Sunday, April 1, 2018

How to Be a Gardener or Urban Farmer: Three Excellent (and Free) Resources

"If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing Double Dahlias in his garden." -- David W. Wolfe

Food for the body, enrichment for the soul... even a potential income source! Gardening can give you all of these, depending on how much time and energy you decide to invest.  In this article I share three great resources to help you get started with planning and managing your window box, your home garden, your urban farm or your "all-in" urban agriculture business. Enjoy!

The BBC's "How to Be a Gardener"  

(Note: I originally reviewed this website a few years ago at my now-retired Best Free Training site. Since then, the BBC has archived it and no longer updates it. However, I just checked it out and it's still LOADED with good stuff for absolute garden newbies! Below is my past review.)

This amazingly rich, engaging, fun, multi-media training from the BBC will take you from knowing nothing about gardening to designing and managing all sorts of garden types. Alan Titchmarsh, the creator of this training, says: [bold added for this review]
“Let’s face it, gardening can be pretty daunting…but I can help you to learn how to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of what you’ve got… This online resource, prepared in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society, will bring life to your learning…The modules cover everything you need to know to give you a great start in gardening…I love gardening because it is the stuff of life, and it still gives me a thrill to sow seeds and grow plants. Enjoyment is what this course is all about.
And he is right! This course includes loads of small videos, slide shows, pop-up and roll-over information pieces, and fun things called “interactives.”

In summary, Part 1: The Basics of Gardening consists of 8 modules, each loaded with videos, plant lists, interactives, and more. The Modules include:
1. Know your plot
2. Understand plants
3. Planting schemes and themes
4. Practical planting
5. Caring for your garden
6. Problem solving
7. The productive garden [fruits and vegetables]
8. The gardening year

Part 2: Creating Successful Garden Designs (also loaded with multi-media) consists of 8 modules, including:
1. The basics [of design]
2. Blank canvas garden
3. Cottage garden
4. Water garden
5. No space garden
6. Hot spot garden
7. No time garden
8. Natural garden

Also included are Topic quizzes, a Virtual Garden, links to other resources, and suggestions for “Going farther” through texts and other references.

This course is a truly a great example of some of the best free training ever! Don’t miss it!


Urban Farming Toolkit: A Visual Guide to Getting Your Garden Started

PDF Reference: The Urban Farming Toolkit

This is a single, 62 page PDF reference put together by Tulane City Center, National Endowment for the Arts, and New Orleans Food & Farm Network. It's designed to support community gardens and urban food production and help communities move towards sustainable, as well as affordable & healthy, local food sources. 

Overview of the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction (Why Garden? Victory Gardens, Food Co-ops & more)
  • Planning (Sunlight, Soil Toxicity, Garden Layout & more
  • Building Your Garden (Window Box, Orchard, Raised Bed, Rainwater & more)
  • Maintenance (Watering, Weeding, Harvesting & more)
  • Financial Issues (Start-up Costs, Sustainability, Grants & Donations & more)
  • Legal Issues (Permits, Ownership, Liability & more)
  • Appendices (Community & National Resources, References [lotsa links!] & more)


Urban Agriculture Tool Kit

USDA's Urban Agriculture Toolkit: 
" help entrepreneurs and community leaders
successfully create jobs and increase access to
healthy food through urban agriculture."

According to the website, on April 29, 2016 "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit, a new resource created by USDA's Know Your Farmer team to help entrepreneurs and community leaders successfully create jobs and increase access to healthy food through urban agriculture. From neighborhood gardens grown on repurposed lots, to innovative mobile markets and intensive hydroponic and aquaculture operations, urban food production is rapidly growing into a mature business sector in cities across the country..."

"The toolkit lays out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations. It also contains a special section on resources for developing indoor growing operations, such as aquaponic facilities. For each element, the toolkit identifies technical and financial resources that have been developed by federal, state, and local partners. While some of the elements require local-level solutions (e.g. zoning), federal programs and services can support a variety of activities related to urban farming." 

Table of Contents (28 pages total)

1 Starting an Urban Farm: What Are the Costs?
2 USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit Summary of Key Resources
6 Land Access [Federal Funding, