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!)

Photo Caption: You enter our garden through a gate next to the back deck and herb patch.

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.

Photo Caption: Our spring crops exceeded my expectations. I put these beds in before the rest of the garden was finished so that I could plant them as early as possible -- which ended up being March 1st - March 15th.

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).

Photo Caption: I try to use mostly edible flowers in my herb beds but I make sure to tuck blooms all over the garden to pull pollinators in for a closer look. I had zinnias, nasturtiums, cosmos, and more planted among the veggies but the pansies were the only thing established enough to flower.

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.

Photo Caption: I made educational signs for various crops and garden concepts, many of them articles printed from this blog. We also had a few warning signs for uneven ground and a mommy cardinal nesting in the Asian pear tree.

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.

Photo Caption: Our chicks are around one week old.

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.

Photo Caption: A canning display, container garden, late-started seed trays, and our amazing new chicken coop were available for viewing on the deck.

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?

Photo Caption: This pomegranate has been passed down in my family for generations.

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.

Photo Caption: Blue oyster mushrooms are one of my favorite "homegrown" edible fungi (vs. wild foraged species).

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.

Photo Caption: My stepdad kept my old beehive (nine houses away) and we're replacing them at our new location.

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.

Photo Caption: The same friends responsible for our gorgeous chicken coop gave me this homemade vermiculture bin. I had one a while back but my mom vetoed any worms in her house when we were living together.

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!

Photo Caption: I tend to plant 4 cells of every variety I grow to ensure I get at least one... and most of them make it. That means I have a ton of leftover transplants to sell!

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:

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.

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

34 thoughts on “How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm”

  1. Donna - May 8, 2011 6:11 pm

    wow you must be exhausted…I have been meaning to create a vermiculture so your simple instructions make it easy…what an incredible farm and garden you have…

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 6:41 pm

      YES! But it’s a satisfying sort of tired. I’m glad the vermicompost instructions help! My bin is even simpler than the one in those plans, they take very little effort.
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  2. Heather - May 8, 2011 6:24 pm

    Wow, 500!
    We’ve had 150 visit our small yard in a day and that was busy, I can’t imagine trying to talk to everyone, it is a good thing you made signs.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 6:46 pm

      Yeah! I counted the tally that the GOFO volunteer made before he left at 1:00pm — it was 311 people! My parents were on the tour and live 9 houses away down a dead-end street and they tell me their tally was 170 people at 1:00pm.

      My fiance and I were too busy answering questions to keep up the count after that, but my mom had some other volunteers and said that she totaled around 450 people by 5:00pm. So we must have had even more than that. Given we had the same number of people in our yard almost all day long, we probably saw almost everyone who bought a ticket (and I think a bunch of neighbors who were wondering what all the cars were doing out front)!
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  3. Donna - May 8, 2011 8:57 pm

    This was a wonderful event that I bet you are glad you organized and participated. Your chicks are so cute. Was mom on hand and friendly?

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 11:06 pm

      Yeah! I actually turned GOFO down the first couple times I was asked (because I didn’t have a garden yet!) Then they talked me into it, and I got busy! I am happy I was on the tour and also delighted to have my garden this well established so early in the season — yay!

      We just have chicks, no mama hen… unless you count my daughter. :)

  4. Greenearth
    Twitter: anewgreenearth
    - May 8, 2011 9:17 pm

    What an inspiring event and post. Thank you for all the wonderful information, and keep up the great work. Your urban farm looks so exciting.
    Greenearth´s last blog post ..Green Business Opportunities Can Nuture Our Planet

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 11:07 pm

      Thanks! We’re so pleased to be calling ourselves an “urban farm” now.

  5. Cat - May 8, 2011 9:28 pm

    You’re amazing! What an event and so glad you posted links to the articles you had handy. There are several that I’d like to read. Rest well, that was a job well done!
    Oh, btw, don’t know how you had the time to visit my blog but I do appreciate that you do and thank you much for the kind words ;D

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 11:07 pm

      You’re welcome. It was very fun to finally get a chance to catch up on a few blogs today — I’ve missed it!

  6. PlantPostings
    Twitter: plantpostings
    - May 8, 2011 10:07 pm

    Oh my goodness, you have been one busy human! I’d say, yes, it’s time to relax a bit and enjoy your garden. All those beautiful crops have such a healthy start. Cheers!
    PlantPostings´s last blog post ..Hope grows- foliage!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 11:09 pm

      Thanks! I was very pleased all the plants cooperated with me by looking great in time for the farm tour… I admit that one of the first things we did today was gorge ourselves on the ‘Hakurei’ salad turnips that I’d been leaving so that they’d look nice. The patch isn’t as pretty today as yesterday, but we have happy tummies!
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  7. Mark Willis
    Twitter: marksvegplot
    - May 9, 2011 2:35 am

