How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm
Our city’s Urban Farm Tour is over for this year and by all accounts was a great success — GOFO sold out of tickets early in the day and had to scramble to print even more of them! I hope everyone who toured came away feeling inspired, I was so impressed by all the enthusiastic visitors we met at our garden. It seems like upstate South Carolina is packed with people who care about sustainability and growing their own food.
We aren’t sure how many visitors we had yesterday. I would guess it was somewhere around 500… possibly more. We attribute the higher count to our central downtown location and to me getting interviewed for WYFF News 4. Good thing it occurred to me to make informational signs for most of my crops on Friday evening! I’m sure I couldn’t have kept up with all the questions (which were great — everyone was delightfully curious!)
We didn’t finish everything from our todo list before the tour, but we certainly put a giant dent in it. We had an extensive garden with spring and summer crops planted, established fruit trees, new bramble fruits (raspberries & blackberries courtesy of The Walden Effect), flowers to attract pollinators, an (empty) beehive, a canning/preserving display, a homegrown edible mushroom display courtesy of Mushroom Mountain, container gardens, one week old chicks, a compost pile (of sorts), plus a new worm bin and nearly finished chicken coop courtesy of Pecandale Farmstead.
We really just need to get bees plus finish the chicken coop/run to make our spring goals. Over the summer/fall we’re hoping to work on a non-overhead irrigation system, a tidier 3-bin compost system, a water feature of some sort (perhaps a minnow pond to feed to chickens), and a greenhouse and/or cold frame to make my seedling care easier next season.
When I was first asked to do this farm tour I thought it was unlikely I’d have mature crops by May 7th. I didn’t even break ground until February 20th! Most things weren’t planted until March 1st – April 15th. Luckily, everything grew quickly thanks to my homemade fertilizer (if you have a small garden it may be more economical to buy the cereal-box sized container of slow release fertilizer at The Green Thumb or another organic supplier).
The herb bed near the back door was one of the first things I worked on when we took on the house. It still had some perennial herbs left from when our renters had lived there so I moved them to strategic spots and filled in the blanks. The rock edging came from stones my dad found in his yard on Paris Mountain.
The signs we put up saved our lives when the guest count quadrupled what we were expecting. I had in mind all the times I’ve been at a botanical garden and lamented the lack of signage on a fascinating specimen. It’s fun to look at plants, but even better to learn something about them.
Since our one-week old chicks can’t take outdoor drafts yet, we put them inside near the back door so visitors could pop in and see them. A flagging tape barrier kept people from getting too close and it seemed to go over very well. At least, the humans liked it. We’re not so sure what the chicks thought of all the stimulation but they calmed down quickly once everyone left.
We went camping at Edisto Island last week and while we were gone our amazing friends built this beautiful chicken coop right onto our deck. Now we can go outside in bedroom slippers to harvest the eggs (from my mom’s old laundry room cabinet converted into a laying box). Did we mention our friends are amazing?
My great-grandmother’s pomegranate tree greeted people as they walked up the driveway. It’s the largest one I’ve ever seen in this area — I think because of the south-facing brick chimney it leans against.
I’d planned to get some oyster mushroom cultures started on my fiance’s coffee grounds prior to the farm tour but ran out of time. Luckily, Tradd and Olga at Mushroom Mountain were kind enough to give us an oyster bag and loan us some of their shiitake logs. We highly recommend their products, classes, and website tutorials if you’re thinking about growing some mushrooms. You can also join SCUMS, the South Carolina Upstate Mycological Society.
We sent people who came to see a working beehive down the street to view my old colony (now managed by my stepfather). Since our hive was empty, we were able to let people dismantle it to see how it worked.
You sure don’t need anything fancy to make a homemade vermiculture bin — just a plastic tub with air holes drilled along the side, some damp shredded newspaper or junk mail, some food scraps, and some red worms!
We kept an email signup sheet for people who wanted to buy our veggie transplants and extra summer produce. It was so popular (8 pages long!) that I’m looking at expanding the garden to grow even more!!!
If you went on the farm tour (or wish you did) and would like to read the articles that I had hanging in the garden, here they are:
- How to Teach Beginning Organic Gardening in 15 Minutes (a crash-course in organic gardening with sources)
- How to Start a Raised Bed Garden without Buying Anything
- How to Use Compost Well
- How to Choose from Garden Catalogs (w/Directory Listing)
- How to Make Your Own Slow-Release Fertilizer
- How to Spray Milk to Prevent Powdery Mildew Disease
- How to Get Started Keeping Bees (Simple and “Instant” Beekeeping)
- How to Get Peppers off to a Good Start (w/More Fruit that Ripens Faster)
- How to Grow Eggplants Faster than the Flea Beetles can Kill Them
- How to Plant Tomatoes (and Get the Best Root System)
- How to Increase a “Tomato Problem” (w/Gratuitous Photos)
- How to Get Your Kid to Eat Tomatoes (aka “Vampire Traveling Tomatoes” that Look Like Brains)
- How to Use Fennel (or Dill) to Keep Caterpillars off Your Vegetable Plants
- How to Select and Use Basil Varieties (w/Stuffed Artichoke Recipe)
- How to Grow Mini-Melons on a Trellis
- How to Grow Yardlong Beans
- How to Grow Peas as Quick Harvest Greens (and Use up Old Seed Packets)
- How to Choose and Grow Fig Varieties for the Southeast
- How to Grow Passionfruit in the Backyard
- How to (Easily) Grow Celery at Home (w/Recipes)
- How to Grow and Use Achocha/Caigua (a Problem-Free Cucumber Substitute) w/Recipes
- How to Grow and Use Papalo (w/Recipes & Sources)
- How to Grow Slow-Bolting Cilantro ‘Delfino’ in the Hot and Cold Months
- How to Grow and Use Lemongrass as a Kitchen Ornamental (w/Recipes)
- How to Grow and Use Tea Hibiscus (Florida Cranberry)
- How to Grow and Use Amaranth Greens (w/Recipes & Sources)
- How to Grow Globe Artichokes in the Southeast
- How to Grow Citrus in Pots
- How to Choose Disease-Resistant Roses to Grow Organically (w/Sources List)
I also included a few that answer questions people asked me during the day. The printed articles that were not from my blog are the ones on healthier free-range eggs, keeping backyard chickens, building a 3-tier compost bin, DIY vermicomposting bins, and the City of Greenville chicken municipal code (Go to Chapter 4. Animals, then Article I. General Provisions, then Section 4-8 & Section 4-9).
Whew! I think I’ll go sit out back in a relaxing chair and stare at the garden.