Lunchtime Links: Fire Escape Gardening, using Garlic Mustard Greens, and dealing with canned tomatoes

Some good things to pass along today.


Link→  17 Tips For Starting Your Own Herb Garden.

These are all great tips for small space gardening. The tip about buying seedlings versus seeds…might seem counterintuitive since seeds are less expensive but sometimes you have to do that.  do start everything from seed myself but it was a struggle this year to find adequate space. Cats & little kids don’t help.


What I Made Today shows how to use wild Garlic Mustard …the whole thing, leaves to roots. You probably have seen this stuff growing like crazy. I have a ton of it I am constantly pulling from the garden. Go ahead an eat it. It’s good stuff.
Link → Garlic Mustard Love


Garden Update: New bean trellis made from 6-pack rings & a pair of crutches

So, I made this yesterday.

picture credit: my daughter Lilly
picture credit: my daughter Lilly

My husband works at a large grocery store and he’s been saving 6-pack rings from the soda vendor when he comes to fill the machines. I attached them with just little bits of yarn from a leftover ball I had in my stash. I had started with twisty ties but ran out. If I’d been feeling super motivated, I could have made a rainbow or some design with different colors but nah. Anyway, will any luck, it’ll be covered with glorious bean vines!

And if that fails, we have a badminton net?

I plan on making more. I might use it to make a sort of a fence. I just looked up the price of a roll of plastic netting and it’s like $26 for a 80 ft roll that’s only 3 ft high. So, this was free to make for us. Took some time but I did it while watching The Voice (yeah,yeah…it’s my one and only guilty pleasure show… ). My little guy helped cut the pieces of yarn for me. It was tedious but went quick.

We still have signs that our woodchuck enemy is in the vicinity. I ammonia bombed the one hole. I saw him scurry into another hole farther away from the house one day while I was taking the compost out, so I know he’s still around, just relocated slightly. We’re borrowing a hav-a-hart trap from a friend and then, his wagon will be fixed. (I’m thinking Woodchuck Egg Rolls? )

One of the little made these little flag markers, too. They’re sweet. He used scraps of fabric and pieces of old dowels that I think came from an old drying rack we had that broke.

I like this idea and I think I’ll make some of my own.













So, my running total for garden cost is still : $21



Garden Update: Urban Pest Control Solutions

I live next door to a bar. It has it’s issues.
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I happened to be awake because I was watching The Wolf of Wall Street ( which turns out is the longest movie ever demonstrating why drugs are bad.)  My husband saw someone running down the driveway ,past the window,into the backyard. He peeked out the backdoor to find this sloppily drunk man trying to keep himself from falling down the 40 ft drop at the edge of the garden while pissing. My husband used what we refer to with affectionate annoyance as his “Sergeant Voice” to tell this guy to GTFO.

The drunk guy mumbles,”Sorry,sir. I come here all the time to piss!”

Nice. So those mornings I woke to find plants trampled…probably not furry animals doing that.

I’m not totally opposed to using pee in the garden but I would like to have control over where it’s being used and who is contributing. Obviously, the number 1 issue is keeping the plants from being trashed because someone stumbled over them. That and the fact that having intoxicated strangers wandering around my house in the wee hours is pretty unsettling.

So, what’s my solution here? I can’t put a fence or barrier across the driveway that would block people from entering entirely. There used to be a cute picket fence and garden gate at the entrance to the backyard but an ex-neighbor drove into it with his motorcycle and the whole thing had to be taken down. I can’t really afford to put a new one up (and no, the landlord wouldn’t pay for it,either).

Things we already have that SHOULD be a deterrent but obviously aren’t working:

1. Police station right across the street

2. Bright street lamps that illuminate half of the driveway

3. Neighboring building has a light on a motion sensor that lights up the other half of the driveway…. but it doesn’t always work and they don’t always have it on.


Someone suggested I make a cutesy sign to put at the entrance but I doubt anyone would read or respect it. And anyway, what does one put on a sign like that?  “Please Piss Elsewhere”. “This is a garden, not a bathroom”.

