Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
One advantage city farmers have over their rural counterparts: Accessibility. The farms and gardens are more easily visited and admired by neighbors and other city dwellers, and it’s easier for the farmers to bring their harvest to market. Proving this point was last weekend’s Urban Farms Bike Tour in Kansas City, where I biked with a group of fellow riders to four urban farms, all by pedaling a mere 9.6 miles. (When I worked on an organic farm last year, I biked 10 miles each way to get to work every day!)
The organized bike ride, hosted by Cultivate Kansas City, went to many different types of gardens, but all of them practiced organic methods. The first garden, at the Niles Home for Children (conveniently located at the top of a steep hill!), was accompanied by a thorough tour of the beautiful grounds. The children help the lead gardener cultivate a variety of vegetables and fruits, which are used in the center’s kitchen and sold in a small weekly market. Apart from raising food, the children also participate in carbon sequestration by grinding charcoal that is then added to the garden beds to create a small-scale version of the Amazon’s rich terra pretas. Here, the lead gardener shows off his strawberry and raspberry patches.
We pedaled our way downhill to Root Deep Urban Farm, where the raspberries were ripe (and so tasty) and the freshly made basil lemonade was refreshing and ice cold. Her single-lot space produced enough food to sell at a large weekly farmers market, as well as provide the farmer with enough food to eat fresh, share with friends and preserve for most of winter. We all gathed into her garden for a group shot, right behind one of her herb beds.
When we reached Emmanuel’s Community Garden, we were greeted with homemade cherry tomato and goat cheese tarts before getting a little background on the plot. The garden is maintained by a group of nearly 100 high school students who participate in after-school and summer programming, which also includes computer training and even sewing classes! The director hopes to use some of the tomatoes and peppers as a fundraiser for the program by contracting with area restaurants later in the season. I was so happy to get the tasty tart, I had to take a picture:
Lastly, after a short spurt of rain, we made it to Hoop Dog Garden. A true urban oasis, the garden was created by the couple who lives in the adjoining art studio as a combined project for growing food and using their artistic creativity. Nearly all the crops were grown in planters made out of scavenged materials, and the rainwater collected from their studio’s roof provided water for all their plants. They even have a few chickens roaming the lot, so they can collect fresh eggs, fruits, veggies and herbs for any time hunger strikes. You can see below how even their sweet corn gets a unique planting medium, with the varying textures and surfaces of the garden visible in the background.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.
Photo Credits: Jennifer Kongs and Tyler Gill