Organic vegetable gardens (Vegetable Garden Guide)

An organic vegetable garden in the allotments of Ghent Slotenkouter / Belgium (Photo WVC)


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My Family’s First Attempt At An Organic Vegetable Garden

by Scott Oakes
(Spring Hill, Florida)

We knew from the get go that we would face some difficulties starting an organic vegetable garden in West Central Florida.

The soil is not very good. Mostly sand and the climate is hot and humid. The perfect incubator for insects and fungus, but we felt we were up to the challenge.

The first thing we did after clearing the plot was to add over 1600lbs of cow manure to the soil and work it in. To give us an edge against the anticipated insect assault we alternated garlic and onion plants around the entire perimeter of the garden as most insects will avoid both garlic and onions. It worked extremely well.

We did experience an episode with leaf miners in our organic vegetable garden but quickly brought it under control by putting jalapeno peppers in our blender with a little water.

After mixing the peppers and water on high for a few minutes, we then filtered the concoction through a coffee filter, then put it in a sprayer and sprayed the plants in the garden. Again, it worked great.



Splendid organic vegetable gardens in the allotments of Ghent Slotenkouter/Belgium (Photo WVC)

City withholds community garden permits amid 16,000 vacant lots (Food for Freedom)


Community gardens (allotments) in the Philippines (Photo Willy GOETHALS)


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Granny guerrilla gardener ticketed for trespassing in Buffalo: City of 16,000 vacant lots

By Donn Esmonde

If she keeps it up, they might slap the cuffs on her. I can see it now—Nettie Anderson, outlaw gardener. Dirt on her hands. A summons in her mailbox.

That is just the image this city needs: An 83-year-old grandmother with a rap sheet. The longtime community activist may get nailed with a trespassing violation for trying to spruce up her street. Standing with her is a legion of other citizen- gardeners who are trying to make Buffalo better, if only the mayor would let them.

City Hall has a nasty habit of making life tough for people who are trying to help themselves — and the city. Even so, count this absurdity among Byron Brown’s Greatest Mis-hits.

The city has 16,000 vacant lots and no idea what to do with them. Folks on battered streets got tired of staring at scrub brush. They pulled out weeds and jacked up property values by putting in gardens. Lending a hand is Grassroots Gardens, a nonprofit group that donates plants and — amazingly — put up $1 million to legally cover the city’s back. All that the city’s chief planner, who takes marching orders from the mayor, has to do is sign off on the gift of citizens’ sweat.



Allotments in Ghent/Belgium - (Photo WVC)

The role of urban gardens, family gardens and school gardens (Willem Van Cotthem / IRIN / FAO)

For years we have been promoting family gardens (kitchen gardens) and school gardens, not to mention hospital gardens, in the debate on alleviation of hunger and poverty.  We have always insisted on the fact that development aid should concentrate on initiatives to boost food security through family gardens instead of food aid on which the recipients remain dependent. Since the nineties we have shown that community gardens in rural villages, family gardens in refugee camps and school gardens, where people and children grow their own produce, are better off than those who received food from aid organizations at regular intervals.

2007 – Family garden in Smara refugee camp (S.W. Algeria, Sahara desert), where people never before got local fresh food to eat

Locally produced fresh vegetables and fruits play a tremendously important role in the daily diet of all those hungry people in the drylands.  Take for instance the possibility of having a daily portion of vitamins within hand reach.  Imagine the effect of fresh food on malnutrition of the children.  Imagine the feelings of all those women having their own kitchen garden close to the house, with some classical vegetables and a couple of fruit trees.

No wonder that hundreds of publications indicate the success of allotment gardens in periods of food crisis.  See what happened during World War I and II, when so many  families were obliged to produce some food on a piece of land somewhere to stay alive.  In those difficult days allotment gardens were THE solution.  They still exist and become more and more appealing in times of food crisis.

2008-10-25 – Allotment gardens Slotenkouter (Ghent City, Belgium) at the end of the growing season

There was no surprise at all to read, since a few years that is, about a new movement in the cities : guerilla gardening.  Sure, different factors intervene in these urban initiatives, be it environmental factors (embellishing open spaces full of weeds in town) or social ones (poor people growing vegetables on small pieces of barren land in the cities).