I guess I don’t really feel that it’s the bar owner’s responsibility to keep track of where their patrons piss when they leave the bar. I keep meaning to tell them about this,though:


That’s one of the bar’s beer glasses outside my baby’s bedroom window (Yes, he’s almost 4 but he’s still my baby). Someone threw it at the house from the sidewalk. Came pretty close to hitting the window. Yikes,right?

OK, obviously the best solution here is to MOVE. Soon,soon. But for now, there has to be a way to deal with this,right? Are there any urban gardeners out there who have dealt with this sort of thing? Because I would love input. 

In other garden news, I bought $6 worth of herb seeds. I think I mentioned last garden entry that someone stole my whole container of chamomile ,so I had to buy some to replace that plus some other herbals.
This brings my garden cost total to $21

Lunchtime Links: Sprouts Food Rescue,The Garden Queen of Atlanta & creating food security in indigenous communities

Took a little bit of a break last week while all my kids were all home for Spring break. Back at it today. Hope everyone had a good holiday.


Nice video about Sprouts Farmer’s Markets food rescue program. Smart grocery shops & markets cooperate with community agencies to get the edible but not saleable produce where it needs to go. It seems like Sprouts has taken the initiative itself instead of starting the program under community pressure, like what it took for Whole Foods to start donating their produce & bread.

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Haylene Green




“She Spoke and I Listened” is Haylene Green ‘s story. Haylene is The Garden Queen of the West End of Atlanta. She grows a tropical garden with fruits, herbs, giant gourds…things that would be found in her native homeland of Jamaica. Haylene says, “I have five children, and I spent more money on bread than on doctor bills for the past forty-seven years. My mom is eighty-six and she runs rings around me. My aim right now is to teach others for the future to eat nutritious, healthy food, and sustain themselves. That’s what I’m doing here in Atlanta, so that’s my plan: to teach the neighborhood how to survive.”

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Ancestral Pride logo BW 1



Growing Revolution and Food Security – an excellent perspective on the need for food sovereignty from Ancestral Pride , a blog that focuses on indigenous rights and community.
It’s an especially important goal for indigenous communities who are at far greater risk of living in poverty  to break the current food system chain and recreate food sovereignty.

“Our village is so rich and bountiful, i want to ensure our children who are gardening and harvesting can see their grand babies do the same. We are so economically depressed and struggling to stay afloat we are vulnerable. Industry such as fish farms, logging, mining all negatively impact our way of life and these corporations use our economic depression and the greed of leadership to further oppress us. Traditional foods are revolutionary because they call for radical reform the way we govern ourselves and secure economic viability. There is other ways to secure our futures for the next millennia to come!”


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Starting Our New Garden




There’s a reason I’m not a “lifestyle blogger”. I just like to show things the way they really are and sometimes it ain’t too purty.

We had a 3 day summer weather streak here in Upstate NY recently and I took the opportunity to get the “new” garden space revamped.

To summarize my garden situation here…
We don’t have a car, so we used the driveway for container gardening. I named it Grey Gardens ,and several times since we’ve lived here , I’ve given up only to decide to give it one more try.  The driveway is  the space where I have my bookshelf herb garden . Container gardening kinda sucks when you’re gardening for a large family. Also…neighborhood townie deer have not been helpful. Oh,neither have jerks who hang around the neighborhood. We’ve actually caught people peeing in the plants. Nearly everyday, I need to clean cigarette butts and people’s takeout garbage & coffee cups out of my containers. People aren’t always respectful of urban gardens. And yes, people have stolen plants and in one case, someone took a whole planter that had chamomile planted in it. I bet they thought that vintage galvanized watering can was worth money or something but dude….it had a broken spout and dented all to hell. They’d be lucky to get $5 for it.


At the end of the driveway is this dirt space which has been damned near impossible to garden in. On the edge of this space is a 50 foot drop into the woods and creek. It’s almost completely shade, so plants have to love shade. But worst of all, because it’s sort of a damp space, the slugs are unmanageable. Every single slug & snail control method out there, natural and otherwise, I have tried them all. There are so many that it’s just a constant battle. So, slugs,deer…and woodchucks. Shade.

