Friday, May 14, 2010

I am an urban farmer now (well, almost)



Although I am far from being militant, I do feel that our society is fighting a battle on the nutritional front, so I love the idea of reviving Victory Gardens and bringing vegetable gardens into city neighborhoods. The Peterson Garden Project is a Chicago community garden on the site of a WW2 Victory Garden, and it is opening its grounds to 140 happy gardeners the beginning of June.

I have been happy as a clam since I secured my plot a couple of weeks ago and started a crash course in vegetable gardening in Chicago’s climate & growing conditions– the corner of Peterson & Western is not really the ideal spot to be growing grapes. Plus, I would like to see (eat!) the fruit of my labor sooner than in 20+ years.

Lucky me I know Vera. She is an amazingly talented Michigan Farmer who not only grows the most beautiful veggies on Videnovich Farms, but also hand spins her sheeps’ wool & dyes the yarn with natural colors using flowers she grows herself! And although she has a ton going on at her farm right now, she was patient enough to point me in the right direction regarding veggies to grow and to introduce me to the method of Square Foot Gardening. Totally fascinating concept. I cannot wait to get digging, thus you can imagine my joy when my seed orders arrived in the mail today.

As I believe in the Slow Food saying “Eat it to save it” I was determined to order as many rare heirloom varieties I could get my hands on (well, and that I could reasonably grow in 24square feet and a short growing season). My point of reference was the Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit focused on preserving our rich agricultural heritage. Members have access to a catalog of more than 25,000 seed varieties… 25,000! I was like a kid in a candy store. Click, click, clickclick: one packet of seeds after the other ended up in my shopping cart. Starting with kale, spinach and chard, I also got some herbs – I found Genovese basil with them, which is THE variety for pesto, so that is exciting. Although I am not a great lettuce eater or lover of radishes, I bought some seeds for those, too, cause I figure I need to make the most of my plot and they grow pretty fast. After all, I should be eating the way the land feeds me, right? So I guess I better start liking salads…

Not all seeds available at the Seed Savers Exchange were available as certified organic varieties, which is what I had set my mind on, so I went to for carrots, turnips and some yellow beets with California based Seeds of Change. They complement each other splendidly! I spent a lot of time today studying my seed packets, storing them in the fridge, going back to look at them, storing them, glancing at the pictures one more time… you get the idea.

Two more weeks in which the beds of the garden will be prepared and then those seeds will be gingerly placed in the soil and do their part of bringing the Peterson Garden to life!

Further reference:

Peterson Garden Project
Videnovich Farms
Seed Saver Exchange
Seeds of Change

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