Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Here’s more on the trend that we’re calling ‘super-micro farming.’

Firstly, Fritz Haeg has now published his “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.” You can find an except from it here.

But why stop at your lawn? Ruben Anderson, over at The Tyee, suggests that we plant the parking spaces in front of our houses. If everyone with a driveway actually used it, he argues, that would free up a ton of new public space. He imagines his own street:

“let’s make it a one-way street, one lane wide, with a couple of pullouts. This maintains access for emergency vehicles, taxis and mini-buses for wheelchairs. We could also throw four spots for visitors into each block. At one end we can put a half-court for basketball, street hockey, skateboarding or rollerblading so once again shouts of “Car!” will mean the players get a short break. For the rest of the block, I propose gardens.

If you can’t imagine your neighbors (or your city) going for the concept, you might be glad to know that elsewhere ‘asphalt gardening’ is already a reality.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Sure, we have reservations about turning vacant urban lots into vegetable gardens designed purely for the benefit of humans. But, as with all things, the real story lies in the nuance.

That’s why we admire people who take it upon themselves to replace human-designed but blighted urban landscapes (think: ivy-covered front yards and scuffed, litter-strewn sod) with spaces that offer both humans and native animals food — not to mention homes for said animals and a fair smattering of native plants.

Take orchards. The right selection of varietals set in an unmown native grass meadow can offer delicious food to people, birds, bees and other creatures and living space for plenty of native birds and insects, too. Plus it will look nice. If you are watering anyway, why not go that route?

That logic has Oakland social worker Diane Williams filling her front yard with fruit trees. Faced with the bare yards of her neighbors’ public housing development across the street, she went and offered to do the same for them. She now gardens 10 plots in her neighborhood and provides free fruit for anyone who cares to pick it.

While the San Francisco Chronicle calls her a guerrilla gardener, we’re not sure William’s qualifies — she does after all, ask permission.  She more like a fairy-godmother gardener.

Another article in the same edition of the Chronicle features more typical guerrilla gardeners — the kind that go plant in unused lots without permission. Interestingly, it sounds like landlords only get really upset when it’s food that’s planted on their lots.

While there’s something thrillingly paradoxical about the very notion of guerrilla gardening — which perhaps helps explain why it’s suddenly so hip — Williams’ model looks like the one to emulate for those of us looking to help cities achieve the urban landscaping triple whammy of increased food independence, wildlife protection and aesthetic improvement.

Read Full Post »

That’s apparently the idea behind British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s new project.

Oliver’s idea, explains today’s Guardian,takes “inspiration from the Ministry of Food’s campaign to encourage families to Dig For Victory, grow their own food and make the most of their wartime rations.”

While it’s a gimmick, the notion also makes some sense.  Second World War rationing famously limited Brits to tiny portions of meat, butter, milk and eggs, but it also resulted in a population that was remarkably healthy.  Plus it got people growing their own food right in their own backyard ‘Victory Garden.’  It many ways you couldn’t find a diet and lifestyle more likely to warm Michael Pollan‘s heart.

But can we persuade people to voluntarily impose war-like conditions on themselves — even if they stand to benefit?

For Americans one answer is that, of course, the country is at war right now.  So why can’t the nation ask such a sacrifice of its citizens today?

Another, more global approach might argue that the lifestyles of even the richest of us aren’t (on the whole) doing us a lot of favors when it comes to our collective health and happiness — let alone that of the planet.  So surely we could be doing better.

It sounds like Jamie Oliver recognizes that people are busy and don’t necessarily yearn to feel tied to their kitchens or gardens.  As he told the Guardian:

“This isn’t about me wagging my finger at people, here or anywhere else, it’s about finding out what problems people are facing with time, budget and cooking know-how,” said Oliver. “Then we can see what help and support they need. Yes, people should take responsibility for their own health, but they need help and the tools to fix it.”

We’ll look forward to seeing what tools the energetic and talented Mr. Oliver will come up with.

If it starts receiving serious educational and even heavy-hitting policy support worldwide, perhaps there’s real potential for a return to the ‘victory garden’ model — beyond Mr. Oliver’s pitch for his next TV show.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday we wrote about ‘super-micro farming’ as a trend emerging in response to possible threats to our food supplies.

