Do you grow your own?

July 21, 2008

The big question: how ultra-locavore are you?

The Living Smallers don’t have room for a garden. Moreover, we don’t have enough sun to support one (a plus, in a way, ’cause the teeny house stays quite cool thanks to all the shade). We’ve tried some potted gardens, but those typically fail due to the lack-of-sun thing, too.

Are we alone? Do you have space to grow your own? (If so, do you live in Seattle? Can I buy your produce?)

We’re farmers market frequenters, but even those heads of lettuce and bunches of radishes truck in from at least 30 miles away, meaning oil expenditure. Any ideas for how we can get in on the growing here in the city? The P-Patch isn’t taking new residents, I should mention. What else? Pointers on container gardens? Foraging techniques? Let ‘er rip, and thanks.


13 Responses to “Do you grow your own?”

  1. Jenna said

    The place I moved from, and this place, both suffer from the same problem. The last one at least I had access to a yard, but it was very well covered in shade. This one I’m in a north facing apartment – at least right around the summer solstice the edges of the balcony get sun for a couple of hours a day!

    Food plants seem to need a lot of sun. So far, only a couple of herbs have stayed alive (although not exactly taking off ;)) – peppermint and chives (which even came back after the winter!). I have managed a couple of flowering plants this year, by buying them well started from the nursery.

    Foraging though, I do do! Around here (Nova Scotia), there are lots of raspberry and blackberry patches in the parks – and looking at the lawns, and the spiders, definitely unsprayed ;). I’ve also been researching the local “weeds”, seeing what’s edible, what’s medicinal, etc. Still in the beginning stages of that one. This year I’m determined to get some rosehips off the roadside plants after the first frost – all that vitamin C!

  2. I have just recently met a neighbor who has a big lot where the previous owner had lots of raised bed gardens. This neighbor is way too busy to actually garden herself. We met her as an opportunity to harvest her fruit trees (that would have gone to waste otherwise). Next spring, if we are still in town with very little gardening space, I am considering asking her if I can clean out some of those raised beds and garden in her yard with fresh produce as her payment.

  3. Jenna: Foraging is great. I’m waiting for the blackberries to ripen here in Seattle. We’ve got quite a few within a five-block radius, and I don’t want to let them go to waste. (Blackberry jam is the best.)

    Sunny: What a find! The folks who live two houses down from us have a half-acre, full-sun lot that goes completely unused every summer. I want to ask them about cultivating it for food, but I’m nervous about it. How did you approach the subject? Did you know the neighbors already? Or did you go in cold turkey?

  4. Michelle said

    Have you looked into the Square Foot Gardening concept? It offers a bit more flexibility on space. It doesn’t solve your sunlight issue, but if you’re approaching your neighbor for permission to use their yard, they might be open to you putting a box in their yard. The pyramid-shaped design is really cute, and it doesn’t require tilling up their lawn.

    We’ve been growing some herbs in our kitchen, but we’d love to do more. Our apartment management won’t allow anything on the lawn, but we have a tiny deck that would allow adequate sun if we attached planters to the railing. I just need to learn more about the Seattle growing seasons; I’d love to start some things in the next few weeks, but I may be better off waiting until next spring. Thanks for the nudge to get going on that!

  5. Lindsay said

    what about posting a message in your neighborhood paper or craigslist? garden space in exchange for some vegetables when your stuff starts growing?
    We were lucky that our complex comes with free garden plots if you want one. I recently took so many pictures of our first vegetables you would think they were my first-born child!

  6. Michelle: I’m not familiar with Square Foot Gardening; thanks for mentioning it. I’ll give it a look-see. And, fyi, the Seattle growing season runs from mid-May (lettuces, mainly) through late September. Flowers bloom through November, sometimes, but the foods usually are all done by October.

    Lindsay: Wow! I didn’t know you guys had garden space. Very cool. What can you grow in SoCal? I do like the craigslist idea; that’s fantastic. Thanks!

  7. Lindsay said

    Yeah, we’re so excited by our first attempts at gardening. And the space is 750 sq ft! I joke about needing one of my dad’s tractors to maintain the space! The best part about SoCal climate is that you can pretty much grow anything at anytime. We have an assortment of herbs, as well as corn, beans, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and berries. Good luck finding space!

  8. Emily said

    Oh! I just went to my first Seattle farmer’s market on Sunday! It was on the Hill and it had such a great neighborhood vibe, unlike the mammoth SF markets.

    I have a small yard and have grown tomatoes in years past (because they are never worth buying from the grocery) but have let it all go fallow this year due to my redecorating efforts. (I can think of more lame excuses if that one’s not good enough! ;-) )

    But, really, I do find it extrememly difficult to grow things because 1. we’re socked in with fog most of the summer; 2. my garden gets very little direct sunlight; and 3. no amount of amending seems to make the soil worth a damn.

    Thankfully the tomatoes I usually grow were developed specifically for my neighborhood by the local garden center.

  9. Linds: Melons and berries? And peppers? You should jam them. Melon pepper jam sounds good.

    Emily: I, too, was at the Cap Hill farmers market this weekend! We showed about noon:30; were you there then?

    I can imagine that gardening in SF is tough. Have you had any luck with other heat-loving veggies? Or just the region-specific tomatoes?

  10. Emily said

    OMG! How funny! We were there around noonish. We caught the fashion show just as we were leaving, so whatever time that was… We got the loveliest chard and heirloom tomatoes there. YUM!

    The only thing I’ve really had luck with is lavender (go figure – that LOVES heat); a daisy bush thing; and a yellow rose that was a gift from Safeway. I have had abysmal failures with native grasses!

    I got inspiration from a planting in Thomas St. Park.

    I’ll probably plant the exact same plants and try containers next year for veggies. I can’t make it sunny, but I can try better soil!

  11. I think we were there at the same time, Emily. What a coincidence. I was wearing a big straw sun hat and carrying an ice cream cone. (Did you have the small-batch ice cream? That woman rules when it comes to sweets.)

    I just had a great conversation with a local friend who has had great luck gardening on his patio. My hope is renewed. May you and I both have luck with our containers!

  12. […] is legal in Seattle — what with the methane and the lowing and (ahem) cow pies — I’m all for sustainability. Plus, with a herd of tiny kine, I could re-enact Lonesome Dove on a Living Small scale. Cattle […]

  13. […] 12, 2009 After all my waxing and whining about growing our own food, the Smallers have taken a size-appropriate step: tomatoes and basil, planted in what’s known […]

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