Categories
Urban Farming

Selecting the Best Location for a Garden

Planning

Before you ever put a spade in the soil or drop a seed in the ground, you need to sit down and think about what you want to achieve in your vegetable garden. First you need to consider whether you have the space and conditions to grow what you want. The most familiar is the traditional plot.

Plant Arrangement

cottage gardens are planted in small square plots

The whole area is cultivated and the plants are grown in rows.

Cottage gardens are planted in small square plots with neat edges and paths.

What to Look For

there should be nearby source of water

Pay attention to the surroundings when selecting a site.

The best site for a vegetable garden should incorporate the following: At least six hours of sunlight daily, good drainage and air circulation, and a level location with loose, rich soil. There should also be a nearby source of water, and ideally, convenient access to tool storage and equipment.

Draw a Map

make a site plan

You will need to survey the site and map out your yard.

On this map, you can indicate any obstacles and record the areas that receive the best sunlight. The site must certainly be free from underground utility lines. Utility companies will locate and stake out underground lines if you tell them you are digging a garden. Call your local utility companies to find out where you may have underground wiring or pipes. This number is normally located in the front of your phone book under “Call Before You Dig.”

To make a site plan, you’ll need a simple bound or loose-leaf notebook, camera, marker, wood stakes. First take a photograph of the site to map out the garden. Be sure to shoot the picture from a point that allows a full view of the entire yard. In your notebook, draw a design of the area and then mark the shady areas or any tree roots or slopes.

Follow the Sunshine

place garden based on amount of sunshine

The single most important factor in determining where to place a garden is the amount of sunshine the site will receive.

You should check the different patterns of light and shadow during a day.

Place wood stakes in the areas of shadow and then record the times when the site is fully covered with sunlight and when shadows appeared. If you don’t have at least six hours of sun over the whole garden, you may have to adjust the size, position or even location of your garden site.

Stay Away from the House

planting area should get plenty of sunlight

Make sure your planting area gets plenty of sunlight.

Be sure not to put the garden too close to your house, which will cast shadows; keep planting areas at least 10 feet away from the walls. Vegetables planted in the shade are less productive and may be more susceptible to disease and insect damage than planted in full sun.

Categories
Urban Farming

Why Start a School Garden?

From growing purple carrots to pretzel beans, school gardens can provide an engaging space for limitless learning opportunities. With youth becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural and cultivated world, it is more important than ever to create gardens as outdoor laboratories.

These gardens connect students to plants, soils, ecology, and a multitude of other concepts in a hands-on, experiential learning environment. School gardens help children discover where their food comes from and form the foundation for making healthier food choices. Gardens can nurture life skills in youth, including responsibility, problem solving, and critical thinking.

Gardens engage students by providing dynamic environments in which to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. Living laboratories where lessons are drawn from real-life experiences rather than textbook examples, gardens draw students in as active participants in the learning process. Science, math, language arts, health, and many other subjects can be introduced through hands-on experiential activities. School gardens can focus on fruit and vegetable production, building wildlife habitats, creating spaces for pollinators, or emphasizing countless themes from ABC gardens to storybook gardens. This publication will delve into the details of creating an edible garden.

TAKE NOTE

School gardens can grow important life skills in young people and nurture the development of:

  • Science achievement
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Science inquiry skills
  • Wonder and curiosity
  • Positive science attitudes
  • Respect
  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Working in groups
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Positive attitudes towards trying fruits and vegetables

Children can actively learn the following science skills in the garden:

  • Observing and classifying
  • Inferring and measuring
  • Predicting and organizing

School gardens are rich spaces to explore many science concepts:

  • Life cycles
  • Adaptations
  • Food webs
  • Decomposition
  • Diversity
  • Ecological principles

The Seeds of a Garden Project

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The idea for a school garden can sprout from anywhere: a teacher, a parent volunteer, a student, the principal, the groundskeeper, or the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) landscaping committee.

Wherever it begins, all of those described above should be included from the beginning when discussing a potential garden. These stakeholders will be the leaders of the garden team. Consider including other interested parties and organizations that provide diverse experience and talents, for example, community members and neighbors, Cooperative Extension, farmers, and parks and recreation or nature educators.

TAKE NOTE

Garden team members might include:

  • Teachers
  • Students
  • School administration
  • Parents
  • Child nutrition staff
  • Cafeteria staff
  • Custodians
  • Community members
  • Cooperative Extension (4-H, Family Consumer Science, Horticulture, Extension Master Gardeners)
  • Farmers
  • Community-based organizations (public gardens, nature centers, parks and recreation departments)

Initial questions for your garden team should include:

  • What are the goals or mission for the garden, and is a garden the best way to achieve them?
  • Who will provide leadership?
  • Do we have administration support? If not, how will we obtain this?
  • Who will serve on the steering committee?
  • What are the different functions of the committee?

Potential roles of garden team members include:

  • Garden building and maintenance
  • Fundraising and grant writing
  • Publicity and outreach
  • Education/curriculum connections
  • Volunteer recruitment and coordination

Building community support is essential to long-term garden sustainability. This can include a variety of individuals who can be members of the initial planning team and provide expertise and offer valuable strategies for success. They can provide garden resources and educational curricula that teachers, parents, and volunteers can use with children in the garden setting. Their familiarity with the local community can provide connections to a network of local community members who can help build partnerships and assist in obtaining gardening resources. Sustainability is an on-going process that requires tending much like a garden. The individuals who may help launch a garden may not be the same group that maintains it over time. Crafting the structure of a garden team allows individuals to come and go, with new members providing continued support.

The garden team should solicit approval from the school principal from the beginning. In some school districts, the county school administration will have to approve the project. The science curriculum consultant is often the point of contact for a school garden project. If the consultant sees that activities in the garden support and reinforce science learning objectives, approval is likely. When meeting with county education administration, we recommend bringing along examples of gardening curricula (see the list in the appendix) that can be used by teachers in the “outdoor learning laboratory.”

While it is tempting to take a shovel and start digging in immediately, time spent planning saves on frustration, time, and money during the installation and results in a more sustainable project. Visit other school gardens in the area, and talk to the leaders to find out what worked for them, mistakes they made, and suggestions they might have. Take the time to engage with the school community, including teachers, students, parents, and the neighbors who would like to use the garden.

TIP: School administrators and other garden visitors may need help making the connection between gardening and multidisciplinary learning. Learn to communicate the benefits in terms that resonate with them. Invite community leaders to visit the garden when it is alive with children learning. Offer them a tool and encourage them to get involved.

Planning the Garden

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The school garden design should reflect a thoughtful planning process whereby the garden team has agreed upon a set of goals and objectives that guide the design decisions.

The design process is the perfect opportunity to engage the wider school community stakeholders to address ideas or concerns about the project. The garden team should think about why the school wants to start a garden, how and by whom it will be used, and the ways in which the garden connects with curriculum and meets community needs. Priorities can include science curriculum, food production, nutrition, waste reduction, and learning where food comes from. Reaching consensus on the purpose of the garden and the learning outcomes allows everyone to move forward together with a clear understanding about why some opportunities are pursued and others are not.

TAKE NOTE

The garden is an ideal setting to explore the scientific method with children.

  • Ask questions (How do vines climb?)
  • Research information (Why do vines need to climb?)
  • Form hypotheses (I think vines climb to get more sunlight.)
  • Identify variables (Do all vines climb the same way?)
  • Interpret data (Some vines have tendrils, others have aerial roots, some vines don’t climb at all.)
  • Draw conclusions (Many vines have specific characteristics adapted for local conditions.)
  • Ask new questions (What would be the best vine for a fort?)

