Community gardening : Growing vegetables can be a group effort (Google / Calgary Herald)

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Growing vegetables can be a group effort

Don’t have any land? Join a community garden

Donna Balzer, For The Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, June 07, 2008

OK, it is time to call uncle on winterkill and deal with it. If part of a shrub or tree is dead or partially dead or needing a bit of trimming, it is time to prune off the dead wood now — no more waiting to see if it will come back. Removing dead wood is as simple as trimming back to live wood or a main stem with green growth. Many roses die back every winter and can be trimmed back to the living branches. Other shrubs, such as hydrangea, are little more than perennials in our climate and often die back, too, but we wait to prune them until we are sure we know how much is coming back and what is dead. Removing old spent blooms of lilacs happens as soon as the lilacs fade over the next few weeks. Reshaping any spring-blooming woody plant, such as double flowering plums or spring blooming spirea, can happen as soon as the blooms are finished but no later than the middle of July. That is because — as hard as this is to imagine — the new crop of flower buds which will over-winter will be forming by mid- to late July, so shaping needs to happen in the next several weeks.

Get involved with neighbours

Condominiums popping up all over town are ideal for people who do not want the cares of a large garden, but where do people go who still want to play at gardening and continue producing their own food? How exciting it is to find out there is a place where would-be gardeners can spend an hour or an afternoon gardening and growing vegetables and in return share the produce when it is ready. What a great way to participate in weeding without working alone and to take part in a community of like-minded people to produce food. Continue reading Community gardening : Growing vegetables can be a group effort (Google / Calgary Herald)

All about community gardening (allotments) – (Gardening Newsletter / BBC)

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Elsewhere in Gardening

Growing veg is also great in a crate (Google / Dana McCauley’s Food Blog)

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Dana’s Gardening Adventure: Growing veg is also great in a crate

So, the plants and seeds are doing their thing in the garden. Weeds seem to be growing faster than anything, which is a bit of a worry but I guess also a fact of the organic gardening experience. While mine is a classic backyard garden plot, I’ve noticed that people are finding any way they can to be better earthlings by growing a few of their favorite veggies and herbs.

Urban community gardens are popping up in all kinds of Canadian cities. In fact, the picture above is of a 2007 summer Toronto garden sponsored by Hellmann’s mayo. This year their project will continue with 94 contest winners who will get urban garden plots in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Hellmann’s also has some useful online garden planning tools I found fun to play with. Continue reading Growing veg is also great in a crate (Google / Dana McCauley’s Food Blog)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

Jamaica : Farming kits and Urban Backyard Garden Programme (Google / Radio Jamaica)

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Farming kits to be distributed as gov’t pushes backyard gardening

Sunday, 20 April 2008 In a move reminiscent of the People’s National Party government of the 1970’s, the current Jamaica Labour Party administration has announced a drive to encourage Jamaicans to establish backyard gardens. In his recent budget presentation, Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Tufton said government will urge Jamaicans to go back to basics by implementing an Urban Backyard Garden Programme. The project is aimed at assisting residents of urban centres to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs in their backyards or community spaces. Continue reading Jamaica : Farming kits and Urban Backyard Garden Programme (Google / Radio Jamaica)

Philippines : Revive backyard gardening (Google / The News Today)

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Revive backyard gardening

By Rodolfo P. Gumabong

History really repeats itself. In the early 60s, there was an acute shortage of food and unemployment was high. Then Pres. Diosdado Macapagal opened the employment opportunity by spending millions of pesos in the so-called “Emergency Employment (EE)” in all remote barrios of the country then, many got casual jobs and money flowed like rivers of water. Food was scarce then and rice vanished in the market. Then Chinese philanthropist Chiu Kim She mobilized Iloilo Chinese rice traders and within few days, Ilonggos qeued the long line of human horde just to get cheap rice by several gantas which the Chinese merchants sold at affordable cost. But while rice was literally abundant, vegetables, fish, meat, and root crops were not only scarce but also the price was not right. An appeal was made by city officials that each household cultivates vacant space in their neighborhood and plant vegetables, root crops and even put up tilapia pond. The appeal clicked, soon thereafter housewifes utilized the stuff planted in their garden and eventually, local markets were flooded with green leafy products and even fish. Continue reading Philippines : Revive backyard gardening (Google / The News Today)

Landscaping and gardening problems (Google / News-Press)

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Stephen Brown: Landscape practices differ from gardening

QUESTION: Once again our community’s landscaping company came through all our yards and hard-cut our Ixora, Hibiscus and Thryallis shrubs that were all just beginning to get flowers. It is my understanding that hard pruning in April is too late. Now these shrubs will have no flowers at their peak blooming time. Is that correct? Or am I wrong? It is so frustrating and sad to see bushes ready to bloom reduced to sticks and little leaves, and see them like this all summer long.

