Tag Archives: urban gardening

Spring Parking Lot Garden!

It’s nearly summer.  Spring in the Bay Area has been a turbulent mix of quasi-tropical sun days and torrential down pour.  The rainy spring has been great for the Sierra snow pack, the young bare root trees planted this winter and the general environmental health of California.  The bees have finally started bringing in honey and I’m getting jealous at the size of some of my neighbors tomato plants.  I’ve been working hard in the courtyard and parking lot of my warehouse, to create a Spring/Summer garden.  Here is a short photo tour of what I’ve been up to!

Courtyard list of characters:  two beehives, tandom bike, scrap wood, bamboo, roses, redwood siding planters, dream catchers, compost bin, trash can…..

Our Courtyard

The left/north side of the courtyard gets the most southern exposure, so I decided to plant some tomatillo’s and Pepino’s.

Sunny Side of Courtyard

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum) are native to South America and produce a delicious sweet melon.  Max at People’s Grocery raised these in the green houses.  Hopefully the courtyard in Oakland will be hot enough!

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum)

The final fruit look delicious!

Pepino Dulce

In the corner of the courtyard we’ve go New Zealand Spinach in large Safeway container, some cucumbers along the fence and a wild strawbery from oregon in an old gaudy planter.  New Zealand Spinach is a perennial green that will spread if you let it.  Ideally I would have planted this in larger bed, but I’m determined to keep leafy greens in soil thats been tested for lead.

New Zealand Spinach

Spinach close up.

New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)

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Recently Planted Brassica (I think it's a Brocoli?? Damn)

The Bee Hives.  One of them swarmed last week and landed across the street on to the same pear tree branch that it swarmed to last year.  Weird bee intuition.

Da Bees

Outside we built a raised bed along the fence from redwood burls and stumps.  This was our main garden last year.

The Parking Lot

Some pretty Brassica Close ups

Lacinato Kale

More Kale (we eat a lot of it)

The Sea Kale below is a portuguese perennial collard that Max grew at People’s Grocery.

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

A goji berry in a big pot.  Might need more cool temps.  We will see.  Got this little bad boy along with some other great/rare perennials from Anders and the Merritt Landscape Hort Plant Sale!!

Goji Berry (Lycium Barbarum)

A pine box planter I found on the street.  A polyculture including tomatos, kale, lettuce, beets and carrots.

Pine Box Polyculture

Beauty Lechuga

Beauty Lettuce

Our fence soon to be covered with Scarlet Runner Beans

Nasturtium Barb Wire

Oca ready to be moved into a bigger pot.  This is a root crop from Peru that grows well in the Bay Area.

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)

Ice Cream Bean Tree (Inga edulis) is a sub-tropics/tropical plant that might work in the Bay.  The large bean tubers have a vanilla flavored cotton candy fiber that you can eat!

Ice Cream Bean Tree (Inga edulis)

Parking Lot Nursery

Parking Lot Nursery

Roof Top Nursery

Roof Top Nursery

Thats all folks.

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Filed under Perennial, Permaculture, Plants, Projects

Underground Food

The SF Underground Farmers Market :

Wow…  Over a thousand people visited the market last month.  On my left: Boris was selling homemade Demi-Glaze on my right: Treat Street Granola.  Over forty vendors from the Bay Area, ranging from wild boar buns to sourdough bread, the warehouse was packed with food producers and food lovers.  A close friend in Colorado is starting a Denver/Boulder version of the West Coast phenomenon, hopefully this kind of experience will spread East.  It has been especially encouraging to see how many new vendors sprout up at each new market.  Check out these pictures from the market and then start one in your city:

Raw Oakland Honey

The market is set up as a food club where patrons can “donate” cash for food items.  Finding a legitimate farmers market spot is no spring chicken.  Most Farmers markets require commercial kitchens, certifications, multi-year commitments and more.  That’s if they even let you in.  “Sorry there is already a honey vendor.”

HONEY HONEY HONEY

Check out all these Hungry People:

Crazy town!

Going to need a bigger spot next time for this little dino egg.  Started in an empty Victorian living room where I was selling honey out of a bathroom.  Now it’s a colossal monster vehicle.  Seriously think about setting something like this up any place where people like to eat food.

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Filed under Field Trips, Permaculture

Mulberry = Angel Food

Fruitless Mulberry

Mulberry!

