Archived entries for urban farming

Grow Great Grub

During her college years, a woman named Gayla tried her hand at growing food in a limited amount of space. Since then she’s gone from gardening novice to goddess. Her second book on gardening Grow Great Grub is full of tips on what edible plants to grow with the space you have available.

“Many urban dwellers suffer from an incapacitating anxiety complex about space. We’ve gotten it into our heads that either we need to own land or we need lots of it in order to grow food. ” – Gayla Trail, Intro to Grow Great Grub

I hate to admit that I find that statement to be true about myself back when I lived in Brooklyn. I started off in a small, expensive studio with only a tiny fire escape outside two windows, and I never got beyond my window boxes of pretty flowers. Oh, the edible flowers, basil, and tomatoes I could have grown my first year of urban living!

With beautiful photos, great tips, and useful DIY projects scattered among the pages of gardening advice, this is a great gift for the potential urban homesteader you know.

Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail.

Organic Gardening Essentials

A view of Seattle Tilth's greenhouse and nearby P-Patch

I’ve been very busy for the past month taking an Organic Gardening class at Seattle Tilth. It’s a comprehensive class that focuses primarily on growing annual vegetables without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

I’ve been a gardener for years, but this year I really want to focus on edible landscaping, growing more of my own food, and trying to do it all organically.
Also, a big positive note in taking the class has been getting to know so many other people passionate about food and gardens, urban farming, and getting their hands dirty!

I summed up what I think the big three points are concerning what your organic garden needs.

1) Great Soil - The earth you plant your food in is the most important element when growing healthy and organic edible plants. Make sure to get your soil tested. Amend with the proper balance of essential nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium), natural amendments such as algae/kelp, or other beneficial bacterial.

2) Great Plan – Going to your garden center in spring is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. So many varieties of tomatoes! Lettuce seeds! Alpine strawberries! But the best thing to do is plan what you’re going to have in your garden for the year before even breaking ground. Observe the sun’s path on your property to determine the best place for your garden. Remember crop rotation from high school history class? It’s still applicable today! Think about the entire growing season instead of just individual crops. Try to spread out your garden’s output so that you have a continuous supply of what you and your family love to eat.

3) Organic Pest and Disease Control – Central to most people’s perception of organic gardening is the lack of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. This is true, but what really keeps the bugs an disease at bay are a few things: putting the right plant in the right place, having the soil properly amended, and rotating the types of crops you plant. Beware any type of pest control that doesn’t involve just taking off diseased leaves or simply crushing or disposing of little critters that will destroy a crop. A little bit of proper prevention of pests and disease is actually the best “cure”!

I’ll be elaborating more on these points in future posts! Until then, think about your soil and planning your garden before going to the store or ordering from a seed catalog!

A Fall Day’s Gorgeous Garlic

We had an impromptu road trip this past Halloween Sunday. It was the kind of early morning car ride that started out with a simple mission – to fly a kite in Gas Works park, drink some coffee, and soak up some sun in the leaf-carpeted park. Sometimes when you get back in the car, you just feel like driving. Before we knew it, Mike and I were venting, laughing, and gawking at the mist-covered mountains just north of Seattle. Before we knew it, we were almost in Bellingham. So we stopped there for lunch.

On the way back home, we saw a sign for Stilly Farms, and since Leila was particularly grouchy and needed to stretch her legs – off the highway we went.

I didn’t intend to buy seed garlic, but there were over 15 varieties, more than I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t resist buying the varieties listed below. Swoon.

Nootka Rose – Softneck, silverskin type garlic variety. Originally from San Juan Islands in Washington State. Cloves streaked red on mahogany background. Long storing.

Persian Star – Originating from a bazaar in Samarkand, this garlic has large, lavender striped bulbs with striking purple, elongated cloves. A good hardneck for warmer climates. Moderately spicy, it retains its flavor when cooked.

Silver White
– This is an excellent all-purpose silverskin that seems to grow well in most places. It has very large bulbs and is very productive.

I waited until the rain finally stopped this afternoon to break up the bulbs into their lovely cloves, and planted them in the garden. With some luck (as I’ve never planted garlic before) we’ll have more fresh garlic than we’re able to eat, which sounds like a wonderful thing.

Urban Garden Share Success

Peas and lettuce - and I don't have to tend!

I joined Urban Garden Share last year for one simple reason: Seattle P-PATCH.

When I first moved to Seattle, I was excited about getting my own little patch, to grow veggies and meet other gardeners. This is the goal of P-PATCH. Then I found out that there’s a long waiting list. How long? Hundreds of people long! I put my name on the waiting list and nothing materialized.

A year later, we bought a house. I was also pregnant with my daughter. I remembered how much I wanted a plot of land when I lived in an apartment, and promptly offered a roughly 5 x 5 foot square in front of my house. I figured it would make someone else happy and give me a little less work to do.

Well, the first year that I offered the little plot, I had some bites but nobody really came to love the little garden. Then this past spring an architect that had his master’s thesis in Urban Agriculture wrote to me. He’s been tending his little farm all this spring – success!

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