Like a Good Neighbor...Share your Backyard

As I mentioned last time, I will be documenting my gardening experience to help others find the confidence to start their own gardens and to help people avoid some of the common pitfalls.  If you ever have questions don’t hesitate to ask. If I don’t know the answer I’m sure I’ll know someone who will.

So, first of all, why am I doing this?

Growing your own food is important because 1) you know where your food is coming from 2) your food will be more nutritious than what’s available at the store 3) you’re reducing emissions by shortening the distance your food travels and 4) you’re saving money.  As the price of fossil fuels increases and therefore the price of food, growing your own food is critical to making your life more sustainable and resilient to outside forces (Don’t believe me? Read this article). The same is true for other areas in society like energy, technology manufacture, and the economy.  But growing your own food is the easiest thing you can do right now to move in that direction. But there can be some challenges.

If you live in a city like me, chances are you don’t have your own space or enough space to start a garden or make it worthwhile. But there are some options out there.

Can YA Love creates easy to build and inexpensive vertical gardens that save space and can increase your production. Growing Pillars and Growing Walls are a great option for those who own their space but don’t have a lot of it. In my garden I’m using an 8 ft long, 4 ft high Growing Wall as the basis of my growing (see below) This gives me 40 square feet of growing space on only 8 square feet of ground space.

You might be saying to yourself, “Randy, I didn’t know you were a homeowner.”  I’m not!  There is a growing contingent of gardeners and farmers who do all of their farming on someone else’s property.  This concept, called “backyard-sharing”, even has a website where people who have space and people who want to garden can find each other and make it happen.  The website is a great resource and it includes a page for Washington, DC.  Putting the word out to your network is a tried and true way of finding space too (as I did).

Most farmers who don’t own their land rent it and have to pay their landlord a large sum of money every year.    But backyard-sharing is FREE and very simple.  The idea is you as the gardener will setup the garden and maintain it.  The homeowner will reap the benefits of this free garden by taking home a portion of the food grown.  The rest of the food can be for you. In fact, a number of people are growing food commercially using this technique and a farming method called SPIN which stands for small-plot-intensive (Check out my friend Curtis Stone’s awesome farm in British Columbia).

This is revolutionizing urban agriculture across the world because the startup costs are minimal and the income potential is huge.  When you include CYL’s vertical gardens and you’re increasing your yield per square foot of space, the potential is even higher.  What’s great about this idea is that it works for both commercial farmers and hobbyist gardeners (so no worries if you don’t want to quit your day job).

I hope that by sharing some of these innovative ideas I have shown that finding space to grow food in a city is actually not impossible. Next time I will discuss selecting a site and deciding where to put your garden as well as some key features of the Growing Wall.  Tilling ‘til next time.

Randy Coleman
Director of Operations for Can YA Love