I really wish our cities were littered with Mulberry trees.  Wait….  they are. Unfortunately most of the mulberry trees planted in Western urban areas do not bear any fruit.  Ornamental, but sterile, these fruitless trees not only take up important growing space, but cause serious bouts of berry craving.

As the super stars: pear, apple, plum, peach and apricot attract fruit growers across the U.S. with their juicy round fruit, mulberries are somewhat of a wallflower in the West.  Unfortunately, mulberries are not widely cultivated as a commercial crop because the berries are so fragile and hard to transport. I’ve only found a handful of fruiting mulberry trees in the Bay Area, compared to the hundreds and hundreds of lemon trees… too bad.

The mulberry situation improves the farther East you head.  The Red Mulberry tree (Morus rubra) is native to eastern North America, ranging from Vermont to Florida and as far west as South Dakota. Mulberries were an important food staple for Native American tribes, but today mulberry trees are far less prevalent.

Mulberry Fruit

Mulberry trees have been are incredibly important in Chinese culture.  The white mulberry (Morus alba) was cultivated 4000 years ago for silk worm production.  In Chinese medicine the fruit is used to treat greying hair.  The leaves are antibacterial and are used to treat eye infections and flu.  Tinctures from the bark are used to treat a number of common ailments, notably toothaches.

Mulberry!

Look at this berry!!

The largest mulberries come from Black Persian Mulberry trees (Morus nigra) which in California typically fruit in July. These berries can  be four inches long and when timed right taste great.  They do have an intense acidic/tart taste coupled with high levels of sugar.  Most people absolutely love them.

The Morus alba mulberry tree is allegedly as good as the Black Persian berry.  Look for “Oscars” and “Pakistan” varietals.

Mulberry trees are self-fertile and prefer well-drained soil.  They should be planted in a sunny spot where they have plenty of room to grow.  They will reach height 30 to 40 feet over the years.  It takes a while for the tree to get established and you probably won’t be eating mulberries for five or more years. Delayed gratification.  Everyone in your neighborhood will love you after 15 years when the tree reaches full production level.

More information about mulberry trees.  Information about which varieties test the best!  Burnt Ridge is a great nursery to order a Mulberry tree from or check out Spiral Gardens in the East Bay.

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Filed under Edible, Medicinal, Perennial, Permaculture, Plants

Planting Justice and CitySown Team Up!

Exciting news!!

Planting Justice and CitySown are teaming up this Spring to grow plants.  This is an exciting collaboration and large shift in CitySown’s purpose:

Tree Tomato or Tamarillo

Imagine a table of tomato starts…  On the wooden table is a small placard describing Planting Justice a local non-profit that grew these particular varieties.  Large placards rate the plants’ edibility, medicinal value and give detailed growing instructions.  There are many varieties of tomatoes that fruit well in the bay area.  On the ground near the legs of the table is a flat of tomato trees for sale.

As a board member of Planting Justice and a full believer in the organization’s mission and business structure, we will be using my roof top nursery to produce starts for Planting Justice.  We will be starting to sell to local nurseries in the Bay Area.  CitySown will still list free available plants for local gardeners, but the site will primarily function as an informational hub for urban permaculturalists.

Two roof-tops are better than one!

Check out Planting Justice’s first rooftop garden

Look out for more information about this partnership soon!

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Filed under Permaculture, Projects

Siberian Pea Shrub – Caragana arborescens

"Caragana arborescens"

Siberian Pea Tree

The Siberian Pea Shrub is a nitrogen-fixing perennial shrub that can be planted with success in the Bay Area.  Growing 4-6 meters tall it grows edible seed pods that are somewhat bland, but can be added to other meals.  This plant provides excellent chicken forage and can be grown inside fenced chicken areas because of its height.

Siberian Pea Shrub’s have been used as living fences and are noted for their “attractive” quality when attempting to distract deer from the rest of the garden.

The Pea Shrubs root system is extensive and the shrub should be used to mitigate erosion and build wind blocks.  This shrub is pollinated by bees!!

Plant on a sunny edge in your garden or in the chicken area (if the seedling is tall enough) and harvest the small, but highly nutritious seeds in the Spring and  Summer.

More information here.

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Filed under Beneficial Insectary, Edible, Nitrogen Fixing, Permaculture, Plants