Tag Archives: community garden

Urban Farmscape Vacation

15 Jul

Sometimes, you need to take a vacation from your garden. I know, I know, you wonder why I would ever think leaving the plants that I have been tending since they were little seedlings. Well, sometimes you just need a break from looking at your plants. As an Urban Farmscaper, it is easy to do since you probably have a small garden that you could find a friend or neighbor that would be happy to water for you. When I had my organic farm, there was never the possibility of leaving, not even for even a weekend. Winter time was the only possible vacation time. Thank you FARMERS for growing the food I don’t have space to grow!

This week my vacation is in Columbus Ohio. I bet that comes as a surprise. Who would vacation in Columbus? Well, I am here for the Ohio Floral Association’s Short Course, which is probably the biggest horticulture event in North America. I know what you are thinking, what vacation! This vacation is still all about looking at plants!

Joe Lamp’l
photo courtesy OFA

Sam Kass
photo courtesy OFA

Today, the keynote presentation will be given by Joe Lamp’l , who you may have seen on his PBS series, “Growing a Greener World”. Then on Monday, Sam Kass, White House Assistant Chef and the Senior Policy Advisor for the Healthy Food Initiatives will be presenting “Gardening’s Positive Impact on Our Communities & Our Lives”. These are two amazing gardeners and I am excited to hear them along with the many MANY other presentations and workshops. I will have to share with you in a later post what I have learned from them. For today, I will share with you my visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden.

Upon entering the gardens, I was greeted with beautifully landscaped grounds and I could see the roof top of the conservatory above some trees. The road was winding and a sign listed directions with arrows pointing to where you should go. I headed toward the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus.

Potager Gardens

As I approached the entrance, I thought to myself, Wow! These community gardens are amazing! But where is all the food? Then as I strolled I saw that I had entered the Barbara and David Brandt Family Potager Gardens. I learned that a “potager garden” is the English version of our “kitchen garden”. It had a very cozy, but formal feel to it; I didn’t even notice the rows of herbs and veggies. The longer I lingered the more beautiful it became. The design had such attention to detail and visually it was very nice. As I wandered and became totally engulfed and lost in the garden, then I turned and stumbled upon the community garden.

There are 40 plots, and there were just as many garden designs as there were gardeners. I lost track of time admiring the veggies, herbs, flowers and fruits. Not a hard thing for me to do. I did eventually make it to the conservatory.

Community Garden Plots

I’m really excited to meet breeders and growers and to learn about the new varieties that will be available for next year, whether it’s food or ornamental plants. And yes! Organic and sustainability are among the talks. Oh! I also got a sneak peek at some amazing containers that will be PERFECT for your Urban Farmscape. I love gardening and growing plants. Can you tell? So maybe I’m not looking at my garden, but I’m always looking at plants.

For more information on the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, including special events, visit their website at www.fpconservatory.org If you want to know more about their community garden, call 614-645-5952. It’s worth the trip, even if you aren’t a plant lover, when you visit, you will see the largest collection of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork from 2003-2004 owned by a conservatory or botanical garden. Amazing! And Columbus is a pretty cool city. LOTS of urban farmscapes. So, where is your favorite community or public garden?

Chihuly Glass

Watering Basics

1 Jul

Typically in Michigan, we don’t worry about dought issues until July. Wherever you live, I think you would agree that weather hasn’t been very typical this year. I was visiting with my cousin who lives in northern Florida, and she planted her tomatoes which were soon drowned in their floods. It’s been tough at the community garden that I belong to hauling water back and forth from the water source to my plot. At least we have a water source. Other community gardens rely on rain, or connect many sections of hose together to get water from a donor’s home or apartment.

Rainforest Ecological Sprinklers

This year at My Urban Farmscape, I’m using a Rainforest Ecological sprinkler. I love how I can adjust the spray to reach as little as 6 feet up to the full 15 feet width of my garden. In this picture you can just see the green heart-shape which helps to break up water droplets. It’s time for me to raise this spike sprinkler or switch to the tripod sprinkler.

