On this blog, The Dandelion Community is sharing stories from urban organic farmers to help those who want to add fresh vegetables to their daily meals at home, and those who are thinking about going even bigger by contributing to local restaurants, co-ops, and famers’ markets.
Photo Caption: Mint growing in soil at Southern Urban Gardens. They trim often to ensure continuous growth throughout the year.
The biggest challenges associated with organic urban gardening include finding space to grow enough food to feed a family. Much like gardeners all over the world, they must also find a way to cope with local environmental conditions such as weather and access to clean water and soil.
Photo Caption: Constantly developing seedlings is necessary to support the growth needed to grow daily vegetables for meals.
Here is a story of Ralph Holweck and Gail Tyree from Southern Urban Gardens in Orlando, Florida. They have been organic gardening seriously for several years and have found solutions for overcoming the challenges of space, heat, water, and soil, so they can produce vegetables for their own table and grow enough extra vegetables to supply two local co-ops.
Photo Caption: Organic aeroponic “Tower Garden” used by Southern Urban Gardens supports their family and two local co-ops with leafy vegetables throughout the year.
Gail and Ralph currently combine an aeroponic growing system and soil-based gardening to get the best results. Ralph and Gail spent a lot of time researching the best methods of urban gardening and started out slowly so they would not get overwhelmed and quit. They continue to find better ways to get more vegetables within the small space of their backyard.
Photo Caption: Ralph and Gail found suitable organic seeds to grow healthy and great tasting bell peppers in their tower garden.
They made a decision to use their tower garden for the steady production of leafy vegetables as it reduces the amount of space needed and is easy enough to manage without needing a greenhouse. Finding the right varieties of vegetables that will grow in the heat and tower garden is a challenge. However, Gail and Ralph learned that urban gardening is a lot like the rest of life. You have good days with wonderful leafy vegetables for a daily salad. Then, there are bad days in which the heat is too much for the seedlings they choose to plant that week. Or, to know how to have enough seedlings growing constantly so you will enjoy vegetables daily.
Yet, Ralph and Gail seem to thrive on these little challenges and find ways to make it work. They both agree that there is nothing better than having organic vegetables to set upon their table day in and day out.
To accommodate the heat in Orlando, Gail and Ralph have added a reflective gardening shade cloth over the towers. They found that it is worth the extra money, in comparison, to the performance of typical gardening shade covers.
Photo Caption: Gail and Ralph invested in reflective gardening shades in order to be able to grow veggies throughout the summer.
Gail and Ralph put a lot of effort towards developing the right soil mixture to grow additional plants that are not suited for the tower gardens. Due to the unusual heat throughout October of this year, Southern Urban Gardens has just started to plant additional vegetables in the soil area of the garden. This area in their yard is finally seeing the cooler nights that are the right temperature for growing in soil. They are looking forward to digging in the soil and seeing what varieties of vegetables successfully grow this year, as compared to last year.
Photo caption for the two images below: Gail loves nothing better than walking out in the soil section of their garden, in the morning, to find the red cranberry hibiscus in full bloom. Days like this make the work seem more like a labor of love.
Ralph and Gail of Southern Urban Gardens are more than willing to share their stories of urban farming and show you how you can benefit by using a mix of aeroponic systems and soil gardening to enjoy fresh, organic vegetables almost every day of the year. Southern Urban Gardens sell the “Tower Garden” (by Juice Plus) systems. We (**or Dandelion**) purchased a system from them and Ralph and Gail were extremely helpful in educating and helping us get setup to have a running start. If you’re interested in organic hydroponic gardening, contact Southern Urban Gardens through Ralph at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at (407) 247-3843.