Now, because of my posts here about why poor people might not be able to garden (see here, here, and here …) , people have gotten the impression that I’m anti-gardening. I’m in no way anti-gardening. I’m just realistic about the obstacles that keep people from gardening . Helping people recognize this is the first step in creating solutions so that low income people and communities can develop food sovereignty.

I have about 30 years of gardening experience under my belt and haven’t had what I’d say was a truly successful garden in the 8 years I’ve lived in this house we’re living in now. I just really want to be honest about how hard it is sometimes.
One of my favorite books is Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens In Wartime. These are gardens beyond the well known victory gardens. Japanese-Americans gardening while in internment camps during WW2. Seeds started in teacups in the Warsaw Ghetto. Soldiers growing lettuce in the trenches.  Impossible gardens that shouldn’t thrive at all. And realistically, sometimes they didn’t but as Audrey Hepburn said once, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  This was the point more than anything. The entire ghetto wasn’t going to be fed with salvaged seeds planted in rubble and broken dishes but the idea that there was a future to see that plant come to fruition. It gives hope when things are looking pretty shitty.

Yeah, wartime gardens ain’t even close to my fairly safe existence in small town America, even while being poor. I just relate to the idea of gardens representing a brighter future. It’s what keeps me trying despite how pointless it seem sometimes.

I started building this space up last fall with the  lasagna gardening method. The soil was horrible. The people who lived here before used the woodstove to burn everything. I don’t even know what. I mean, some of it looked like twisted metal burned? I have no idea. But then they dumped all of it out back, so the soil quality was the pits. I used cardboard,dead leaves, compost, hay,and  newspapers to build my layers. I still need to throw some more good soil/compost mix on top.



The space in the front here is where I had the cucumber trellis I made from crib parts last year.

You can’t see it that well, but at the left in the back is what used to be a sofa. There was no takers when  offered the couch for free on freecycle or craigslist, so I stripped all the material and stuffing off of it. It’s sitting in the one sunny space in the backyard, so I plan on planting melons in it. It’s a ready made garden planter. The back of the couch still have the metal springs and I think will be a nice sturdy trellis for the melons to grow up.

We’re borrowing a hav-a-hart trap to catch that snotty woodchuck I had issues with last year.

Still working on a plan to deal with deer. I can’t afford to put a deer proof fence up along the back and so far, they don’t seem fazed by anything we’ve already tried.













The length of the space in back.


This is where the neighbors dropped their old rain gutters when they replaced them. DSC_0755I think this means they’re ours? I will double check of course but I plan on using them to make rain gutter planters for my greens. This will help keep them from being devoured by slugs. I just need to figure out where to mount them. The privacy fence is pretty rickety and I don’t think it will hold anything too heavy. My husband is afraid to use the side of the house because we feel like the house is held together with the new coat of paint that was put on 2 years ago.

Just kidding but not really.

So, this is the new space I have to contend with this year, along with our Grey Gardens. I plan on growing beans, greens, chard,beets, carrots,peas,cabbage,broccoli, and some herbs in that space. And the melons in the one sunny spot. The cukes also did fine where they were last year,so I’ll probably do that again.


I plan on bringing you updates through the season on how the garden is doing. It’ll be a bit before we can plant here. The day I took these pictures it was a rare 80 in April. The day after, it snowed. It’s usually mid-may before I can start to think about putting things in the ground here.

My cost so far: $15 for seeds
I am a big time seed saver but I misplaced my seed stash (long story) and bought some . Also, the bad thing about not having a good growing season besides not getting the food is that obviously, if the plant doesn’t make it, there’s no seeds at the end of the season, so I did have to buy some seeds to replace what I couldn’t save.























Ron Finley and guerrilla gardening in a food desert

When I wrote about why poor people can’t just grow their own food, Ron Finley came to mind as an example of people helping people to overcome these barriers I talked about. Ron Finley is a guerrilla gardener who is tuning the South Central LA food desert into a place where bountiful harvest is possible.

He started turning traffic medians,curbs,empty lots…any vacant space…into edible gardens in his community. As he says in his TED talk, “The drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys”. He recognized that food is the problem but it’s also the solution.

