Go to “Inside Urban Green” (H. HOUGH)

My American correspondent in Chicago Heidi HOUGH invited me to have a look at the website of her internet friend Bob HYLAND :


That’s a real discovery !  I have put it immediately at my blogroll.

Bob’s site “Inside Urban Green” treats

Modern methods of growing food, foliage or flowers for the millions of us who are not green thumbs

Here is a survey of the recent posts : Continue reading Go to “Inside Urban Green” (H. HOUGH)

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

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


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)

Gardening industry blossoms in slump (Google / Columbus Dispatch / AP)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


Gardening industry blossoms in slump

Friday,  May 30, 2008


NEW YORK — High prices at the pump and the produce aisle have sent home gardeners into their yards with a mission: Grow-it-yourself dining. Sales of vegetable seeds, tomato transplants and fruit trees are soaring as enterprising planters grow their own food.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the nation’s largest seed company, has sold twice as many seeds this year as it did last year, with half the increase from new customers, the company’s president, George Ball, estimates. “When we saw the gas prices go up, we said, ‘Oh, boy,’  ” Ball said. Interest in growing fruits and vegetables picks up during economic downturns, people in the industry say. Seed companies say a dime spent on seeds yields about $1 worth of produce. Bad economic times also can mean more time to garden — people who cancel their summer vacations are around to water their tomatoes. The housing crunch also works in favor of vegetable gardens: If you can’t sell your home, you can replant it.

“Over the past year or two, when my boyfriend and I went shopping and started seeing how little we got out of the grocery store for how much, we figured we might as well give it a shot trying our own veggies and take some of the weight off our pockets,” said Janet Bedell, who works at a lawn and garden center in Venice, Fla.

That kind of thinking is leading to a big year for companies that sell to fruit and vegetable gardeners. Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving heirloom vegetables, ran out of potatoes this year and mailed 10,000 tomato and pepper transplants to customers in early May, double its usual amount. The organization, based near Decorah, Iowa, sold 34,000 packets of seeds in the four months of this year, more than it did all last year.


Dispatch reporter Monique Curet contributed to this story.

Urban Agriculture : container gardening (Technology for the Poor)


Read at : Technology for the Poor


Urban Agriculture:

A Guide to Container Gardens

With inexpensive containers and suitable soil mix,
you can create an urban garden virtually anywhere – on roof tops,
vacant city lots, brown fields, and unused portion of parking lots

Job S. Ebenezer, Ph.D.
President, Technology for the Poor, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.


It is estimated that by 2030 AD nearly 50% of the world’s population may live in urban areas. As a consequence of this many millions of acres of productive farmland are expected to be lost to housing and other usage. Any further encroachment of natural habitat for other creatures may result in serious degradation of the eco-system. In addition to the loss of farmland, the new urban sprawl also creates urban wastelands like: roof tops brown fields and unused paved spaces.

Due to the recent terrorist attacks, food security and safety are seriously compromised. A large amount of the fruits and vegetables consumed by the US population is currently imported. There is no widespread testing of these imported produce for harmful chemicals and biological agents at the border crossings. Urban agriculture has the ability to mitigate this problem as the fruits and vegetable grown in the urban areas can be carefully monitored and safeguarded.

Migration from rural areas also brings into the urban areas many persons with very little formal education. This may result in unemployment and under employment of a sizable number of people. Idleness and frustration of the masses may result in the increase of crime and other problems. Urban agriculture may be a way to occupy the inner city youth, parolees and persons on welfare.

Urban agriculture has the potential for creating micro-enterprises that can be owned and operated by the community members without too much of initial capital. Inner city churches and community service organizations can use urban agriculture as part of their programs for the seniors, homeless persons, parolees and disabled.


Urban farming is not new. Ancient cities like Babylon had their hanging gardens and farms in or in the vicinity of urban areas. During World War II, it is estimated that nearly 40% of the fresh vegetables and fruits in this country were produced in the Victory Gardens. Only recently, the US has started to import much of the fruits and vegetables from other countries.

A few decades ago ECHO (Education Concerns for Hunger Organization) in Fort Myers, Florida, has introduced container garden techniques for impoverished counties like Haiti. In 1993, Dr. Job Ebenezer, former Director of Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) established a container garden on the roof of the parking garage of the ELCA offices in Chicago. The hope was that the roof top garden would serve as a role model for creative use of urban space throughout the country. Dr. Ebenezer proved the feasibility of growing vegetables in plastic wading pools, used tires and feed sacks. The demonstration garden has proved to be highly successful. Each year since 1993, urban gardeners at the ELCA offices in Chicago harvested nearly 1,000 pounds of vegetables from nearly 40 wading pools and a dozen of used tires and feed sacks.


There are several reasons why urban gardens using containers are effective:

  1. They enable us to practice “intensive” gardening method through maximum utilization of limited space.
  2. It is easy to practice “intercropping” (planting a variety of plants in one container) which ensures the health of plants due to diversity.
  3. It is possible to “conserve” both soil and water as containers prevent run offs of soil and excessive watering.
  4. Urban gardens “make use of urban wasteland” (vacant lots, brown fields, unused parking lots, and roof tops)
  5. Urban gardening provides “meaningful employment” for persons with limited skills and formal education.
  6. Establishing and maintaining an urban garden are very “inexpensive”.
  7. Urban gardens provide creative ways to “recycle” old tires and other containers that otherwise would be thrown into landfills.
  8. Churches and social service organizations can use urban gardening to “rehabilitate, create income generation projects, and provide therapy.