There’s further evidence of the trend in the San Fransisco Chronicle’s most recent ‘Home and Garden’ section. In a multi-page cover feature, the paper does a nice job of surveying current efforts in the city to turn vacant urban spaces into ‘organic-food producing’ gardens. And it makes the point that this is one way for a ‘metropolis that can feed itself.’ Of over 1,000 vacant lots in the city, at least 600 are farmable, landscaper Kevin Bayuk tells the Chronicle.

It also ties in nicely to invocations by the likes of Michael Pollan, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon to eat (mostly) locally-sourced plants, (mostly) in season.

While it’s perhaps unrealistic to think urban gardens could ever feed an entire city’s population (the main complaint made by people commenting on the articles), they can reduce the need for food to be shipped in from elsewhere. And they can provide city dwellers with a direct (and, for many, uplifting) connection with the food that sustains them.

But in times when much of the rural landscape is turned over to monocultures enforced by the heavy use of pesticides and fertilzers, let’s spare a thought for some of the weeds, bugs and larger plants and animals that would otherwise occupy these vacant lots. Sure, rats and mosquitoes don’t have many fans, but many formerly common native birds, reptiles, pollinating insects and small mammals are losing space to development and intensive agriculture.

If we’re to reclaim abandoned lots for ourselves, perhaps we could be sure to put a good number of them aside as sanctuaries for the plants and animals we’ve managed to threaten so harshly elsewhere.

Read Full Post »

Climate change threatens to destabilize our lives, for both ill and (perhaps, even) good.

One mark of that instability will likely be a disruption in the way we produce and distribute food.

Could this be why the UK Independent finds the world suddenly ‘going crazy for allotments‘ — those small plots of land that cities lease their citizens at a peppercorn rent to grow spare fruit and vegetables for their homes? The paper discovers allotments thriving in the UK, France, Kenya, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong and the USA. In the UK alone, it says, “there are an estimated 300,000 allotments, yielding about 215,000 tons of fresh produce every year.”

It’s not just home owners who are seeing the attractions of micro-farming. As food security becomes a concern to societies accustomed to having fresh produce flown in from all over the world, the New York Times tells us, “the purposeful reclamation of urban and suburban lands is serious fodder for artists, architects and academics alike.”

Allison Arieff’s article is a good round-up of current hipster urban farming and land-reclamation projects in the US — many of them on the super-micro level, but worthy none the less.

Let’s hope, certainly,that we see more initiatives like the Edible Estates project — which “proposes the replacement of the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape.” Their motto — Attack on the Front Lawn! As Arieff reminds us, that front lawn typically uses “up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre . . . than farmers use on crops.”

Read Full Post »

There’s nothing like a passion for gardening to sharpen your awareness of environmental change.

Gardeners need to know when the last frosts end; the number of ‘cooling days’ available to fix their apples; when the soil will be warm enough to plant the summer vegetables – and plenty more – if they’re to garden in any kind of traditional sense.

Here at EarthQuaker we admit to such a passion, although not without a little discomfort. To garden, after all, is to deliberately alter nature.

Gardeners help save plant species and heirloom varieties and offer wildlife sanctuary, to be sure, but they’re also a major conduit for invasive plants, bugs and pathogens. And the desire to grow varieties that your local climate wouldn’t support without added water and fertilizer is all-too hard for the serious gardener to resist.

That’s one reason why we admire radical ungardeners, who appreciate nature but do very little to alter it.

It’s also a reason why some gardeners seem to be looking forward to global warming with what could only be described as relish.

Take the January issue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, the Garden. Its theme is ‘Gardening in a Changing Climate.’ While the issue devotes much space to the negative impact of climate change on native British plants and animals, its editors are also clearly interested in exploring the ‘upside’ of Global Warming. Along with ‘possible losers of a changing climate,’ the magazine lists possible winners that it knows its readers are itching to grow — beautiful bougainvillea, striking agave, tasty figs.

So here’s another reminder that while climate change is destabilizing, it will also benefit some people in some concrete ways.

And with that comes the realization that any efforts to seriously slow that change must convince those ‘winners’ of the need for change as much as those of us it devastates.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts