Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. The small landowners are the most precious part of a state."
Things are moving right along at Seeds At City as we make our way into fall. Summer crops such as summer squash that were no longer producing have been cleared to make room for fall and winter ones, such as broccoli, pictured here at left. It takes some TLC to start so many of our crops from seeds as opposed to planting them as starts (i.e. already sprouted in small containers, then transferred to the ground), but TLC is our specialty.
Of course, running an organic urban farm is also a lot of work. A labor of love, to be sure, but still a lot of work. Between growing a plethora of vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, grains, herbs and so on, running a weekly farmer's market, listening to and taking notes on lectures given by Paul and Julia, our resident expert organic farmers, and attending community events, our days as organic farming apprentices stay full. How, then, is such a socially beneficial, environmentally imperative, and economically revolutionary project made possible?!?!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
They can hang, stack, climb. tower, protrude, and spiral just to name a few.
Warmer conditions translates into delectable tasting strawberries, but with our farm already at growing capacity we only had an area of about 4' by 4' to grow them. To combat our space dilemma, we decided to build vertical stacking towers about 5' high. This would expand our number of plants grown from 6 to about 70 in the same amount of space. An added bonus is the actual berries are no longer sitting in the soil leaving them exposed and prone to pill bugs. (There's nothing worse than patiently watching your strawberry grow bright red and plump with sweetness and when the berry is ripe for picking , you turn it over to find out pill bugs were slowly devouring it the whole time!)
It was a fairly simple process of constructing the boxes and stacking the towers. For the individual boxes, we used donated wood and used long screws to reinforce each box. Once the boxes were constructed, we attached window screen and remay cloth to the bottom of each box using staple guns. The reason for the screen and remay is to hold a majority of the soil in place.
Next we cut holes in the screen and remay to aid with the natural process of soil erosion. As the soil breaks down, it will progressively lessen, lowering into each box. As it does we will just add soil to the top box. We also reinforced the towers by driving a metal stake down the middle of them.
The last step was transplanting the strawberries. We started with the bottom box and worked our way up. We put one plant in all four corners and than added another box on top. The soil mixture consisted of compost, peat and some left over top soil from our sweet potato bed. I think the final product looks great and we all had a really good time putting the towers together!
Be creative and have fun!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
This past Saturday at the farm we planted bush beans. A bush bean can be described as a bean plant whose bushy growth does not need support, like a trellis to climb. We planted nearly ten different varieties, seen above. But first, the back story.
On these particular beds we had planted spinach. I wasn't part of that planting, but I imagine it went something like this. Two inches of compost was spread on native soil. Using digging forks and spades, the 2 inches of compost was mixed with the below 6 inches of native soil, with a little Dr. Earth mixed in for good measure. Any clods of dirt were broken up, and any stones bigger than a golf ball, and sticks bigger than a cigarette were sifted out. The loose, airy soil/compost mix was then formed into two raised, flat beds, with a 18 inch path dividing them. The spinach seeds were then planted and covered with fine, sifted compost.
Unfortunately, the spinach didn't take, and its growth stopped after a couple weeks. This is where the bush beans come in. Beans are nitrogen fixers, which means they capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit it in the soil (actually, bacteria and microbes living in their roots do that in exchange for carbohydrates). Nitrogen is a key nutrient for plant growth, and beans are often used to enrich nutrient poor soil with nitrogen. We thought we'd give them a try. So...
We prepared the beds nearly identical to the spinach beds with a couple key differences. First, from turning a little bit of the soil, we could see it was dark, with plenty of organic material, so adding compost wasn't necessary this time, and in fact may have been detrimental. Again, dirt clods were broken up, stones were removed, and the beds were formed. We made 3 rows about 12-18 inches apart, and planted the seeds at 6 inch intervals, about two finger knuckles deep. This time, we didn't cover the seeds with fine, sifted compost because the beans are hearty enough to break through to the surface.
These beans were planted in the beds nearest the garden entrance, by the hay bales, so check out there progress in the coming weeks!
Friday, March 6, 2009
You will need: kosher or sea salt (garlic and cayenne pepper are optional)
and greens from the mustard/cabbage family (Brassicaceae).
Greens from the Brassicaceae family, such as mustard greens, kale, radishes, collards, or broccoli, contain bacteria that are necessary for fermentation. It's important not to use iodized salt because iodized salt contains an anti-bacteria.
Take a big handful of greens and roll burrito-style. Chop into little pieces.
Radishes are good too.
Using a 2x4 or 2x2 piece of wood with a flat end, bruise greens in a large bucket.
This breaks cells open so moisture can run out of the leaves.
Pound away like so.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of kosher salt every 2 to 3 inches of greens. The salt will draw water out of the foliage.
You can add cayenne pepper when you add the salt.
Now put a plate on top. Then put a large heavy rock on top of the plate. Cover the bucket opening with plastic wrap.
The kimchi will be ready in 4 days. The greens will shrink to about half the size and the water will rise. The fermented liquid is nutrient-rich and is good to eat. Taste the greens after 4 days and see how you like it. Store greens in large mason jars in the refrigerator. This will arrest fermentation. Make sure there is moisture in the jars.
While waiting, why not enjoy a piece of juicy grapefruit
and take time to smell the flower?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"A Collection of Trash Twice the Size of Texas"
My name is Ben Diamond and I am an intern on the City College Urban Farm. Originally, I wanted to discuss how wonderful and amazing the Urban Farm is (which it is), but after learning about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I feel it is something important for people to be aware of.
We live in a day and age where everything is made to make our lives easier and where everything and anything can just be "thrown away". Society acts as if there is an endless supply of resources to create these goods, as well as bottomless land fill sites to get rid of our unwanted surplus. The reality of it all is slowly coming to a crashing halt. Land fill sites are, for lack of better words, filling up and resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Not to mention all of the pollution these problems bring to the table. This throw away lifestyle that society has deemed acceptable has to stop. It is infiltrating all facets of our life and is becoming apparent on many levels.
On February 11, I attended a talk with guest speaker Captain Charles Moore on the effects of garbage in our Pacific Ocean. Charles Moore conducts research on what is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre of marine debris located in the central Pacific Ocean. The patch is characterized primarily by extremely high concentrations of plastic and other debris that have been concentrated by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. A gyre is a circular pattern of currents in an ocean basin. The patch first received wide scientific and public recognition after Charles Moore wrote several documented articles. Captain Moore discovered the patch accidentally by passing through the gyre after returning home from a sailing race. The patch has formed gradually over time as a result of marine pollution accumulating from such areas as Japan and the West Coast of North America. The patch is said to be roughly twice the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Although this patch twice the size of Texas can not necessarily be seen by the naked eye, it is there and I feel makes it more dangerous. It mainly is made up of toxic microscopic pieces of plastic, where the ratio of plastic to sea life is an astounding six to one. Plastic is not biodegradable, which means every piece of plastic ever made is here on earth forever(even if it is recycled, which is not often). The plastic mimics plankton, which is a large food source for many oceanic organisms including fish that in one way or another end up making it to our plate. The plastic also ends up in the stomachs of marine animals and birds causing dehydration and starvation. The worst part is that there is no real effort underway to clean the mess of this "natural" floating trash dump. Charles Moore and other activists are doing their best to bring this problem to the public eye, but the process of saving our earth is still a long and slow one.
Why is this so important for everyone to know? Maybe it is because micro pieces of plastic floating in the ocean are more dangerous than any oil spill. Maybe it is because the plastic picks up deadly toxins and later resembles plankton which is then eaten by small fish, thus infiltrating the food chain. Our food chain. Soon, fish will no longer be a viable source of food. Maybe it is because this throw away material is killing massive numbers of animals, both big and small in the ocean's ecosystem. Most importantly, maybe it is because if we don't change our throw away tendencies, change our way of living, there will not be a wonderful world left for our future generations. I hope people will ween themselves from their all encompassing, all consuming lifestyles just long enough, to save and protect Mother Earth.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sow Those Seeds!
In August 2004, I wrote a Rural Life editorial about the victory garden movement during World War II, noting that a national crisis had turned Americans — for a few years at least— into a nation of gardeners. Now we are in the midst of another crisis. And perhaps this is the moment for another national home gardening movement, a time when the burgeoning taste for local food converges with the desire to cut costs and take new control over our battered economic lives.
There are signs that some people are already thinking this way. A number of friends have said to me, wistfully, that if things get worse, they’ll just go to the country and learn to farm, as if learning to farm were like studying shorthand or learning to weld.
This is daydreaming. But there’s every reason to think about putting in a garden. In fact, many seed companies are reporting higher sales — especially in Britain, which has a rich tradition of home gardening. At grocery stores and farm stands, the difference in cost between organic and conventionally grown vegetables can be substantial. In the garden, the difference is negligible.
I can’t help noting, too, that half of “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating” — a widely e-mailed Web article by Tara Parker-Pope of The Times — are easily grown in a northeastern garden, including beets, chard, pumpkins and blueberries.
Growing a vegetable garden isn’t going to balance the budget or replace lost benefits or even begin to make up for the shock of a lost job. But part of the crisis we face is a sense of alienation and powerlessness. You don’t meet many alienated gardeners, unless it’s been a terrible woodchuck year.
It’s also tempting to assume that a garden can’t really make much difference in your annual food budget. But you would never convince my parents of that, who raised four kids on the fresh and home-canned produce of a big backyard garden. And I can think of few better distractions from the news of the day than the offerings of seed catalogs and the Edenic visions they inspire.
But over the years, something odd has happened to seed catalogs. They’ve come to resemble grocery stores and, in some sense, the culture at large — fuller and fuller of inedible stuff to buy, like copper plant labels and sunlight calculators and fan-cooled sunhats. One of the hard things for beginning gardeners to learn is that very little of that stuff is needed. What beginning gardeners need most, in fact, is old gardeners, the ones who’ve made do all along and who are starting their seedlings in windowsills right about now.
I think 'Dirt Cheap Farmer Paul (Maschka)' would agree.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
4 cups chopped greens (chard, kale, collards - your choice)
1/8 cup olive oil
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 T capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 chopped parsley
Steam the greens until bright green and slightly wilted. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Enjoy on bread or over pasta or as a filling for a baked potato.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
The two Sacramento based teams arrived downtown at around nine o'clock and our own Paul Maschka and Julia Dashe educated the group of about twenty on the virtues of growing your own food locally and organically. Then the time to begin work arrived. Tasks were dispensed and at around noon time our work force had plucked the remaining stubborn roses that lined the farm, we utilized the highly efficient bucket brigade technique to move a truck bed of compost up the hill from the parking lot, we cleared more land at our newer site on the west side of Park Avenue, and we began the process of converting the terraces on the south facing hillside into nutrient dense beds for more food!
The efforts of the Corps members will be evident for a long time to come. It was great getting to know some of them and I hope to see them back in the future.
It's quite a stretch and certainly a poor attempt at linking FDR to our humble farm but I can't imagine Mr. Roosevelt would mind.
Last spring I helped get this farm off the ground. I met Julia Dashe, learned what other schools were doing, and made a proposal to the San Diego City College Foundation. They supported us with an initial grant that allowed us to hire our farmers and gardening educators Paul Maschka and Julia.
Then I let stepped back and let them work their magic. Summer and fall flew by, and together with students and community volunteers, what had been a sterile grass lawn became a thriving ecoculture, home to vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, butterflies, birds and ladybugs - and of course earthworms!
As the fall semester dwindled down I began to get my hands dirty for the first time. I volunteered throughout the semester break. To my astonishment, even though school was out (and it was often quite chilly) I was just one of several volunteers at the farm. The day after Christmas and the day after New Years - it didn't matter - people were always there working the land. And I began to realize that this wasn't about me donating my time and energy, it was about the comradery and joy that I experienced by being part of such a wonderful group of people.
And then there were the lessons. Each day Paul would spend a few minutes teaching us - perhaps a specific technique or a history of a certain plant or about organic versus industrial farming. One day we had a lesson in weeds. We followed him around the farm as he pointed out the good and the bad, the tasty and the poisonous. I had no idea gardening could be so much fun.
Nowadays, I can barely fall asleep on Friday nights, because I'm so excited about heading to the farm first thing in the morning.
Friday, January 23, 2009
We use the petals of these wonderful edible flowers as a decoration in our salads. But it turns out that they have many soothing and healthful uses.
