Tag Archives: urban farming

In the beginning….there was an inspirational video.

9 Dec

Today it is snowing…snowing a lot, snowing so much that instead of gardening I will read about gardening…..fiction, non-fiction, poetry, holding a book, tablet, reading online, a paper magazine or catalog, it doesn’t matter.   Last year when it was snowing, I watched this video posted by Roger Doiron, Founder and Director of  Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI).  It inspired me so much that a couple weeks later, My Urban Farmscape was born, and I joined this revolution that Roger speaks of.    Have I done what I intended to do since my first post on January 1, 2012?  Maybe not as much as I would have liked to, but it’s a good start.  Thank you Roger for the inspiration.

To read my first post, click here http://wp.me/p1GoP9-I  

To start the video…you know what to do.  When you’re done, share it with your friends.

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts

25 Nov

Seriously, haven’t you heard enough about cyber Monday and all the deals that could be out there?  Well, I have…except for the deals I find for my gardening friends! The holiday season is upon us and  honestly, I won’t tolerate another gift that is marketed to gardeners that really has no useful purpose.  Like a Chia Pet for example.  I love plants, and love growing them, but have no desire to have a terra cotta bust of Homer Simpson with chia hair!    So, with that, here are some of my favorites with the links to these awesome gardening products on Amazon  as well as suggested gifts for gardeners.  When you click on a picture it will take you straight to the product.  Don’t forget to come back to My Urban Farmscape!

Happy shopping!  Remember, click on the pic to  send you to Amazon, or a link  like the one here for all of the Cyber Monday Deals.    Shop Amazon – Cyber Monday Deals Week

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts!

The Ultimate Urban Farmscaper’s Gift!  Why not have it all in this compact space.  A raised bed with an optional greenhouse to extend your gardening season.  A great idea for a senior or  Farmscaper who has everything…except this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love  this Jewel Coldframe that I mentioned in an earlier post and use at My Urban Farmscape to extend the season.  When you aren’t using it in the garden, it can be broken down for easy storage.

This Earth Box below is great for those of you with little space and with little time tending to garden chores.  Maybe you didn’t find the time, or forgot to water last year?  A perfect gift for the busy Urban Farmscaper.

Some of my favorite pruners to use in the garden for harvesting as well as in the kitchen for cutting fresh herbs.

For indoor growing and seed starting, supplemental lights are a must have.  For quality and compact sizes, here are two of my favorites.

For the garden photographer the right kind of lens or camera can really help to capture the tiny life living in the garden.

Books for Urban Farmscapers that love to grow food in small spaces, and even for those growing in not so small spaces.

Books for preserving and cooking food you grow or buy at the farmers markets.  Great gifts for someone that is trying to eat local and seasonally.

Magazine subscriptions that are full of useful information about gardening, cooking and homesteading.  I keep every issue of mine for reference.

Garden fun and games for farmscapers of all ages and for the future farmscapers.

Indoor Urban Farmscaping  for someone who may have limited indoor growing space.

Make sure you click the pic to go to Amazon! 

Happy Holidays!

Patti and the My Urban Farmscapers Team

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

rAdiSh

10 May

Radishes, Raphanus sativus L. are a very fast growing cool season crop belonging to the Brassicaceae family. Originating from Asia, their flavors can range from mild to hot. The most familiar radish to Americans may be a round red radish with white flesh and a mild flavor. I don’t like them. When I was growing up, my mother would ruin a perfectly fine potato salad by smothering the top with layers of sliced radishes. I learned how to pick them off and out of things fast. I will grow them, but I really don’t like harvesting them either. Their leaves are covered with fine hairs that feel a lot like thorns poking my flesh. They are there for a reason, and just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I won’t grow these in my garden. I just won’t eat them. They are a great veggie to grow and share.

Radishes before thinning

There are mainly two types of radishes. Like I mentioned above, the round fast growing radish that is best grown in the spring, and the Daikon radish which should be grown in the fall and is best for winter storage. There are many colors and shapes but all germinate best when soil temperatures are between 45-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with the optimum temperature being 60-65. The soil temperature in my garden right now is 55, so I will be sowing radishes without cover (cold frame) this weekend. Ideally, you want to direct sow about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the surface in rows spaced about 8” to 18” apart. Sow the seeds in a line. After they have germinated, you will notice that they are too close together, so you need to “thin” them. You will know how much just by picturing the size of the radish when you will be harvesting it. That is how much space it will need to grow, with a little extra in between. If you continue to plant every 2-3 weeks, you will have a continuous harvest for most of the year. Radishes don’t grow very well during hot summers, but if you interplant them between other plants that may shade them to keep them cool, you might surprise yourself with how long you can grow them. For winter radishes, start them at the beginning of September and you will be harvesting through late fall. Daikon radishes are good to grow through the winter in a cold frame and also grow well in raised beds. Traditionally, radishes are the first crop harvested and the last crop sown.