Create your garden with themed beds. The following themes have many exciting possibilities for including fun plants:

  • Alphabet garden
  • Butterfly/pollinator garden
  • Edible garden with vegetables and fruits
  • Feathered friends garden (bird habitat)
  • Herb garden
  • History garden
  • Literary garden
  • Native plantings
  • Pond garden
  • Storybook garden
  • Pizza garden

Be sure to solicit the input and participation of school maintenance professionals, and ask them to review the design to identify any potential maintenance challenges. They may also be able to assist with obtaining mulch, compost, and plants for the project.

To create garden ownership, meaning, and relevance for the students, include them in the planning process from the start. Think about ways to gather their ideas of what the garden could be. An open-ended visioning process, using student drawings and magazine pictures and looking through books, can empower them in the design process.

Strategies for Engaged Design

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School gardens are most likely to thrive when the entire school community feels a sense of ownership in the planning process.

The following suggestions are a few strategies for gathering ideas and building agreement between students, teachers, parents, administrators, neighbors, and other community members on the purpose of the garden, plants and elements to include, and ways the garden will be utilized.

GOALS AND STRATEGIES

Bring together a group of stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, and others) and have participants identify priorities for the garden. Each individual writes three goals and three strategies to achieve each goal. Have individuals gather in groups of three to five people, share their goals and strategies, and select three goals and strategies for the group to present to the whole audience. After capturing all of the ideas, use facilitation techniques to develop consensus (Figure 1).

DESCRIPTIVE WORDS

Individually show each participant a deliberately chosen set of images of gardens and garden features. Compile a list of positive descriptive adjectives and a matched set of negative adjectives. For each image, ask participants to select one word from matched adjectives (either positive or negative) that best reflects their reaction to the image. Compile reactions and present to participants. Ask participants to select their favorite image and share their reaction to the descriptive word with the group (Figure 2) (Sanoff, 2001).

WISH POEM

Based on the ideas of Henry Sanoff with NC State University’s College of Design, a wish poem helps identify needs and special concerns. Participants choose carefully preselected images and elements that show a variety of styles and forms they would like to see in the garden. They then give descriptions of how they envision their dream garden. Participants then share their favorite points from their wish poem with the larger group (Figure 3).

Figure 1. Developing goals and strategies.

Set of images for use in descriptive word activity.

Figure 2. Descriptive words.

Figure 3. Wish poem.

Tips

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From a courtyard bursting with blooms to a bounty of spring salad greens, there are many forms a school garden can take. Determine what kind of garden will be developed at the school, and sketch out a plan for the entire area, including all the components to form a master plan that can be built at once or in stages over time.

Raised beds are a common solution for the prevalence of poor soil at many schools. Raised beds are constructed and filled with a blend of compost and topsoil. Raised beds can be built from lumber (pine, cypress) or plastic timber. The choice is often dictated by what is available for free or at a minimal cost. Raised beds can be expensive, and you may want to consider other planting options in the beginning, such as starting seeds inside the classroom or using outdoor planters. Raised beds should be no more than 4 feet wide so that children can reach into the middle of the bed without stepping in it. For younger students, beds that are 3 feet wide may be more appropriate. Beds can be any length, but at most schools where space is limited they are generally 4–6 feet long.

Garden beds needn’t be boxy. They can follow the contour of the landscape or come in any shape or size depending on the space available. However, consider the maintenance challenges of mowing around a star shaped bed prior to installing one. Consider growing a “pizza garden” in the shape of a pizza pie! In this type of garden, the perimeter is a circle. Section the circle into “slices,” and grow pizza ingredients in each slice. For example, plant one slice with wheat, representing the pizza dough. Other slices could be planted with peppers, garlic, onions, and tomatoes.

TAKE NOTE

Consider including some of the features and structures below to improve functionality and use in the garden:

  • Shaded gathering spaces (council rings) to give instruction and collectively reflect or individual and teamwork/study areas
  • Hand washing areas
  • Food preparation areas
  • Walkways and space for circulation (minimum of 36 inches wide for wheelchair and wheelbarrow accessibility)
  • Cultivated spaces
    • Proper garden bed sizing (be sure small bodies can reach the plants)
    • Beds for annual vegetables, flowers, and herbs
    • Beds for perennial fruit, herbs, vegetables, and flowers
    • Accessible raised beds
    • Indoor-outdoor transitions
  • Wild spaces with native plants and hosts for beneficial insects
  • Spaces for play
  • Specific curriculum connection spaces (e.g., weather station, ecological wetland study area, butterfly garden, or soil profile bin)
  • Composting and vermicomposting areas
  • Tool shed
  • Benches

To optimize plant growth and development, the following features are must-haves:

  • Accessible to gardeners (close by, easy access)
  • Six to eight hours of sunlight
  • Potable and available water
  • Good drainage
  • Clear of trees and roots
  • Healthy soil (no contamination)

GARDEN LOCATION

Finding the best site for the garden can be challenging as plant soil and light needs must be met. On many school campuses, topsoil is a scarce resource, and most of the open, sunny ground is occupied by playfields. Courtyards and open sections between buildings are often the only sites to construct raised beds, but they may receive sunlight for only a small portion of the day. If any grading took place to level the ground when school construction began, the topsoil was likely removed, leaving the poor subsoil. Sometimes the only choice is to transform perennial plantings or “landscaped” areas into a space that is more engaging for learning. By involving students in selecting a suitable site, curricular topics like plant and habitat needs can be explored.

SOIL PREPARATION

Start small! Nothing nurtures confidence like success and nothing fizzles enthusiasm faster than an overly ambitious site full of weeds.

Begin with only as much as you can do joyfully, even if some of your volunteers quit or there are other unanticipated challenges.

Begin by removing unwanted vegetation. Before breaking ground, call NC One Call at 811 to have the location of underground utility lines marked. Call the school district to have the location of private utility lines and easements marked.

Once you have selected the potential site, have the soil tested before moving forward. April through November, soil can be tested for free through the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The rest of the year there is a minimal fee. Soil testing boxes can be obtained through the local Cooperative Extension center, and agriculture agents can help interpret the results and make recommendations for nutrient application and pH modifications. Many soils in North Carolina are acidic and need an alkaline modifier, usually lime. Review the Extension publication, Minimizing Risks of Soil Contaminants in Urban Gardens, to determine whether you should also have soil from the site tested for heavy metals through a private soil testing lab.

It is likely the soil has been compacted, so before constructing the beds, loosen the soil by ripping and tilling. Find a volunteer with a tractor or rototiller, because spading hard ground is likely to be difficult. You might consider planting a nitrogen fixing cover crop for a year or two to build soil structure prior to breaking ground.

PLANTS

A multitude of plants should be considered for growing. Flowers and vegetables can easily be grown in the spring and fall, and if a school is on a year-round calendar, many warm season crops can thrive. You might begin by choosing vegetables that are easy to grow, mature quickly, and can be eaten raw, such as radishes or leaf lettuces. Snacking on vegetables that the children grew themselves makes the experience meaningful and real. Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and figs are easy to grow and offer a delightful treat. Other plants such as cut flowers, ornamental perennials, shrubs, and trees offer a variety of opportunities for students to investigate throughout the seasons.

GARDEN INFRASTRUCTURE

There are supplies, tools, and equipment that will be needed to grow a garden, and there must be some means available to water the plants. Ensure that there is a potable water supply that is easily accessible. A school might consider installing a cistern to harvest rainwater for use on ornamental plantings. Reference the Extension publication, Water Quality of Rooftop Runoff: Implications for Residential Water Harvesting Systems for suggestions to optimize cistern use. Hoses and sprinklers are necessary to bring water to the garden space.

