Many people who start gardening in the city do so for a very good reason. They want good food. They want the crispiest, juiciest, cucumbers they can get their hands on and the ripest and most flavorful tomatoes. They want foods grown locally, on a small scale, and without chemical fertilizers or herbicides. They want farm fresh, even though they don’t live on a farm. Is this unreasonable or just plain smart?
Most of our food comes from farms in rural areas and it is shipped across great distances to stores nationwide. Many people see no reason to take issue with this but increasingly others do see problems with this food system. Is it healthy? Will it feed the whole world? No actually. This food system has serious issues. It is wasteful, unsustainable, and unhealthy. To grow foods in the mass quantities needed to feed huge populations all over the country lots of space, energy, and chemicals must be used and abused. Throughout the country people still go hungry. Unhealthy processed foods become cheaper and more readily available and thus health problems abound, especially in urban areas. Urban residents become less likely to know how to cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients. They are more likely to know how to cook boxed mac and cheese.
So what needs to change? City dwellers need to learn that food is intimately connected to health, environment, economy, and community. The single best way to do this is to start growing food in the city. When we grow food in the city we establish local sources for healthy food, a local food economy, and a community that works for it own interests and the planet’s and not against them. Our cities need some nourishment…they need some gardens!
The facts are that more people are moving into cities…not rural areas. The United Nations has predicted that by 2030, two-thirds of us will be living in cities AND we will need 60% more food. The answer is not to transport more food or increase the scale of factory farms and huge agribusiness monocrops. We need to start growing food in those cities. How do we do that?
On a large scale, as a community we need to support:
Rooftop gardens on city buildings and parking structures
Aquaponics and hydroponics businesses and operations
Restaurants who use local foods
Community cooking classes
Wind and solar energy
Anaerobic digestion facilities
Legislation that supports local gardening
Legislation that supports the keeping of farm animals
Legislation that enables us to turn abandoned spaces into green spaces
Programs to provide a work force and skills training for those green spaces (unemployed, homeless, etc)
Legislation to provide tax incentives for businesses and residents who garden
On a smaller and more personal scale we need to:
Garden in containers, on balconies, and window sills
Use front and backyard spaces for gardening and growing food
Install solar panels if we can
Grow food using vertical food systems
Grow food using small scale aquaponics and hydroponics systems
Grow flowers and other non-food vegetation for wildlife and pollinators
Raise animals for food (like chickens or rabbits)
Whether we are in the burbs or in the city we NEED to grow food. We also need to teach our children to do the same. We need to think globally and act locally….changing our cityscapes one home and garden space at a time. The concrete jungle has got to go…our cities need to go green pronto and the first step is to own up to your own part in the equation and then help others do the same. Let’s turn our cities into places so leafy and green they resemble jungles okay? Let’s plant the seeds of a greener future.
One of the biggest obstacles for newbie home gardeners and homesteaders is that they get gung ho about their gardening goals a little bit too late in the year. When the weather warms they see Pinterest and blogs explode with gardening adventures. Nurseries and home improvement stores are overrun and you probably see your neighbors starting on their projects and digging in the dirt. What you don’t see though is that these same people start planning their adventures long before the weather turned warm. Great gardens are actually rooted in the winter months. That is when they are dreamed up and planned for. So if you want to grow your own food and have a great spring/summer garden don’t be left behind again, start NOW!
Here are some ideas and tips to get you started…
Write It Down
Take out a pencil and paper and get to writing. Start with a list of the things you want to grow and then research how those plants grow together. Some will be complimentary and others will not be. Draw out what it is you want to create. Use real time measurements so you will know if you have enough space. Outline a plan so that you won’t be left scratching your head in spring and wondering where to start.
Mark Your Garden Deadlines on a Calendar
Use a calendar to keep up with your garden planning. Write down what you need to start indoors and when so that you can meet any planting deadlines. Different plants grow at different paces and if you want a steady supply of certain edibles you will need to stagger your planting as well. Also make a note of when you need to move seedlings outdoors, taking into account any frost dates and when you need to start garden/yard clean up so you can have everything ready. I use the The Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar.
Have Soil Tested
It is always a good idea to know the quality of your soil and to know if you need to amend it so that growing will be more productive. If your soil is lacking you will likely have problems growing and it might even frustrate you enough to make you give up when all you needed to do was be informed and proactive. Investing in your soil is arguably one of the most important things you can do (especially if you are growing edibles) and it starts with testing. Do a search for soil testing in your state and find out where you need to send a sample and what the associated costs are.
Order Seeds and Supplies
Don’t get caught in the trap of having to buy seeds at a local home improvement store or buy seedlings because you were late to the game and didn’t start your plants indoors. In my post about modern gardening practices actually harming bees, I highlighted a study conducted by the Friends of the Earth-US and Pesticide Research Institute. It found that 54% of common garden plants purchased at top retailers like Lowes and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm or kill bees and other pollinators, with no warning to consumers. Don’t buy from these places!! Instead try heirloom seeds from places like Seed Saver Exchange, which is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations.
