Growing food in city lots is a lot of hard work. You have to be determined to prove that it is possible and be willing to explore new ways to grow food, accept foods that grow well in your area, and some foods that do not grow in your space. You have to be open to experimenting, and not be afraid to make mistakes!
I started over a decade ago tearing up our grass on our city lot and really not having any direction as to where I was going. I just felt a deep desire not to follow what everyone else was doing around me by spraying chemicals on their lawns to have what??? A big turf of grass to look at because everyone else did on the block…I knew what I was doing was radical, but at the time I was just eager to get fresh organic food, outside my door.
We were not in a position to sell our home and move to the country. Our jobs were close to the city, our kids had school and friends. Gas was high, so living closer to our work and schools made sense, but I wanted to grow food, and the challenge was to find enough space on our city lot to achieve that goal!
I tend to love a challenge, and it has been over the years! Learning to grow food on no more than a 1/4 acre in the city. That 1/4 acre includes your home, space shared with neighbors and cement in certain areas, for example, your driveway and sidewalks. You can’t get discouraged by your limitations. I tend to be a creative soul, so I live life by thinking outside the box. I feel it has been a blessing in life to be gifted to be creative, but at times I am sure those around me may be driven crazy by my open-ended quests!!-lol….
Initially, I had sections that I tore up and experimented with as I started to grow food on our city lot. It is a learning adventure and one you have to be patient with since nature will determine how things go. For example, you may not be able to grow all the things you could out in a more rural area. You have to determine your growing space what is possible. That only happens by trial and error since every year you will have success, and you will fail at times.
Failure is not a reason to quit! It is like learning anything new in your life. You have to keep working at it and not give up if it does not come quickly. Remember when you learned to ride a bike, you would fall off, and get back on your bike again and again…did you quit? No, each time you would jump back on, and you would find you traveled a bit further than you did before!
You will find that, after a few years, you start noticing you have more successes than failures, but you have to be willing to experiment each year and take what you learn and build your growing space to your own specifications. You have to be open-minded about how you picture your food growing and explore new ways to get more food from your city lot!
Every year you will find that you grow foods that your family, and friends prefer and those will be the ones you see space for each new year.I started growing more Kale for our home than other Brassicas ( cabbage, rapini, broccoli, turnips, and rutabaga) since Kale seems to do very well in our climate. I picked the member of the brassica family that took up less space and worked into our landscape. I am now able to grow it year round. This next year it will be front and center in our landscape since I will be incorporating it with flowers near our front walkway.
I have grown eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes out front, but this next year I am putting in a Kale/Swiss Chard/ Beets/Parsley/ Basil/Smallage/ rotating area of 3 sections. I rotate crops in our urban potager to help with the disease in our organic gardens. This area is under a large oak tree, but these plants tolerate shade very well during the growing season. This area just had ivy growing in it, and these old planters that were built for this house in the 60’s will make a perfect place for these greens.
The man who built this house created these concrete planters. When we moved in, they were filled with evergreen shrubs and bees nests! I dug them out carefully, flooded the nests and now plan on putting more edible food in these containers, have moved too. I will be putting Swiss Chard, Kale, and various herbs and flowers to create an edible area that should provide food throughout the year next season in 2014.
Well, as the years have passed on and the last one moved out, I gathered more growing space ( kids did not need the lawn to play on anymore!) and time to pursue my ‘quest for nutrient-dense food on our city lot”. This next year I am excited since I will be donating some of my seedlings + seeds I have saved from my own urban potager to a local community of growers in the city…….isn’t that what we all should strive to do….give to others….well, that is not difficult….I don’t need to think “outside the box” to strive to be a good steward of the earth by growing organically and sharing right in the heart of the city where people CAN + DO grow their own food year round!