The Urban Garden of Eden

22 Aug

Because it has been requested, because I scored about six pounds of free blueberries this week from a friend just itching to get rid of her backyard blueberry surplus, and also because I just found the coolest website on a similar topic, I have decided to write this week’s blog on Urban Gardening—The Becky Update. I’ve found the idea of urban gardening to be so much more absorbing than I thought it would be. It seems simple, the concept of growing your own food. It costs less than buying at the grocery store, and you know exactly where your food is coming from, but, like I said before, up until a few months ago I had never even consider growing my own food to be a realistic option. So why now? Recession, a new hobby, the inarguable rise in awareness of the important of knowing where our food comes from…urban gardening has definitely been a new and fruitful (ha ha) experience for me, and I’m excited to share more about it.

My garden has been blossoming! Back when I began, I had my lone tomato plant, Bernardo, and a few other herbs and leafy greens. Now I have three tomato plants, a cucumber, a planter of beets, two types of peppers, cilantro, chives, oregano, and lavender! I’m pretty impressed at my fine gardening skills too, which include watering when the sun is low (Plants can get sunburned too!), clumping like plants together so they can compete and grow larger, and whispering sweet nothings to them from time to time to keep up morale. My plants don’t reside in the most beautiful garden, after all, but they have certainly brightened up my life and my alley! Note:  I moved everything that needed major sun to my little alley. The front patch was just not cutting it, sunshine-wise. Not all of them are ready for consumption yet, but I’ve been able to pick some of my cherry tomatoes, which makes me so very happy. The herbs of course are continually giving; I recently made a delicious enchilada dish with my fresh oregano. What a difference fresh makes! The flavor really popped out.

My gardening interest piqued, I was reading my usual Portland community blog on http://www.livejournal.com when I came upon a post asking about the availability of wild-growing blackberries in the Portland area. One of the answers led me to an intriguing website called Urban Edibles: http://urbanedibles.org/. It is a guide to finding all the produce that’s free to pick, whether it’s behind a Fred Meyer or on a median strip in the middle of a street. The tag line across the top of the home page reads “A Community Database of Wild Food Sources in Portland, OR.” Below, “Urban Edibles is a cooperative network of wild food foragers. By creating awareness about what is available in our neighborhoods, we hope to re-establish the connection between people, environment and food.” Right above it are the links to get you started. I noticed an “ethics” link, so I clicked on it. One may consider most warnings to be common sense (Don’t pick on private property without asking first!), but I was glad I read it for their take on urban foraging etiquette. On the website, you can search by location or item in the greater Portland area. I typed in my address and saw that there were at least seven different food sources within walking distance of my home. This kind of website is exactly why I love Portland so much. Many people are eager to share the resources that keep them in good spirits during a less-than-happy economy.

The website led me to another idea to share about obtaining food outside the grocery store. Besides growing your own produce, ask your friends about a trade. A friend of mine has a considerable backyard garden, but she also owns chickens. When the going is good, she has more eggs than she can handle. Being the great friend that I am, I always volunteer to take the surplus off her hands. When I have something to barter, I offer it. What a fantastic and frugal way to get my groceries!

The urban garden experiment so far has been really pleasurable. It gives me a sense of heightened environmental consciousness and presents me with an activity where I can see the direct results of my efforts (a Virgo MUST). When more crops are ready to harvest, I hope to write another update. If you live in the Portland area, maybe we can do a veggie exchange!

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