Large buckets are a great tool to engage young gardeners. Students can fill them with water and dunk watering cans into them for use in irrigating the crops. Shovels, hoes, rakes, and hand trowels will be necessary. Seeds and plants are necessary to grow a crop.

TAKE NOTE

Supplies and Tools

  • Hoes
  • Rakes
  • Trowels
  • Shovels
  • Watering cans
  • Hand cultivators
  • Buckets
  • Hoses
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Twine/string
  • Pruners/scissors
  • Seeds/seedlings/plants
  • Compost

TO FENCE OR NOT TO FENCE?

Fences can keep out rabbits, deer, stray dogs, and other unwanted visitors. Some gardens have a locked gate on the fence to also keep out unwelcome people. Other gardens are fenced, but leave the gate unlocked to welcome all. Some gardeners have found that the higher and stronger you build the fence, the more attractive it is for vandals to enter and cause destruction. Others have found that welcoming the community into the garden, with positive rules that promote clear expectations, serve to extend the sense of ownership, thereby protecting the garden. This may also increase awareness of and comfort with the garden, which may aid in the recruitment of new volunteers.

EDUCATIONAL SUPPLIES

The educational activities that take place in the school garden will require supplies, too. With classroom budgets pinched, donations become the normal means of acquisition. The school garden team, including 4-H Extension programs, may be a fertile ground for gathering what is needed to make a gardening educational activity succeed.

ACTIVITIES AND CURRICULUM INTEGRATION

Growing edible produce from seeds and plants may take as little as 30 to as many as 120 days. Planning for educational activities and care of plants will vary according to what is being grown. Many school calendars lend themselves to fall, spring, and summer plantings. Coordinate with the school schedule to ensure there is time for planting and harvest. Soil preparation, planting, watering, weeding, and pest management can all be “lessons” in and of themselves, with many curricula and garden lesson plans available to make those lessons even more meaningful. These same resources provide an abundance of other educational activities that can occur to reinforce science, math, health, and other subject matter that is the standard course of study for the grade levels involved in the project.

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

School class sizes vary, depending on the school district. Actively engaging and involving 30 children all at once in a 4-foot by 12-foot garden space is a challenge. One management strategy is to encourage volunteers to help on garden days and be responsible for small groups of students. Students can rotate through different gardening activities, or a class might be split into groups, with one half remaining inside and the other in the garden. Follow best practices for child safety, including ensuring that volunteers have had background checks or always teach with the teacher present. Volunteers can make the learning process better. Properly trained in the planned curricula or in appropriate educational activities, volunteers can engage three or four sets of children from the classroom sequentially in a valuable educational experience. The volunteer may be Extension staff, a parent volunteer, a science lead teacher, an Extension Master Gardener volunteer, or someone else who likes to garden and enjoys teaching children.

Volunteers will need training, and Extension can take the lead in this process. Train-the-trainer sessions can expose both teachers and volunteers to school gardening curricula that address a range of subject matter and give them the opportunity to try any educational activities themselves before engaging children in them.

Garden Maintenance

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School gardens in North Carolina are perfect for growing spring and fall gardens. Planted in early spring, cool-season vegetables will mature before school ends for summer break. This way the vegetables may be harvested, and low maintenance cover crops can be planted for the summer. Cool-season vegetables can be planted again in late August/early September as school begins and will be ready to eat before Thanksgiving. Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, turnips, radishes, collards, broccoli, onions, parsley, and dill grow wonderfully in cool weather. For more information, consult with your local horticulture/agriculture Extension agent for planting dates and recommendations. In addition, fruit like strawberries, figs, and blueberries can be planted and easily maintained. Harvesting vegetables that students have raised themselves, even some they’ve never tried before, and eating them in a fresh salad is a nutritional experience the children will not forget.

Consistent garden maintenance practices such as weeding, watering, harvesting, mulching, and planting can be challenging. With most students following a traditional school calendar, there is considerable time when the school is out of session with limited staff and student resources to provide continuous cultivation. Traditional school calendars have summer vacation during the prime summer gardening season. This not only makes it difficult to grow and harvest some of the most popular summer vegetables such as watermelons and sweet corn, but it raises the question of who will maintain the vegetable gardens during that time.

Summer vegetables planted just before the school year ends in May are likely to die or become overgrown with weeds before children return in the fall. Certainly, school administration, and most importantly the custodial staff, will not be pleased with a raised bed with weeds grown five feet tall. Year-round schools may be more flexible in what they may be able to grow and harvest but still have breaks that might be as long as six weeks.

Volunteers may be needed to tend the garden during school breaks. In return for maintaining the garden, the volunteers can be rewarded with produce and still leave enough for harvest when students return. Volunteers may consist of teachers, community members, students (K–16) and their families, 4-H or FFA clubs, businesses, faith-based groups, and other community organizations.

VANDALISM

Locate the garden in a highly visible space. Increased visibility and traffic can minimize vandalism. Engaging as many children as possible in the project and giving the entire school ownership of the garden helps to limit chance vandalism.

PESTS

Many school gardens are organic to limit children’s exposure to any harmful materials that might otherwise be used in a vegetable garden. Include flowers in and around the garden to encourage beneficial insects that will eat or parasitize garden pests. Beneficial insects provide obvious ecological lessons. Ecological relationships of plants to plant pathogens can also be a part of the discussion of pest management. The issue of pest management introduces the concept of environmental stewardship to students. Consider engaging students in researching and implementing ways to manage pests in their gardens as a way to grow problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Sustaining the Garden

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Keeping the garden going over time requires commitment from all partners in the project. Gardens need at least weekly attention during the school year.

Without the support of volunteers during both the school year and the summer, teachers can run out

of the energy needed to sustain the project. Providing ongoing training for teachers and volunteers and adequate garden resources should be a priority for ensuring the garden continues to serve its educational function. Rely on your garden team to continually recruit and manage volunteers for a strong, consistent cohort of people invested in the garden’s success.

Create a strategy to fund your garden’s long-term development and maintenance with both financial and in-kind resources. How will the garden be funded? Who will manage the money? Where will donations be deposited? Do you have a fiscal agent with a 501(c)(3) so that all donations are tax deductible? How much will it cost? Create a budget.

Schools can pursue youth garden grants given by local foundations, national nonprofit and for-profit organizations, or from government agencies. Local businesses may provide sponsorship in exchange for visibility of their businesses. Parent-teacher organizations may include an annual allocation for the school garden. Have a list of garden needs (materials, staffing, program supplies) available to give to potential donors when the opportunity arises. Send the list home with children; often parents are happy to donate old tools, leftover seeds, and more. For building projects, identify an experienced carpenter or builder in the group to organize workers. Identify those with plumbing, electrical, and irrigation knowledge and skills. Ask volunteers to bring needed tools including saws, hammers, posthole diggers, wheelbarrows, shovels, spades, pickaxes, digging bars, and spading forks. Parents who are not able to volunteer may be happy to purchase items for the garden. The list can also be distributed during school fundraisers; for example, create a “Giving Tree,” with individual needs written on separate colorful cards clipped to the tree. People can select the cards listing items they are willing to donate. Plant sales and silent auctions are additional fundraising options to sustain the garden over the long term.

DOCUMENTING SUCCESSES

Resources, both time and money, used to develop content, coordinate the work of others, and deliver educational programming have costs associated with them. Being able to document the benefits associated with these costs and to demonstrate that benefits exceed costs provides accountability to the individuals, organizations, and public entities that provide resources. Demonstrating positive changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations in children is a means of measuring positive outcomes from the project. Other outcome measures include things that happen because of the project. For example, because a child was involved in the project, his or her family started a vegetable garden at home, and they now enjoy the benefits of a healthier diet. If this sort of outcome is observed, it can be reported as a success story. Success stories have powerful effects on attitudes of administrators, funding agencies, and others in a position to influence whether the project goes forward.

