You Can Be a Gardener!

April 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm 9 comments

Garden Veggies After this awesome weekend in West Michigan, spring is definitely in the air. If your thoughts aren’t turning to love, they may be turning to gardening. For most of us that live in apartments or houses on small lots, gardening might mean a few flowers growing in pots or a small garden bed out front. However, with just a little creativity and work you can turn a small piece of soil into a productive vegetable garden and enjoy fresh, tasty, locally-grown food. Even if your thumb is the opposite of green, here are a few ways you can grown your own food.

Backyard (or Front Yard!) Gardening

If you have any space at all, even a windowsill, you can grow a few kitchen herbs and some common types of veggies. It’s really fun to be able to walk outside on a nice summer day and pick your dinner! Some common types of urban residential gardening are:

  • Container gardening. This is simply growing veggies, herbs and even some fruit in pots, flower boxes and window boxes. This site can help you pick out good varieties of veggies to grow in containers. I do this because my yard is pretty shaded and the soil is mostly clay and rock. At the very least I always plant a couple of cherry tomatoes, a small herb box, and some jalapeno peppers. In addition I have grown mixed lettuce (works well, short growing season) and swiss chard (a total dud).
  • Square foot gardening. If you have a small yard, but have decent light you could try square foot gardening. This is a way of planting large volumes in a small space. It requires some attention to the soil – you’ll need some compost – but it looks like once the initial setup is done it’s pretty low maintenance.
  • Plant the lawn! This one may seem a little goofy, but some people turn their front yards into vegetable gardens. This story talks about a group in England who helps people petition to their local councils to get permission to do this. Depending on where you live, you may or may not need permission to plow up your lawn and plant kale instead, but please check into the legalities before you buy a tiller 🙂

Community Gardens

If you have absolutely no space and/or no talent for growing anything, or you just like to work in teams, then community gardening may be the thing for you. In community gardening generally residents of a certain geographic area such as a neighborhood, have access to a plot of land that they can plant. There may be a small fee associated with using the land or to help pay for water, tilling and the like. Some community gardens assign individual plots to individuals and families. Others are more of a communal effort with everyone helping out a certain number of hours in exchange for a share of the crop.

The Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council maintains a list of community gardens in the Grand Rapids area. Take a look and see if there is one in your neighborhood! If you don’t see a community garden that is accessible to you, think about starting your own. I have a co-worker that lives in an apartment complex with a large amount of green space. She’s going to ask the management for permission to start a small community garden on the grounds.

Blandford Farm

Plowing the Blandford Farm the old fashioned way! If you don’t have the time or interest to take care of a garden during a whole growing season, but you still want to play in the dirt, you can volunteer to help at the Blandford Farm. This is the first time in over 20 years that Blandford Nature Center & Mixed Greens will have a functioning farm plot and they need your help! While the bulk of the farming will be handled by the Youth Farm Team, they are looking for volunteers to help with weeding and lots of other tasks throughout the summer.

While you won’t be paid in produce, you will definitely have a cool experience of contributing to a real working farm right in the middle of city of 500,000 people. The picture on the right is from this Sunday’s Dig In! event. For me, the highlight of this day was seeing the 1 acre farm plot being plowed by farmers using teams of Belgian horses. It’s really crazy to think that all of this was going on just a few blocks from a bus stop.

If you’re interested in volunteering, check the Volunteer page or contact Kristen McPhee Laura Worth at lworth(at)blandfordnaturecenter(dot)org or (616) 735-6240.

Veggie photo by Meliha Gojak.


Entry filed under: Local Food. Tags: .

A Gut Check Moment The Global Food Crisis & You

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephanie  |  April 21, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Maria – check it out! You made the Ethicurean digest. 🙂

  • 2. Andrew  |  April 22, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Maria- I’ve seen the sqaure foot gardening in action and had a similar setup in my much smaller patch of land back in Chicago. It really works well.

    Even with our rather large garden in the backyard I’m slowly wearing Tina down to make our front yard a garden of some sort, either veg or native flowers/grasses. This is something we have to play nice with the city on but I know we can make it happen.

    On other agri news the evil Monsanto corp. has been called out yet again in an article in this months Vanity Fair. I don’t know why I continue to look at these articles because they just infuriate me. I’ll keep working for the day when we the people boot these evil goons out of our communities.

  • 3. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 22, 2008 at 11:22 am

    @ Andy – Thanks for the feedback on square foot gardening. As you know, my mom has a rather huge garden, so I haven’t felt the need to build one. I get plenty of weeding in.

    Good luck on the front lawn garden. Maybe you can stick to prettier veggies like multi-colored chard and flowering okra?

    As for Monsanto, I honestly don’t know much about them, but I do know they’re not organic, which is my preferred gardening method, so I don’t purchase any of their products.

  • 4. Lindsey  |  April 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Maria!
    I just read about your story today in the AJC and I think this is so interesting! Hang in there and know that I am rooting for you down here in Atlanta!


  • 5. Merrill Frazier  |  April 22, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Found you from the AJC as well. Looking forward to reading your blog.

    We have a pretty big garden here. Its amazing how much it contributes to our food budget during the summer.

    I hope its ok that I include a link to your blog on mine? I have several friends who would enjoy your journey.


  • 6. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    @Lindsey & Merrill – how cool is it that people in Atlanta are learning from little, old me?! Thanks for visiting.

    @Merrill – I would really appreciate a link. Thanks so much for your interest.

  • 7. bigbinder  |  April 23, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Fantastic! I have been trying to put together a post about community gardening and I will link back to this one.

  • 8. Summer  |  April 28, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Great info! I’m said that I just found out about your blog, two weeks in. I came here from a recent MediaMouse story.

    Great information, and inspirational work! I hope you keep your blog after your current journey is over; I’m always looking for information on local food and such; it’s great to find another source.

    Keep up the good work!

  • 9.  |  May 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    時々探してそれらの事すべて商品その他オークリー彼らが。これを下げているは、価格アートロゴとなっているので、簡単に衣料品と高速。歴史有名なと伝説人サングラス ファッションを受け入れています。は、熟考需要Oakleys サングラスである理由が生じた対照的な他の人から。これがすることができますを作られた質問頻繁に。


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