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Growing food is something we all need to learn and pass on to the next generation

Remember the words of Henry Thoreau?  He said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”


I’ve been thinking about food growing a lot lately since I put away all my dried garlic and have been planting out all my fall crops. I am also very busy starting many fall greens that are unable to germinate in warm soil. Which means, I need to germinate them inside under lights and then place them out as the weather cools in our area; It occupies a lot of my free time, so would you call it a hobby? I don’t call it a gardening hobby. It is for health reasons that I grow most of my food. I use to work outside the home but in 2009, due to health reasons, I decided to grow more food on my city lot. I need access to nutrient dense foods to help me fight disease. I had no idea what I was getting myself into full-time back in 2009, but it sure has taught me how hard food growing is, and it is not an exact science. Each growing area or plot requires its individual approach. One has to observe and learn, and that means making a lot of mistakes along the way.


I grow food full-time right now, and I consider it my job. Many of my friends are still working full-time jobs or are retired and going back to work as a volunteer or part-time at a new job. I am not going to lie to you about food growing. There are a ton of books out there or websites that tell you; Grow food with minimal input, yeah right! Why would one want little input? Isn’t the purpose of growing food to get outside and connect with the soil and nature. Trust me, I am guilty of reading these books when I first started growing food on our city lot, but over the years, I ‘ve changed my views on food growing.

Food growing is something we all should learn to do even if it is a few pots on our back porch. I love herbs in pots right outside my kitchen!  If you don’t have an area to grow food, then please support your local or regional farmers that are trying to make a living growing nutrient dense food. Support them at your local farmers market or purchase only local or regionally grown food at your local grocery store. If you do have a place where you can grow food then maybe you might be interested in what I am doing this next year


one of the easiest things to grow is garlic, just plant them in the fall and harvest mid summer. I let mine dry on the shelf inside before I bag them up.

I am starting over with a fresh new approach to my food growing in Fall 2016. It seems to go with our new facade. Having a new roof + rebuilt front of your house appears to inspire one to make changes. I have learned a lot over the past seven years growing food on our city lot. I started out with one corner of my yard back in 2000. It was just a place to put a few tomato plants. I never thought it would take up my entire lot which has become a big part of my daily work each day. I no longer travel across the river to teach and have a bit more free time to grow more food. If I am honest, I have found it requires MORE of my free-time than I ever thought it would. I have no idea how one would grow this much food on a city lot with a full-time job and a house full of kids. I read a lot of blogs and many of them post stories about how “easy” food growing is and it only requires a few hours a week. Are they serious? I have found it quite the opposite. It might only need a few hours a week if you have a small garden, but if you want to grow more food to freeze and put up for winter or provide daily microgreens for winter eating; it takes more time than a few hours a week!

A large bush was in this area and we took it out in hte middle of the summer so now we have only one large Rose of Sharon growing which will be reduced in size soon.

I  grow organic flowers, herbs, and vegetables for others in my community. I am each year helping more people to grow food, use pollinator-friendly plants and use fewer chemicals on their city lots. I came home yesterday and found some used garden pots that I gave someone earlier in the spring. They did not leave a note, so I figure it was someone who got good use out of the plants. It inspired me to continue doing what I started out doing back in 2009! It made me happy to know they put their plants in their garden, and now they are reaping the benefits from good food and creating a healthy place for them and nature right in the heart of the city! What foods do you grow or pollinator-friendly plants?


46 replies »

  1. As I belong to a horse-powered CSA (they do a better job at food growing than I do), I get to focus on feeding pollinators. I love to stand in my garden on a warm summer day surrounded by butterflies, bees, hawkmoths and hummers. What a delight. And then of course, I get to make arrangements all over the house. 😉

    • How neat they are horse-powered! I totally understand for it is a lot of work. I don’t grow all my food in the city, I have to let some of the vegetables that take over small spaces be grown by people out in the rural area that have a lot of land to spare-LOL. I only grow those items that are costly to grow organically and easy to grow in raised beds,vertically, small gardens or containers:-) I gave up on squash and grapes they take over my yard! I feel providing for pollinators is one of the best things a person can do!!! You Go Eliza:-)

  2. Hi there Robbie – it’s so good that you speak honestly of the time you spend growing your garden. I think the easy-peasy approach is for those of us who purchase potted plants to pop into the soil every season and whose major task is ensuring they have enough water 🙂 Real gardening is an art and art always takes time. Your photos of course,so often reveal how very beautiful your urban plot is. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • I was watching a program with Monty Don, my favorite on BBC. He was (episode-artistic garden France) asking a gardener that managed Monet’s garden to compare a visual artist to a gardener.He said a gardener is an artist. They use color, texture, shapes and movement to evoke a mood or “theme” ( word he used) in a garden. I do believe it is true. For me it is about the movement often since I use to be a modern dancer-LOL…I love those plants moving with the wind! I also love to choreograph the show throught the seasons /acts-so to say!

  3. OH I feel your pain sister! It is still too wet to venture outside without gumboots at the moment and I am itching to get the 24 fridge wickers up to Sanctuary STAT! I can’t wait to start our own new venture and see if I can’t find a better way to grow food in our difficult rocky soil with less than ideal rainfall when we most need it. We truly do need to teach people that food is one of the most important things we can produce. Bollocks to the newest iPhone, you can’t eat them. A bit of food security goes a long way towards making you feel better about life in general and if you can share that love around, I can’t think of a much better way to spend your waking hours to be honest. Sending HUGE hugs over to you. I pinched one of your images here and am going to use it as my desktop wallpaper to remind me to keep moving forwards and that nothing that is easy is really worth the effort. XXXOOOXXX from your sister to another mister in Aus 🙂

    • I will be reading about ALL you are doing out there soon…I forget you are in the midst of winter!:-)Fall is coming here and I am not too eager to say goodby to summer or food growing. I can hold out till about mid January and then it is hard from Jan -April to find local food growing. I am unable to put food tunnels up for the neighbors would be a bit angry, I fear. LOL. I do grow quite a bit and try to make it attractive so they don’t complain to the city.
      We do have a new health food store in the downtown area that gets food from those that grow within a 50 mile radius of the Quad Cities- which should be helpful. They have room for indoor greenhouse/hoop houses. I also am going to grow more leafy greens next year and not take too much of my ground up with squash for it takes up too much of my ground space. I eat a lot of greens, so need that for every day and easy to grow on city lots.
      kindred spirits in food growing,
      your food sister from the bread basket of the world! We can’t live on cereal alone-LOL..need to get those greens growing in the breadbasket:-)

    • palmraeurbanpotager pinterest, and instagram. I was just searching to find your sites and could not find them, what are your names for both accounts. I want to follow you!

      • I don’t have an active Instagram but I am on Pinterest. I don’t post much of my own stuff but I have a LOT of pins you might like. look for Fran Pimblett on Pinterest 🙂

  4. Excellent post as always Robbie (and how nice your garlic looks – we’ve had good garlic year too). I think like any thing else you get out what you put in. It’s clear from the photos of your garden that you put a huge amount of work into your garden. It always looks so wonderful:) Looking forward to checking out your pinterest site!

    • I love my garlic, if I could pick one thing to grow locally or Farm for others- it would be Kale and garlic. I love growing garlic! This year, my soil was much better and after a soggy few days of rain, I lifted my garlic bulbs out of the soil so easily. I never buy garlic bulbs now for I grow my own-lol. I do have to admit it has it’s own flavor from my soil:-) Do you have a pinterest account, I want to sign on and see what you have too???

  5. Oh Robbie, thank you for pointing out how much time it takes. I am slowly bringing my garden back to life and it is a big reason of why “I Quit My Dream Job,” because I missed my garden, and growing and preparing food, and that connection I had. And well, my garden has been a sorry sight. I can’t tell you (but know you know) how much I have enjoyed even just a few days tending my garden. Last evening I went out to the shed to cut off a bulb of garlic for making dinner. It has been drying, curing if you will, out there for a couple of weeks. It is the BEST feeling to pick food from one’s own garden. Real food that has been organically and sustainably grown is so invigorating. I agree, everyone should know how to grow their own food and how to cook! It is one of life’s largest pleasures. How wonderful that you are expanding and also helping others! I can’t wait to see more pictures of your progress.