Today, some delightful news was published by IRIN :”Liberia: Urban gardens to boost food security” :

“MONROVIA, 19 January 2010 (IRIN) – Farmers are turning to urban gardens as a way to boost food security in Liberia’s Montserrado County, where just one percent of residents grow their own produce today compared to 70 percent before the war.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is targeting 5,000 urban residents of Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Bong and Margibi counties, to encourage them to start market gardens or increase the amount of fruit and vegetables they grow on their farms. Participants had to have access to tools and some land.  The aim is to improve food security and nutritional status while boosting incomes, said project coordinator Albert Kpassawah. Participants told IRIN they plant hot peppers, cabbage, calla, tomatoes, onions, beans and ground nuts. Health and nutrition experts in Liberia say increasing fruit, vegetables and protein in people’s diets is vital to reducing chronic malnutrition, which currently affects 45 percent of under-fives nationwide.


FAO assists primarily by providing seeds and training in techniques such as conserving rainwater and composting. The organization does not provide fertilizer, insecticides or tools – a concern to some participants. “You cannot grow cabbage without insecticide. It doesn’t work,” Anthony Nackers told IRIN.  Vermin, insects and poor storage destroy 60 percent of Liberia’s annual harvest, according to FAO.  And many of the most vulnerable city-dwellers – those with no access to land – cannot participate at all, FAO’s Kpassawah pointed out. But he said he hopes the project’s benefits will spread beyond immediate participants, since all who take part are encouraged to pass on their training to relatives, neighbours and friends.  And there is ample scope to expand techniques learned from cities to rural areas, he pointed out. Just one-third of Liberia’s 660,000 fertile hectares are being cultivated, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.


Let us express our sincere hopes that FAO will soon be able to show to all aid organizations that sufficient food production can be secured by the population of any developing country.  What is possible in urban areas of Liberia can be duplicated in any other country.  What can be achieved in urban gardens, can also be done in rural family gardens.  Why should we continue to discuss the alarming problem of those vulnerable children suffering or even starving from chronic malnutrition, if  school gardens can be a good copy of the successful urban gardens in Liberia?

Don’t we underestimate the role container gardening can play in food production (see and the pleasure children can find in growing fruit trees and vegetables in plastic bottles.  Pure educational reality !

We count on FAO to take the lead : instead of spending billions on “permanent” food aid, year after year, it would be an unlimited return on investment if only a smaller part would be reserved to immediate needs in times of hunger catastrophes, but the major part spent at the world-wide creation of urban and rural family gardens.

We remain in FAO’s save hands. We wonder what keeps United Nations to envisage a “Global Programme for Food Security” based on the creation of kitchen gardens for the one billion daily hungry people who know that we have this solution in hand.  Let us spend more available resources on “Defense”, the one against hunger and poverty!

Benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens (Sheffield Univ. / Willem Van Cotthem)

Read at : Sheffield Univ. – Environment Division


Producers of ‘home grown’ food can gain psychological and physiological benefits through physical activity and improved nutrition, as well as through self empowerment, engaging with nature, and participating in communal activities. Lack of physical activity and low intake of fruit and vegetables is linked to poor health, but little is known about how the health benefits of physical exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption relate to their environmental setting. Studies of these benefits have often focused on particular social groups such as the elderly or those with mental illness.



The paragraph above describes the major benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens.  Key words are :

  1. Physiological benefits: physical activity, improved nutrition, improved health
  2. Psychological benefits: self empowerment, engagement with nature, participation in community.

In fact, these benefits also go for family gardens (kitchen gardens), school gardens and hospital gardens.  One can imagine that extraordinary improvement in nutrition and health can be achieved if people in the drylands and in refugee camps would be enabled to grow their own food, be it in allotment gardens or in community gardens.

I remain confident that international aid organizations and NGOs, sooner or later, will set up programmes and projects to install these types of gardens to combat hunger and malnutrition and to assure food security in hostile environments.

