becoming an urban farmer for the holidays

by Heguiberto on December 24, 2010

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isn't Santa's little helper totally cute?!?!?

isn't Santa's little helper totally cute?!?!?

Santa Claus arrived a bit early for me this year and now I’m becoming an urban farmer!!

Originally, I’m from the Brazilian countryside. As a kid I remember tending our ‘horta,’ or vegetable garden, that had a couple of ‘canteiros,’ or beds, where we grew parsley, collard greens, various lettuces, spring onions, fava beans, pumpkins, choyotes, okra and many more vegetables. There is nothing like growing your own veggies. Have you ever smelled the milky sap that comes out of a head of lettuce that’s been freshly cut from the ground? Amazing! In Italian, lettuce is ‘lattuga’ which derives from the word for milk. Have you eaten arugula that has been newly harvested? It has an exciting grassy and peppery flavor that you can’t quite get out of the bag. I wanted to experience that again and finally I’m getting the opportunity! I registered for a plot in the community gardens of our neighborhood and several years later I am a proud gardener/urban farmer with my own plot at the Arkansas Friendship Garden. Thank you, Santa!!!

me and my new community garden plot

me and my new community garden plot

weeding my garden plot is backbreaking but I'm still very excited

weeding my garden plot is backbreaking but I'm still very excited

there's still a ways to go for this garden

there's still a ways to go for this garden

Community gardens are basically underutilized swathes of land in cities that get converted into gardens for the benefit of the population and wild life. Normally these lots belong to the city, so they’re public, but they can be private too. San Francisco has numerous empty spaces that over the years have been converted into community gardens. Often these gardens lie close to existing parks, near highways exits, and because of the dramatic hills, along stretches from the original road grid that proved too steep for cars to pass. I love walking by these gardens as I feel more in touch with nature. There is more wild life around than on conventional city blocks. You can tell by the buzz from the bees or the hum of the birds. It is a very cool thing. You can visit the site above and add your name to a waiting list for a plot.

I am super excited about learning how to grow vegetables in this sort of temperate, Mediterranean, desert-like climate. Last week Steven and I cleaned and weeded the plot then planted two types of radish and Italian parsley. Right now, it’s too cold for other vegetables.

Inspired by our recent visit to the Green Festival and the book Coming Home to Eat I want to fill my organic garden with as many heirloom kinds of produce as I can. I’m even flirting with the idea of collecting some cow and horse dung from grass-fed animals off hiking trails around the Bay once the dry season returns. Steven thinks that I’m insane. But that is the best kind of fertilizer for an organic veggie garden. I might have to do it on my own.

To prepare, I’m going to order a variety of heirloom seeds out of the Seed Savers Exchange catalog that arrived in the mail just this week. We went by their booth at the Green Festival before I even had the plot. Fortunately, we thought to sign up for their mailing list. Kismet, perhaps?

What do you think that I should grow?

Santa and my father a while ago

Santa and my father a while ago

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Prerna@IndianSimmer December 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

Plz tell me that’s ur dog and u took that photo! I REALLY wanna steal that photograph 🙂 So cute!!
Wishing you and yours a very happy holidays!!

Heguiberto December 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Clarence would never tolerate that. Some friends from LA sent the picture. Happy holidays to you and your family!

tasteofbeirut December 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

First of all, let me congratulate you! This is the best kind of Xmas gift! I love the flavor of arugula when I pluck it out of the dirt too.
OK here is what I would plant:
zaatar, of course (origanum syriacum)
lemon grass
Rosa Damascena (you can make your own rosewater and rose tonic for your skin)
sweet lemons
and of course, all the herbs like basil parsley cilantro etc
dont forget strawberries and mulberries

Heguiberto December 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I love all the suggestions Joumana the avocado and mulberry trees will have to wait, I couldn’t accommodate them in my tiny plot. I can however convince the other members of the community garden to plant them in the common areas as we already have a couple of lemon trees growing there.
I am going to look for seeds this weekend.

Lili December 25, 2010 at 1:22 am

Horta e canteiro..que saudável! Eu tbem adoro cheiro de verdura fresca e natural ( sem agrotóxicos) . Eh outra coisa. Da pra plantar couve?:D parabéns Hegui, this is very exciting!!

Carlos December 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

Congratulations, Hegui. Parabéns. I wish you many beautiful and healthy crops. Clarence looks terrific. Any chance of growing green peppers?

Heguiberto December 25, 2010 at 11:20 am

Oi Lili sim com certeza adoro couve.

Heguiberto December 25, 2010 at 11:22 am

Carlos obrigado! Yes to peppers!

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