To anyone who missed last weekend’s Urban Grown Farms and Gardens tour, condolences. This once-every-other-year event was the biggest yet and offered tons of ideas on how to make your food-bearing garden more productive and more beautiful. Mike and I came home eager to try some of the things we’d seen at some very interesting gardens around the Kansas City area.
The tour celebrates the efforts of gardeners raising food in the urban and suburban areas. But since there were 60 farmers on the tour, it would have been impossible to get to all of them. Mike and I took along a camera to share about some we visited. And anyone out there reading this is invited to share as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a sampling of the whole things.
We’re a little later than we wanted to be with this, thanks to come connectivity issues at our house (Thanks, Time Warner). Anyway, here are our highlights. I’ll try and get a slide show up on Facebook as well.
The Westside Local
This eatery on the monumental Summit street incline in Kansas City has a challenging growing environment. First, space out back and beside the restaurant is severely limited. Second, it’s on that hill. But the owners are still growing things pretty well, thanks to the replacement of some soil and a season-extending hoop structure out back. They also have a lovely grape vine off the side, with tables for guests underneath. The gardeners there say they grew 600 pounds of food on raised beds last year.
Switzer Neighborhood Farm Westside Community Gardens
This site sits in a little dell downhill from a huge empty school. Just two years ago, it was a vacant lot “that invited dumping, littering and housing for those with alcohol or drug addictions,” according to the Urban Grown tour flyer. Now it has a little of everything. Raised bed plots at the top of the hill and bees, ducks and chickens down below.
Urban Farming Guys
This place had it all: A bamboo screen, hugelkulture mounds, duckweed to feed the chickens and an unbearably hot aquaponics shed all in the heart of Kansas City’s urban core. Just a half block away, a community garden now beautifies a corner that had been an unsightly open lot.
Mike was fascinated by the hugelkulture, me less so. This is a gardening system (more popular in Europe) that uses dead tree limbs as the foundation for dirt mounds, about chest high. You grow vegetables on the mounds and the rotting wood inside holds and releases rainwater so–no watering.
Just down the street a couple of blocks is a dedicated group offering breakfast, showers, clothes and company to people in the neighborhood without a roof over their heads. And they’re about as sustainable as you can get. They are one of the first partners of a new group in town–Giving Grove–that promotes the planting of fruit and nut trees. So there are fruit trees and grape vines around the property, as well as bee hives and chicken coops. And they collect rainwater from their roof as well.
Hoop Dog Studio
This was without a doubt the most artistic and restful of all the places we saw. This place is adjacent to an art studio at 33rd and Troost and is composed of little outdoor rooms decorated with reclaimed glass and other items. There’s plenty of shade to enjoy. Interspersed are ponds, chickens, and vegetables enough to feed 10 people in all seasons.
This was the one I voted most controversial of the tour. Anyone who went there will remember this as the guy who doesn’t weed. So when you look out over the rows, you really have a hard time seeing which are crops and which are weeds. This was generating a lot of questions from the people who stopped at his Kansas City, KS farm. Apparently he plants the seeds deeper for the crops so the weeds don’t starve them out. Or something. I didn’t totally understand it. But it must work, because Pov Hun has a successful stall selling flowers and vegetables at the City Market.
This was one of five in the good old suburbs of Johnson County. That’s the most ever for this tour. Mitzvah Gardens in Overland Park has a huge hilltop adjacent to Temple B’nai Jehudah where they grow for people who are “food insecure.” When I went there to talk to them for a Star story, nothing much was up, but now there’s plenty of mid-season cucumbers, onions, sweet potatoes and, yes, tomatoes going. We went back to see the rainwater catchment building they were putting up. But it wasn’t finished yet. So here’s a picture of their deer protection, which they say works very well. The wires are strung above the regular fence and decorated with something shiny. Mylar, maybe. That makes the fence a good 7 feet high. Then if you look close you can see little pieces of soap on strings every so often. They tell me Irish Spring is the soap to get for this.