Intensive Urban Gardening Concepts and Baby Greens Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Here is the winning blog entry for our Mother Earth News Fair contest. Thank you for your submission Amanda-it is insightful and looks delicious! Enjoy everyone.

This spring I have home grown vegetables in spades. I planted my first squares of sugar snap peas, beets, carrots, greens, and radishes on March 21st, the first day of spring. Nine weeks and a couple plantings later, I have lots of short plants, and am already harvesting my first baby greens for salads.

Since I am gardening in a community garden, and only have a 5’x8’ plot, I am maximizing my space by gardening intensively. I have gleaned concepts from many helpful sources. Here are a few:

Square Foot Gardening 

One of the concepts taught by square foot gardening is eliminating the space wasted between rows of plants. Instead you make a grid of square feet in your garden, and each square foot can be planted with a certain number of plants. You can see the influence of square foot gardening in my patchwork blocks of greens.

On the left side of this photo you can see alternated squares of spinach and mesclun greens. To the right of the greens there are squares of kales and chard. This picture was taken six weeks after planting.

Dick Raymond’s Gardening Year

This out-of-print gardening classic was my ever-present companion in my teens. I read it over and over, learning about planting in wide rows. The advantages of planting in wide rows include: it keeps roots cool, discourages weeds, and makes the most of limited garden space. Basically you plant as closely as the seeds allow in blocks or rows up to four feet wide. At the bottom of this photo you can see my blocks of peas.

And here are my blocks of bush beans. They’re just coming up now.

Another reason I love planting this way is that I am addicted to seed catalogs. The descriptions sound so delicious and the pictures are so lovely that I want them ALL. All the seeds. The end.

This picture is of one of the blocks of greens. Rather than spacing them evenly, like they recommend in square foot gardening, I scattered the seeds in a wide row sort of way. This makes for a really full and fluffy square of Mesclun for salads. I’m drooling just looking at this mix of red lettuce, arugula, kale, dandelion greens, and who knows what else.

Companion planting

This is so romantic: the idea that by planting vegetables together makes each of them better. Awwwwww!! I am experimenting with a few combinations that I have learned:

Carrots and Radishes

Carrots and Beets

Tomatoes and Basil

Behind the row of mixed onions you can see baby radishes companion planted along with carrots. The basic idea is that the radishes will mature quickly, and will be removed just as the carrots need the space. Meanwhile, there are few weeds, and no wasted space at all.

Succession planting

Succession planting is a relatively new concept to me. Basically it means planting an area several times during a growing season. As one crop matures, you replace it in the same year with something else that will grow to maturity before the end of the growing season. This seems to require a degree of planning and thought. Some plants do better in cool weather. These are better planted in the early spring, and then again at the end of the hot summer, before the frost sets in. These types of vegetables include peas, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and fava beans. Other vegetables, like potatoes, tomatoes, squash, carrots, green and shelling beans, and corn need the heat to grow well. By scheduling your plantings, you can make a tiny gardening space work overtime.

Everything is growing so quickly now that the weather has warmed up. This picture was taken a couple days ago. You can see how much everything has grown in just a couple weeks since the first garden picture was taken. Particularly the blocks of greens have really filled in and are starting to look pretty crowded. You know what that means…Dinner time!

Baby Greens with Raspberry vinaigrette

Thinnings from veggie plants

Some good ideas include:

Lettuce, spinach, kale, pea shoots, green onions, baby radishes, ½” diameter or smaller, with greens on, sunflower sprouts (with no more than 2 leaves), arugula, tiny dandelion greens (yes, the ones that are weeds, as long as they are first year plants, and they haven’t been sprayed), beet greens, radicchio, fennel with bulbs less than 1/4”

Do not use:

Tomato greens, potato greens, pepper leaves, carrot tops

Pinch off the roots and wash the veggies well. A good soak will help to loosen stubborn soil. Drain and dry your greens. You can chill them at this point and they will make an extra crunchy salad. Just wrap them in a paper towel and put them in an airtight container or zipper bag in the fridge.

Meanwhile, you can make the simple dressing.

¼ cup frozen raspberries, thawed, with juice

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Honey or brown sugar to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Keeps in the refrigerator for a long time.

Arrange the greens on a plate. Drizzle the dressing ever so lightly over the greens. Serve to your friends, or anyone you want to impress. Expect ooohs and aaaaahs.

– Amanda Feldman Liddle

Season’s Eatings

Seed Starting Workshop Thank You & Fliers

I know this is a bit late but I wanted to put a word in about the success of our Seed Starting Workshop that was held in March. First of all I would like to thank everyone for showing up and to all who got the word out about the event. It was, by far, our largest turn out so far and we hope this trend will continue for our workshops in the future. Next I would like to thank Barb Mandic our resident Master Gardener whos presence is one of grace and wisdom. Also, a big thank you goes out to the ‘Urban Food Warrior’, Caitlin Moore, for her outstanding examples of seed starting techniques and her endless knowledge base of seed starting and how we can become closer to the sustainable lives we all want to cultivate. The fliers that were passed out from the workshop are being attached so those of you who could not make it can also have the information. Thanks again to everyone who made this evening a great success.

