Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category


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Bell peppers ripening, cayennes ready for picking, and swiss chard bigger than my hand, on our balcony.

I heart Katherine Gustafson. She’s a regular writer at change.org’s Sustainable Food blog. Her style and topics get me fired up every time. Yesterday she posted an article on an essay by a guy named Richard Keller, who is editor of a trade magazine called AgProfessional (“a magazine dedicated to serving ag retailers, crop consultants, and farm managers”) in which he harshly criticizes advocates of local, sustainable eating/growing as “the new hippies”, “upper-class individuals who hire gardener-entrepreneurs to turn their yards into food gardens”, and “city dwellers who are doing some type of communal gardens, rooftop gardens, patio gardens, etc., who weren’t growing any of their food a few years ago. Now, it’s a way to impress your friends and be hip.”

Retorts Katherine, “Here I was thinking my lack of designer duds and swanky apartment was limiting my hipness factor. I guess if I just grow a few more rooftop tomatoes, my popularity is sure to spike.” (more…)

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I’m being seduced by summer. In spite of my complaints of sweaty walks to the metro station and the muggy haze over the city, I find warm nights on the balcony irresistible. The Monkey bought a wonderful bistro table and chairs, so we can eat dinner there, and drink wine in the dusk that lingers till 10pm. We read, drink and talk till I’m nearly asleep in my chair.

Not my photo, but - it's lovely, isn't it?

The tomatoes and basil are soaking in the heat and transforming it into fruit and fragrance. There was enough basil to make pesto last week – Zach made it. Sublime. Our first sweet pepper is black – which is the color it turns between green and red. Another week and we’ll eat it. The cayenne plant is virtually dripping with long, slender green peppers, and those tomato plants not already pregnant with round green fruit are covered in yellow blossoms. All of them, soaking in the sun and heat, sucking up the water and soil nutrients, and in the astonishing alchemy of gardening, making food for me. Working away when I’m not looking.

The Monkey bought a long coil hose – it looks like a giant version of the old telephone cords that coiled from the phone to the handset. It lives coiled over the mop handle in the front closet, and it hooks to the bathroom sink faucet and stretches to the balcony, thus preventing multiple trips with a watering can. He added lime (calcium) to the plants last week. He provides water and soil, the universe provides sun, wind, heat. It’s marvelous.

So, I forgive the heat for my sweaty back. Today, at least. Here’s a song for us to share:

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Jeff is a good friend whom I met when we worked together at Capital City Public Charter School. He and his partner Bruce live in a charming Cape Cod which they’re restoring, in Takoma Park, just the other side of the District boundary. He writes about their little urban homestead at The Prolific Sunchoke. He shares his food story, which centers around his flourishing garden.

Early summer abundance.

Most of my mid-mornings these days allow for time to inspect the daily growth of the garden and think about how happy I am at this house because of the amount (although still small at 40′ x 25′ and another track of 5′ x 15′) of full-sun, productive garden space….and, honestly, it truly fuels getting a bunch of other things done the rest of the day. Today, in preparing for contributing to my friend Katie’s enjoyable blog that often highlights her apartment’s balcony garden space, I remembered how I had just enough space at my rented houses in DC to have a nice herb garden – and only after much work on the soil. Fortunately, I had plenty of produce for most of those years since I operated a CSA program that grew into a health food store; however, I remember still having the urge to get into the soil every Spring beyond my tiny space and to be part of a community doing the same. (more…)

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Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC, is one of the most amazing schools I’ve ever been privileged to know. Earlier this week the PreK and Kindergarten students presented their semester of work on plants and nutrition – a study that included regular work in a City Blossoms community garden down the street from the school (and from my house). I enjoyed every minute!

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One thing (of the many) that I liked about the film Food, Inc. was the empowering ending – a very appealing and moving set of suggestions, ways I can change my habits to improve my own food and affect change to the entire food system. One of those recommendations is to eat more locally – buy produce from farmer’s markets. Check.

This makes gardens happy!

One thing (of the many) that I liked in the book The Town That Food Saved was the authors description of a healthy food system as a circular system rather than a linear one. (Circular systems feed back into each other: eat food from plants, return food scraps to soil as compost, soil nourishs plants, eat food from plants. Linear systems do not replenish themselves: buy petroleum to fertilize crops, feed crops to animals/drive produce to market, process animals in a plant/sell produce in markets, eat animals/crops, dispose of waste… buy more petroleum). How can I possibly “check” that?

I think I found a way – not necessarily to make a fully circular system, but at least to put a little curve in my personal food chain. Common Good City Farm. Just one neighborhood over from mine, Common Good City Farm is chugging away on its

Mission to grow food, educate, and help low-income DC community members meet their food needs. Our Vision is to serve as a replicable model of a community-based urban food system.

And one awesome way they do that is to run a community composting program. Anyone can (following their guidelines) bring suitable waste to the garden’s composting bins. All the compost they make is used on their garden, which in turn provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the low-income residents of the Shaw area. (You can also volunteer and donate, both of which are great ways to contribute to the health of those most in need of nutritious food and the longevity of programs like this that help provide it.) (more…)

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When I was 23 or so, and living in my first home – a trailer with a nice addition and deck on 2 acres of Virginia countryside – I planted a garden.  In a fit of self-awareness centered on the gardening, I wrote an essay (this was the days before I knew anything about blogging; it would have been a lovely blog post) called An Unexpected Inheritance. It appears in full at the end of this post. Ideally you should read it now, but I won’t force you. The gist is that I have found myself heir to a tradition of gardening, and even now, in the midst of a city, living in a 10th floor apartment on a busy street, my husband and I are gardening on the tiny patch of outdoors we call our own. It has no soil of its own – we have to haul that up ourselves. But it has light and air, and in the magical alchemy of nature, we get food and flowers. We are sky farmers. We are hyperlocal eaters. We put tiny, hard, dry seeds into damp pots of dirt and they are becoming chard, tomatoes, peppers, basil. The Monkey does  most of the work – he too has gardening in his blood. His pawpaw was an alchemist of the soil. We’re taken with our little tribute to our, well, to our roots. Roots to the past, and roots into the future.


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