Garden-a-go-go

090802truckfarmThe Urban Agricultural Unit (UAU) is moving again. This time it’s rolling out of Providence to greener pastures in Attleboro, MA. Seven Arrows Herb Farm is adopting the UAU and improving its inputs (energy) and outputs (plants). Read all about it in today’s Providence Journal. Goodbye, UAU. Hello, SubUAU.

In honor of the UAU–ok, subUAU, get it?–here’s a new mobile agriculture project called the Truck Farm.  Ian Cheney, one of the filmmakers behind “King Corn,” converted an old Dodge pickup truck into a rambling, roaming, rolling garden. The truck bed was drilled with drainage holes, fitted with a mat and soil, and planted out: tomatoes, nasturtiums, arugula, etc.  A solar-powered camera snaps a photo everyday to show members of its CSA (yes!) how everything is growing on the streets of Brooklyn. Truck Farm rolls around the borough, going to parties and demonstrations, probably making deliveries too. Can’t you picture it in a parade?

Long live Brooklyn, from its dumpster pools to garden trucks!

August 2, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

Book report: Victory Backyard Gardens (1942)

1942vbg_coverI’ve been waylaid in the backyard, working on my vegetable garden.  Some might say fruit and vegetable…there are tomatoes, tomatillos (thank you, Fox Point), cukes, peppers, and raspberries. Let ‘em say what they will.

A friend gave me a yardsale find: Victory Backyard Gardens: Simple Rules for Growing your own Vegetables (1942) by T.H. Everett and Edgar J. Clissold with an intro by Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard. He’s the one who initially told First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt that she shouldn’t plant a victory garden at the White House and later changed his tune.

Sixty-seven years later, the book gives a firsthand glimpse at how gardeners went about their task during World War II. Intensive cultivation was the key. This was the era of shortages. As gas rationing and scrap drives made Americans conserve, so they would make the most of their available land. Succession planting, minimal space between rows, etc.

Another gardener asked me what victory gardens looked like. Here’s a sample plan:1942vbg_planThis is a lot of food! I admit I had to look up what “catch crop” (a quick growing crop to plant before or after another main crop) and “hot bed” (a cold frame over a hot surface, like manure or a heating element) meant. And though fertilizer is considered a precious resource–see the bugs panel on the left–note the compost pile in one corner of the garden.

1942vbg_2don'tsFinally, one of the distinctions of WWII victory gardens is that they were considered to be part of America’s Civilian Defense program. I love how the cartoon on the right encourages gardeners to share their surplus. Shouldn’t making sure your neighbor has something to eat make for a more secure community?

July 21, 2009 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

Happy birthdays!

090704tires It’s the birthday of the USA, and it’s one year since I launched the Green Zone website.

090704cornfield090704cornwall090704mlkschoolgardenWhat a difference a year makes. We have a new president, and there’s a thriving vegetable garden on the grounds of the White House.

New gardens are sprouting everywhere! A brand-new community garden in Davis Park, a new garden in the works for the Davey Lopes Rec Center in South Providence, and a bunch of new school gardens here and there. And so many first-time backyard growers, too.

In the Summit neighborhood, there are flowerboxes full of vegetables on porches, and so many people have dug up their front lawns to plant ornamentals or grow their own food.

I spied this brand new neighborhood garden in Mt. Hope (3 top photos). Neighbors have taken over an empty lot. Guerrilla gardeners? Dig the ankle high dry-laid stone wall and the badminton court, not to mention the used-tire composter. And not far away is the MLK School Garden, which looks on target to harvest A LOT of delicious vegetables.

On this Independence Day, get independent.  In a pot or in a plot, grow your own food.

July 4, 2009 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Hang on!

090626greenmanI’ve got a lot of things to write about. . .soon. In the meantime, make like this green guy I saw hanging off the pea trellis in my backyard garden. Yup, he’s a man made of pea tendrils.