TIP: Thank you notes, handwritten and delivered by children, with photos of fun learning in the garden are a powerful way to show appreciation.

Working With Volunteers

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Volunteers are amazing assets that will add value to a school garden program. They can provide expertise, labor, materials, and connections, and they can ensure success. Volunteers who encourage children to take full advantage of their outdoor gardening experience will enrich your school gardening program. Children are naturally inquisitive, and volunteers who encourage children to think for themselves are invaluable. There are many places to recruit volunteers: 4-H clubs, Extension Master Gardeners, local garden clubs, the PTSA, retired teachers, neighbors, and other community resources. Not all volunteers may want to work with children directly. Those who want to help gather resources or support the development of infrastructure are tremendously valuable, too. Hold frequent orientation and training sessions for volunteers. They can quickly feel very lost if released into the school setting without knowing school rules and policies, knowing teachers and other school personnel, or knowing where to turn for help. Be available to answer their questions and help with problem solving.

TAKE NOTE

Communication with volunteers is essential to your project’s success. Here are some tips for communicating with them:

  • Keep a good record of volunteers with up-to-date contact information.
  • Establish a standard method of communication that is delivered consistently, such as a LISTSERV.
  • Create a written schedule of events that is communicated to volunteers.
  • Hold regular volunteer meetings.
  • Provide constructive feedback to your volunteers.
  • Recognize and reward your volunteers.
  • Use social media to engage the community.

Summary

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School gardens enrich the lives of the children and adults who explore their spaces. A garden creates an accessible environment to investigate science, math, reading, writing, and history— bringing each of these subject areas to life. From understanding fractions in a pizza garden to writing rhymes about bugs or discovering how cotton makes a t-shirt, the garden is a context to experience these ideas hands-on and to contribute significantly to student success. Involve students in each step of the process whenever possible. A garden builds a community within a school and its surroundings, creating relationships and learning that last a lifetime.

Resources

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CURRICULUM RESOURCES

For a full list of curricular resources, visit North Carolina 4-H’s Grow For It program.

DOWN-TO-EARTH: GARDENING IN THE CLASSROOM

Down-to-Earth assists the helper in using gardening as a means to explore plant growth and development. Through this hands-on, minds-on program, youth learn the basics of botany, the gist of gardening, the essentials of ecology, and much more. Through gardening, youth stimulate their senses and cultivate science processes and life skills. By gathering data via the scientific method, youth feel a sense of pride and responsibility. This award-winning 88-page activity guide is an excellent resource for school enrichment programs, organized 4-H clubs, school-age childcare educators, after-school programs, nature centers, summer youth camps, scouts, and traditional school settings. Developed by North Carolina A&T University. (144 pages).

SOIL SOLUTIONS

The 4-H Soil Solutions enrichment curriculum is developed for a third grade audience interested in learning about plants and soils in a fun, interactive way. Aligned to meet the North Carolina science standards in plants and soils, the lessons draw from current research and knowledge from NC State’s crop science, horticulture, and soil science departments. Includes eight lessons covering the following topics: soil properties, soil and water relationships, soil and plant growth, composting, seed germination, pollination and flowers, and plant growth and development. This resource is available for free through your local Cooperative Extension center. Contact your 4-H or agriculture/horticulture Extension agent for more information.

STRAWBERRIES IN SCHOOLS

Schoolyard strawberry gardens provide rich spaces for students and teachers to explore concepts relevant to their curricula in a hands-on, experiential way. A strawberry garden, modeled on the annual hill production system used by farmers in the southeastern United States, fits neatly into the traditional-year calendar for elementary schools, with students beginning school in late August and finishing the year in June. This coincides with the southeastern strawberry production system in which strawberry plants are set into the ground between late September through early October, and the fruit is harvested in late April to early May. This growing schedule enables students to observe the life cycle of the strawberry plant throughout the school year.

JUNIOR MASTER GARDENER (JMG)
(Available through Texas A&M Cooperative Extension)

Provides teachers with the resources to teach students about the wonderful world of gardening. There are eight chapters with hands-on, novel learning experiences for youth. The curriculum also includes activity pages, worksheets, JMG rhythms, reading passages formatted for standardized tests, and much more. After studying life skills and careers, students may culminate their learning experience with service activities. This JMG curriculum is designed for students in grades 3 to 5 and 6 to 8.

GROWING CLASSROOM BY LIFELAB

Developed by the Life Lab Science Program, this award-winning second edition has been revised to meet current science standards. A wonderful collection of classic garden activities, The Growing Classroom is a teacher’s manual featuring step-by-step instructions and strategies for setting up a garden-based science program and outdoor classroom activities. Topics include planning a garden laboratory, facilitating investigative lessons on ecology and nutrition, and involving the community. Includes an expanded gardening resource section.

Categories
Urban Farming

10 Simple Tips On How To Start A Vegetable Garden

In this coronavirus crisis period, there is an obvious reason for people to start growing their own vegetable garden: food security. As supermarket shelves are, in some places, found empty, many people start questioning the security of food supplies they have always taken for granted.

Apart from food security, other benefits come along with growing one’s own vegetable garden. On one hand, growing a vegetable garden helps reduce the environmental impact associated with the fruits and vegetables bought in large supermarkets that have often traveled hundreds or thousands of kilometers. On the other hand, you can choose to adopt more eco-friendly production methods that rely less on heavily-polluting pesticides and synthetic chemicals.

There are health benefits too. With fruits and vegetables growing right next to you, odds are you (and your family) will eat them more often and perhaps start to follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association: 4-5 servings of each per day.

It’s not only about eating but also about what it takes to grow the garden itself. Pulling weeds, working and tilling the soil, planting, and digging makes you work out your muscles and burn calories. Considering mental-health, gardening is also a good stress-relieving mental exercise that reminds people of the natural cycles and the simplicity of small things. There’s also the pleasure of (literally) picking up the (fresh) fruits of your own work.

More than words, what counts is to get your hands dirty and start growing your own vegetable garden. Below we share 10 simple tips on how to make the gardening process more efficient and increase your chances of success.

1 – Read About Permaculture And Other Regenerative Agricultural Techniques

If you worry not only about growing your own food but also about how to do it outdoors and in a way that nurtures and protects the surrounding ecosystems, getting to know the foundational ideas behind permaculture is definitely useful.

Put simply, it is a way of managing agriculture that takes inspiration from the way nature itself is organized to find balance. Permaculture helps organize farming systems in a synergetic way as it builds up ecosystem resilience. It does so by, for instance, carefully observing and organizing the land, betting on crop-diversity and rotation, managing energy cycles efficiently or using waste as a by-product for different uses like organic humus via composting.

2 – Outline A Vegetable Gardening Plan

Wherever you are planning to start growing your vegetable garden there is most likely someone in your neighborhood or local area who is already doing or who has tried doing it before. Use this collective local knowledge.

Try to find out who these people are and ask them about what works best and what doesn’t work in the specific climate you are at. These tips are gold – they might avoid disappointing first tries and help you start a successful cycle that gives you the confidence to go further.

What grows best in your area, what is the sowing and harvesting time of each vegetable/fruit, how much you want to produce of each variety or if you are also producing to sell to others, are questions that need to be answered. Keep in mind some vegetables need to be planted in warmer seasons while others are more resistant to cold weather.

Remember some vegetables and fruits can be sown several times a year, allowing continuous vegetable production. If you prepare your gardening calendar with early-season crop seeds and late-season ones you will have new growings very month, maximize the use of space and leave less room for weeds to develop.

