Rooting DC is an annual urban gardening conference held in a big, light-filled high school in Northwest Washington. The day-long event always leaves me awash with information and floating on good urban ag vibes. The 2018 conference, held on March 3, was no different. Here are a few lessons I learned in and out of workshops.
With my office smelling like wet soil and a motley crew of plants and planters straggling across my desk, I’m in a good place to celebrate Earth Day. It doesn’t hurt that the plants came from a campus clean-up project that one of my classes planned last week, and the egg carton planters came into being thanks to another class activity yesterday. I’ll spend another few minutes with these signs of spring, then head to a board meeting for the Crossroads Community Food Network. We’ll be talking about that organization’s fragrant, colorful farmers market, which opens in just six weeks.
I hope you’re celebrating where you want to be this Earth Day, or that you’re on the way.
Soil samples from my plot and my garden neighbors’ are mixed, dried, and ready to ship to U Mass.
Colleges just had that special break where students drink on the beach and faculty stay home to watch 90s movies, and I have potatoes sprouting on my kitchen table. So even if forecasters predict snow tomorrow, spring is officially here! For gardeners, that means it’s time to send in soil samples for testing, if you haven’t already.
Wondering what the deal is with soil testing? Here’s my basic guide to getting your dirt analyzed:
It’s a good idea to test levels of various materials in your garden soil every year or two. It’s like getting a physical and doing blood work. Then you can add whatever nutrients you need to grow the most abundant and nutritious plants or, in some cases, remediate or move on to avoid harmful contaminants like lead. Find out more on this and the movement for better soil from the Bionutrient Food Association.
A good time to do this in the D.C. area is usually late February. But if the ground is frozen solid during that time like it was this year, late March works.
Live concerts and herb go together like Woodstock and Yasgur’s Farm. Now, the band Guster is giving that idea a new meaning with a quirky concert giveaway–basil seeds. As I write this, the band is probably sitting at a solar-powered tent in its Eco-Village, aglow from its set before Ben Folds Five and Barenaked Ladies at the Merriweather Post Pavillion.
I just had to share this tidbit about the band’s tour.
It gets better, though. This is part of an overall greening effort complete with a commitment to feed the band local food as they travel. Not only that, but I can see myself grooving to the band’s recent acoustic album in my garden. “Strings and string beans” has a nice ring to it, too.
What happens to the scraps from 25,000 pounds of meat at Katz’s Deli each week? Here’s a hint: It’s the same thing that’s about to happen to all New Yorkers’ vegetable peels and egg shells. Another hint: They don’t go into the trash.
Last month, Michael Pollan released his seventh food book, Cooked, and I wrote about it for The Jewish Daily Forward. The book is based on the epiphany that many of his tortured foodie questions had the same answer: Cook. This simple, inherantly communal idea embodies a theme that has been in my life a lot lately.
Pollan’s book is an homage and philosophical journey to home cooking. Much of Pollan’s research, however, did not take place in his house in the Bay Area. Instead, he entered the far-flung realms of barbecue pit men, artisanal bakers, and fermentos — communities that run thick with tradition and passion.
Of course. Soupergirl, one of my favorite local businesses, had saved a loaf of challah and was going to make sure I got it. I’d come in a couple of days before to request it, without even giving my name. That request went onto a sticky note, which turned into a Twitter ping, which found me as I went about my day. I’d like to see Safeway do that!
At that time, I was gearing up for the DC State Fair Seedling Swap. It took place two days later. While the Do Good Summit was the inaugural conference of the new art gallery and community space, the crowd at the swap packed northeast DC’s Center for Green Urbanism for its last event before it moved out. The rush of community concern over the closing touched my heart just as much as the love of green things percolating through the rooms. The Center is currently searching for a new home.
Right now, those tomato and marigold and peanut seedlings are growing on front stoops and window sills and raised beds around the District. But the frost is coming tonight. I hope we can keep this all going.
My community garden plot in D.C. does its thing last October. Photo by Rhea.
Lately, it seems everyone is trying to start an urban community garden. It also seems I have a knack for stumbling upon successful ones. So I connected the two and pitched it to Civil Eats. The editor miraculously accepted it, and I’m thrilled to share the result, “Five tips for launching an urban garden.”
The Mid-Atlantic winter may not have produced a Snowquester, but it’s still spitting out frosty nights. Soon, even those will become a threat of the past, bringing in — to my delight and dread — a new gardening season. Just like the one depicted above. Continue reading →