live in cities, they still dream of a life in the countryside,” said Pan Yu, a professor at the College of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Southwest University. “Rather than buying freshly-picked products, they enjoy the planting process, which can help alleviate their work stress and bring them a sense of fulfillment.” Enditem

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