Saturday, June 16, 2012

Food Garden Tour

This colorful wagon designated the entrance to one of the gardens on tour.
Yes, it has been two weeks since the Lawrence Food Garden Tour and I am just now getting around to posting about it. No excuses. That's just the way it is.

Garden tours have been around for a long, long time. People open their personal paradises to the public -- usually as a fund-raiser for some good cause. The focus is beauty and design to elicit, "Oh, how lovely."

The food garden tour was different. First of all, it was free, held solely to inspire people to raise food instead of lawns. Second it, well, focused on food gardens.

Mike protects this savoy cabbage from cabbage worms with
Spinosad, a relatively new organic pest control.
My first stop was the oldest garden on the tour, maintained for more than 20 years by Mike, the owner. Previous owners also had an organic garden there for at least a decade. The back yard is packed with a variety of vegetables in raised beds, with a chicken yard at the back.

Mike had strawberries planted in the lower part of a pyramid-type bed that had a lovely crop of beets on top.

The main challenge at hacienda del Hosta was shade. But the gardener there managed to raise a small patch of various sun-loving vegetables, such as squash and eggplant. She also let a small flock of laying hens have the run of the yard. Her favorite hen was a Buff Orpington, which she said is "very sweet."

At the Cosmic Beauty School, a communal living group, the gardens were built up with layers of soil and woodchips, laced with special fungal spores to increase it productivity and degrade common city contaminants. Blackberries ran rampant and trees bore fruit on the street side of the gardens, while fava beans and other annual vegetables were snuggled next to the building.
Food gardens can be quite pleasing to the eye. Logs and marigolds create an inviting entrance from the street to the perennial food garden at the Cosmic Beauty School.

The most unusual "garden" on the tour was the "Fish In a Barrel Garden." Lettuce was planted in pea gravel in two half barrels that flanked an identical barrel filled with water and several "feeder goldfish." The fish water cycled through the pea gravel, which filtered out fish waste, cleaning the water and feeding the lettuce. The whole operation was in the basement.

Pretties beneath a fruit tree at Bob and Kirsten's Own Eden.
I was able to see only 10 of the 21 food gardens on the tour, but at each turn I found people who loved their gardens and were proud of how those gardens improved their self-sufficiency. They are proving that you can grow fruits and vegetables, and even chickens, in small spaces. You don't have to have 30 acres to do that. Spread the word.

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