    What an amazing post! You have covered so many subjects. I know exactly what you mean about sowing 4 of everything when you only need one – I do the same (though on a smaller scale). Your Open Day was evidently a huge success, and you have every reason to be happy with your achievements. *Pats Eliza warmly on the back…*
    Mark Willis´s last blog post ..Physalis- Physalis- Physa-lost

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 9, 2011 8:11 am

      Haha, thanks for the back pat! I gotta say — it was pretty awesome to sit around lazily reading people’s blogs yesterday instead of working working working. But also wonderful when my fiancee made a fresh arugula pesto pasta with ‘Hakurei’ salad turnips and greens for dinner. It reminded me that I really grew the garden for the food, and not just for the farm tour!
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  8. Diana - May 9, 2011 3:08 am

    Well done. You are doing superb things around your garden. Wow thats a lot of greens. You can open a veggie stall in front of your house.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 9, 2011 8:13 am

      Well, and that’s funny… since we basically are opening a veggie stand in front of our house! We’re actually using an email list to let people know when and what we have extra of that they can come buy from us on our screened porch. Except… the signup sheet for the email list was 8 pages long at the Urban Farm Tour so now we’re trying to figure out how to grow even more food!!!

  9. Janet/Plantaliscious - May 9, 2011 3:57 am

    What you are doing – what you have achieved in such a short timescale – is really inspirational. I’m sure lots of people left full of plans and dreams, and perhaps plants too! Love the handy chicken coop – and the stone edging to your herb bed.
    Janet/Plantaliscious´s last blog post ..Sometimes planting happens too

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 9, 2011 8:16 am

      Thanks so much! I think the chicken coop is nice enough to be featured in a magazine — my friends have done such a mind-blowing job on it that it’s probably better constructed than my house!

      We weren’t ready to sell plants yet this weekend but I did send a lot of people home with cuttings from my great-grandmother’s pomegranate tree.
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  10. Jo - May 9, 2011 12:02 pm

    The whole tour was so much fun…brought back memories of my childhood in central PA. Thank you for your hard work to produce such an inspiration in such a short time!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 9, 2011 12:05 pm

      Great! I’m glad you were able to attend. All the presenters have been lamenting that we couldn’t also visit the gardens on the tour. :)

  11. Curbstone Valley Farm - May 9, 2011 3:56 pm

    Good grief, I’m exhausted just reading all that 😉 Your garden is looking fabulous, and your chicks are absolutely adorable! All you need now is a few thousand bees! :)
    Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog post ..Installing Our Package Bees

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 9, 2011 5:06 pm

      Yeah! I keep hoping a swarm will just take a hankerin’ to the empty box… it’s happened before…
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

      1. Curbstone Valley Farm - May 9, 2011 6:09 pm

        I’m sure they will…I’m a firm believer in ‘if you build it…they will come!’ I barely got our first hive painted before we had a swarm ready to move in! :)
        Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog post ..Installing Our Package Bees

  12. Janet, The Queen of Seaford - May 9, 2011 8:41 pm

    I watched your piece on WYFF, wish I had had the time to run up to Greenville to see your place in person.
    Glad it was a success.
    My worms have always lived in the house. :-)
    Janet, The Queen of Seaford´s last blog post ..The Family Bed-I Mean Garden Bed

  13. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens - May 10, 2011 8:15 am

    Your visitors were so lucky to see your incredibly informative garden. I wish I could see it in person.
    Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last blog post ..Miniature &amp Small Hostas

  14. Mrs Bok - May 14, 2011 4:49 am

    Your chicks are so cute! Your garden looks amazing

  15. Pam's English Garden - May 14, 2011 10:02 pm

    Dear Eliza, Wow! I love your ‘handy’ chicken coop. I wish I had some friends like yours. Amazing tour. Thanks. P. x
    Pam’s English Garden´s last blog post ..Standards of Good Behavior for a Perennial

  16. Elaine - May 16, 2011 7:55 pm

    I’m so glad you had such a wonderful tour, Eliza! How great that everything grew so quickly and filled in for you. I love your baby chicks and yes, you have amazing friends! :)
    Elaine´s last blog post ..Sunday Morning with Dorie- Crustless Spinach and Bacon Quiche

  17. Mac_fromAustralia - May 26, 2011 11:49 am

    Oh, I would have loved to be close enough to visit!

  18. Lrong - May 28, 2011 10:16 pm

    Sounds like a full time job you have at your farm… 500 guests, wow… I just cannot imagine how you can manage that… your bees, chickens… I’m drooling… :)
    Lrong´s last blog post ..Fava beans taste soooo good

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  20. Jon - March 23, 2012 8:39 pm

    Do you know when you will selling transplants again. I think most my starters died over the past two days. Thanks.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - March 27, 2012 2:45 pm

      I may sell them again next season. This year I only grew as many trays as would fit in my new cold frame, so I didn’t grow enough to sell. I’m sorry to hear about your transplants! I recommend the Greenbrier Farms plant sale or heading to the farmer’s market or Country Boys since they still sell them for less than $4 each.

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