    • I am so glad you agree it is a lot of work:-) I was hesitant to share for I read too much stuff about how you can provide food for your family and it only takes less than an hour a week in the garden-yeah, right!LOL. We that grow some of our food know that is a bunch of nonsense. I enjoy being in the garden, so to me it really never seems like work, but when I am too busy to get out in the garden and feel backed up, I see my garden become neglected! I am looking forward to seeing what you do with your garden and your new property:-)

      • Robbie, I look so forward to “developing the lake.” My rule is NO GARDENING – meaning no tending – no work – ha ha. My goal is only to “enhance the native landscape” by planting only native plants in spots where I think their needs will be met and then, standing back to see what happens. It should be fun!

      • I agree:-) If I ever am able to get some land, I would do the same. I grow enough on my city lot of my favorites and purchase from local farmers the items, for example, squash that take over my small sapce. I watched a lecture on Youtube with the author of Gaia’s Gardens, and he said, ” We should leave the outside forests alone ( no more mowing down for more farmland) and grow more food out our door…it makes sense to me! I feel we need to grow it in the city in high rises. A few companies are remaking the inner city to grow some of our greens in new ways in the city…the land is just sitting there unused and an eyesore:-) why mow down more of nature to build homes:-)

      • Indeed! I will, of course, have a few wine barrels around the perimeter of the deck (of the oh so future house) for herbs and a couple veggies. There are deer, oh dear.

  6. Great post! And I totally agree about the amount of work one has to put in for a veggie garden. I am taking a sabbatical from the veggies this year….am trying to get more natives planted for the pollinators and decided I needed to choose one or the other this year……I’m getting older! 🙂 Veggies do indeed take work. I never minded the planting and even the tending of the veggie garden, but the harvesting and canning and freezing seemed to me more work. I’m trying to incorporate more perennial veggies in the garden as I go and the herbs are always a mainstay….they are great pollinator plants as well as good for us too! Anxious to see your pinterest page!

    • I totally understand:-) I have been putting in perennial natives the past few years + now more perennial veggies, too:-) It is a lot of work. I am starting to decrease some of my annual vegetables + flowers. I only grow those items that are hard to find locally organically or I use every day.

  7. I’m popping over to your Pinterest account. I don’t have Instagram. I’ve been eating the first cucumbers and tomatoes I’ve grown myself in years. Next year will be even better. Learned a lot this year. Growing food is the most important thing we can do. Working on it. 🙂

  8. Robbie, I so enjoy your posts and once again am glad you’ve shared your thoughts. I’m making do with possibly a few hours a month right now and while I wish I had more time, the garden’s output definitely reflects the time spent. That said, it looks like we’ll have winter squash this year! And sweet potatoes. And the garlic came in months ago but did well considering all the rain. I actually just put a baby to sleep and finished a snack so it’s time to try and sneak into the garden for as long as I can muster before a little voice (or two) starts calling!

  9. I admire you but have decided not to grow any food at all any more. I grew sweet potatoes and carrots in pots, but the potatoes were too high maintenance in our heat and the carrots were always turned into cake, anyway. I’d rather grow food for pollinators. But I do have access to several outstanding farmers markets so high quality, well grown produce is always available.

    • I totally understand if you can get food from amazing markets near by. I don’t have any nearby that have enough kale available since we eat it every day. I decided this year- my greens are all I am going to grow in our garden. A few tomato or pepper plants, but Kale, lettuce + salad makings is most useful to our daily meals. I can pick up a squash or two in the fall. I use to grow some of the squashes but they just take up too much of our small space. I agree feeding the pollinators is so important. Oh, herbs, garlic + onions are important too, I eat those every day!

  10. Hi Robbie… oh gosh, I never fail to be impressed by how lush-looking your garden is… and you are absolutely right about the amount of effort needed to grow our own food… your garlic looks lovely…

    • Hi Lrong!I feel the same way about your potager! That is my 3rd generation garlic:-) I keep about 20 nice looking bulbs to plant back into the garden. It is my favorite to grow:-)

      • Funny I am doing rather the opposite of what you are doing… I normally use the not-so-good looking garlic for my next planting, and keep the good looking ones for my missus to cook… in fact, I just planted the garlic bulbs an hour ago…

    • I hope to but I have to get out of the garden with all that work-LOL, just kidding:-) I am finished now with all the fall greens. My best friend this year is my little fencing for the bunnies like my green 🙂

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