Archive for the ‘Resistance is fertile’ Category


Seed bombing on CBC News
Andrea Bellamy |

Lila and I were recently exposed on CBC News as renegade seed bombers. Check out this short clip to watch how we make seed bombs and green up our neighbourhood.

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Lawns to Loaves wheat harvest

See that? That’s me, standing in my little urban wheat field just three and a half months after it was planted. Running my hands along the top of the spiny heads of golden wheat as I walked the rows. Living the dream, folks.

The whole process – of turning and prepping the soil, planting, weeding, and now, finally, harvesting – has been an incredible experience. This is perhaps overly simplistic, but I now have a much deeper appreciation for the work that goes into producing the grain we consume.

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Lawns to Loaves wheat field update

In May, along with some friends, I planted part of a City-owned lot with Red Spring wheat as part of Lawns to Loaves, an experiment in urban agriculture (a project, I’ll add, that has been quite controversial). The hubbub has subsided, but the grain’s still growing. Seven weeks later, we’ve got ourselves a wheat field.

The wheat is about three-and-a-half feet tall, or the approximate height of a toddler wearing a bike helmet.

Other than the initial toil involved, the field has been pretty low-maintenance. I haven’t watered once. I’ve kept the morning glory, creeping buttercup, knotweed, and burdock at bay — barely — by hand weeding every few weeks. I’ve never fertilized.

Next up: harvest, threshing, milling, and baking! I can almost taste that pizza.

For more information on this project, read my initial post, visit the Lawns to Loaves blog, or read these Globe and Mail articles here or here.

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Step-by-step: How to make seed balls

seed packets

I spent the morning making seed balls as a promo for Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. The plan is to give them out at various events as little vegetal thank yous. Because the book is all about edibles, I used veggie, herb, and edible flower seeds rather than my usual crimson clover/wildflower mix.

I chose cool-season edibles that can be sown in March and April, since that’s just after many of the events are being held. I also chose things that are relatively easy to grow, don’t require staking, and don’t need loose soil to thrive (since you don’t often cultivate the soil before tossing a seed ball): ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Russian Red’ kales, ‘Red Sails’ and ‘Esmeralda’ lettuces, ‘Sugar Loaf’ endive, arugula, ‘Kincho’ scallions, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, chives, dill, and edible flowers calendula and nasturtium.

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Pothole gardens

pothole garden

What the? Flowers in the road! Image via PeteDungey.com.

Look: pothole gardens! Not sure how I missed this unique guerrilla gardening/art concept when it first popped up on the interwebs several years ago, but it’s awesome.

It seems people plant potholes for various reasons. UK artist Pete Dungey planted a series of potholes across England to highlight “the problem of surface imperfections on Britain’s roads.” A group of California College of the Arts students greened a San Francisco intersection to provoke discussion around the “road-centricity of our urban setting.”

pothole garden

A sweet little pothole garden by Steve Wheen at ThePotholeGardener.com. Photo by Allison Moore.

Steve at ThePotholeGardener.com started potting up potholes to highlight the problem of bad local road conditions, and, as a landless gardener, to satisfy his urge to plant.

planting a pothole

Planting a pothole. Photo by Allison Moore.

tijuana pothole garden

Marigolds bloom in Shannon Spanhake’s Garden of Convergence.

Shannon Spanhake created a project called The Garden of Convergence in Tijuana, inviting the community to take part. In an interview, she relates that “the most interesting response [from the community] has been the way vehicles carefully avoid this space, as if the lines on the street have changed – they turn slowly and the passengers peak their heads out to see what it is. And how when pedestrians walk past, they stop to look and ask each other questions. The pothole really changes how people move through the space and their actions while in it.”

Pothole gardeners recognize that their work is fleeting – even more so than most guerrilla gardens, which are often temporary. And while I would worry that planting in the middle of the road would cause serious driver distraction, pothole gardeners have a technique for that, too. They plant bright flowers, which act as a hazard sign, alerting drivers to the potholes.

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Would you grow your own grains?

Quinoa flowering, originally uploaded by net_efekt.

Saltspring Seeds is one of my favourite local sources for vegetable seeds, so when I heard about their Zero Mile Diet seed kit, I was immediately intrigued. What would go into a Zero Mile Diet seed kit? What would I want to grow if I were aiming to provide the bulk of my produce? I imagined my can’t-live-without-them veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, kale, potatoes.

Instead, when I checked it out, I found that the twelve seed packets that make up the kit don’t include a whole lot of veg. Grains such as quinoa, amaranth, wheat, barley and flax – as well as dry beans like pinto and kidney – represent most of the seeds. As the introduction in the growing guide included with the kit explains, “by combining [the foods in the kit] with locally grown vegetables, fruits and nuts, you could become close to 100 per cent self-sufficient in food.” Ah. I’ve been growing about this all wrong.

In my small space, I can’t realistically become completely food self-sufficient (baker and organic food campaigner Andrew Whitley estimates, for example, that I’d need to devote 297 square metres [3196 square feet] to wheat production in order to provide my family with bread for a year). So I focus on things that I love to eat, are fairly easy to grow, and provide a good yield in little space.

But as the Zero Mile Diet kit (and the experiment-turned-lifestyle that likely inspired that name) make clear, finding local organic produce when it’s in season isn’t really the problem. It’s the grains and beans and storage crops – the things that get you through the winter months – that I should be growing if I really want to eat local, year round.

amaranth, originally uploaded by angela7dreams.
But what if, like most of us city dwellers, you simply don’t have the space to devote to grain production? Would a few rows of wheat or a pot of quinoa be completely ineffective?
Amaranth and quinoa are “awesomely productive,” according to Salt Spring Seeds owner Dan Jason. If you don’t have the space for 50′ (15m) rows (about the minimum length you’d want to sow to get a decent yield) but want to try your hand at growing grains, one plant will produce enough grain for one fantastic meal (just make sure you savour it!). No, it’s not going to get you through the winter, but the greens of amaranth and quinoa are also edible, and the plants are attractive enough to tuck into ornamental beds. And compared to wheat, they don’t need to be ground down into flour for good eating.
Still, I think it makes more sense for small-space gardeners to focus on growing fresh vegetables in season. If you’re serious about eating local, find an alternative way to grow your own grains or source them from a local supplier. The Zero Mile Diet kit suggests that:
In an urban environment, you could sow these seeds with family, friends and neighbours as you convert lawns into gardens. One family might have a shady spot for growing greens or peas while someone else could have a hot spot for growing beans and soybeans. City blocks could garden together whereby many households could create a shared food harvest and thereby lessen reliance on food coming from elsewhere.
If you’re not growing them yourself or within your community, grains can be hard to source locally when you don’t live in a wheat belt. Your best bet, besides going right to the source, is to become a shareholder in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm that grows grains. In Vancouver, Urban Grains is in the early stages of development and hopes to be the first CSA to provide BC-grown grains to Vancouverites.They’re not accepting applications yet, but sign up for their mailing list to stay informed. In Canada, search for a CSA here; in the US, click here and in the UK click here.
Would you grow your own grains? Tried it and ready to report back? Let us know in the comments.

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Vote for the environment. Canucks: listen up.

Canadians have a powerful new online tool to help them cast a vote for the environment.

VoteForEnvironment.ca provides a recommended pick for every riding in the country for the Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc party candidate most likely to overwhelm their Conservative opponent.

“At a time when we need urgent global action on climate change, Stephen Harper seems to be the only national leader in North American who just doesn’t care,” said Kevin Grandia, co-founder of VoteForEnvironment.ca. “Yet now the pro-environment vote looks like it’s splitting again among the four environmentally conscious parties, creating the possibility that Harper’s Conservatives may win a second term – maybe even a majority. The best way to block that win is to vote strategically – to vote for the environment instead of for any political party.”

The website gathers the latest polls and cross-references them against the 2006 results. It then adds some on-the-ground analysis to predict the likely outcome in each of the 308 ridings. Voters can plug in their postal code and instantly see the last election results modified to show which party is likely leading. The site currently identifies 63 ridings where a Conservative victory can be stopped if progressive voters unite behind a single candidate.

VoteForEnvironment.ca is party-neutral, looking only for the pro-environment candidate with the best chance of blocking a Conservative in each riding. In the analysis stage, the website collects relevant details – such as the retirement of an incumbent – and then searches to identify “swing” ridings, those in which an NDP, Bloc, Liberal or Green candidate could win if at least one-third of the opposition party supporters voted for them.

In other words, anything but the Conservatives.

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Video: guerrilla gardener at work
Andrea Bellamy |

Richard Reynolds, founder of guerrillagardening.org, wrote the book on guerrilla gardening. Literally. It’s called On Guerrilla Gardening.

Now you can watch the Web’s most famous guerrilla gardener at work in this short video. If you’ve ever wondered what guerrilla gardening looks like, watch as Richard facilitates an ambitious project in London’s East End.

My favourite scene is Richard’s novel approach to a gardener’s all-too-common dilemna: how do you fit all the plants you’ve just bought into your car? Try this at home only if you’re driving a very short distance!

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Garden gnome seed bombs

flowerbomb.jpg
Check out this new take on the seed bomb. It’s a biodegradable helium balloon painted with the classically kitschy garden gnome. The work of Dutch Studio TX, the seed-filled balloons deflate after a day, landing on the sod attached to the bottom of each balloon.

“Each balloon is made of PLA plastic and painted with 100% water-based
chalk. The balloons take 4-6 months to decompose and leave a burst of
color in their wake.”

More art piece than practical seed delivery method, but still pretty cool. I love the idea of these seed-carrying balloons deployed all over the city, delivering their floral cargo like little gnome parachutists. What a sight that would be!

Via Inhabitat.

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Illicit activity: start ‘em young
Andrea Bellamy |

In my pre-baby life, my neighbour called me The Napper. I love sleeping, and I especially love a late, lazy afternoon nap. I was hoping my own daughter would see the beauty of daytime shut-eye, but, for now at least, she’s not all that fond of stationary beds. She’ll nap in her car seat as we’re buzzing around town, she’ll nap in my arms as I do the baby dance, and she’ll nap in her stroller on our daily walks. (You know how everyone tells pregnant women and new mothers, “sleep while the baby sleeps”? Please tell me how you do that while you’re driving.) 


Anyway, all this is preamble to explain why I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and blog (or do any gardening, for that matter). On the upside, our walks have allowed me to explore my neighbourhood more thoroughly than ever before.

vacant lot panorama.jpg

This is a vacant lot next to our townhouse complex. It’s slated for development, but since it’s unclear when that will actually happen, I thought it’d be the perfect location for some seed bombing.

I had about 100 or so seed balls I made a couple of months back, so I dressed Lila in her bad-ass black cap (for ninja stealth) and we set out to do some guerrilla gardening.

Guerrilla Lila.jpg
She was pretty lax about the whole thing. Kind of like my morals.

Hopefully we get a good show of wildflowers before the tractors roll in. I’ll keep you posted.

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