Other supplies include everything you need to start your seeds indoors. Don’t forget though that you can use recycled materials from home like eggshells and toilet paper rolls to grow seedlings and spend very little. Check out the post below for more information…
Visit Home and Garden Shows and Botanical Gardens
Why do these gardening shows often take place in winter? Because that is when master gardeners plan their gardens! Visit a local show, get inspiration, and talk to the gardeners and designers. Botanical gardens also highlight local plants that you can grow and they have people you can talk to about what will work best in your area. The best way to educate yourself about what you can grown in your own backyard is to talk to the people in your area who have been doing it for years.
June has been an exciting gardening month for me. It is a daily joy to go outside and see how things are growing and changing. Unless of course I go outside and see that squirrels have been eating my bell pepper plants, then I just want to go outside with a .22 and maybe have some squirrel stew for dinner. In lieu of that I have been making sure to spray them with an oil/cayenne pepper mixture and so far that seems to be working. I have already lost 4 of my 6 original bell pepper plants though. Those two are starting to grow peppers and are currently about the size of my thumbnail. Cute!
On the plus side though the blackberries are growing (their first year) and I am letting the birds eat them. Next year will be a different story. My blueberry bush is looking green and lush (also its first year) but no blueberries.
I have salad greens and herbs growing on my back deck in containers since we have very little space to work with. I find it a delightful challenge though to see how much we can grow in so little space. Each corner of our deck looks something like this…
In our raised beds we have the aforementioned bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and pumpkin vines that are getting downright massive. We did not intentionally grow them, they just kinda happened because we used the raised beds as a compost bin during the winter and our Halloween pumpkins were in there. Once they started sprouting I didn’t have the heart to remove them, I just thinned them out and I hope we can keep them manageable and prevent them from strangling out everything that is growing around them. We shall see.
Also growing are some jalapenos. Salsa here we come baby!
Also got the compost bin I so desperately needed AND the rain barrel. After our first big spring rain I collected over 55 gallons of rainwater. I haven’t had to use the water from the hose even once and we have had some pretty hot and dry days lately. We got it via a nifty city program. I had to take an online test about rainwater collection and benefits and then after passing I got a rain barrel at a wholesale price.
The compost bin was built in about 15 minutes and for about $20.
What are you growing? What gardening adventures have you had so far?
Hi, I’m Donni from The Magic Onions blog and I’m delighted to be sharing our Fairy Gardens with you. I have two children, Teddy who is 6 and Kitty who is 9. Both are avid Fairy Gardeners and it has become our family tradition to plant a Fairy Garden each Spring.
Our Fairy Gardens have been wonderful for my children in so many ways. They delight in the creativity and imagination that goes into planting their fairy gardens. They spend hours playing in them through the Spring and Summer months and into the Autumn too. They are out in the warm sun and breathing in the fresh air. They are working with soil and moss and stones. They are learning about gardening and noticing how the plants in their gardens change over time. They are taking on responsibility as they water and weed their magical spaces. They are learning so much, though if you asked them, they would say they were only ‘playing’.
This year, Teddy wanted to make his own ‘little’ Fairy Garden. We set off to The Goodwill in search of the perfect container. He soon spotted a little basket and we bought it for 99c.
This is how Teddy made his Fairy Garden:
Step 1 : Preparing the Container
Just about any container will do for your Fairy Garden. As moss loves to be watered often, it’s important that the container has holes in the bottom so that it will drain well. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, you can make them by using a battery drill or a hammer and a nail. Teddy had fun using my drill to make holes in the bottom of his basket.
Step 2 : Soil
He filled his container with good potting soil, leaving the soil an inch or two from the top of the basket.
Step 2 : Plants
Many garden shops sell moss in large 1 foot flats. Teddy chose a sweet mini pansy to add to his garden too. We measured the diameter of the basket and used a sharp knife to cut just the right amount of moss to insert into the container. We cut a small hole in the moss for the pansy and planted it too.
Step 3 : Accessories
There are many online Fairy Garden Shops that sell the cutest Fairy Garden furniture. Teddy has a tiny metal chair and he added a sweet cocktail umbrella to give his fairies some shade.
Voila… you have the cutest little garden that is sure to attract the fairies in your neighborhood.
I hope Teddy and I have inspired you to make your own Fairy Garden. If we have, I hope you join us on my blog, The Magic Onions to add your sweet creation into our annual Fairy Garden Contest.
Also, for lots more Fairy Garden inspiration, visit my Fairy Garden Page.
Here are some of the Fairy Gardens we have made over the years…
Blessings and magic,
Donni Webber : I am mom of two sunbursts of joy, wife, crafter, knitter, gardener, photographer and traveler. Come and join us on our Waldorf inspired blog, The Magic Onions, where the wonder of childhood and the magic of nature collide to make each moment a precious gift.
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.