I attended my first urban gardening class a few weeks ago fully expecting to find a back room with an empty bath tub, some salvaged soil and a bunch of West Philly crust punks hoping to grow their own tomatoes. (Damn the man, save the tomatoes.) But instead, I was ushered to the 5th floor of the Philadelphia Horticultural Center into a classroom full of free pizza, coffee, handouts, and one of the most interesting and diverse groups of people. There were middle-age individuals hoping to become better aquainted with their community, community organizers hoping to improve their game, a whole group from a local elementary school, and we were all there for the same purpose: to fulfill our individual goals through gardening! (Nary a crust punk among 'em.. well, one actually. But we ended up knowing her through a roommate anyway.)
It turns out that the Garden Tenders class/project has been running since the 60's. It's specifically designed to aid with the creation and continuing support of urban community gardens. The entire first class was devoted to the process of legally obtaining abandoned lots (instead of just squatting on them and eventually being kicked off, or worse, arrested!) Since then we have discussed the designing of gardens, soil content, local urban resources, and a plethora of community organizing techniques. (The class teaches by example. The pizza, present at every class, is the embodiment of their "if you feed them, they will come" tactic. They also suggest that you always leave someone with an object, seeds, etc., so I've left each class with something awesome! First an Garden Herbs coloring book and second, an
illustrated guide to herbs, fruit, and vegetables! See images below and above respectively.)
I've never done any real urban gardening. I had that one, measly tomato plant when I lived on Calvert st... and I had a basil plant. Both perished come summer when it was simply toooo hot to go out on the roof and water them twice a day! It was so hot in the apartment, let alone out on that black roof! But I have so much more space here: two rooftops, and the back yard area, and I would really like to get some stuff growing. (Remember when I said that I would just be a student until capitalism fell? My plan was to just keep racking up debt while I studied fibers, politics, history and agriculture so that I could be really useful after the revolution. This class is perfect, 'cause I'm not even paying money for it!)
The one problem I have with the class is that it is specifically designed to assist with semi-permanent community gardens. The legal process for procuring land is at least a 2-3 year process. I haven't stayed in the same apartment for longer than a year since I moved out of my parents house. I've been trying to glean what advice I can for more temporary gardening tactics and I'm trying to design my own learning around a much more nomadic lifestyle. During the last class I asked about Container Gardening. Here are a couple of the tactics and projects that were suggested to me:
Using a children's wading pool!
I've already found an entire website to the hows and whys of this idea. (www.arts4all.com/elca/page2.html ) It seems to be pretty light-weight, cheap, and easy to transport. My instructor mentioned that she had heard about a UN sponsored project that would teach urban refugees how to do this so that they could easily grow their own food while they were on the move. Although I couldn't find that specific project easily (still looking), I did come across the Rooftop Garden Project website. (rooftopgardens.ca/en ) The Rooftop Garden Project in an international organization that fosters gardening techniques all over the world!
This garden is in Dakar, Senegal. Do you think I could make those hanging planters out of fabric?? 'Cause I'm totally into trying!
I don't know where this ingenious garden is, but it is really cool!
So, yeah. I'm really stoked. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks I can collect some containers, start some seeds and get gardening! And, of course, I'll keep you updated!