-Lara Randolph.

Transplanting Your Seedlings.

Seed Starting Tip Sheet.

May Board Meeting

On Thursday, May 10th, our Board will be having its monthly meeting at 7pm at Liberty Cafe in DT Renton.

We have a lot of things happening right now (prepping for Sustainable Talks, researching a community farm, collecting resources to support new community gardens, and more)-and we would love for you to be involved.

All are welcome-come by and say hi!

Mini Community Garden

This Mini garden is all of 3’x3′ at the unused end of our dead end street.  My neighbors (Ashley, 4 and Daisy, 8) and I  planted tomato, zuchini, and corn seeds last week.  Cleaning the weeds out of our space prior to planting could never be described as a work party.  There was too much distraction and exploration.  Look, I found an earthworm!.  Look, a roly poly!  What is this?   Why is that?

Once the seeds were in the ground, every few hours, inpatient eyes were looking for sprouts.  Children have a completely different experience of the passage of time.  Finally, knowing that radish seeds sprout much very quickly, I bought some.  Daisy and I planted them yesterday.  Until they sprout, Daisy and Ashley are being satisfied by watching the apple blossoms turn from buds to open flowers.

– Rebecca Alder

Mini Community Garden

Mother Earth News Fair – Win a weekend pass!

Here is a great opportunity to help out Sustainable Renton and win tickets to a fantastic event!

We would like to see our website and blog filled with interesting, fresh ideas about sustainable living in Renton. But we don’t just want to read blog entries from our board-we want too hear your voice as well!

So, to encourage you to contribute to our blog, we are having a contest. Every blog submission we receive via email will give the author an opportunity to win two weekend passes to the Mother Earth News Fair, held June 2nd/3rd at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. This Fair is a fun-filled, family-oriented sustainable lifestyle event.

Here are the details: Submissions are due by Friday, May 18th. The Sustainable Renton board will choose the most creative, interesting, or informative blog submission to win the tickets. Winners will be notified by Friday, May 25th. Prize is valued at $50. Each submission should include a name, email, and phone number. Submissions should be emailed to: sustainablerenton@gmail.com. Accompanying photos for each blog piece are encouraged and should be attached to the email in jpeg format.

But even though only one entry will win the tickets, all entries will be posted on our blog over the course of the summer. Submissions of course are subject to editing and verification of accuracy.

To find out more information about the fair, visit the Mother Earth News website: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/Puyallup.aspx

Thank you!

Seed Starting Adventure in Renton

I like to think of myself as a novice gardener as I have grown many plots of vegetables over the years, done quite a bit of canning and mostly had terrific success but one area I was not so good at was starting plants from seed.  Since I currently live in the Puget Sound area (cold), it is essential to either purchase some plants that are well established or limit the variety in the garden to seeds that can thrive in our colder weather or just plant later when it’s warm enough and hope for the best.

I wanted to learn seed collection and seed starting as my partner and I will be moving to Mexico eventually and it is hard to get seeds of good quality so, collecting my own must be learned.  However, once I have the seeds I need to be able to grow plants with them, right?

A workshop was attended which was sponsored and taught by Lara of Sustainable Renton, and Caitlin of Urban Food Warrior on Seed Starting techniques.  I was so excited to learn what I was doing wrong all these years so I could correct my actions.

It turns out that I did was not using enough light, nor was I using the right soil mixture.  Caitlin had this neat little portable green house that she made from a large clear plastic bin, a lid made from plywood, 3 florescent light fixtures with the right bulbs, seed starting trays, a small fan and a timer.  I made one a few days later and it turned out great!  I got bulbs that are 4000k on the color temperature scale.

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I got organic seed starting mixture, wet it down and followed the depth chart listed on the seed packages…filled my little trays with soil mixture and planted my seeds.  The lights were kept on for 19 hours and off for 5 using the timer.  The seeds do not need fertilizer until they pop up and start growing, then I used liquid worm tea mixed with water (I also compost my food waste using red wrigglers) to feed my little babies.  The small fan was placed on top aiming into one of the handle openings on my sheet of plywood so the air could circulate inside.

After 5-7 days, my seeds began sprouting wildly!  The stems are thicker and only a few of the plants have died after I transplanted them to larger containers.  Now, I have several tomatoes, beets, onions, bunches of cilantro, broccoli, etc.  After a few more weeks inside, I will move them to the great outdoors.  This is an exciting adventure and a major turn for my gardening skills. Looking forward to harvest!

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