THIS is exactly what happens when someone fully grasps what it is that makes a large percentage of  Americans eat junk and has a passion and compassion for helping people. Crazy,right? You might have thought the answer was to bitch on Facebook about how poor people shouldn’t drink soda or passing state bills that stop people on food stamps from buying potato chips. How amazing that nope, that’s not how we help people eat better. We just simply make better food more easily accessible.

It takes work. Let’s hope Ron Finley can inspire than drive in others.

Ron’s TED talk is a 10 minute Must Watch:

The key points from his TED talk:





How Guerilla Gardening Can Save America’s Food Deserts | Ideas & Innovations | Smithsonian Magazine

Why “Grow Your Own Food!” Might Not Be So Easy For Poor People -Part 2


After publishing my last post about obstacles to gardening when you’re poor, I realized there were maybe one or two points I missed…but then I read my emails and discovered there was more than just one or two things I neglected to mention!  Thank you everyone who shared their individual experiences and gave feedback.

More Obstacles To Growing Your Own Food

I’m feeling like a lot of these points are reasons all people,regardless of socio-economic status might not garden.

Water –

I can’t believe I missed this one. I lived in a house without running water for awhile. Rain collection barrels helped but it was a pain in the ass.

In drought-afflicted areas, there are tight water restrictions. People who have to pay for water aren’t able to justify using large amounts every day . Rain collecting doesn’t work where it doesn’t rain and some states now prohibit rain collection now.


Sometimes there is no other way to combat animals that eat your garden other than building a fence. Building a deer proof fence…it’s not cheap. If you love in an urban setting, shooting an animal probably isn’t legal and catching them in a humane trap doesn’t do much good if you have no way to transport it outside of the area.

Food Storage

One reader told me, “We managed to grow quite a bit but I ended up giving a lot of it away which seems to defeat the point.I filled my tiny freezer. I didn’t have money to buy a canner, which was too bad since I have enough mason jars to get me through doomsday ,if I could have just filled them with food! I don’t know how to can anyway….”

I can completely understand this. We scored an upright freezer at a yard sale years ago for only $30 and my Faux-MIL gave me a pressure cooker one Christmas. Both are really helpful when you do manage to grow any food in quantity.

“Gardening is fucking HARD!”

Thanks to Melissa for lending me that quoted headline right there.  Add to this Shantay’s “Mother Nature sucks sometimes.”

Many readers shared their experience of spending money they did not have because they felt they needed to provide for themselves only to battle with surprise snow storms, bugs,hail,kids,animals,poor soil,plant disease,mildew,drought,flooding…. you know…pretty much every bad thing that can happen when you garden.

Once people have a horrible,no good,very bad experience with gardening, they aren’t likely to venture back into it,especially when they didn’t get a return on their investment the first time.

You can buy seeds with EBT? Who knew!?

It turns out a lot of people on food stamps didn’t even know that. Some people who did know that and had tried to buy seeds using their EBT said that they found limited gardening places that would take EBT and they weren’t interested in GMO seeds at the grocery store. Seed saving from store bought produce only works if you’re absolutely certain of the seed heritage .Most are hybrid and aren’t going to grow right (some won’t produce anything at all).

This part of the program is fairly new ,so perhaps the USDA has more plans to expand upon it .Maybe by offering gardening classes for SNAP & low income people?

Community Garden Plots Cost Money

True story. So do memberships to CSAs…although in my area, there is one CSA that has a sliding fee scale based on income and has a few shares reserved for SNAP recipients.

I received an awesome email from a reader who cannot grow her own food because of several of the original points I mentioned. Her email was long but there was one point I wanted to share:

“Even when I say to someone all the reasons I can’t garden, they throw WHERE THERE’S A WILL,THERE’S A WAY at me. I have will! I WANT to grow my own food! Hand to God cannot do it right now. Otherwise I would! I’ve ALWAYS had a garden and I’m good at it. My will & knowledge isn’t the problem here and it just makes me feel like a giant piece of dog shit when someone lays the guilt trip on me that I’m not doing enough to help feed myself because I don’t have enough will. “

Yeah. The “Where there’s a will,there’s a way” thing is getting old for me,too.