Radishes after thinning

Harvest when they are about the size of a large marble except for Daikon radishes which are so large you need to loosen the soil with a garden fork. If you wait too long, they get too large and mealy. You may wonder how I know this without eating them. Well, I do have radish testers living in my house. So I get my information from them. And if you slice them, they should be nice and crisp. Remove the leaves and wash. Some people like to eat those hairy greens. Do as you choose. Store washed radishes without drying too much in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator to keep the humidity high and temperatures cool.

Radish “Easter Egg”

Radishes are susceptible to flea beetles and cabbage root maggots. You can avoid this by rotating crops, not planting anything from this plant family in the same place for three years. Using a floating row cover can also help by deterring cabbage moths from laying their eggs on the plants.

Interesting is that the U.S. standards for radish grades hasn’t changed since 1968. It reads “Tenderness, cleanness, smoothness, shape, size, and freedom from pithiness and other defects; tops of bunched radishes fresh and free from damage.” So, if you are growing radishes for someone, these are the standards you should be following.

Want something weird. Grow the radish from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds called “Rats Tail”. It is an edible-podded radish that produces large seed pods that are good for stir fry and pickling. Maybe I would like this radish? If you grow it, let me know how you like it. For now, I’ll stick with fewer plants from this family in my garden, and learn from all of you brassica lovers.

Rats Tail Radish. Photo courtesy Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

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

Talkin Dirty

15 Apr

I thought you would like to hear my dirty talk. You know what I mean. This was the perfect weekend for gettin dirty in the garden. Using a shovel, I prepped My Urban Farmscape easily by lifting and turning the soil. For a slightly larger garden, I use a broadfork. I got mine at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Once you get the hang of it, you can get a pretty large space aerated and turned ready to plant in no time. A small tiller, like this Mantis 7225-00-02 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Tiller/Cultivator (CARB Compliant) works really well too. But then you have to make sure you have gas, and at about four bucks per gallon I’ll use my shovel. I still use my Mantis initially when starting a garden, but then proceed to follow no til methods. Iwill also use it for minor weed control or edging. Double digging is another method where you start on one side of your garden, dig a trench, then start another trench next to the first one, filling the first trench with the soil from the second trench, then soil from third trench fills the second and so on. The soil you dug from the first trench fills the last trench. Got it?

Using a broadfork to loosen and prepare soil in a VERY small garden.

I believe that the soil is the most important part of my garden. It serves as the place where nutrients and microorganisms hang out waiting to be used up by the plant. So, as far as fertilizing goes, I start first with feeding the soil, which then feeds the plant. I add most of my soil amendments in the autumn, such as greensand, rock phosphate, or bone meal. These are slow release type fertilizers approved for organic growing which provide the primary nutrients plants need to grow, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You will recognize the numbers on fertilizer like 10-10-10, which means the amount of Nitrogen-N, Phosphorus-P, and Potassium-P in that order. NPK. This year I am adding Azomite Azomite Fertilizer – 12oz to my garden which is an organic approved fertilizer providing some of the trace minerals needed for healthy plant growth. And always use compost. I will also make a compost tea using worm castings. This has been my garden secret after brewing this up at my organic farm ten years ago. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

Confused about what you can use for organic gardening? Visit the website for the Organic Material Review Institute, https://www.omri.org/ for details. This is the organization that has worked to develop the list of what can and cannot be used for organic production of both plants and animals. Beware. A label on a package that says “OMRI Approved” does not mean all the ingredients are approved. If it is a single ingredient product, such as sphagnum peat for example, it is OMRI approved, so odds are, the company that packaged the sphagnum peat did not pay for the USDA Organic labeling for some reason. Look for the “USDA Organic” label and you will know for sure. Also pay attention to marketing claims, like “safe around pets and children” or the words “natural”. This may be somewhat complicated, but the more you read and learn, the more familiar you will become, thus, being able to make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing organic products.

Before I add anything to my soil, I will send a sample to the Michigan State University Extension to be analyzed and to learn about the existing soil type and nutrient levels that are already in the soil. After receiving the results, I amend the soil with whatever it may be lacking. It makes no sense to add something if there is already enough or excess in the soil. So, with all that said, here are ten things you need to do to your soil prior to planting anything.