Here's a description provided by Beauty Feast at http://www.beautyfeast.com/Beauty-Ingredients/7-Wonders-Calendula-Flower.htm
Calendula belongs to a family of Marigold plant. It is a dark orange flower and can be cultivated in window boxes, pots or in the backyard.
It is very simple to take care of this plant.This plant is mostly found in Egypt. An individual can produce the plants from early summer.
It has been used before the time of Cleopatra because of its healing properties. Healers from the Middle East and Mediterranean use the flower for many medications.
The following are some amazing things about Calendula flower:
For Sunburn skin
Heat the Calendula petals with essential oil at low temperature for 6-8 hours in the large double boiler. After that, filter the petals in cheesecloth and let keep it aside.
Mix the essential oil with equal quantity of Apricot Kernel Oil and Carrot Seed Oil. There are many other essential oils suggested such as grape seed oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil and wheat germ oil.
Relaxing and Soothing Bath
Bring the cheese clothes with the petals of Calendula and put them in a bath with lukewarm water. Now, take a bath of using this water, as it will make the skin soft and smooth.
It is particularly efficient for itchy and dry skin. Take some drops of lavender essential oils and perfumed candle for getting relax moment. The Calendula flower will get sunrays from the spirit during the winter dejection.
One can make use of essential oil with the petals of calendula as a moisturizer for getting shiny and soft skin. It can be kept in the fridge or on a cool place.
Other method to make a good moisturizer is to utilize olive oil for the body. Take some calendula petals and add them to olive oil in an airtight container. Keep it for 15 days. Now, it is prepared to apply.
But remember, one should make use of cheesecloth to strain the oil prior to apply it. One can use this procedure with other essential oils such as almond oil, rosehip oil, avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut oil etc.
Calendula flower has complex medical properties. The gel of calendula flower is beneficial to treat cold sores, bruises, light cuts and burns.
Take some dry petals of Calendula and put them into the boiling and purified water to prepare an amazing natural tea. This tea is very useful for upsetting stomach and sluggish liver. One can also add some fresh mint leaves or nettle leaves for amazing flavor and it has really healing properties.
Wonderful addition to the diet
Calendula is enriched with Vitamin C. It can be added to pasta, salads and soups. It gives colorful touch to the recipes. The petals are useful to cure the digestive system. When an individual prepares the rice with some calendula petals, they will really change into orange or yellow color.
Take a cup of calendula petals and added with distilled water and vodka. Drain the petals and store the tincture in an airtight container. One should use 4-5 drops of this combination with a glass of water for gastro intestinal upsets and digestive conditions.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The very best way to do these is with a turning fork like the one shown here. Forks like these can be found at specialty gardening stores like Smith & Hawken and can cost a pretty penny, but they are worth it! I've spent my gardening past using a shovel for this type of work and my arms and back are forever grateful for the creation of the turning fork.
The goal is to incorporate the compost uniformly through the soil so that you achieve a rich, dark, nutritious soil for your baby plants. Once we incorporated the compost, we shaped our bed into a raised bed. And then came the fun part - breaking open a head of garlic and planting the individual cloves. We planted the cloves roughly 4 inches apart in rows that are 6 inches apart. Then we watered and waited.
Within a week the garlic had poked it's green shoots through the soil and now they are climbing ever more quickly towards the sun.
As I look about our farm I'm amazed at how much we are able to grow on a relatively small patch of earth. We're leaving no space unturned - from the top of the garden shed to the base of our fruit trees to the tiny corners along our winding path. From this one third acre we are able to provide food for dozens of people who frequent our farmer's market. From this I realize what a modest footprint is needed to provide food for an entire family, and how each of us by implementing what we learn here at our own homes, can help reduce our burden on the planet. Every bit of food that we grow ourselves, is that much less food that is being propagated through the use of harmful chemicals, and generating the need for plastic packaging, and that is being shipped across the country for distribution. Besides, something about eating food you've grown yourself makes it absolutely delicious!
If you're a home gardening who's growing more than you can eat, consider sharing your bounty with the City Heights Farmer's Market Backyard Growers Program. You can learn more about it at http://www.sdfoodnotlawns.com/