Posts tagged vegetable garden

What is permaculture?

Backyard Abundance and Field to Family are sponsoring a free “What is Permaculture?” event to show residents how they can use Permaculture principles to help our environment in their own backyard.


Two yards will be visited: one is undergoing a complete ecological landscape design makeover and the other features an established vegetable and herb garden. At each yard, experts in our community will provide an overview of how to:

  • design an environmentally friendly landscape
  • choose the correct plants
  • design a rain garden
  • install a rain barrel
  • start a new garden bed
  • create compost
  • grow mushrooms


Both yards and the features within them are designed based on Permaculture principles and patterns. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) provides a framework and methodology for consciously designing and maintaining urban ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people, providing food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable and ethical way.


The event is Sunday, September 7 from 1-4:00 pm. Carpools will be taken from New Pioneer Food Co-Op, 22 S. Van Buren St., Iowa City. People can also drive individually.


For arrival times at each yard, directions, and more information, visit the Backyard Abundance web site at or contact Fred Meyer at 319-358-7665.


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Garden Grinch

At times, I feel a sort of kindred spirit with the Grinch.

    Not when the Mean One slinks through homes, stealing from every Who down in Whoville.

    But on days when I’m looking for a peaceful respite in my city-leased garden, I do have a certain sympathy for Mr. Grinch when he laments about all the “noise, noise, NOISE!””

    I can see where some people need to use their heavy-duty tillers to bust through the sod at the beginning of the gardening season, but this year it seems, every weekend they’re out in force, using the tillers for weed control. The noise can be ear-splitting, even a distance away.

    My garden isn’t pristine, and sure, there are weeds, especially with a rain-drenched summer such as this one, but there are alternatives to using gas-consuming noise pollutants.

    A hoe, for one. This much quieter option might take a little more physical exertion than a tiller, but after testing a tiller once or twice, I’d stick with the hoe. At least it’s easy to put down and rest, as needed, compared with shutting off and restarting the tiller.

   An older gentleman at the city gardens used a manual tiller that he said he picked up at a yard sale for $5. Quiet and non-polluting, both in noise and gas emissions, the tool seemed quite effective at uprooting his garden’s weeds. If anyone is aware if these can be found, other than a garage sale, please let me know.

   My preferred method of weed control is using something I have in abundance: newspaper.

   I use it at home to create new flower beds and at my vegetable garden on the ground surrounding my plants.

   Early in the season, before the plants spread out enough to hold down the newspaper on their own, some type of “paper weight” is needed. For this, I use something else found in abundance: weeds.

   The method goes something like this: Lay down two to four sheets of newspaper surrounding each vegetable plant – this works especially well around tomatoes. Throw some uprooted weeds on top of the paper so it doesn’t blow away. After about a week, the weeds have dried and I cover this with a layer of another free mulch that I have in abundance: leaves.

   The leaves take a little more effort. Every fall,  I rake up a good 20 or so large bags of leaves from my honey locust tree, which I store until gardening season arrives the next spring.

   This newspaper/weed/leaf mulch keeps many weeds at bay for the season, and when city workers till the area in October, the newspaper and leaves are turned into the ground. Worms, especially, seem to like the newspaper.

   I know the method isn’t perfect – some newspapers blow away or a weed sprouts through areas not covered properly – but at least I can enjoy the sound of birds and carry on a conversation without having to go search for peace at the top of Mount Crumpet.   

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Veggies in the city

An awesome idea from the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood in Cedar Rapids is moving along. Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, said the group will present a formal request to the Cedar Rapids City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, March 26, about using one city-owned vacant lot in the neighborhood. The lot would be used on a seasonal basis as a vegetable garden demonstration project. 

The City Council meets in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of  City Hall,  at 6 p.m., with the presentation to be made during the public comment segment. The group is welcoming support for the project, regardless of where you live. Richards said the lot will be used as an “outdoor classroom” home vegetable garden demonstration project. 

 He had this to say about the project: “The objective is to encourage Oakhill Jackson families to plant their own backyard gardens.  Low income families have the very least access to real food, and consume the highest quantities of processed commodity based food.  Nationally, this dietary situation results in billions of dollars in disease care costs to deal with the rising levels of obesity as well as childhood and adult diabetes.  The Oakhill Jackson/Metro High School Community Garden Classroom is a way to mitigate this national health problem on a local level.” 

To keep the effort highly focused, the demonstration garden will be at one site in Oakhill Jackson, with families from Wellington Heights, Moundview and any other CR residents invited, as well.  Susan Jutz, former president and current board member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, is donating all seeds for this project.  She and Kate Hogg, an advocate of community-supported agriculture, will be working with Metro High students this year to “glean” surplus produce at their two farms to bring the fresh produce into the Oakhill Jackson/Metro High/Kalona Organics Store Front project. 

The storefront will provide organic milk, eggs, cheese, butter and produce to Oakhill Jackson at a wholesale/affordable price.  The community garden classroom will be part of this overall healthy/local food initiative. Richards said the group is recruiting a local Master Gardener to serve as instructor for this community open air classroom. 

As an added note, for those of you who missed the message from Carrie Marsh on a previous post, anyone who could not attend a community forum last night at the Jane Boyd Community Center can contact her. Those who want to contribute ideas on the “greening” of Oak Hill or other Oak Hil-related urban development topics, can email Carrie at:  

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