Success of community plots (Google / The Columbian)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

City cultivates garden locations

Vancouver opens more space for community plots

By Andrea Damewood

Columbian Staff Writer

Look out Bono: Community gardens are the hottest ticket in town.

Last year, Vancouver’s 200 community garden plots sold out in just four hours. Turns out, folks in Clark County interested in growing their own groceries seem to be cropping up faster than the pesky dandelions their brothers-in-dirt lament.

So for this growing season, the city has added new plots and beds to its four existing community gardens, and is opening the new 24-plot Haagen Community Park Garden on Northeast Ninth Street. The work is covered by a $5,000 grant from the Parks Foundation of Clark County and $40,000 in city funding.

The city is also hosting a forum Tuesday for those interested in starting even more public gardens, this time in their neighborhood parks. Continue reading Success of community plots (Google / The Columbian)

Community food gardens/Food Banks/Allotments for food security (Google / Green Living Tips)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Community food gardens

By Green Living Tips

What is a community food garden?
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In previous articles I’ve covered “alternative” natural food sourcing and production arrangements such as CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and natural food cooperatives.

Another concept gaining popularity is community food gardens.


A community food garden is a piece of land, usually rented from local government, collectively worked by a group of people who share the harvest. It differs a little from the UK allotment concept in that allotments are usually rented out to individuals.

Community food gardens offer individuals a way of growing a portion of their own food in a collaborative environment, benefiting from the experience of other members. Community food gardens can provide greater food security along with a reduction in the food mile impact of participants’ diets. Quite a few of these groups also observe environmentally friendly methods of food production – anything from using heritage or heirloom seeds or natural fertilizers, to full blown organic gardening. Continue reading Community food gardens/Food Banks/Allotments for food security (Google / Green Living Tips)

Food security – an unavoidable solution (W. Van Cotthem)

I was reading with great interest the content of the former postings on my blog


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering at an American university that the daily reality for one third of the world’s population who live on less than $2 a day include decisions such as which of their children gets to eat.


Mr. Ban noted that one billion people around the world, known as the “bottom billion,” live on less than $1 a day and two billion live on less than $2 a day, and many if not most are children suffering from hunger and malnutrition.


Some families ended up eating one meal a day instead of two, explained Mr. Ban, with some family members going without food.  “Sometimes parents have to choose among their children as to who gets to eat, and who doesn’t.


He pointed out that families who spend more on food have less for health and education, beginning a social spiral which the whole society goes down.


The challenge of food security must be addressed immediately, said Mr. Ban. “We need to strengthen agricultural infrastructure, increase productivity and do away with unfair terms of trade.”


So far, so good for some parts of Mr. BAN’s speech at St. Louis University in Missouri last Friday.

Today, I can’t avoid dreaming, eyes wide open, of a world within which every family has its own allotment, its own kitchen garden (and not only the Queen at Buckingham Palace !).

Let’s dream  together, eyes still wide open : all the international organisations, nowadays carrying responsibilities for food programmes (WFP, FAO, UNICEF for the children’s health and education,  the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, etc.), working together to ban malnutrition, hunger, famine, starvation from this world, could start up a worldwide programme to construct family gardens or kitchen gardens and school gardensfor one third of the world’s population who live on less than $2 a day include decisions such as which of their children gets to eat”.  They would certainly find the necessary donors for such a global programme, because the survival of our whole human society is at stake.

Together with Mr. BAN I notice that “one billion people around the world, known as the “bottom billion,” live on less than $1 a day and two billion live on less than $2 a day, and many if not most are children suffering from hunger and malnutrition“.  So, why don’t we construct school gardens for these kids, not to make them richer, but to learn them  how to produce vegetables in the school yard for at least one decent meal with fresh food, vitamins and minerals per day ?

If it is true “that families who spend more on food have less for health and education, beginning a social spiral which the whole society goes down“, why don’t we stop that sliding down of the whole society simply by teaching the world poorest people how to grow their own vegetables and offer them their own small kitchen garden.

Don’t give them a fish, but teach them how to fish” or in this case “Don’t send them food, but teach them how to grow it“, for even in the most difficult situations of poverty, drought and desertification, we have already the most appropriate ways of soil conditioning, water harvesting and food crop production. Methods and techniques are well known; they have shown their cost-effectiveness.

