In My Cottage Garden: Personal Scale Urban Farming
By Linda Kellen Biegel
The ABG Conference session where I received the most personal motivation was on “Urban Farming” and was run by Dohnn Wood. It was motivating because his journey was similar to mine: from he and his family discovering that fresh, Alaska grown produce actually has taste and intoxicating aroma unlike the shipped-in variety to year by year, trying to improve their vegetable gardening and increase their yield.
However, his story today is one all home “farmers” would like to achieve: in 2011 he was able to harvest over 1500 lbs of food from his 5000 sq ft Anchorage home lot.
Of course, to some of us 5,000 sq ft sounds huge. However, considering over half is taken up by his house the amount of produce he pulled out of it is quite amazing.
As you can see from my photo above, I was in a lousy position to get any good pictures. Folks were very animated during his discussion and quite frankly, I was often too riveted to take any photos.
Mr. Wood talked about his “scientific method” of determining what strategies to used in his vegetable gardening. Like most of us, he just tries things until he finds what worked the best. He also discussed “stealing” ideas and adapting them for use in his “limited area.” Sound familiar?
He also freely gave details, when asked, on some of the things he found worked well in his yard.
— He found, like Eliot Coleman and Tim Meyers, that hoop houses are cheaper and seem to work better than cold frames. His hoops are 36″ and are made from 1/2″ PVC pipe. I can’t tell exactly from my notes if if he was the one who said this (but I think he did)–but I believe he uses painters plastic for the covering. (If he didn’t, one of the three men I mentioned above did.)
— Inside the hoop houses when it’s cooler, he uses 9 gauge wire to run across the top of the plants, 12″ inches above the ground. He then lays garden fabric on top of it (like Eliot Coleman and Tim Meyers).
— The Woods, as soon as their garden soil is free of snow (usually March or April…probably not this year), plant the seeds to the Brassica family of vegetables directly into the soil. Yes, you heard me right…directly into the soil. (The Brassica family includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, kohrabi, turnip, mustard, Brussel sprouts, etc…) After the seeds are planted, cover the entire bed with plastic and they will sprout nicely on their own. (Yes, I’m going to try it.)
I discovered since the Conference, I now have a ton more questions for the man. Luckily, before the snow melts at my house, I’ll be able to see and speak to Dohnn Wood one more time. He is doing a session for the Anchorage Garden Club on “Growing Vegetables In Containers.” The event will be on April 5th at 7:00 pm at the Pioneer Schoolhouse and I will bring all of my cameras in order to bring as much information as I can back to all of you!
If you have any ideas for questions, please let me know in the comments.