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Sustainable Gardening On Your Own Urban Farm

Updated on February 3, 2014

Your Yard Can be an Urban Farm

Ever thought you would like to grow more of your own food yourself - be self sufficient as much as possible. Its a movement that stems from the growing realization that we can't afford to eat fresh vegetables unless we do it ourselves. Grow this food in such a way as to preserve the viability of the soil - its called sustainability...

Urban farming and sustainability are fairly new terms that hark back to life as it used to be. People used to grow a lot of their own food right in their own yards. It was common for people to grow most of the vegetables they needed in the summer themselves and can more for the winter months. We slowly got away from these habits as food became a smaller percentage of our income, we became busier and other things filled our lives.

Today food prices are rising, and people are becoming aware that those factory methods do not always transfer well to growing food. Cheaper production has come to rely upon large scale spraying with chemicals. Do you want to eat that??

So there has been a movement to grow more of our own food again. The new terms - urban farm and sustainability - are used to define this movement. The urban farmer is one who uses as much of his or her yard as possible to grow food. Sustainability is the concept of growing your own food in a earth friendly - sustainable use of the soil - manner.

Our Family Passion - Growing Food

Urban Farming from Our Point of View

My husband and I are very passionate about people growing their own food. Why is this? Well, we have many reasons - all of which have a common theme - it is better for you:

Health - Food grown in your own garden organically will not have the pesticide residues on it that other vegetables will Other chemicals are also used at various stages to halt or encourage growth, to kill weeds and to preserve the vegetables themselves for shipping

Economics - Obviously a package of seed for $3.00 or a tomato seedling for $1.99 which both result in many dollars worth of vegetables is a more economical way to go

Environmental - Shipping vegetables for many hundreds of miles uses fossil fuels. Large scale farming also uses fossil fuels and in most cases involves the use of toxic chemicals If someone has to wear protective gear in order to spray the fields with something, do you really want to eat it?

Cultural - Many of us have traditions of growing certain foods as part of our diet. Some are only available if you grow them yourselves

Emotional - It is very satisfying to eat food that you have produced yourself.

Social - Gardening, and specifically growing fruits and vegetables is an increasingly popular community effort.

Our Overgrown Greenhouse

Our Overgrown Greenhouse
Our Overgrown Greenhouse

Our Own Urban Farm

Our Little Bit of Edible Heaven

We are very lucky to live where we do. We live in a zone 8 area which means that we can grow some sort of food almost all year long. Also, we have quite a lot of space to grow in. This helps us to not only grow our own food, but also to sell vegetables to others and preserve some for our seed business. We have gardens and a greenhouse and are always more than pleased to share what we know, through courses and our information pamphlets and books. We feel that if we only help a few people to be more self-sufficient in their food needs, we have made a difference.

For ourselves, we have been growing food throughout our lives. Even while living in an apartment, we had a 4 by 8 balcony that was filled with pots growing vegetables. When we married and had children, we became more aware of what is in and on our food and more concerned. We also learned about heirloom vegetables, and that there was so much more variety in the past. These things prompted us to buy a farm and start our own seed company. We became involved with the Ottawa Organic Market and sold our produce, seeds and plants there for many years before moving to our new location in BC.

Our Lessons Learned and Shared

Over time we have developed a number of food gardens. We have compiled this into a book that we feel will help others get onto the road towards developing their own urban farm.. We hope it helps you.

Sustainability - What is That?

Sustainability is the concept of growing food and , in general, living in such a way that the environment is sustained - used but also fed and nurtured for the future.

There are three aspects of sustainability - environmental, social, and economic. In its entirety, the concept really includes all aspects of life. And when it comes to food, all the aspects that influence our choices about food. How much should growing food affect the environment? Is shipping food grown cheaply hundreds of miles really good for the environment? Is use of cheap labour elsewhere good for our own economy? Are we being responsible socially, if we support use of cheap labour and practices that put third world farmers into desperate straights.? So many questions and some of them have very complex implications.

For many people the question of sustainability comes down to focusing on what they can control themselves. What can I grow on my own land in such a way that I am growing good healthy food? So how can I grow organically and feed my family as much as possible myself, cutting down on my increasing food bills?

The Step By Step To Your Own Urban Farm

Most properties have at least a small vegetables garden. When you look at urban farming, however, you are changing the focus from having a pretty yard and growing a few things that you eat to growing as much as possible in your own yard. Anyone can make a difference to their food bills by growing some of their fresh vegetables. Even those in apartments can grow herbs and vegetables in pots, or sign up for community gardens and do their growing there.

The process to creating an urban farm is the same as the process for creating any garden. You first create a list of what you want. So with urban farming that is your list of the vegetables you eat, rather than other gardens where you would list the lawn and flower space you would like to have. You create this by thinking about how much of each vegetable you typically eat and then converting that into the number of plants you will need. This information is available from a number of different sources; you can find books in the library that are good.

The next step is to take stock of what you have. Draw our your yard and take a look at what is growing there now. You also need to make notes about amount of light and soil conditions.

Your list of the vegetables you want to grow can be converted into the amount of space you will need to grow it. The calculations are quite straightforward. If you need 4 tomato plants and they each require 4 spare feet, then you need a total of 16 square feet. Using the drawing of your yard as it is and the amount of vegetables space you need to add, you will create a drawing of your ultimate urban farm.

You should not try to achieve the ultimate urban farm in your first year gardening. Take the drawing of your current yard and just mark in a couple of changes to move it towards your vision. If you make a few steps each your, in time you will develop your own urban farm. As well, by carefully planning what and how much you grow, and taking care of it, you will be surprised how many fresh vegetables you have.

Planting, Caring for and Harvesting Your Vegetables

Once you have figured out your garden space for the year, draw a map of what you will plant where - it will be s sub-set of the vegetables you would grow in your ultimate garden.

Talk with neighbors or your local nursery to determine what to plant when. Make sure when you plant that the soil is wet. Whether you are planting seeds or seedlings, they will do better if planted in wet soil.

Cover seeds with twice as much soil as the seed is wide. This works in general, although some seed, like lettuce, should simply be pressed into the soil. The seed catalogue or packet will say. They will also give you an idea of how many days you will wait before you can harvest your fruits or vegetables.

Vegetables need to eat, just as we do,so fertilize with organic fertilizer every three to four weeks. Watering is also important as a dried out vegetable plant will not give you food.

If herbs are part of the plan consider planting them in pots near your back door. They will be handy for cooking and more likely to get used..

Voice Your Views - Are You Into Urban Farming?

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    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I love having my own little veggie garden and 50 or more pots filled with flower and veggie. I would so love to have a greenhouse. I enjoyed reading your lens, thanks for sharing.

    • redtailvision profile image

      redtailvision 4 years ago

      Nothing better than fresh vegetables! With the ever increasing cost at the store, even a small garden can add up to a big savings. We do square foot gardening to make the most out of our space.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      We have a small organic farm and I agree 100% with all the benefits you listed about growing your own produce. I think the idea of urban farming is great - it shows people that you can have a large impact even if you live in the city.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      We do a small garden at home. There are some local parks that are renting out gardening space for $20.00 for the season, water included. We may take advantage of that next year.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We have a small garden with tomatoes and cucumbers and a few other things. I sure enjoyed seeing your beautiful garden and greenhouse.

    • profile image

      greytdogz 4 years ago

      We always had a garden each summer up until this year. I know I'll miss the vegetables fresh from the garden. You did a great job on this lens. Lots of good information.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Congratulations on publishing this excellent info. We have a very small yard with a huge block wall around it - so I buy organic produce from a store that's two miles from our home.