  1. Remove sod if it exists
  2. Shake off all excess dirt. You need all you can get. Don’t buy dirt if you don’t have too!
  3. Loosen and aerate the remaining dirt using a shovel, broadfork or tiller.
  4. Using your hands, break up clumps of dirt, and pick out any remaining leaves. I love to feel the dirt crumbling between my fingers. This is fun for kids too.
  5. Collect soil as directed by your local extension to be tested for fertility. If there is an option for organic recommendations, then by all means, get those! It takes some work translating and changing chemical recommendations to organic. But it’s possible.
  6. You can use solarization to help weeds “grow to death”. Black plastic works best, but any plastic will be fine. I used the painter’s plastic that I took off of a low tunnel cold frame. Lay it over the soil for a minimum of a week, two is better, remove, pull baked weeds, and then prep as mentioned above.
  7. You can add compost AFTER you take your soil sample. I have never received the results from any soil test from any of my gardens that didn’t tell you to add compost. So go ahead and do that.
  8. Continue to pull weeds that may appear.
  9. Once you receive results from soil sample, amend as directed.
  10. Plant your garden after danger of frost has passed. See previous posts on what to plant when.

It takes three years of organic practices and the improvement of the soil fertility before an organic farm can be certified USDA Organic. It is a honorable commitment by those that follow the organic rules and only use OMRI listed and approved materials. Support your organic farmers, and as far as your Urban Farmscape, get busy working to make your soil sustainable!

Contained Chaos

18 Mar

My gardening style is what I like to call, Contained Chaos.  I like the look of wildflowers growing in nature, but I also like neatly arranged plants, like using boxwood as a border, or rows of plants like grown in a farm field or orchard.  I think that’s why when I designed the culinary garden at My Urban Farmscape, I wanted my veggies to be planted in raised beds.  Each raised bed is laid out in neatly arranged patterns providing several individual sections to grow my veggies, fruits and herbs.   But that doesn’t mean that when the plants start growing outside of thier boundaries I want to hold them back.  They are allowed to wander and intermingle as much as they like.  It’s like, I try to control them, but then I give up because I know they will grow where they want.  Plants have a mind of their own right, or maybe, the instinct and desire to follow the sun.

When I decided to make my raised beds, I researched the options and chose to make them with 2” x 12” pine lumber.   DO NOT use treated lumber of any kind for growing anything edible.  I looked into options for preserving the wood, but then realized that the wood I chose will last a very long time, and by the time it was rotted, I would have gotten my money’s worth just using the plain pine and it wasn’t worth the added expense.  So, here is what I did.

April Garden

This is the space between my house and the driveway.  It is the sunniest space in the yard, which is what I needed for the culinary garden.  So…..out with the old and in with the new!  I didn’t remove the lawn though.  No need, since 10” of soil would be on top of it, it won’t grow any more.  I did have to transplant the shrubs and cut down an ornamental tree. 

The 2” x 12” boards were cut to the desired lengths.  If you don’t have a saw, you can ask your lumber store to cut them to the lengths you want.  They will typically do this at no charge.  It is easy to ask them to cut a 2” x 12” by 8’ board in half.  Do this for two boards and you will end up with a 4’ x 4’ garden.  I chose to use 3” deck screws to screw them together.  There are fancy type corners you can get, but it was getting a little too expensive for my garden.  Some of my beds are 2’ x 8’ or longer, so I added a board in the center for additional strength and/or to keep it from bowing.

Autumn Garden Showing Raised Bed Design

Once the boxes were made, they were place directly on the ground.  I filled them about 3/4 full with topsoil.  If you don’t have access to free topsoil, then try to purchase it by the yard.  It is cheaper.  Otherwise, you will have to buy it by the bag.  A 4’ x 4’ box takes about 1/3 yard of topsoil to start.  I then mixed in compost to the remaining portion, ending a couple inches from the top.   My cost for a 4’ x 4’ garden last summer was about $25.00 each.  That is the wood and the topsoil and compost.  You can make these any size you like, and they will fit in most every Urban Farmscape.  These will last for years.  If the ends start to come apart or the boards warp, I will make small adjustments as they come.  I just found this method to be the most practical and affordable. 

September Garden

The first year I was able to harvest a bushel of tomatoes from a 2’ x 12’ raised bed.  I spaced the tomatoes diagonally about 2’ apart.  So in a 2’ x 4’ space I was able to plant 3 tomato plants.  They were indeterminate types which I pruned and staked them.  I will talk about that more when I write about tomatoes.  I also planted blueberries, corn, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, squash, beans, garlic, parsley, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, and several edible flowers.  I planned space for cold frames also.  I overwintered carrots under straw (see poem on Winter Carrots).

Winter Garden

This will be the second season for the culinary garden at My Urban Farmscape.  The warm weather we have been experiencing has made it EASY to clean up and prep my gardens, but the only thing I am planting are my cool season crops such as spinach, arugula, lettuce, carrots, beets, and radishes to name a few.  And that is still in my cold frame (open ends and tops off for now).  Don’t be fooled by Mother Nature!  Our frost free date is about May 15th, still a long ways away.  For now, continue planning and if you like your garden chaos contained like I do, start building your raised beds!  Before you know it, it will be time to plant for the summer!

Coming soon to a garden near you…

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