How To Grow Your Urban Vegetables

Growing your own vegetables can be empowering.

 You may have limited space in the city, or live in the suburbs

and do not know how to begin.

 

Above is my urban backyard garden

 WHY IS IT EMPOWERING?  

Self-efficiency always guarantees admiration. To be able to plant a seed and watch it shoot from the soil as a tender plant, as it arises, from its earthly cradle where it was buried, because it first has to die to be able to live again is truly amazing to behold.

The seed after it is planted will become a tender plant, ready to live among the living and destined to support the human family, which is a miraculous admiration.

Growing Your Own Food is Empowering

Growing your own food at home is one of life’s greatest pleasures and is very empowering.

Growing my own food can be self-efficient. It is something I always wanted to do because it provides a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Why do I think it’s empowering? During your period of learning how to grow your personal garden, you will develop,
(1) Patience, between the planting of the seeds and the harvesting,
(2) Faith, because you believe and are expecting to see it bear fruits even when it doesn’t even spring from the soil.
(3) Confidence, after experiencing patience, faith, and harvest, and all fruits have grown to perfection and are ready to be consumed by you, your family, or neighbors. According to Charles Dudley Warner, and I quote,” To own a bit of ground, to scratch it, with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch the renewal of life- this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.

I thought that farming was just tilling the soil, sowing a seed, and watering it, but I was wrong. There is more to it than just that. Below I will take you through what it’s all about, at least some of the things that one should take into consideration.

Last Spring, I decided to start gardening in a lovely space located in my backyard. The purpose of this vegetable garden was private, for myself and family sustenance, and of course share with my neighbors too.

My daughter and I grew crops we loved to eat, such as cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, tomatoes, beans, peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, okra, and zucchini, so we decided to plant their seeds.

There are two options to be considered before sowing the seeds. One is testing the soil and if the soil is contaminated, option two is to get healthier soils for creating the gardening bed. Good gardening soils can be obtained from Home Depot or sustainable farms.

Creating the gardening bed by first making an elevated bed by wood or bamboo ,12 inches or more above the ground, squared or rectangular in shape, safely boxed around to avoid spillage.  Also, if you ran out of space, you could use large buckets.

SOIL TESTING

Knowing the level of contaminants in the soil can help make better decisions in protecting the health of you and your family.

Testing your soil also allows you to select the right plants for your garden and know the various nutrients that are present such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.

The first step, we have to consider to do before we start gardening is testing the soil, for a healthier and more productive garden. If the soil is contaminated, the produce could be very harmful to our health. Urban soils are certainly at risk for contamination.

Over the years, for example, some of NYC soils have become contaminated with lead throughout the five boroughs with a high concentration in Brooklyn.

So, the second step is to deliver sample soil for testing for contaminants at the Environmental Sciences Analytical Center at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY, before we start planting.

The results are normally emailed to the customer within 14 business days after receipt of the soil sample.

 

Type of Farming : Companion Farming

Following the test results, we will remediate(provide a remedy for) the soil. According to Carpenter and Rosenthal, the most effective method is adding compost which will bind to heavy metals, making them less bioavailable to plants and people. Sunflowers are planted to detoxify the soil by trapping the lead in the soil.

That type of farming is companion farming, which I will elaborate more on further in this blog.

The soil is best when its contents are of a base level rather than an acidic one. The texture and structure of the soil determine its pH levels. A pH test is done to determine the acidic or alkaline levels of the soil.

One section of the soil was a mixture of sand and clay which is known to be acidic. Soil without clay and sand is the best choice.
 I purchased a few bags of “miracle gro” which consist of a few minerals that are of vital importance in enhancing the fertility of the soil.

The third step is to make a crop plan chart. Below is an example of the crop plan that I made.

I’m grateful that I am empowered with much knowledge about gardening.  Now I am empowering you with the same knowledge. I did not know that nature itself can be used as a pest resistance. Isn’t that quite interesting?

According to O’Donnell Young, nature is the ultimate pesticide, By including diverse plantings and the conditions to attract benefits in your nature-cape design, you can encourage a healthy balance between predators and prey.

I then planted aromatic herbs in between beds to ward off pests and disease. I looked for pest and their eggs when I saw the leaves were eaten and used my finger and water to remove them.

I made trellises for my tomatoes and cucumbers and pruned my tomatoes. I made compost after learning how to check the pH and texture of the soil.