Tonight catch a screening of “Taking Root, the Vision of Wangari Maathai.” It’s the kick-off for a new community garden at the Davey Lopes Rec. Center in Providence.

The invitation says: “This powerful documentary film tells the inspiring story of  Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner who is internationally recognized for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.  Wangari founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya Africa with women whose simple act of planting trees and food gardens grew into a nationwide movement to protect human rights and defend democracy.”

The event is free, and there will be refreshments (home-made ginger beer, lemonade, farm-fresh salad, and apples).

Where: Davey Lopes Recreation Center, 227 Dudley St, Providence
When: 5:30pm

June 25, 2009 at 7:41 am 1 comment

Back to the 1970s: Recession gardens

090614crockettIt rains so much in Providence nowadays that I spend more time with the newspapers and online and less time in the garden. First the newspaper…

Yesterday, the Providence Journal ran a story on recession gardens. Southside Community Land Trust is expanding the Prairie Street Community Garden to accommodate more plots, and URI Master Gardener Coordinator Roseanne Sherry is hearing from more and more new gardeners this year. And the trend is national, with seed companies reporting record sales in 2009.

The last upsurge in food gardening took place during the economic crises of the 1970s.  In Rhode Island, Bristol legislator Gaetano Parella put forth four resolutions to make underused local, state, and federal land available for individual gardens in 1974. Reflecting on the victory gardens of WWII, Parella said there was “no reason why our citizens cannot do the same thing now to fight rising food costs.” A ProJo article from the same year described “Rhode Island’s growing army of backyard farmers.”

Now that you have read this newspaper article (online, perhaps), try googling “recession garden,” “recession gardens,” or “recession gardening.” Expect this term to start competing with victory garden/s/ing.

Speaking of googling, if you enter “Victory Garden,” the first entry to pop up is PBS’s television show. “The Victory Garden” began broadcasting in the mid-1970s; it was America’s first gardening program on tv. The goal was to encourage Americans to fight the recession by growing their own food. By using the name “Victory Garden,” the creators evoked nostalgia for the can-do spirit of wartime gardens. And I suppose that in 1975, nobody wanted to watch a show called “The Recession Garden.”

In 2009, we just might.

June 14, 2009 at 8:52 am 1 comment

The Gleaners 1: fruit foraging

090610gleanersToday’s NYTimes food section has a great story on fruit foraging. It’s set largely in California where there is more fruit to forage…lemons, peaches, plums, cherries…sigh.  And by foraging, the reporter is talking about harvesting fruit in public spaces–though what’s technically public space is up for interpretation.

The fruit foragers she profiles have varying approaches. Some develop networks of fruit tree owners who share with each other. Others act on impulse: grab a peach and wolf it down on the spot.

Here in Rhode Island, fruit foragers are more likely to seek out apple or cherry trees, or learn where where wild berries grow. The blueberry bush near the beach, the blackberry patch in the woods, etc. Someone told me about a bountiful stand of raspberry plants growing near a playing field at a local school, but I never could find it. I’ll have to take another ramble through the campus in a few weeks. Maybe this will be the year.

June 10, 2009 at 7:43 am 3 comments

Seed Swap Sunday!

090606seedsMy vacation from Prov became a vacation from blog. And then working in my garden became a vacation from the blog. To get back in the grind and on the grid, I want to let you know about:

Fox Point Community Garden seed swap
Sunday June 7th from 4-5:30pm
Gano Street Park, Providence

Says Christie, the garden coordinator: “come by and swap some seeds, share some advice, and get to know your fellow gardeners.”

Sounds good to me…I just dug up some irises.  Plus I have some volunteer tomatoes and dill, and some other flowers from seed to share. On the lookout for parsley, cilantro, and what have you. I don’t have a plot at Fox Point, but like many community gardens, the gardeners there are tremendously proud of their work, delighted to give tours, and happy to connect with other local gardeners. See you there!

June 6, 2009 at 9:53 am 1 comment

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