Saturday, 24 April 2010

Urban garden tour: SPIN Farming, consumer ed and community garden

I did a double-whammy garden tour extravaganza on the weekend. I'll report Saturday's here and make a separate posting for Sunday.

Saturday I joined my classmates from the Food from the Hood (The Role of Urban Agriculture in the Relocalization of Our Food System) class, which is taking a close look at local urban agriculture initiatives, to see a SPIN farming installation, have a ramble round the Compost Education Centre's grounds, and then pop into Springridge Commons.

Sol showed us one of the dozen back yards that she and her fellow SPIN farmers manage for City Harvest as a cooperative urban farming venture.

One of the many obstacles facing urban farmers of any stripe is the out-of-control cedar hedging that has become so popular - and so contested - in these privacy-obsessed times. Perhaps planted in goodwill by one property owner, if left unattended - perhaps the property changes hands, or is rented out, or the owner just gets cranky or lazy or too old to cope - this is what it looks like from the house next door. What we can't see are the roots pushing up through the growing space.

I think I'm getting a post-apocalyptic vision of what we'll be leaving behind us on this island, and it won't be native plants...

Sol talked about the SPIN Farming manual, which offers advice on the business end of urban farming, including the choices made between high and low value crops. Radishes, because they grow quickly and offer several crops in a season, are high value.

It's the first year they've operated the business as a coop, so everything is new and they're having to build relationships with the landowners, set out guidelines about access to the yards and compensation to the owners, and deal with the local challenges (deer and slugs being the main ones, though Sol said she had a bit of a turn when she heard a child on the other side of the fence from where she was working say "oh look! a bunny!").

Then it was on to the Compost Ed Centre, where I found a Blue Orchard (mason) bee studying the literature.

I was much taken with this two-in-one growing method which seems a useful way to use your leaf mulch.

Some miners lettuce....

I liked the information about willow coppicing

and the charming hoops they'd created from it.

Nice example of a green roof.

Our final stop of the day, Springridge Common, was empty of people when we visited, but the wind was chilly and it was spitting rain at times.

More bee boxes. Paper tubes allow you to take the bee larvae out and manage the hairy-footed mite that plagues them by infesting their dwellings.

Signage will come in time; for now it looks simply lush to the bystander.

Communal compost

Community spaces may experience guerilla plantings, of species that may not work in the space they're placed by their mystery donors:

for oh so many reasons.

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