Now that plants are maturing in the garden it’s important to remember to water deeply. This will encourage roots to reach deeper and make for a stronger plant. So water longer and less often. Mostly, watch your plant. It’s okay if it starts to wilt a little. Look at all the plants around that are thriving in this crazy summer weather. Plants are tough and they do a good job taking care of themselves.

For more information and video’s visit the Rainforest website at http://www.rainforestsprinklers.com/

Here are direct links to purchase on Amazon

Spike Sprinkler (in my photo above) Ideal for single small spaces and ability to connect multiple sprinklers together
Contech 300000812 Rainforest Spike Sprinkler

36″ Riser Sprinkler To get above your veggie crops you can locate this sprinkler in the smallest spaces

6 ft Tripod Sprinkler If you have a little more room in the garden, use this.  It is collapsable and easy to store and the best part is that you can adjust the clips on the legs if you have uneven ground.  At 6 ft off the ground, you can really water a larger space if you have it.

UFO’s: Urban Farmscape Options

6 May

I sometimes think to myself “there is no way I have the space to grow what I want to grow” or “there is no way that I have the time to grow what I want to grow”. I hear this from others too, well maybe a few crazy gardeners I know. Even when I gardened at my organic farm I still didn’t have the time, or maybe I just didn’t like growing certain plants, especially those brassicas. So what other options do Urban Farmscapers have?

The first option is probably one that you are more familiar with, Farmers Markets. A weekly visit to your farmers market will ensure that you are buying fresh seasonal produce. Well, this may not be true. What!? The biggest piece of advice I have for you is when shopping at the farmers market, get to know your farmer. There may be vendors that buy produce wholesale and bring it to the market. This is just like your grocery store produce manager. You can quickly identify who these vendors are because they typically have produce that is out of season, or maybe something like bananas, and as you know, bananas don’t grow in Michigan! There is nothing wrong with these vendors, especially if you are shopping for bananas or tomatoes in May. For seasonal produce, get to know your farmers and support your local economy by making your purchases from them. The best opening question is, “Where is your farm?” Find out if they are certified organic, how many acres they farm etc. A farmer that follows organic methods, and sells less that $5000 per year, can say they are organic. What about the farmers using the words “natural” or “chemical free”. Ask questions about their growing practices, what kind of compost they use, how do they fertilize or handle pests and diseases on their crops. Like I said, get to know your farmer, odds are if they are a local farmer they are working hard to bring you the best produce they can. Some farmers markets will only allow people to sell only what they produce themselves. Rochester and Traverse City Michigan come first to my mind.

Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, is becoming a well-known option for Urban Farmscapers. The idea behind a CSA is that you pay for a “share” of weekly produce. These weeks can range from just a summer, to a full year. You buy your share directly from the farmer, who in return grows and provides your weekly produce. You will learn how to eat seasonally with this option. Your weekly share will consist of what is ready for harvest that week. Cool season veggies in the beginning such as radishes, lettuces, arugula, spinach, onions etc. Then as the summer starts to heat up, beans, squash, maybe some herbs. You still won’t get tomatoes in May, but that’s okay! You’ll have plenty starting late July. I have belonged to a CSA twice in my life. One year I had rotator cuff surgery, and knew that I couldn’t grow as much as I liked, and the next time was when I lived in a studio apartment while transitioning to Mid-Michigan and had no garden at all. I found that I was having withdrawals from getting my hands dirty, and maybe testing the product in the field (secret!). I asked to volunteer at the CSA I belonged to, weeding, harvesting and packing produce. I really got to know these awesome farmers! What a great experience, even if my share for the week occasionally consisted only of veggies in the brassica family, which I mentioned how I despise them earlier, so I gave them with others. While I’m on the subject, I will share how to grow plants in the brassicaceae family, but I won’t share my liking of them, maybe my disliking.

A third option if you don’t have the space to grow vegetables, but want to get your hands dirty, is to join a community garden. Community gardens are popping up all over, becoming one of the hottest local gardening trends. Some organizations are turning city lots into patches of land for people to rent space to grow their own veggies, herbs, and flowers, whatever they choose.

This is the second year for me gardening at My Urban Farmscape. I still wanted more space, so I joined a community garden, Campus Grow, located on the campus of Central Michigan University, in Mt. Pleasant, MI. When I first joined I was excited to have the additional 10 x 10 foot space to grow extra veggies for my family. Then, as I became more involved with other people from the community garden, my plot has started to change from the extra space for myself to the extra space to grow for others. I am really excited to garden this summer while participating with Plant a Row for the Hungry, growing and collecting fresh produce to share with people in need through the Isabella County Commission on Aging. My Urban Farmscape will provide me and my family with the produce we need and in addition I will be making weekly trips to the farmers market. I’m not sure where this year’s UFO’s are heading, I’ll just have to watch and see where they grow. I do know that gardening in a community setting will provide the additional space to feed my dirty addiction to the earth while helping to grow food to feed the mouths of others. This year I won’t be wandering Mid-Michigan looking for a CSA to join or volunteer with. So, whether you like to garden, or just want to participate in the local food movement, get out and about and look for some UFO’s!

Links to Urban Farming Options

www.MyUrbanFarmscape.com of course!

Community Supported Agriculture in Michigan www.CSAfarms.org

Swier Family Farm http://swierfamilyfarm.wordpress.com/

Local Harvest (find a CSA (or other local options) across the U.S.) http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Michigan Farmers Market Association http://mifma.s434.sureserver.com/find-a-farmers-market/

Contact Campus Grow at: campusgrow@gmail.com

American Community Gardening Association http://www.communitygarden.org/index.php

Plant a Row for the Hungry http://gardenwriters.org

A Garden Revolution Resolution

1 Jan

With the holidays behind me, I will eat sleep and breathe the garden.  For as long as I remember, I have admired the beauty and felt the mysteries of the plant world.  As a child I would examine the “weeds” in the lawn, tasting their bitterness on my tongue as I chewed them between my front teeth, as a teenager walking down a tree lined country road through dappled sunlight noticing wildflowers blooming sporadically along the forest floor, and as an adult growing tasty vegetables, aromatic herbs and brightly colored flowers at my organic farm. I can’t help but hear the conversations that quietly occur among the creatures in this leafy world. 

Growing plants became more serious for me when I returned to college to study Horticulture at Michigan State University.  Initially I wanted to design landscapes, but the more I learned about food production around the world, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to become involved with the local organic food movement.  My farm was located in Southeast Michigan and it became USDA certified organic in 2004.  I grew vegetables, herbs, flowers and Michigan native plants.  As the economy began to collapse, we were forced to sell the farm and ride things out for the next few years, finding work, moving, finally settling in Mid-Michigan.  For me and my family, our lives were changed by forces beyond our control, like many others in the world. For some this may sound like a sad story, but that is not what I am trying to convey.  With these changes I have adapted and learned so much more about people and my relationship with plants and nature.  A couple things I have learned are how to grow more plants in less space along with the many benefits of participating in a community gardening.

So, for 2012, my resolution is to actively participate in a so called “garden revolution” by sharing my knowledge and experiences with organically growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in small garden spaces and community gardens.  You should find something interesting whether you are new to gardening, or a master.  You can expect weekly posts on a variety of gardening topics.  Most of all, if you follow from the start we will work together on planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving My Urban Farmscape .  As the season unfolds, and as time allows, you will find more frequent posts via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.  I also look forward to hearing from you about your urban farmscape experiences.  You are probably thinking, “It’s only January, it’s a long way from gardening in Michigan.”  NOT!  I’ve already started and you need to start too!  Even if you live in a warmer climate, you will find helpful information on organic gardening in small spaces.  Stay tuned to see how.  So…What’s your 2012 Garden Revolution Resolution?

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