3 – Find A Place With Plenty Of Sunlight

Ideally, your vegetable garden should get between and 6 hours and 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. In very warm climates this exposure should be reduced and the crops should have some shade.

If you are making an indoor vegetable garden identify the warmer areas in your house and where there is more light and direct sunlight. You’ll be able to grow simple herbs using a small greenhouse.

4 – Check Your Soil Inclination And Water Sources

Site your vegetable garden close to a source of water so you can easily water it, remembering you can always use a water hose to reach a further distance. Automatic irrigation systems can be a good, next-level idea – just like installing water-saving containers that allow saving and storing rainwater to be used later in dry places.

Mind land inclination: if you grow plants at the bottom of a slope, it may become waterlogged and the roots will drown. Conversely, at the top of a slope, the land will dry out very quickly. Make sure you find a good balance.

5 – Get Your Seeds And Tools

You can order them from large retailers – which probably have online stores providing home delivery services. To start you will likely need a pair of gloves and tools such as a rake, a spading fork or a wheelbarrow (if you need to cut some grass and take it away) – and you can buy them all at the same store.

At the same time, visiting (or, in times like these, calling) a local cooperative (or a neighbor) might not only mean a quicker delivery but also the opportunity to ask those questions of what grows best we spoke of earlier. They might not sell these gardening tools but they might just lend you theirs.

5 – Assess And Prepare The Soil

It is easier for plants’ roots to infiltrate in soft, loamy, sandy soil. Once you figure out the size of your vegetable garden, which should be around 200 square feet (or 1.9sq meters) of garden space per person a year, take out unwanted weeds, till the soil and nurture it with organic matter like garden compost or worm humus fertilizer. This will give the soil, and therefore your seeds, an extra boost of nutrients, allowing your fruits and vegetables to become larger and tastier.

6 – Time To Plant Some Seeds

Now that you know where to place your vegetable garden to take advantage of variables like your local climate, sunlight or water irrigation it is time to plant some seeds.

Your seed packets should indicate your the top months to plant and to pick up your fruits and veggies. It should also give some instructions about how deep you should plant your seeds. Usually, the smallest seeds can be sprinkled right on the soil surface while “larger” seeds will need to be buried 2-5 centimeters down. Follow the seed packet or other online instructions on how to sow the seeds.

7 – Water Your Vegetable Garden

Water your vegetables once or twice a week rather than every day. It will force the roots to reach further down into de soil to seek moisture, improving the plant’s resilience. In the meantime, remove undesired weeds as they come up so they don’t start reproducing and getting stronger.

8 – Patiently Wait As Your Vegetable Garden Grows

There’s not much to do at this time – apart from reading some food recipes to start planning ahead how you will cook your growing fruits and veggies.

For those with an outdoor vegetable garden, it is important to keep the watering routine, clean undesirable weeds and check for any diseases or bugs. Keep checking your gardening calendar from time to time to check if the time to plant new crops is getting closer.

9 – Patiently Watch Your Garden Grow And Don’t Hurry

Growing takes time. On the surface, you will start seeing the first signs of development as, for instance, the first lettuces or tomato stems come out of the soil. It may look like a small start but hidden underneath the soil there’s a whole root structure developing.

Hurry not, that’s just the beginning – surface growth will take its own time. Don’t pick up the (still) small vegetables and fruits while they’re still green at the risk of losing flavor. Be patient, the time will come.

10 – Start Harvesting Your Vegetable Garden

The time has finally come! It is now time to collect the fruits and vegetables as they become mature. Read about the best methods to harvest each crop – some like scissors better, others can simply be hand-picked. If they are not perennials – like basil – you will need to repeat the process to have them growing again.

[Image credits to Shutterstock]See Consumption category

Categories
Urban Farming

How Growing Your Own Food Can Benefit the Planet and Why You Should Consider It

Buying food that is locally grown from your farmer’s market or local grocer is a great way to minimize your environmental impact, but growing your own food takes it to the next level.

The easiest way to imagine how growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint and benefits the planet is to think of food production and distribution in terms of an empty jar. The fuller the jar is, the greater the environmental impact, and the more components involved in producing your food and bringing your food to your plate.

Fossil Fuels and Fresh Produce

When you take into account the typical energy cost of transporting food to your local grocer, it is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is traveled before the food is consumed. This large-scale, long-distance transportation of food relies heavily on the energy from burning fossil fuels. In fact, it is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food. Why is this bad?

Of the many public health and environmental risks associated with burning fossil fuels, the most serious, in terms of its potentially irreversible consequences, is a phenomenon we have all become familiar with – climate change. As Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai states, “Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it’s the developed world that has precipitated global warming.”

Despite fossil fuels containing large amounts of energy,  they are rarely found in a pure, untouched state. More often than not, fossil fuels are refined and purified into a usable form, leaving excess waste material that requires disposal. The disposal and handling of this toxic waste take a large toll on the health of the environment, the health of wildlife, and the health of surrounding communities.

The Question of Pesticides and Fertilizer

Another factor to take into account is the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on conventionally grown crops. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of many pesticides that were not yet extensively researched and were later linked to cancer and other diseases. Now the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides carcinogenic. In fact, the latest EPA information on U.S. pesticide usage, from 2007, reports that over one billion tons of pesticides are used in the U.S. every year. This is 22 percent of the estimated 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides used worldwide.  Agricultural use accounted for 80 percent of pesticide use in the U.S.  If you are growing your own food, you can decide what goes on, or what doesn’t go on, your produce.

And Then There Were Monocultures 

Then there’s the concern of monocropping, or growing only one type of crop in a large area of land. This common farming practice used in the United States, and in other countries, relies on government support for commodity crop production (including wheat, corn, and soy) through the use of government subsidies. These farming practices reduce biodiversity, rely heavily on pesticides and commercial fertilizers, involve heavily mechanized farming practices, incorporate genetically engineered seeds, and result in a loss of soil nutrients. Growing your own food allows you to avoid all of the negative repercussions that come along with monocultures, while protecting your health and the environment’s health.

Other Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

As you avoid some of the negative sides to shopping for food – including a heavy dependence on fossil fuels, carcinogenic pesticides and fertilizers, and monocultures – growing your own food can give you something you may not have considered: exercise. Planting, weeding, watering, and caring for your plants will provide you with a workout that is meaningful.

If you have children, encourage them to join in, too. It can also be argued that growing your own food yields better-tasting food with a higher nutritional value. We’ve all had that friend with the organic garden and after trying one of their vegetables had the “Wow! That tastes so delicious and fresh!” reaction.

Additionally, growing your own food diversifies your palate and exposes your diet to healthier foods – especially if you choose to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. To learn more about the benefits of what we like to call “eating the rainbow,” check this out.

The last and maybe most important reason for some is growing your own food can shrink your grocery bill. If you cannot afford to buy organic food, you won’t have to put your money towards industries that rely on practices that pollute and harm the environment’s health (and human health). If you buy non-hybrid, heirloom species, you can save the seeds from the best producers, dry them, and use them for the next growing season. Learning to can, dry, or preserve your summer or fall harvest will allow you to feed yourself even when the growing season is over. If you live in a part of the world that becomes cold and snowy during the winter, check out this post on inexpensive ways to grow food in the winter!

Bringing it back to the empty jar analogy, the heaviest jar, or the jar with the largest carbon footprint, is the jar filled with the components needed for conventional methods of consuming food. By growing your own food, even if you just start with a few crops, you are contributing to a healthier you and a healthier planet.

To learn about 10 vegetables that you can grow all year round, click here. Happy gardening!

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

Categories
Urban Farming

Gardening Safety

Gardening is a great way to get physical activity and beautify your neighborhood.  However, you should protect yourself and take proper precautions when you are outside with tools, chemicals and insects. 

