Stacking Functions Garden


Growing lots of potatoes in a small space

Well, isn’t this a clever idea?!  Fill a wire frame with layers of dirt, straw, and seed potatoes, water thoroughly, and a “potato medusa” is born.  Come harvest time, simply tip it over and dig them out.  This blogger says you can grow upwards of 25 lbs of tomatoes in one of these clever towers.

Just found this blog today, from an urban farming pioneer right here in Minneapolis.  He’s starting a CSA program on his urban farm, and the whole project looks very promising.  I am definitely trying a potato tower next year.  Here are the instructions.

Update, June 14 2011: the tower experiment has officially begun!

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Community Gardening

This year, as part of the University of Minnesota Hennepin County Master Gardener Program (say that 10 times fast), I’ve been caring for a community garden plot at Sabathani community center here in south Minneapolis.  Here’s what our plot looks like (click to enlarge):

The Sabathani community garden is absolutely huge.  I think it might be one entire square block.  We planted our little section of it in May for a demo class on gardening, and now I’ve been maintaining it and donating the produce to the food shelf at Sabathani.

We consulted with the food shelf when we came up with the design for the garden back in April — we are trying to grow mostly vegetables that are in high demand there.  One cool thing is I get to learn how to grow some vegetables that I’ve never tried before, including collard greens, lacinato kale, and okra.  Collard greens and kale are neat because you can keep picking leaves off them and the plant just keeps coming back bigger and bushier than before.  A “continuous harvest” sort of plant is always nice when space is limited.

This is the weediest garden spot I’ve ever had, so we put down landscape fabric extensively to try and keep a handle on it.  It’s working quite well, I must say.

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Those green Europeans

Europeans are doing some neat-o, green redevelopment — from the no-car Vauban district in Frieburg, Germany (which I’ve mentioned here before) to well-planned urban public spaces in Copenhagen — there is some cool stuff going on there.  Read all about it here.  And then see what you can do in your own community.

the essential first step, maybe the only critical one, in reassembling these shards and building the urban foundation of the Green Enlightenment is to put people ahead of their cars and public spaces ahead of private ones in the planning priorities of the city — of any city.

Yes.  (via Scrawled in Wax)

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Eco Yard

The latest issue of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (my favorite magazine — and it’s FREE) included an article about sustainable-minded landscaping.  Really great stuff here, and I especially liked the diagram of an easy-care yard landscaped mostly with native plants — including no-mow grasses.

I’m planning on seeding my yard this fall, and I must say the no-mow grass concept really intrigues me.  We use a reel-type mower, so we wouldn’t really be saving any energy except human energy, but still.  We kinda have,  uh, a lot to do around the yard so not having to mow sounds all right to me.

Anyway, though the article goes a bit lighter on edibles than I would in landscape planning, I think it’s a great resource, especially for someone who is new to landscaping and is not interested or able in spending a lot of time maintaining their yard.  Because, let’s face it, many edibles do require a bit of work over and above what a native plant would require.  That’s what makes landscape design so fun — you can tailor it to your specific needs/interests/desired activity level.

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Round-up resistant weeds

The NY Times (via Cornucopia Institute) today had a story about Round-up resistant weeds:

“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

There is one [small] positive aspect to this:

The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds.

Fortunately for now, the problem does not appear to be widespread.  But we all know how evolution works, and our current factory-scale agriculture is contributing to a faster-than-normal evolving of weeds, bugs, and other problems that people have been dealing with for millennia.  And the main problem with that is: we’re creating problems faster than we can solve them.

Anyway, here’s the article on Round-up resistant weeds.

Update, 5 May 2010: Marion Nestle of the excellent blog Food Politics explains the science of how weeds become resistant to glyphosate (Round-up).

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New cruiser (Adam’s Bike Shop update)

Adam bought a pair of cruisers this winter from some guy on Craigslist.  Using parts from both of them as well as a couple of used parts from The Hub, and a couple parts he had lying around the garage, he built me a really sweet cruiser:

And now the detail shots:

I guess these bikes were originally made for Sears Roebuck, but they were made in Austria.  (Weird, yes?)  The chain ring says “JC Higgins.”  Tough to tell when they were made, but most likely 1950s.

An authentic Dutch seat for an authentic Dutch… um, well, you know.

Not sure what he plans on doing with the remains of the other cruiser.

One of the cool things about this bike is it has an internal 3-speed hub that still works great.  The hub is from a 1979 Raleigh Limited that Adam took apart this winter, but it fit this bike perfectly.  A perfect cruising-around-town bike for the summertime.

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Poverty: no longer just for the inner cities

Star Tribune reports today that poverty is no longer just an inner-city or rural area thing: Twin Cities suburbs now have a greater percentage of poverty than the inner cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Here’s the whole story.

The silver lining of this is that I see a real opportunity for the growth of community gardening initiatives in the suburbs.  With those huge lawns they’ve got out there, they could do some really awesome things.