If Queen Elizabeth felt the need to have an organic vegetable patch at Buckingham Palace of about 10 yards by eight yards in size, why do the poorest families of this world don’t get a similar patch for their own welfare , close to their humble home? (see my posting at

Impossible, you say ?  Just have a look at my former postings about the family gardens in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria on this blog (a former UNICEF-project !).

Have a look at the picture below and judge for yourself : if such a kitchen garden is possible in the Sahara desert, why not everywhere else. Even a much smaller one would do, don’t you think ?

2006-05 Kitchen garden in Aussert camp (S.W. Algeria)
2006-05 Children in a kitchen garden in the Sahara desert, close to the hospital near Aussert camp (S.W. Algeria)

I strongly believe that family (kitchen) gardens and school gardens are an unavoidable solution for the hunger and health problems of this world.

It suffices to believe in it to find ways and means for the realization of such a programme, full of beauty and supreme human feelings.  Isn’t that one of the the main goals of the United Nations and of many of the aid organizations ?  It’s not a dream anymore, for reality knocks at our doors.  Why would we keep our doors locked for such an idea, such a fantastic solution (that’s what the people, having already a small kitchen garden, told us) ?

So, who takes the lead ?  The winner takes all the honours !

Just wait and see ?  No, don’t wait anymore, let’s do it together, tomorrow or the day after.

A vegetable plot at Buckingham Palace (Telegraph)

Message sent by Robert Holmer and by Willy GOETHALS

The Queen has joined the “grow your own” revolution after creating a vegetable plot at Buckingham Palace.

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
Published: 9:00AM BST 14 Jun 2009

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh talk to Claire Midgley, the Deputy Gardens Manager of Buckingham Palace, as they study the new vegetable garden in the grounds of the Royal reside.  Queen Elizabeth’s organic vegetable patch at Buckingham Palace is about 10 yards by eight yards in size.  For the first time since the Second World War vegetables are being grown in the Palace’s grounds alongside ornamental plants. The move comes amid a surge in demand from people up and down the country to have their own allotment to grow their own food during the recession.
The Queen’s organic vegetable patch is about 10 yards by eight yards in size. It is at the rear of the garden in an area which is called the Yard Bed. Guests attending the Queen’s garden parties will be able to see her new allotment over the summer. “The Queen is very keen on gardens in general and she is always willing to try out new things,” said a royal source.  “She attends the Chelsea Flower Show each year and has always been fond of Kew Gardens.” Continue reading A vegetable plot at Buckingham Palace (Telegraph)

Allotment gardens and container gardening in the Philippines (R. HOLMER)

I received an interesting email message from

Dr. Robert J. Holmer
Periurban Vegetable Project (PUVeP)
Xavier University – Research & Social Outreach
Manresa Farm, Fr. W. F. Masterson SJ Ave
9000 Cagayan de Oro City

telling me : “I just came across your great blog on Desertification which I started to read with great interest and joy since you share the same ideas about food security as me. Your comment on allotment gardening reflects exactly my sentiments. …………………………..  and possibly we can convince more people on the benefits of these programs, including container gardening.

The pictures I added are from two school gardens where we are establishing so-called container gardens to maximize space and to encourage pupils to replicate this at home. We also provided rainwater catchment since even in the tropics freshwater is becoming scarce (and the technology – as simple as it may be – was basically not known).

2008 Students filling plastic bottles with soil to set up container gardening
2008 Philippines : Students filling plastic bottles with soil to set up container gardening
A rack with plastic bottles for succesful container gardening in a small area (vertical gardening)
2008 - Philippines : A rack with plastic bottles for succesful container gardening in a small area (vertical gardening)
Efficient rainwater catchment with simple tools
2008 - Philippines : Efficient rainwater catchment with simple tools

In addition, one of our former staff members just started his Ph.D. thesis on ‘bio-char’ which you also mentioned on your blog. I added his thesis proposal for your reference.

Attached also a little brochure we just came out with as well as the link to our 103 “Philippine Allotment Garden Manual“, which may give some useful ideas to people in other countries (”.