Container gardening on Chicago windowsill (H. HOUGH / Willem)

A nice message from Heidi HOUGH (Chicago) :

I’m delighted to know that our little synopsis was helpful. We continue to enjoy your site and send grateful thanks for including our project, which is just getting underway in year two. In the meantime, I’ve got some cool-weather greens growing in plastic boxes (with drainage holes) up on our second-story window sills. Arugula, spinach, chard, French breakfast radish, and lettuces. I like to eat them right out of the box (like a grazing animal–I am shameless).Chicago windowsillChicago second story windowsill container with fresh vegetables.


 Vegetables in plastic trays high above the street

Young lettuce grown in the city


French breakfast radishes close to the kitchen

red lettuce

Lettuce on a windowsill can be decorative like flowering plants



On May 5th I posted the following message :

Some weeks ago I discovered that people in Chicago were growing plants in buckets. Bruce FIELDS, Heidi HOUGH and their friends developed a very interesting system. I asked them to receive more information on it and to be enabled to publish some of their marvelous pictures. Heide came up with a splendid solution : THEIR FLICKR PAGE. Here is her message :

“I have finally set to order my flickr page. I hope this helps you and others see how we set up our growing buckets. You may freely use any of my pictures at your site.

Here’s the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1904grg/sets/72157603959350377/

We are excited that it could be useful to people whose water supply is not as bountiful as our own, 20 blocks from Lake Michigan.

Heidi Hough & Associates Inc
1904 W Division
Chicago IL 60622

Text going with the Flickr Page :

Our homemade earthboxes–really earthbuckets–were created from food-grade buckets we had left over from the leaky roof years. We’ve shown a very rudimentary step-by-step series on how to build these buckets. This link is far more comprehensive:

Here’s a good video that shows the process:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZUCxBHeq04& eurl=http://www.h…

Art built the trellis, which worked beautifully for tying up the climbing cukes and tomatoes. With neighbor Bruce down the street in Wicker Park, Chicago, we had a lot of fun during this first year growing veggies on our rooftops. Go see his pix and descriptive text for more on this Year One of the rooftop garden experiment.

And our supportive friends helped us cook and eat the bounty.


I strongly recommend all the visitors of my blog to have a look at that wonderful series of pictures, explaining how the Chicago team build their bucket system.

My sincere congratulations to Heidi, Bruce and their Chicago team.”


Today, I received Heidi’s magnificent pictures of her “windowsill garden” (above). I believe that just a look at them will convince a lot of people to follow this splendid example, showing how simple and easy it is to produce fresh food in and around the house, even on a windowsill in a city like Chicago.

Did I recently hear food crisis ? Did someone mention high food prices ? Anyone of us, wherever we live, can partly solve that problem. Just grow your own vegetables and herbs (and some fruits) in containers in any location : balconies, terraces, windowsills, patios, platforms, open spaces around the house, flat roofs, etc. Even the cheapest containers, like plastic or PET bottles, yoghurt pots, buckets, sandwich boxes etc. can be transformed in mini-gardens or mini-greenhouses (see former postings on this blog). Give it a try and become a skilled gardener like Heidi HOUGH or Bruce FIELDS (see my former postings on their successes).

The European Tribune, food crisis and desertification (Willem)

Do you know the “European Tribune” : http://www.eurotrib.com/ ?

About the European Tribune

The European Tribune is founded by active contributors to the US progressive blogosphere, aiming to emulate its energy, wealth of information, and community spirit with a focus on European and international issues. The European Tribune is a forum for thoughtful political dialogue between European countries on their national and European affairs and also with Americans (and Canadians and others!) on world affairs.

In the context of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”, official transatlantic dialogue has become bitter and rancorous and we must make sure that citizens on both sides of the ocean have a chance to better understand each other’s problems, internal debates and ideas. Information on the domestic politics of both sides of the ocean – and how it is perceived from elsewhere – are a core staple of the European Tribune. Global issues like peak oil, the emergence of China, the future of the European Union, immigration, pollution will be discussed from various perspectives.

Lighter stories, travel experience, personal testimonies and the like are explicitly encouraged. Continue reading The European Tribune, food crisis and desertification (Willem)

Container gardening in bottles (M.M. CROWN / i Village Garden Web)

From a message sent by M. Michael CROWN :


I found a discussion forum illustrated with very nice pictures.

Container gardening in bottles

Posted by georgeiii (My Page) on Mon, Jun 26, 06

How about growing all the veggies you want in just an 2’x4’x6′ space?

You can grow 80 plants in that space. Those beans won’t get lonely if you got 20 to choose from.

The frame holds 48 pods and 32 in trays…all in a 2’x4’x6′ area.

By the way…I used 32 oz cups with my uncut 2 liter bottles. They come with lids. I use a small soderling iron to cut a hole in the lids for outside hydroponic setups. The lid acts just like the curved lip. Keep the media level as close to the top as you can. That will keep your evaporation loss way down.

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Return to the Small Spaces And Urban Gardening Forum

Small Spaces / Urban Gardening

This forum is for the discussion of gardening in urban spaces; courtyards, rooftops, small backyards and other places in cities where the urge to garden meets the harsh realities of limited space intrude on greener dreams.Related forum: Balcony Gardening | Container Gardening

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.

Increase downtown gardening space (Google / Spacing Montreal)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

New initiative to increase downtown gardening space

Posted by Pamela Shapiro

A group of undergraduates at McGill University are working to give downtown students, and others, access to gardening space and a better connection to their food. Access to green space is difficult for downtown dwellers and even more difficult with the recent (temporary) closing of 167 community garden plots. It is especially difficult for the city’s many university students, who are much more likely to be apartment dwellers, and much less likely to be in town long enough to get access to the increasingly rare garden plots. Continue reading Increase downtown gardening space (Google / Spacing Montreal)

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

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


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)