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 outdoor garden tool-related accidents each year. With proper safety techniques, you can stay away from the hospital and avoid becoming a statistic.

You should follow these precautions to avoid injuries, pain and discomfort:

WEAR GLOVES WHEN WORKING OUTSIDE

Wearing the proper gloves will not only reduce blistering but will also protect your skin from fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and fungus that live in the soil. When exposed to soil, even the smallest cut runs the risk of developing into a major hand infection. Leather gloves offer protection from thorny objects and poison ivy, snake, rodent and insect bites, and other skin irritants in the garden. Gloves also prevent sun damage and fingernail damage.

AVOID PROLONGED REPETITIVE MOTIONS

Unless you are used to to the activity, repetitive motions such as digging, raking, trimming hedges, pruning bushes or planting bulbs may cause skin, tendon or nerve irritation. Make sure your gardening activities are varied and tasks are rotated every 15 minutes with a brief rest in-between so that the same muscles are not used over and over again.

USE TOOLS, NOT YOUR HANDS

Use a hand shovel or rake rather than your hand for digging. Sharp objects and debris buried in the soil may cut you. If possible, remove objects from the work area before beginning the task to avoid causing damage to you or your tools.

USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB

Avoid accidents by using tools for their intended purposes. Other important tool tips:

  • When purchasing pruners, loppers or shears, look for brands featuring a safety lock.
  • Avoid products with form-fitting handles. These tools only fit one size of hand perfectly. If your hand is too large or too small, it will put more stress on your hand.
  • Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for the tool.
  • Keep sharp tools away from children at all times.
  • Always unplug electrical tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gasoline-powered tools when not in use. 

CHECK YOUR POSTURE

“Posture” refers not only to your whole body position but also to the angle of your wrist while using hand tools. Grip strength is at its maximum when the wrist is in a relaxed or neutral position. Studies have shown that people lose up to 25% of their grip strength when their wrist is bent.
 

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF INJURY

If you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop by applying direct pressure to the cut with a clean cloth. Visit the emergency room if:

  • Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes.
  • You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip or have trouble moving the finger.
  • You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status.
  • You are unable to thoroughly clean the wound by rinsing with a mild soap and plenty of clean water.

Remember to safely enjoy the health benefits of gardening by using your hands and tools wisely.

Categories
Urban Farming

Get Your Hands Dirty! Here are 10 Benefits of Gardening with Kids

Staying home more means more time for at-home projects we’ve always wanted to do but never felt like we had time for. For many people that means it’s time to get dirty! Home gardening is experiencing a big boom right now.

We love gardening, not only because it allows you to grow your own food, but it’s a great way to get kids outside and give them a better sense of where their food comes from.

Make gardening even more fun for kids by planting a “themed” garden, like a rainbow garden that includes vegetables that will come up in all the colors of the rainbow, a pizza garden that includes veggies your family likes to include on pizza, or a salsa garden that includes everything you need to make your own!

Here are 10 reasons to garden with kids:

1. Gardening engages all five senses

How does that dirt feel against your hands? Add water. Now what does it feel like? How does that tomato plant smell? How does that strawberry taste right off the vine? Can you hear that crunch from that carrot? Incorporating sensory exploration is easy in the garden!

2. Gardening encourages healthy eating

Even the pickiest eaters won’t be able to resist trying veggies they’ve grown themselves! Try it straight out of the garden or cook it together in the kitchen — you might find a new favorite food!

3. Gardening enhances fine motor development

Gardening encourages the development of fine motor skills every step of the way, from picking up tiny seeds to gently caring for seedlings and plants.

4. Gardening is science

What makes leaves green? Why do plants need sunlight to thrive? Why do plants grow better in loamy soil than clay? Explore science together while gardening — more proof learning can be fun!

5. Gardening is a great family activity

Although gardening can definitely be a lot of work, doing it together as a family makes it fun. It’s a great time to have conversations without electronics getting in the way.

6. Gardening teaches responsibility

Plants require a lot of attention. Learning how to care for the plants properly — from watering to weeding — is a great lesson in responsibility for kids.

7. Gardening helps kids learn to plan and organize

Some plants grow better at certain times of the year. Others do well next to another specific plant. Some grow nicely in rows, while others, like wildflower seeds, can be sprinkled around. Gardening is an opportunity to chat with your kids about research and planning.

8. Gardening creates environmental stewards

Kids who understand how much time, effort, and care goes into growing food will understand how important farmers are, and why it’s important to take care of our Earth. 

9. Gardening develops math skills

How far apart should seeds be planted? How many does that mean you can plant in each row? How much water does each potted planter need? How many hours of sunlight will plants get each day? Math is a big part of gardening!

10. Gardening teaches patience

The time it takes to grow a seed to harvesting your veggies takes weeks, if not months! Gardening is all about patience … and it’s always worth the wait!

Kara Murphy is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Erie, Pa.

Categories
Urban Farming

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE GARDENING & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

There’s no getting around it. The world is showing more signs of wear and tear, whether it’s global warming or other natural catastrophes. As part of a growing movement of going ‘green,’ and living healthier lives, many people have turned away from the grocery stores and organic markets, and have decided to grow their own vegetables at home.

This movement towards ‘sustainable gardening,’ not only reduces our carbon footprint, but it helps to promote healthier eating habits, as the fruits and vegetables you grow at home are free of pesticides and other preservatives commonly used in mass production.

So what is sustainable gardening, and why is it so important to the future of our world?Contentsshow

What Is Sustainable Gardening?

Sustainable gardening, also known as self-sufficient gardening, is a fancy term for growing fruits, vegetables, grass and shrubs, in a manner that does not use harmful pesticides, and promotes a continuous harvest that does not damage the environment. In the old agrarian days, this was not a novel concept, as many families grew their own food in ways that were in harmony with nature.

But today, it takes a little bit of effort and focuses to practice sustainable gardening, and with the bustle of everyday life, time is at a premium. But the truth is, sustainable gardening is not a difficult thing to start. All you need is the initiative, a few simple gardening tools, seeds, soil, and determination. If you’re growing fruits and vegetables, you need to know where you want to grow it and what kind of food you want to grow.

Sustainable gardening is gardening that is self-replicating, meaning you can renew your resources without significantly affecting future generations from doing the same thing in the same location. In other words, a garden that yields fruits and vegetables over and over ‘sustains’ itself by natural means such as seeds, water, and sunlight. Other examples of effective sustainable gardening methods include the recycling of garden waste into compost that can be used in the soil and the use of native plants that are more adaptable to the natural environment.

Why It’s Important For the Future?

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Sustainable gardening is just one aspect of a ‘green’ revolution with the goal of reducing the pollution and chemical hazards associated with many of today’s activities, including the production of food and the operation of motor vehicles and factories. By using only natural resources, and materials that are biodegradable, sustainable gardening gives hope to a future generation by showing them that growing food or creating a new garden does not have to mean harming the environment through the use of pesticides and chemicals.

This is important because it establishes the kind of mindset necessary to protect the environment in the future, and to leave the next generation the building blocks to change how we use natural resources. To continue harvesting the fruits of the earth, everyone has to pitch in to make sure the earth is not damaged to the extent that it can no longer provide sustenance in the future.

Categories
Urban Farming

How to Start a Permaculture Garden

If you are interested in living close to nature, a great place to start is by growing your own vegetables, fruit, and herbs. Permaculture gardening is an excellent way to grow your own food and use what nature gives you to make it happen.

Permaculture gardening means “permanent agriculture,” and it is defined as working with natural forces—the wind, sun, and rain—to provide food, shelter, water, and everything else your garden needs besides plants and seeds. And the best part is that it’s all done with the least amount of labor and without destroying the land. Simply put, permaculture gardening is a holistic approach to gardening.

