Fall Tatsoi under November leaves....
Fall Tatsoi under November leaves….

Growing food  on  city lots is a  lot of hard work. You have to be determined to prove that it is possible and be willing to explore new ways to grow food, accept foods that grow well in your area, and some foods that do not grow in your space. You have to be open to experimenting, and not be afraid to make mistakes!

These are mums that my mother gave me when we moved into our home. Each year I never know what color will develop since they are a mystery! This year I love these mums because they provide food for our polliantors when nothing else is around in the late fall garden....
These are mums that my mother gave me when we moved into our home. Each year I never know what color will develop since they are a mystery!  I love these mums because they provide food for our pollinators when nothing else is around in the late fall garden….

I started over a decade ago tearing up our grass on our city lot and really not having any direction as to where I was going. I just felt a deep desire not to follow what everyone else was doing around me by spraying chemicals on their lawns to have what??? A big turf of grass to look at because everyone else did on the block…I knew what I was doing was radical, but at the time I was just eager to get fresh organic food, outside my door.

Look at this cucumber beetle and he think  I will let him stay in my yard..hmmm...I find companion planting helps with pests. Cucumber beetles drift to these mums late fall, so I eliminate them from my cucumber plants next season!
Look at this cucumber beetle and he thinks I will let him stay in my yard..hmm… I find companion planting helps with pests. Cucumber beetles drift to these mums late fall, so I eliminate them from my cucumber plants next season!

We were not in a position to sell our home and move to the country. Our jobs were close to the city, our kids had school and friends. Gas was high, so living closer to our work and schools made sense, but I wanted to grow food, and the challenge was to find enough space on our city lot to achieve that goal!

Lavender for my new herba garden which is enjoying a brief warm-up here in zone 5....this is a cooler climate lavender which I am hoping will do well in this new area
Lavender for my new herb garden which is enjoying a brief warm-up here in zone 5….this is a cooler climate lavender which I am hoping will do well in this new area

I tend to love a challenge, and it has been over the years! Learning to grow food on no more than a 1/4 acre in the city. That 1/4 acre includes your home, space shared with neighbors and cement in certain areas, for example, your driveway and sidewalks. You can’t get discouraged by your limitations. I tend to be a creative soul, so I live life by thinking outside the box. I feel it has been a blessing in life to be gifted to be creative, but at times I am sure those around me may be driven crazy by my open-ended quests!!-lol….

Purple Sage I divided and transplanted in my new herb garden closer to the house. It is finally coming back after I divided it late summer.
This Purple Sage was my first herb 11 yrs ago. I have shared it with many people over the years, but this year  I divided and transplanted it to my new herb garden I created in an old rock garden. There are those nasty red lava rocks still hanging around! I will never get them all!

Initially, I had sections that I tore up and experimented with as I started to grow food on our city lot. It is a learning adventure and one you have to be patient with since nature will determine how things go. For example, you may not be able to grow all the things you could out in a more rural area. You have to determine your growing space what is possible. That only happens by trial and error since every year you will have success, and you will fail at times.

My fall parsley that I started in containers which I can move closer ot the house as the weather gets a bit colder. I enjoy parsley in my salads.
My fall parsley that I started in containers which I can move closer to the house as the weather gets a bit colder. I enjoy parsley in my salads.

Failure is not a reason to quit!  It is like learning anything new in your life. You have to keep working at it and not give up if it does not come easily. Remember when you learned to ride a bike, you would fall off, and get back on your bike again and again…did you quit? No, each time you would jump back on, and you would find you traveled a bit further than you did before!

Fall Hummus wrap with fresh picked arugala and Merlot Red Lettuce. This Red Merlot Lettuce is getting a deep maroon red color...very good tasting I might add!
Fall humus wrap with freshly picked arugula and Merlot Red Lettuce. This Merlot Lettuce is getting a deep maroon color…very good tasting I might add!

You will find that, after a  few years, you start finding you have more successes than failures, but you have to be willing to experiment each year and take what you learn and build your growing space to your own specifications.You have to be open-minded about how you picture your food growing and explore new ways to get more food from your city lot!

Fall Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale....this time of year picking leaves out of salad greens is a daily chore when fixing fall salads, but so worth the effort as Kale enjoys the cool days and nights.
Fall Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale….this time of year picking leaves out of salad greens is a daily chore when fixing fall salads, but so worth the effort as Kale enjoys the cool days and nights.

Every year you will find that you grow foods that your family, and friends prefer and those will be the ones you find space for each new year.I started growing more Kale for our home than other Brassicas ( cabbage, rapini, broccoli, turnips, and rutabaga) since Kale seems to do very well in our climate. I picked the member of the brassica family that took up less space and worked into our landscape. I am now able to grow it year round.This next year it will be front and center in our landscape since I will be incorporating it with flowers near our front walkway.

Our home was build many years ago by a local minister and architect, but when we moved in this area was covered with ivy and evergreens. The stones and containers sunk down into the dirt, so I had to dig all of the rocks out and clear away the ivy. I planted bee friendly spring bulbs in this areas. I then plan on putting food , flowers and herbs in this area. I have two areas out front to rotate crops each year. It should help the soil stay healthy! Those rocks were a project as after 40 yrs they sunk down deep!
Our home was built many years ago(50yrs ago) by a local minister and architect, but when we moved in this area was covered with ivy and evergreens. The stones and containers sunk down into the dirt, so I had to dig all of the rocks out and clear away the ivy. I planted bee friendly spring bulbs in this areas. I then plan on putting food, flowers, and herbs in this area. I have two areas out front to rotate crops each year. It should help the soil stay healthy! Those rocks were a project as after many years they sunk down deep!

I have grown eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes out front, but this next year I am putting in a Kale/Swiss Chard/ Beets/Parsley/ Basil/Smallage/ rotating area of 3 sections. I rotate crops in our urban potager to help with a disease in our organic gardens. This area is under a large oak tree, but these plants tolerate shade very well during the growing season. This area just had ivy growing in it, and these old planters that were built for this house in the 60’s will make a perfect place for these greens.

The man who built htis house created these stone containers. When we moved in they wer filled with evergreen shrubs and bees nests! I dug them out carefully, flooded the nests and now plan on putting more edible food in these containers ,too. I will be putting Swiss Chard, Kale, and various herbs and flowers to create an edible area that should provide food throughout the year next season in 2014.

The man who built this house created these concrete planters. When we moved in, they were filled with evergreen shrubs and bees nests! I dug them out carefully, flooded the nests and now plan on putting more edible food in these containers, have moved too. I will be putting Swiss Chard, Kale, and various herbs and flowers to create an edible area that should provide food throughout the year next season in 2014.

Well, as the years have passed on and the last one moved out, I gathered more growing space ( kids did not need lawn to play on anymore!) and time to pursue my ‘quest for nutrient-dense food on our city lot”. This next year I am excited since I will be donating some of my seedlings + seeds I have saved from my own urban potager to a local community of growers in the city…….isn’t that what we all should strive to do….give to others….well, that is not difficult….I don’t need to think “outside the box” to strive to be a  good steward of the earth by growing organically and sharing right in the heart of the city where people CAN + DO grow their own food year round! 

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer