Friday, January 20, 2012

Human-derived food products

No, this has nothing to do with New Mexico, that I know of. Yes, "human-derived food products" is a term. It is something that is used seriously in conversation by a number of "smart" people. What are these products? Read for yourselves.

In the meantime gardendc is currently exploringnewmexico, soon to be diggingyosemite.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

GardenDC is moving out west

This will be the last post in DC, as we are moving to the west coast. We've had many good times in DC and many good memories in the garden. We've learned to grow food for ourselves on less than 100 square feet of land. We've learned to build soil, to rotate crops, to maintain a good looking garden, which is important in a densely populated neighborhood. We've learned to compost, to preserve our crop in form of pickles, sauces, and salsas, to irrigate properly, and to learn from our many mistakes.
I wish more people begin gardening in the city, and enjoying it as much as we did. I also wish that we settle somewhere soon and don't miss a season in the garden.


and Happy Halloween

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mt. Pleasant Gardens

There is no way for me to tell whether there are more or less vegetable gardens in the District than there were three years ago when I came here. First, I hadn't started noticing gardens until we started one of our own. Second, it seems like I will need to perform a very comprehensive study to count the gardens year after year to know with any kind of certainty if the number is going up or down. And if anybody reading this is willing to give me money to perform such a study, I will be happy to do it. No? Nobody? OK, then.
One thing I will say is that once you start noticing vegetable gardens in the city, they seem to be everywhere. On balconies, windowsills, backyards, front yards, patios, roofs, some are in public spaces, etc. Recently I started walking around the neighborhood where I live with intention to photograph and count all the vegetable gardens I can find. For this I only counted gardens that grew something that can be considered food (herbs included). I only counted those that were within the boundaries of Mt. Pleasant. And I only counted gardens that were clearly visible, as I had no intention of snooping around peoples fenced-in areas, and looking into every window. Truthfully, I looked over a fence once, to find a great garden, well maintained and abundant. And the only reason I photographed it is because I met the owner right there, standing over the fence, she was a warm and pleasant person, like I think most gardeners are.

Yes, I took a picture of one of those Heritage Trail signs. This was another benefit of walking around your neighborhood, they have these everywhere, and I would recommend it to anyone in DC. But back to the gardens. In the grey area in the picture above, with my less than thorough method, I have counted 42 vegetable gardens. That's a magical number.
Some of the things I saw people grow included: tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, beets, lettuce, arugula, herbs, carrots, cabbages, corn, squash, pumpkin, eggplant, rhubarb, melons, onions, garlic, grapes, strawberries, peppers, sunflowers, kale, and sweet potatoes. Did I forget anything? Yes, probably.
I've also noticed an interesting thing while doing this. Where there was one garden, there was another nearby. It seems like once the neighbors see a garden, they want one of their own. Is this a rule, or is this place an exception? I don't know, but here are some of the 42.

Bancroft School garden

Bancroft Front garden

And finally, here is my favorite picture, and one of my favorite gardens because it shows how much you can do with very little, and how good it can look. Look at all those awesome tomatoes!

To me all of these were fantastic. I have a wish that more people do this, grow their food, even a small portion of it. This is not a big idea, but it connects you to something really big. Try it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Build Your Own Planter Bed

Building a planter bed, its easy and anyone can do it. You can build one out of scrap wood you have in the attic of your garage, you can dumpster dive for wooden pallets near any construction site, you can clean out your neighbor's garage, you can go to your local arboretum or plant center and see if they have some bamboo for you to cut, or you can take a trip to a big box store for a few pieces of lumber.
1. Design
You will need a few things to make the project go fast and have a good outcome. First of all, think about what you're doing. Think about what size planter you will need, and if you're new at gardening, start small, and if you're an ambitious person who sees everything through, go big. Think about location. Your planter box should be in good sun, it should be on even ground, it should be somewhere water may drain freely into or out of it. Front or back yard is fine as a location, don't be afraid to show off your good work! Think what you want the planter to look like, how big you want it to be, and how much money you want to spend on it (ideally, very little), sketch, doodle, dream, design, whatever you want to call it, the more time you spend up front thinking about what it would take to finish a project, the smoother the project will go.
2. Supplies
Next you will need supplies and tools. For the sake of this post I'll concentrate on wood as the main material to build your planter box out of. You might also need any of the following: electric drill, drill bits, wood screws, brackets, nails, nail gun, hammer, measuring tape, pencil, and possibly a circular saw. I say "might need" because it all depends on your design.

3. The Basics
Simply put, this is a sand box only instead of sand, you will fill it with rich soil and compost and grow healthy, nutritious food. A typical planter bed will have four sides, and therefore use four boards. If you don't have access to a circular saw, and don't have any desire to cut lumber, try to find boards of the same length (or have them cut for you at a lumber store). Otherwise, cut boards to size you have designed and join them at the corners. The easiest way I have found of doing this is to have a piece of lumber on the inside corner that joins two boards, and then nail or screw the boards to that piece of lumber. When working alone, this is the easiest way to get the job done because you don't need anyone else to hold the frame together as you're building it. Another way is to use brackets to join the lumber, it works just as well although your cost goes up a bit.

4. Grow
Once the frame is done, you're ready to start growing your garden. One more thing to consider is how much soil you will need to fill your planter box. If you designed a small one, you can buy soil by bags, or maybe you already have it available in your back yard. If you designed and built something bigger, you might need to order soil from a garden supply store, or a recycling center, in which case you will need to calculate how much you will need. Supply stores usually sell soil by cubic yard (in the states), so multiply the length of your frame by width and depth and it should give you a number you need. Remember that you need to convert feet to yards when you're doing this, its an easy mistake we all make (in the states). Remember also that if you're starting from nothing, you may want to order a bit of compost to mix in with your soil.
Now you're ready to enjoy a neat planter box full of your favorite veggies, and hopefully your neighbors will love you for it and want one of their own.

One tip I have for those who would hesitate to put a planter box in front of their house is to grow sweet potatoes. If you've never seen them grow, google it. Sweet potato is a beautiful vine, with amazing flowers, they creep along the ground and look like really beautiful, deep green ground-cover. Nobody will ever complain because those who know what it is will be impressed and you will make new friends, and those who don't know what it is...well they won't see anything to complain about.

Update: Charges Dropped

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guerrilla Gardening

It all started with making seed balls. Wildflower mix, daisies, marigolds, then okra. Later, sun flowers. The process is fairly simple, like making bread, there are few ingredients, but infinite possibilities, variations, and you have to develop a feel for technique and proportions. We started with seed, and added clay and water. Clay needed to be dried, and ground into a powder (it formed more uniform over the small seeds that way). Just spray water, and mix, tumble, or form the little seed balls.

After the balls are formed, let them dry before putting them away in a labeled container (if they are not dry, they will grow mold, and sprout in the container). We also discovered that everyone has their own method of making seed balls, so as far as I know, there is no correct way until you try a few things and figure out what works best for your purposes, with your clay, in your climate, etc.

Voila! Now its time to make the city we live in even more beautiful. I'd like to say that throwing seed balls around is the best part, but I can't. The whole process is the best part, from getting everyone together, gathering materials, making the balls, to watching them grow.

Okra in the city. Unfortunately, not much progress yet. Shhhh. Sunflower seedlings by the White House. (They have since been removed by the grounds crew.)

Next post is about making raised beds with this little helper.