Urban farming is a movement sweeping the country: growing food closer to where we live, whether it’s on a condo deck, in a backyard or in a community garden. Statistics show that many of these urban gardeners are in their 20’s or 30’s and are looking for ideas and how-to’s for their own spaces. The 20/30-Something Garden Guide gives that busy, mostly urban, cohort a fun, non-intimidating introduction to the basics of gardening.
Garden expert Dee Nash divides her book into four types and sizes of gardens, starting with “Farming Your Patio, Balcony or Deck,” and giving incremental goals for the first year, and the second and the third. With this guide as a basic roadmap, new gardeners can be as creative and out-of-the-box as they want–it’s theirs to enjoy.
About Her Busy Schedule
Caring for the garden can be worked around tight schedules, including the 40-plus-hour work week and the topsy-turvy lifestyle of new parents—both of which provide little time for the great outdoors. I understand the constraints of a busy schedule. I had three of our four children in six years and also worked full-time outside the home. As a result of my own hectic life, I had to learn to work in 30-minute increments. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There was nothing like pulling into my driveway at the end of the day and seeing containers full of flowers by the front door, welcoming me home.
Why am I writing a book for 20-30 Somethings? Because those were some of the busiest years in my own life, and because two of my children are now 20-30 Somethings themselves. I understand only too well the challenges of trying to “do it all” and still keep some balance, beauty and connection in our days.
Do you literally have no room to garden? No patio, no balcony, no rooftop? Lucky for you that nearly every city, town and village across the country, community gardens bloom with vibrant good health. Not only can you socialize as you grow, you also benefit by learning about your climate and growing conditions from gardeners nearby who care and want to share.
Why would you want to grow plants with a group of people you hardly know, in someplace other than your home? I can think of at least five reasons:
- You want to make friends and gain knowledge
- You want to grow more than your own space allows
- Your neighborhood association covenants or municipal ordinances don’t allow for front yard garden expression
- Your yard is too shady for vegetable production
- You’re an extrovert
These gardens are a wealth of information and fun. Most garden organizers see part of their role as catalysts to make the world a better place through education and great food. Gardeners in cities are leading the way by rehabbing vacant lots and remediating urban soils from chemical toxins. They also gather leftover vegetables from local stores and restaurants and make compost. It’s one more way to keep refuse out of our overburdened landfills and return it to the soil. You can’t help but be inspired. This is community giving, and growing, at its best and most basic.
A Partial List of Dee’s Favorite Beautiful Edibles
Along with beautiful flowers, there’s been an explosion of gorgeous vegetables in recent years. Gone are plain-Jane green beans. They have been replaced with speckled (and even purple!) varieties in both runner and bush bean style. Below are my favorite beauty queen vegetables to delight both your taste buds as well as your eyes.
BEETS: ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet is an heirloom from 1840. I grow this one primarily for its deep burgundy foliage, but I also eat the beets when they’re small. Both the fruit and greens are excellent.
LETTUCE: ‘Redina’ French red-leaf lettuce is so attractive that you may not want to eat it, but leaf lettuces, no matter what the color, are great additions to your garden and taste better than anything you can buy from the store. Darker leaves also contain extra vitamins.
KALE: ‘Lacinato’ kale is still in the greens category, but its leaves are a dusky blue/green. It is tender when small and works well in winter and spring soups. It’s especially sweet after a cold snap.
SWEET PEPPERS: ‘Bullnose’ sweet peppers ripen to a deep red. Their fruit is short and stout with thick walls. A version of ‘Bullnose’ was grown by Thomas Jefferson and although cross-pollination changes heirlooms over time, the ones grown today are considerably larger.
CAYENNE PEPPERS: ‘Long Red Slim’ cayenne peppers stand out in the garden like a spotlight. Although I grow several ornamental peppers just for looks, I think chile peppers, especially cayenne types, are hot in both looks and taste.
SWISS CHARD: ‘Rhubarb’ red Swiss chard is the last on my list of beautiful edibles. I’ve grown all of the popular colors, including pink, yellow and white, but I love the ruby red ones best.