What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a way to live sustainably by working with nature to grow our food. In this way, you will care for the Earth, care for people, and use your fair share while sharing fairly with others. There are 12 guiding principles, also called rules of living or design rules, that permaculture gardeners follow:

  1. Observe and interact: see what’s really important in life
  2. Catch and store energy: use abundant renewable energy sources
  3. Obtain a yield: harvest tangible and intangible results at the right time for sustainability
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: evaluate choices, failures, and successes
  5. Use and value renewables: turn to renewable packaging wherever possible
  6. Produce no waste: minimize trash and buy wisely
  7. Design from patterns to details: stand back, observe nature, fill in details when planning
  8. Integrate, don’t segregate: plants and people should work together for best results
  9. Use small, slow solutions: use local resources to solve problems
  10. Use and value diversity: focus on inclusion
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: to result in diversity
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: accept the inevitable

Design Your Permaculture Garden

The best place to start with any garden is to decide its size and plan it with a good design. If you design before you start, you will have something concrete to build from rather than just planting on a whim and picking plants that may or may not do well together and may or may not work well within a permaculture garden.

One of the guiding principles of a permaculture garden is to replicate patterns of growth and harvesting that occur naturally. Any garden designed with this in mind is a permaculture garden. Decide your design based on how much you intend to use those natural elements in your garden.

Then decide if you want to plant a traditional garden with just a few permaculture design features thrown in or if you want a complete, top-to-bottom, stacked permaculture garden. Vital features of permaculture gardening are as follows:

Soil Preservation

How are you going to protect your soil? Here are methods to consider:

  • Use mulch or ground cover crops to protect the soil and help keep it in place.
  • Use other cover crops, like beans or peas, to protect your soil. Cover crops will keep the soil in place and, before they seed, you can cut them down and let them stay there to decompose and feed your soil.
  • Opt for no-dig gardening. Tilling the soil disturbs the structure of your dirt and exposes lower layers of your soil to sunlight. That can destroy very beneficial nutrients and living creatures that stay beneath the topsoil, such as earthworms, which are beneficial to your garden. Earthworms disturb little but manage to keep the soil broken up enough to allow for water to get to your plant roots.
  • Plant garden beds so you never have to step inside of them to harvest. Stepping on the soil compacts it and prevents air and water from getting to the roots of your plants.
  • Give your soil a good health check before you start planting. If you have dry soil or soil that has little or no organic contact, you will need to need to build it up before you start.
  • Compost your soil but do so without turning the soil any more than absolutely necessary. 
using mulch in a permaculture garden
Mulch in a permaculture garden  The Spruce / K. Dave

Plant Stacking

Take a walk through the forest and you will see a prime example of plant stacking. Trees are the top layer, shrubs grow below them, then herbaceous plants, and finally ground covers. Vines grow up through the mix. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing—by stacking the plants, you can utilize your space more efficiently and produce more within limited space. Plant stacking also makes maximum use of the natural elements, such as sun and water, and provides protection from the wind.

Succession Planting

Mother Nature grows plants to replace others as they die off. This protects the soil and gives an unending supply of produce. Organize your permaculture garden so that you are planting new plants when the existing ones are at the end of their production cycle. You will always keep plants growing, protecting your soil, and you will spend less time waiting for the next crops to come in.

succession planting
Succession planting  The Spruce / K. Dave

Companion Planting

It’s important to choose crops that work together in nature. You can plant crops together that stimulate plant growth, make your plants more resistant to pests and disease, hide other plants from pests, and/or attract beneficial insects such as pollinators or beneficial predator insects that eat the pests. 

companion planting
Companion planting  The Spruce / K. Dave

Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

When you start designing a permaculture garden, it can be overwhelming if you agonize over every little detail. A good way to avoid that analysis paralysis is to just break your project down into smaller parts and handle them one piece at a time. Use the 12 guiding principles can help to inform your choices. Start with the smaller tasks first and congratulate yourself as you finish them! 

Here are some other things to keep in mind when planting a permaculture garden:

  • Look at the big picture and design your overall garden—but when it comes to actually building your garden, tackle one small piece at a time.
  • Know from the very beginning how big you want your permaculture garden to be. You may have a huge space but do you really want to use all of it? One of the benefits of permaculture gardens is that they take much less maintenance than a traditional garden because you are letting nature do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
  • Take a look at the sun and shade requirements for the plants you want to grow. Consider access to water and how much wind your garden is subjected to when designing your garden.
  • Don’t start your garden in the middle of a growing season. The best times to plant are fall and spring.
  • Construct the largest pieces of your garden first. If you are using a stacked plant design, plant your trees first, make sure they have a good water source, then plant the progressively smaller plants. Ground covers should go in last.

Summer is a good time to plan out your permaculture garden for starting it in the fall. Use these guiding principles to launch your plans, and you are on your way to a successful, easy-to-maintain garden that minimizes the effects of gardening on nature itself.

Categories
Urban Farming

Importance of Urban Farming

Urban agriculture or commonly known as urban farming, refers to growing plants and rearing animals that produce food within a city or town. It also comprises processing and then distributing that produce throughout the city.

Because of the technological upgrade, you can grow food in places where it was previously difficult or nearly impossible. Urban farms can be either traditional small outdoor community gardens or modern vertical farms in urban design. These futuristic farms can be designed in various ways, but most of them have rows of racks lined with plants rooted in nutrient-rich soil, water or just air.

The Light

The PAR light spectrum is the typical light in an Urban Farming installation.
The specific PAR light in an urban farming installation comes with a typical colored brightness

In urban farming, plants are grown with the help of PAR or photo synthetically active radiation. As all lights are not suitable for plants, PAR represents the amount of light that can help in photosynthesis. Usually, PAR ranges from 400 to 700 nm of light. Monitoring the PAR is important as to ensure whether the plants are getting the required light. Now you can do smart farming without the unpredictable weather conditions.

Social Aspects

In fact, the Resource Centre for Urban Agriculture & Forestry (RUAF) has recognized the importance of urban farming in poverty-affected areas, and has collaborated with NGOs and experts to educate the communities about the advantages of urban farming.

From simple community vegetable gardens to providing healthy food to consumers in the nearby areas, with smart technology, urban farming can go anywhere. In metropolitan cities and areas where sufficient space is a luxury, urban farming can be a boon. In fact, at Farmlyplace, the urban farms have high density plants which require very limited space.

Real World Examples

There are some incredible examples of urban farming in parts of Europe and Asia.  At the Prinzessinnengarten in Kreuzberg, near the Berlin Wall, is an urban farm that grows a wide range of vegetables and fruits in rice sacks, recycled Tetra packs and plastic crates.

Another successful case is of Sky Greens in Singapore, which is like a plant skyscraper. As Singapore is one of the most densely populated country in the world, it has little room available for farming. Sky Greens tackled this problem by growing vegetables on a tall, narrow A frame structure. The plants rotate slowly, so that each crate gets sufficient exposure to sunlight.

Moreover, you can grow more than just fruits and vegetables in urban farms. For instance, Urban Organics  specializes in growing three varieties of kale, two varieties of Swiss chard, Italian parsley, and cilantro. It also uses the same water to raise Atlantic salmon in a closed-loop system called aquaponics. Fish waste, in turn, is utilized for fertilizing the plants which filter the water before it goes into the planters.

Since its opening in 2014, Urban Organics has been serving food to people in the food deserts of the Twin Cities. In fact, The Guardian listed Urban Organics as one of the ten most innovative urban farming projects in the world.

Now that you know about urban farming, let’s take a look at the benefits of urban farming.

Benefits of Urban Farming

1. Enhanced Food Security

We all know the health benefits of organic products, but unfortunately, all families can’t afford organic food. Simply put, they lack food security.

Food security means having access to a sufficient amount of sustainable food for you and your family. This is a grave concern for a lot of families all across the globe. But urban farming is a feasible solution to this problem.

 Producing your own food, growing your own crops and herbs on undeveloped land is one way that can help the urban poor in earning more money. In fact, urban farmers can trade their harvest and keep the rest for themselves.

2. Growing communities

people of the neighborhood, family, friends or sometimes even strangers work together

According to a study by University of Pennsylvania, areas where urban gardens are established, not only result in aesthetic upgrade but also reduces crime.

In addition, as per Vox.com, communal urban gardens tend to increase social networks and bonds in the localities.

Urban Farming is an interesting way to bring people together, to establish a sense of community among isolated groups of the population. For example, when the people of the neighborhood, family, friends or sometimes even strangers when to work together to keep the plants alive in a community garden, it develops a sense of belongingness in the community.

3. Efficient use of land

With growing population and massive urbanization, fertile lands are diminishing every day. Urban farming is a probable solution for efficiently using the land available for feeding people. For instance, rooftop gardens not only take minimal space but also provide tones of fresh produce. Moreover, this is a kind of space that would otherwise go waste. In fact, vertical gardens can be set up anywhere you like, including indoors.

The future of agriculture: Urban Farming

At first, it may seem that urban farming initiatives in small communities would hardly have any major impact. On the contrary, according to a report by the Arizona State University, if an urban farming initiative was implemented in every global city, the urban agricultural industry could produce up to 180 million metric tons of food annually. This is a massive figure, as its approximately equal to the 10% of earth’s agriculture output.

In addition, urban farming also helps in financial savings from decreased stormwater runoff, urban heat-island effect, pest control, energy cost and could potentially amount to $ 160 billion every year.

With so many positive results, it makes sense why researchers and environmentalists are encouraging urban farming and making the people aware about the major global, economic, social and environmental issues.

Conclusion

 To minimize the carbon footprint of mass production and distribution, urban farming is a sure shot solution. It also seeks to make nutritious food affordable and accessible to everyone around.

In recent years, not only consumers are more conscious about how their food is produced but also about its impact on the environment. At Farmlyplace, we produce fresh vegetables at unused open spaces such as the parking lot or the rooftop of a building. Since the lengthy processes of transportation, cooling and storage along with carbon footprint are completely eliminated, Farmlyplace is an example of sustainable food production in cities.

With friendly and competent service, we provide fresh kitchen herbs and high-quality, healthy products that are produced without genetic engineering. So enjoy a sustainable life with Farmlyplace(s). For more information on healthy living, you can visit us here.

Categories
Urban Farming

7 Reasons to Start a Garden

A beautiful garden isn’t just something to be admired in glossy magazines. There are solid reasons to start a garden, including the health benefits of gardening — from physical activity (calorie burn!) to the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. And there are emotional benefits, such as connecting with your kids when you garden as a family and the joy of watching a seed grow into a plant from your efforts.

Jess Bloomer, lead garden educator at the Edible Schoolyard at Samuel J. Green Charter School in New Orleans, has been guiding urban elementary school children through the process of gardening as part of their school curriculum. “For many of our students, the gardens may be their first focused and immersed encounter with the natural world,” Bloomer says. “In the garden, they are exposed to the interconnectedness of all living things, and they get a chance to create a personal relationship with plants, animals, and nature in general.”

Read on about all the benefits of gardening, and you’ll soon be ready to cultivate your green thumb. 

Benefits of Gardening

Here are some fabulous reasons to start a garden for yourself, your family, or your community: 

  • Gardening burns calories. Light gardening burns about 330 calories an hour. Because gardening is a physical activity, increase your workload slowly to avoid aches and pains.
  • You’ll try new tastes. In a 12-week pilot project involving fourth- and sixth-graders in gardening activities during a summer camp, researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found an increase in enjoyment of and willingness to try new fruits and vegetables. “We have countless examples of students who would refuse to try vegetables in most circumstances who take a risk and try a vegetable in the garden that they have helped to grow,” says Bloomer, who recently worked with a sixth-grade class to grow kale, harvest it, and make kale chips for snacks. (Kale chips are now a favorite snack at the school.) 
  • Your family will bond. According to a study published in the Journal of Community Health, when researchers followed 42 families involved in learning organic gardening techniques in a community garden, they found that in addition to the nutritional health benefits of gardening (participants reported eating more vegetables), families said they felt more united and bonded. The researchers theorized that time spent working together in the garden increased family unity. “The garden is a safe place for families,” says Bloomer, who is certified in permaculture design.
  • Kids learn responsibility. Gardening tasks can be delegated according to age and ability, giving even the littlest members of your family a sense of ownership and competence. “Children see firsthand that if they plant a seed, water, and care for it, it will grow into a plant that can provide them food,” says Bloomer. “That is magical.” Also, she points out that the care of plants and the observation of animals in the gardens help children develop a sense of responsibility for things that are smaller and dependent on them. 
  • Gardens nurture learning. One of the benefits of gardens is that they spur curiosity and learning, providing a real-world classroom to study life science in action. As an adult, you’ll be on a learning curve if you’ve never gardened before — and so will your children. Bloomer says that this hands-on learning environment supports curiosity, research, and collaborative problem solving. Gardens also lead to more learning in the kitchen as you and your family try out new recipes with your home-grown foods.
  • Gardens are great conversation starters. Once family, friends, and neighbors find out you’re gardening, you’ll be surprised how easily conversation flows as you talk about the food you’re growing, how you cook it, and how you can handle problems such as weed removal and area wildlife (“How do you keep the deer out of your garden?”). All this helps build community, says Bloomer. 
  • Gardening eases stress. A small study from Wageningen University and Research Center in The Netherlands comparing the stress-relieving impact of reading with that of gardening found that gardening had a physiologically soothing effect on 30 adult participants. 

How to Start a Garden

If you’ve never gardened before, try this step-by-step guide to get you on your way: 

  • Start small. True garden newbies might want to start with gardening in pots. Herbs and many vegetables can flourish in a potted garden with sunlight and enough water. (Just remember that pots can dry out quickly.) Also, advises David Ellis, an avid gardener and communications director for the American Horticultural Society, “Give yourself room for growth.” The society recently published a beginner’s guide to vegetable gardening called Homegrown Harvest: A Season-by-Season Guide to a Sustainable Kitchen Garden.
  • Stake your turf. Find a location that gets six to eight hours of sun a day. Plan your garden so that you have enough room for the plants you want to grow. Gardening recommendations differ based on where you are in the country, the type of soil you have, and the amount of natural resources, such as sunlight and water, available in your garden. Contact your local agricultural extension office or garden store to find out more about your specific area.
  • Use winter to plan and do research. Once you’ve done your research, in the early spring you can order seeds to start indoors. By March or April, you can order the plants you’ve planned for.
  • Research pest management. “Our philosophy is an integrated pest management approach, avoiding pesticides unless there isn’t any other approach,” says Ellis. Look for disease-resistant plants and learn about strategies such as crop rotation and bacterial pesticides to control pests.
  • Research rain barrels and composting. Both will allow you to develop resources such as water and soil-enriching nutrients in your own yard.
  • Pick rewarding plants. Ellis recommends starting your garden with relatively easy-to-grow plants such as radishes, carrots, sugar peas, snap peas, and salad green mixes. After you and your family enjoy success with those, you can add other plants to your repertoire.

With all the evidence of the benefits of gardening, it’s time for you and your family to get your hands dirty.

Healthy Living