Local Food Sandusky

Harvest Vision: Consume Quality – Demand Local.

Posts Tagged ‘hoop house

Growing Food Locally: The New Way of Nutrition

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Recently, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur  (D – Ohio) held the summit, “City in a Garden”, at the Toledo Botanical Gardens to explain her initiatives with the stimulus money that is available for Urban Agriculture programs. She also highlighted the potential of the 9th District (Lucas, Ottawa, Erie and Lorain Counties) to solve their struggle to feed the growing number of hungry citizens with locally grown food.

Incase you are unfamiliar with the various efforts that fulfill the concepts of local food and urban agriculture, we recommend the article Growing Food Locally: Integrating Agriculture into the Built Environment. In it, you’ll find the following topics:

Erie County and surrounding areas have an opportunity to provide for themselves.

Erie County and surrounding areas have an opportunity to provide for themselves.

– Green Rooftops & Container Farming
– Rooftop Greenhouses with Soil
– Structural Loading Issues for Rooftop Greenhouses
– Rooftop Hydroponic Greenhouses

CIFT's Vertical Hydroponic System can be set up in an empty parking lot or on a roof top.

CIFT's Vertical Hydroponic System can be set up in an empty parking lot or on a roof top.

Vertical Gardening

Here is an abstract that gives a brief summary of the article:

Tremendous energy is expended transporting food from fields around to world to our tables. Large-scale, centralized food production is vulnerable to disease and other threats, and there are health benefits to more local food production. In this context, there is growing interest in producing food closer to home, even in urban areas.

 

There are two broad approaches to more localized food production. First, the vacant land around buildings—which comprises about 15% of urban land nationwide—can be turned into productive gardens and farmland. There are thousands of community gardens and hundreds agricultural enterprises (both nonprofit and for-profit) that are converting this unused, urban land into productive land for vegetables, fruits, and other crops. In some urban farms, isolation from contaminated soils is provided with a layer of clay.

Second, there is a tremendous amount of commercial roof area in urban and suburban locations, and some of this space is suitable for productive green roofs or rooftop greenhouses. With greenhouses, soil-based growing is practiced by some, but most growers have turned to lighter-weight hydroponics (growing in which nutrient solutions replace soil). The innovative field of aquaponics marries aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics to permit ecological systems in which fish waste provides the fertilizer for plant growth.

Both of these approaches offer challenges to architects and farmers alike. Finding plots on the ground that are uncontaminated and receive enough sun for vegetables can be difficult in dense urban centers, and rooftop systems can easily overload existing structural supports if not carefully planned.

An observation from Eat. Drink. Better.,

Urban agriculture has been used by the United Nations in many developing countries to encourage a healthy food chain and to generate jobs in the poorest cities of the world. Conversely, a few enterprising Canadians started farming their backyard and their neighbors’ backyards two decades ago with the mission of reconnecting North Americans to sustainable farming methods. As a direct result of their labors, new methods for intensive planting and harvesting in order to generate much greater yields from small plots of land have been developed to make farming in the city not just possible, but quite often profitable.

The co-founders of The Erie Wire and Local Food Sandusky are going to be launching the Erie Community Gardening Collective in order to bring the success of these concepts to our area. If you’d like more information on how you can be involved, please contact Lauren Berlekamp by emailing her at lcberlekamp@gmail.com. We encourage you to read the report on Congresswoman Kaptur’s summit published on The Erie Wire. For more on this topic, we recommend the articles at www.cityfarmer.info

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Grow Food From Your Yard, Even if You Don’t Have a Yard.

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Do you ever wonder why the grocery store chains in Ohio sell produce from California, Mexico, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador, and so on, even though we are able to grow much of the same food right here in our own state? Over 50% of Erie County is zoned for agriculture, and all of it is capable of producing delicious, nutritious food that doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to your dinner plate. Due to minerals deposited by the glacier that formed the Great Lakes 10,000 years ago, this part of Ohio has some of the most nutrient-rich soil in North America giving us a combination of loamy soils, which are considered great for specialty food crop production. Erie County is also located in what is known as a fruit belt. Although we can have very cold, snowy winters, the lake effect moderates seasonal temperatures by absorbing heat and cooling the air in summer, then slowly radiating that heat in autumn, giving us a consistent temperate climate through much of the year. This allows us to grow a variety of fruits and other warmer climate crops with large-scale success. Imagine harvesting the following fruits and vegetables that you grew yourself.

Grow it yourself!

Grow it yourself!

tomatoes, squash, peaches, broccoli, celery, pears, peppers, lettuces,

sweet corn, onions, herbs, spinach, cauliflower, garlic, zucchini, apples,

pumpkins, grapes, beets, melons, plums, carrots, beans, cabbage, peas,

grain, berries, eggplants, radishes, cucumbers, potatoes, sunflowers and more.

Seeds are an inexpensive investment, water is everywhere, and the sun is free. Keeping a food garden, even in the city, can save you money and keep you healthy.

 

Are you afraid of starting your own garden because it seems to be too big of a challenge? The Container Gardening Blog offers some words of encouragement:

“You may think you haven’t a clue about growing vegetables. But the truth is that you can easily learn enough to be growing useful crops in quite a short time span, and each session spent in your garden teaches you something new. You will learn much that is unique to your own situation, such as local soil conditions, your particular aspect in relation to the sun, and oddities that relate to your local microclimate. You will learn most of this by getting out and giving it a go. Without question the taste of homegrown vegetables is vastly superior to that of the commercially grown produce. Have you heard people complain that [store-bought] tomatoes no longer have any taste? [Flavor is a good indicator of how fresh and nutritious the food is]. They will when you grow your own – you will never taste better. The lack of taste with the commercial crop is not all the fault of the growers, as they are under pressure to produce a crop, of uniform size and color, to the schedule of the wholesale market, and ultimately the supermarket. [This kind of emphasis on quantity crops produces food made for shelf life instead of on quality, nutrition and freshness.] When you grow your own vegetables, you set the schedule.”

There are many ways to turn your yard, front or back, large or small, into a beautiful, rewarding garden. Late winter is the perfect time to start planning a good layout and preparing for the plants you are going to grow. Knowing how the sun moves across different parts of your yard will help in your decisions.

If you are utilizing a small urban space for vegetable growing, it is in your best interest to use raised beds. Raised beds can be kept in a garden box you can build yourself. Click here for another website that offers a guide on how to build one. Using wood, cinder blocks, bricks, or other recycled materials to create the frame of the garden box makes this an inexpensive option. Here is a raised bed layout for a productive vegetable garden about the size of a parking space.

Raised bed vegetable garden

Raised bed vegetable garden

In  order to make the most of the seasons, you can turn smaller garden boxes into cold frames during early winter and early spring. A cold frame is simply a small to medium garden box with a clear glass or plastic lid that will create a microclimate with sunlight, allowing for the soil to stay warm enough for seeds to germinate and plants to grow. For more information on cold frames, click here. If you are eager enough to start your garden before the last frost, visit here for some excellent suggestions.

 

Cold frames and other early season methods give you more!

Cold frames and other early season methods give you more!

 

If you have enough space and are feeling ambitious, you can make your own hoop house inexpensively. This is a makeshift greenhouse that, although unheated, will provide protection against wind, frost, and excessive rain while giving the plants inside it extra warmth during the daytime, extending your growing season. Westside Gardener is an informative site that offers a shopping list and a step-by-step guide on parts and assembly instructions for a 21’ x 10’ hoop house that will stand 7’ tall. Simply visit your local hardware store, show them the list of supplies and they ought to be able to give you pricing information on the materials. If you are interested in building one, check out the following Kitchen Gardener and Hoop Benders for more information and resources.

Building your own hoop house is relatively inexpensive

Building your own hoop house is relatively inexpensive

 

 

 

 

There are also many clever ideas for using containers when organizing a small space garden. Vertical gardening using grow towers and grow ladders are excellent for small boxed herbs and strawberries while trellises, arches and fences are helpful when growing vine plants and hanging garden baskets. For inspiration on vertical gardens and garden walls, visit here.


If you are on a tight budget, using old junk in a different way can be a thrifty, creative opportunity to give your garden some character. An article in Northern Gardening suggests cleaning out your garage, attic, or basement to see what items you can give new lives to instead of sending to the landfill. Once you start thinking like this, you won’t ever look at old stuff the same way again.

Get creative with your old junk!

Get creative with your old junk!

At every rummage sale and flea market, you’ll find yourself thinking about what you could do with various things you see. Old railings and ladders can be turned into fences or trellises. Drawers can become planters or small garden boxes – be sure to add a few drainage holes. Cabinet doors can be put together to form wonderful bottomless garden boxes. You can coordinate them with paint, making them all one color or leave them as they are to make a statement. A note to remember: If you are going to paint, you should use plant-safe materials. Ask at a good paint center and they should be able to tell you which products are non-toxic to plants and people. Look for the VOC-Free label.

Don’t have a yard? There are many ideas for roof top gardens if you are in a building with a flat roof and are in need of space. This article on Daily Kos not only gives excellent starter advice for roof top gardens but also some more money-saving blueprints for space efficient containers.

 

 

There is the option of community and neighborhood gardens to provide nutritional and social advantages, allowing for the possibility of food to be made available to everyone, even low-income housing residents. Organizing a space, so that anyone who participates will receive an equal share, provides a golden-rule opportunity for individuals to help themselves while helping others. Recent developments in western and northern Philadelphia have proved the success of this concept.

Grow a garden, even if you don't have a yard!

Grow a garden, even if you don't have a yard!

The Erie County Metroparks have a foodbank at Osborne park, sponsored by the Erie County Men’s Gardening Club. For a small fee of only $20 a year, you have access to a 20×20 plot of land to grow whatever you’d like, just as long as it is maintained and no chemicals are used: such as petrol-based fertilizers, weed killers and other pest controls. These harmful chemicals can destroy the essential biological structure of the soil and leech into the waterways, causing accidental environmental damage and posing a potential health risk to people who are exposed to them regularly.

 


This article is the first of a series, so check back for the next installments that will outline preparation for soil quality, composting, seed options and integrated pest management.

 

For more information about Urban Agriculture and food options that will save you money, keep you healthy and build community, visit The Erie Wire and the websites of our partners.