    Chart of the Crop Plan

VarietyDays to MaturityQuantitySow/Transplant DateHarvest
Cucumber (high yielding) Straight Eight581505/2107/19
Callaloo) Amaranthus tricolor502405/2107/11
Pumpkin, Connecticut Field110-1201005/2109/10
Watermelon, Citrullus Lanatas), Crimson Sweet851005/2108/15
Okras, Jambalaya501005/2107/11
Tomatoes (high yielding) Brandy Wine781505/2108/08
Beans (high yielding) Provider501505/2107/11
Early Jalapeno Peppers (high yielding)60green1005/2107/21
Sweet Potatoes (high yielding) Murasaki1051505/2109/05
Kale (fast maturing)Darkibor751504/1506/30
Lettuce (Iceberg)Crispino571504/1506/11
Basil (Fast Maturing)75-1202005/2108/05- 09/21
Carrots1001504/1507/15
Onions95-1202004/1508/05
Thyme(summer)90-952005/2108/26
Mint(common)70-802005/2108/10
Parsley65-902004/1507/15
White CloverApple Tree60-702005/2108/01

 We had prepared a crop plan, which you have just seen, that consisted of vegetables which I ate every week, secondary vegetables, and occasional vegetables. The plan also outlines the days to maturity, when it is sewn, and when it is expected to be harvested.

 This blog is not meant only for urban residents but for anyone who desires to grow their own vegetables.

It’s amazing how land space can be converted into a productive space for family or the community.

If you may have limited space horizontally, no need to worry, you can farm your herbs, vegetables, and flowers vertically.

Vegetables and herbs can be grown in pots or plastic containers, small or large beside the house or along a fence/wall. If you choose to use containers, please make small holes at the bottom, which would allow for the drainage of excess water

 Located by the right side of the house is a spigot that will be used for irrigation.

This space received full sunlight for at least 6 hours. I will design the space with a raised bed at the rear, and in-ground beds for the rest of the space.

I will use “Miracle-Gro” soil to spread all over mixing with the compost made from worms in my worm bin and decomposed leaves and plants which will be stored in a compost bin next to the rear of the storage shed.

Crops will be grown for three different seasons (spring, summer, and fall) but on the blueprint are crops that are grown for one season which is summer.

Agricultural Techniques

The agricultural techniques that I will use to grow the crops are organic which entails Intercropping, biodiversity, hand harvesting, polyculture and compost, natural farming, and companion planting which is how I will keep my crops.

On the plan is a trellis, made out of bamboo and garden wire for the beans and cucumbers in the raised bed along with carrots.

Next to the bamboo trellis are sunflowers. In the next row on raised beds of soil will be tomatoes with trellises.

On the lower section of the bed, I will plant Basil herbs by the left borderlines. On the right, there will be growing thyme by the borders.  Moving southward would be Melons, Pumpkins, Zucchinis, Hot pepper, Kale, Lettuce, Okras, and Sweet Potatoes.
Dutch white clovers will be planted between the Watermelon and Zucchinis. Along the sides of the Lettuce will be Parsley herbs and onions by the border of the Zucchini and Kales. At the central location of these in-ground beds are four in-ground beds making a circular design, where Mint, Clover, Fennel, and Parsley will be planted, and between them are steppingstones.

I love the idea of polyculture because according to Penniman, polycultures involve inter-cropping which confuses the pests and blanketed the ground, suppressing weeds.

Companion planting, which is a type of inter-cropping, where the herbs are planted between the tomatoes and watermelons, left and right borders, and at a central location to ward off insects that are pests.

Inter-planting with other crops makes it less obvious and attractive to the insect. The cover crops like the summer squash create a covering over the soil, which prevents weeds from growing, preserves moisture, and produces a lively mulch for the microorganisms living in the soil which benefits the plants.

The beans take the nitrogen from the air and supply it to the soil so that the other plants can benefit from it. The Sunflowers trap the lead in their tissues and the cucumbers and summer squash produce toxic substances that are harmful to other plants which is called the allelopathic effect.

Upon knowing the benefit of the Pumpkin of its allelopathy effect, whenever it starts to run, I will guide it around the border of the garden to keep away harmful plants/weeds.

The bamboo trellis provides a strong structure for the beans and cucumber and they are also known for sequestering carbon in the soil for the benefit of the plants.

The goal of this crop plan is for personal use and I hope this blog will empower you to share with next door neighbors, which I hope will encourage healthy eating, thereby lessening the risk of chronic diseases and also inspire neighbors to do the same or create a community garden which is a dream I hope will come through and will definitely guarantee admiration.

 

My urban garden products

Below is an example of urban agriculture, if you run out of space, that can be done at your home in large buckets.

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