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Gardening 101

If this is your first time growing food, be it on a 100 acre farm or on a 10 inch windowsill, we’re here to help you get started.

Below are some basic questions you can click through to find links to useful resources.

But the best resource will always be your local community, so be sure to check the resource sharing map on our homepage. 

STEP ONE: WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

There may be land aplenty, but there will still be many considerations, including legacy pollution, soil restoration, and land access.

Scroll down to Step 2

You’re ready to grow #foodnotlawns? AWESOME. Be sure to check your local zoning laws, and if they do not permit you to grow a food garden in your community, GET ORGANIZED. Join our Policy Working Group if you want to help advance municipale zoning changes.  If they do allow it, GREAT! You can move to Step 2.

Growing space may be scarce, but there is still plenty to get excited about with urban agriculture, and you can grow in anything, anywhere, if you’re resourceful and take the proper precautions with respect to soil toxicity.

This video gives a good overview of some major issues facing urban farmers and highlights some helpful resources available from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Also check out Rob Greenfield’s video “How to Grow Food for Free in the City” for inspiration, and then scroll to Step 2.

 

 

 

STEP TWO: WHERE CAN YOU GROW?

Before you grow you need to learn about your land this Site-Assessment document offers great suggestions from the University of Rhode Island.

Before you grow you need to learn about your land this Site-Assessment document offers great suggestions from the University of Rhode Island.

Rooftop gardening is great, but we need to talk about weight and wind first. You’ll need a lightweight growing medium for that, click to step 3

Consider starting an herb garden, or regrowing these common foods from your grocery scraps!  Scroll to step 3 to learn where to source your soil.

Consider starting an herb garden, or regrowing these common foods from your grocery scraps!  Scroll to step 3 to learn where to source your soil.

Here are ways to start a community garden in your community or search for vacant farmland. Also, see the resource sharing map on the Homepage to find people offering land access in your area.

STEP THREE: WHAT ARE YOU GROWING IN? 

Healthy Soil is one of our most scarce and under appreciated resources and it needs our love now more than ever. Learn here about soil (and soil-less) growing mediums.

“Soilless potting mixes have long been used for greenhouse production of bedding plants, vegetable transplants and container-grown ornamentals. By avoiding the use of topsoil, the risk pathogenic microorganisms in this media may be reduced, avoiding problems with diseases like damping-off. In addition, topsoil is relatively heavy and dense so it can contribute to poor aeration and drainage in a potting mix. Soil-less mixes should be formulated to have optimal physical and chemical properties that promote germination and healthy seedling growth.” find out more here.

How to get your soil tested for heavy metals (important in urban and suburban settings). How to guess if your soil is contaminated if you can’t test

How to garden safely in areas with contamination.

About healthy soil, and how to build soil

Soil mediums for rooftop gardens

STEP FOUR: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GROW? 

Sometimes there are things we want to grow, and things we can grow. You can’t grow bananas in Michigan, sorry (unless you’ve got a big glass house!). Here are some considerations for planning your growing season:

Click for an interactive USDA Zone map to determine your growing region This will determine what you can grow and when.

How much sun do different parts of your land get.

You can find seeds and plants all over! Supermarkets, hardware stores, and nurseries carry garden seeds, but you can generally find the highest quality seeds by ordering online or from a printed catalogue from a seed company in your region. Plant starts can also be found at stores, or from local people (generally in rural areas) selling them at roadside stands or farmers markets.Here are some of our favorite seed companies (most of which have donated to our free seed distribution efforts).

Adaptive SeedsBaker Creek Heirloom SeedsCalvin’s PeasCommon Wealth Seed GrowersExperimental Farm NetworkFEDCO SeedsHigh Mowing Organic SeedsJohnny’s SeedsJordan SeedsLiving Seed CompanyQuail SeedsRedwood Organic SeedsRestoration SeedsRow 7 SeedsSiskiyou SeedsSeed Savers ExchangeSouthern Exposure Seed ExchangeWannamaker SeedsWood Prairie Family FarmHudson Valley Seed CompanyTruelove SeedsPeace SeedlingsGonzalez AgroGardens Seeds & Crops.

I am interested in growing perennial vegetables

STEP FIVE: WHAT TOOLS DO YOU NEED? 

As you scale up your food-growing operation, you might want to consider investing in a walk-behind tractor (they are quite expensive to purchase new, but can sometimes be found used as well). Here’s some information about them from Earth Tools.

YOU GREW STUFF! NOW WHAT?

Other Considerations

Seed Saving resources.

Agroecology is a farming and land management practice, an academic discipline, and a global movement centered on environmental justice. These links will help you understand the concept and incorporate it into your work: the FAO’s Agroecology knowledge hub and a Agroecology Training Manual from the Third World Network & SOCLA.