– Sandra, e-mail

ANSWER: On many community properties landscaping, not gardening, is practiced. The landscapers are often bound by contracts that require the pruning of shrubs at set intervals, often as short as every six weeks. These landscape maintenance techniques were often formulated by individuals and boards not familiar with the plants they were charged to manage.

Many contracts require shrubs to be cropped to planes and angles rather than to allow them the freedom of growth and bloom. Thus, plants are often severely pruned just as they are about to flower, stifling their beauty. On landscapes and in gardens, plants will require pruning, but pruning can either detract or add to the beauty of ones surrounding. It should not always be done so as to leave the plants holding sticks.

Education of others in the community will also be essential so as to redefine “beauty plant.” While April is not the best time to prune, when done correctly it should hardly be noticed by the residents.

Q: I am again attempting to grow a foxtail palm in some poor soil in a new development. I planted two foxtails some time ago. One is healthy and robust; the other performed poorly so I removed it and planted a new one about eight weeks ago. On the new foxtail, two fronds have already died from the bottom up with leaves on two more starting to dry up. What is your opinion of adding mycorrhizal fungi to the soil?

— Martin R., Cape Coral

A: One of the most important activities of soil fungi is the association between certain fungi and the roots of higher plants. The association is called mycorrhizae, a term meaning “fungus root.” The fungus and the plant both benefit from the relationship.

In a natural ecosystem, mycorrhizae relationships are the rule, not the exception, and some plants cannot survive without this relationship. The mycorrhizal fungus obtains sugars directly from the plant’s root cells. In return, the fungus grows directly into the soil, extending the plant root system and capturing nutrients the plant’s own root hairs cannot absorb.

For this reason and more, the use of mycorrhizae has been a powerful tool in certain aspects of agriculture. Best success is obtained in nutrient-poor soils and in accurately matching the exact fungal species with the right plant species.

However, for palms and some ornamentals, the use of mycorrhizae has not been successful. Recent University of Florida studies using a variety of fungi have not resulted in significant attachments of the fungi to the roots of palms. These fungal products did not stimulate palm growth.

Growing foxtail palms will take free-draining soils and patience. After planting, many palms often lose their lower leaves. Foxtail palms in particular will not grow until its roots are properly established. That can take as many as two years.

Q: On our golf course, I noticed the leaves of a number of trees turning a rusty carrot color and falling. I wish I could tell you what the variety is but I don’t know. One would think they are dropping leaves because they are water-starved, but is it a possibility that they are deciduous trees and this is their time to shed some leaves?

— Rose Marie, e-mail

A: South Florida is replete with trees of tropical origins. While we expect orthern trees to bare their branches in fall and winter, most trees originating south of the Tropic of Cancer surreptitiously drop their leaves.


— Stephen Brown is a horticulture agent with the Lee County Extension Service. Submit questions by calling the horticulture desk at 533-7504 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or by e-mailing Visit his Web page at

As prices go up, more people plant vegetables (Google / WSLS)

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As prices go up, more people plant vegetables
Media General News Service

Published: April 17, 2008

Rajeswari Sasikumar has planted a backyard garden of tomatoes, eggplants, okra and peppers for three years now. This year will be no different. With her in-laws and 3-year-old daughter along, Sasikumar spent part of a recent afternoon shopping for plants. She eyed a pepper plant, put it back and picked up another. “I like it, and it’s economical too,” said Sasikumar, explaining why she gardens. “The main thing is I like it.” The garden plot at her Glen Allen backyard is about 5 feet by 8 feet. A few aisles away at Strange’s Garden Center on West Broad Street, longtime gardeners Ellie and John Mikalchus filled their cart with vegetable and herb plants. The retired couple lives in Columbia in Fluvanna County. “We started out thinking the garden was going to be smaller,” said Ellie Mikalchus. “Because everything has gotten so bad and food prices have gone up so much, we’ve decided to make the garden bigger.” Her garden is about 30 feet by 30 feet, and they also have blueberries, fig and other fruit trees on their land. “We really are trying to be a little bit more self-sufficient,” said Ellie Mikalchus. With bread selling for close to $3 a loaf and gas well over $3 a gallon, folks looking for ways to cut expenses have to look no further than their backyard. For avid vegetable gardeners, saving money is just a bonus. Continue reading As prices go up, more people plant vegetables (Google / WSLS)