With the majority of the US population living in urban areas, there has been a growing interest in urban agriculture and the ability to grow food in small spaces. From rooftop farms, to balcony gardens, to living walls, and vertical growing towers, there is no end to the innovation. Especially in concrete jungles, designing green, lush areas of productivity and life are not only beneficial in terms of mitigating urban heat, but they serve to feed both body and spirit. In addition, producing more food in an urban area cuts down on the transportation miles from farm to table, one of the most significant ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint.
While we still have a lot of elbow room and open land in Montana, not everyone has a backyard or land on which to grow. Joining a community garden, helping friends with their gardens or simply buying from local farmers are all great options for the apartment/condo dweller. However, if you still want the experience of growing some of your own food, even if on a small scale, there are so many options with container gardening.
In my video today, I give you a tour of a balcony garden at a client's place. This is a project that we started in 2013 and has evolved into a beautiful and productive growing space.
Back in 2013, the balcony was a stark, uninspiring, hot, south-facing area. Needless to say, it was not a very pleasant place to relax, especially during the summer.
Now it has become a pleasant and productive example of what’s possible in a small space. Not only is my client able to grow annuals like peas, greens, herbs, carrots, tomatoes, and edible flowers, we have also been successful with growing grapes and blueberries in containers, even here in Montana.
So click on the video below to get more of an up close tour! Let me know if you have any questions by posting in the comments below. Or, if you have any experience with container gardening, I would love it if you shared your successes, challenges and photos!
Water is life - this has been a common theme over the past few months and one that we understand inherently as growers of food. Catching and Storing Energy is one of the principles of permaculture and setting up systems on our property that can catch and store water are some of the most important design choices that we can make.
With the rain that we've been having, I took this quick video to show you one of our rainwater harvesting systems in action. The system itself is still unfinished but it gives you a good idea of how to harness this precious and important resource.
How do you harvest rainwater on your property? I would love it if you shared the techniques you use in the comments below or if you have any questions about our system, please let me know!
Here's a short video to show you our gutter to swale system in action. Back in May, during our Water in the Landscape Workshop, participants constructed a swale on Broken Ground's property to collect water both from the gutter and graywater from our washing machine. I'm happy to report that the system is functioning beautifully! On Monday, with our day-long rain event in Bozeman, I donned my muck boots and rain jacket and shot this short video to show you how it's working.
Swales are ditches that are dug on contour and a great way to slow, spread, sink and store water in your landscape. Check out the video below and let me know what you think!
I hope you're enjoying fresh and delicious food from your garden! We're taking a break from potlucks in August but stay tuned for a date in late September as well as our popular and fun Soap Making Workshop on September 26th!
Hot enough for you? It’s always such a shock to go from our rainy and cold spring into a hot and dry summer. Besides very occasional sprinklings of rain, I don’t expect to see much water dropping from the sky for the next six weeks.
If you haven’t already, this is the time to make sure that all the soil between your plants is well mulched (with leaves or straw). This will go a long way in terms of maintaining consistent soil moisture, conserving water, and keeping your plants happy.
Even if you’re mulching, July and August in our climate always translate into a challenging time for your garden in terms of water usage.
What if I told you that there’s a way to water your garden that can save you time, water and money? In my video below I describe a super-efficient irrigation method that was around long before we were messing with soaker hoses, spaghetti tubing, spray emitters and all the other hardware that comes with irrigating a garden. It's definitely a simple and inexpensive method that you might want to implement in portions of your garden this year or next!
So click on the video below to learn more!
It's been awhile since my last video series or update. As usual, I got sucked into the spring growing season with bed prep, pond installation, babying seedlings, weeding, and trying to save my plants from the afternoon hailstorms.
So, how's your garden growing? Needless to say, with all the rain that we've been having, my broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seedlings look pretty ragged. The slugs have been thanking me for planting such delicious morsels of food for their enjoyment. The seedlings were planted during that week when it was blowing incessantly in Bozeman. (I know, bad idea). It's the wind, along with pretty cool temperatures, that likely stressed out the plants, making them more susceptible to pests like slugs. Lesson learned...I haven't yet gone the route of putting out shallow bowls of beer to lure the slugs to their inebriated death but I am close. My other option is to run the ducks through that area of the garden but they aren't interested in staying penned up in that spot. I will definitely design ducks into the spring garden equation next year but right now, I don't have time to chase domestic fowl around my yard. I am hoping that these next few days of warmer, drier weather will take care of the slug problem.
There are many benefits to the rain, of course. The rain barrel that is connected to the chicken house has meant that I have barely had to use our well water to refresh the chickens'/ducks' water this season. It also means that our pond gets a fresh infusion of rainwater, not only from above, but from the gutter system off the roof of our house that feeds it. Any additional water then overflows into my garden. It also means that the plants in our greenhouse have been watered with mostly rainwater this season.
In addition, my soil is banking that moisture for the dry July and August months. I also have a variety of mushrooms popping up in the garden. I inoculated the soil with some of them last year but others have come in with the mulch that my arborcare friend drops off every spring.
And of course, the plants that are thriving in my cold climate garden are probably some of the ones that are thriving in yours – chives, garlic, rhubarb, mint, my volunteer red and green orach patch, arugula, lettuce and peas....oh, and dandelions of course. If we could survive on only these, I would be done for the season. But alas, I am too obsessed with growing tomatoes so I am forced to forge ahead.
In fact, most of my warm season garden still isn't in. As much as I like to waste my time worrying, it's not yet time to panic. June 1st is typically my schedule for having my annual garden planted. However, like a good permaculture practitioner, I'm observing the weather, checking the soil to make sure it's not too wet for planting, and understanding that conditions may be different this year. Having a date is a good guideline but it should be balanced with observation. I have found that putting in plants like tomatoes, for example, when it's still wet, cool, and rainy, only sets them back in their attempt to get established. The only tomatoes that I have planted are surrounded by wall-o-waters, those mini greenhouses that add a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to your garden space.
All of my other tomato seedlings are looking ragged and yellowing, desperately wanting to move out of their cramped 4-inch pots and into the welcoming soil. I used to get worried about the horrible state of my seedlings at this time of year. Now, with enough experience, I know that they will perk up, turn green and get happy once I put them in the warm soil. I've also changed the date that I seed them in the early spring so that they aren't busting at the seams before I can put them in the ground.
So that's the plan for this weekend provided that the forecast looks decent - tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground (to be covered by frost cloth as the evening temperatures are still low) and a second succession of carrots.
Next on the list, are my squash and cucumbers starts (I will also seed some of these) and my lemon, lime and sweet basil seedlings. I hope to get these in next week!
How's your garden growing? Do you have any issues, pests, challenges? Have you had some great successes already this season? Please share these in the comments below!
My best to you this growing season and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need help this season!
P.S. Save the date for the June Permaculture Potluck on Wednesday, June 17 from 7 -9pm! Also don't forget about Broken Ground's final workshop of the spring season, Creating a Food Forest, on Saturday, June 20th from 10am to 1pm! Click here for more info.