Here are a few shots of the planters themselves, to show how they are constructed. The green planters were made following my friend’s instructions, by cutting out a section of the plastic tub’s lid the size and shape of the tub’s interior about five inches off the bottom (the height of the pond baskets that drop into the water reservoir). While this results in a large tub, it is very time-consuming to do this.

Me second approach (more…)

Last winter I took a series of gardening classes and one in particular intrigued me. The instructor, another Master Gardener in my county (in fact, she was the one that told me about the training program) taught one class on how to make self-irrigating planters. I love the acronym–SIPs–although I have to say these planters don’t really SIP. They use at least as much water as a regular planter, but more of that water is going into production because losses from soil evaporation are virtually nil.

In any case, a friend and I built a couple planters each one day. As I readied to plant them I realized (more…)

What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?


ag1_fourPeoplePisgahView_lKevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams improbably plows up his corn field to build a baseball diamond when he hears a voice say “Build it and he will come.” Robert White’s story is just the opposite and equally improbable — but true. When Robert  became possessed with the idea of growing food, he’d never done it before. But he went ahead anyway, starting with taking over an existing baseball diamond in Asheville NC and turning it into an urban farm. When I visited there in April, (more…)

This website is partly about my education as an urban farmer. But I want to recommend to you a new book by another urban farmer who has had time to develop her farm and her farming knowledge much further than I have. Coincidently, Novella Carpenter also farms in Oakland, where I live. I heard her speak a year ago and found her talk to be not only hilarious, but filled with learning experiences. As I’ve advised elsewhere in this blog, farming is about learning. There is a lot to learn and the best way to do this is by experimenting, by trying things to see what works and what doesn’t. In Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella describes her experiences doing just that, experimenting–particularly with different kinds of livestock–in the heart of a major city. I’m sure she also touches on two key issues for urban farmers, access to land and water.

I expect the book is as funny and informative as her talk was. A New York Times reviewer found it so. You can decide for yourself by reading the first chapter. Even though I haven’t read this book yet–I plan to write a review of it soon–I recommend it wholeheartedly.

One of the key problems for urbanites who want to grow food is access to land. Some people simply don’t have land; others have land that isn’t usable, due to soil toxicity or excessive shade. I recently had dinner with an apartment dwelling woman, Elena, from Kazakhstan, who mentioned that her downstairs neighbor shares food that she grows on her dacha. I always thought a dacha was something just for the wealthy and powerful, that is, that they were large estates or second homes few could afford. But, Elena told me that it was very common for people in Kazakhstan to have dachas, small plots just outside of cities, often with a small hut or cottage to spend the night. Since Elena had told me that most people in Kazakhstan don’t have cars, I asked how her neighbor got to her dacha. She rides the bus. (more…)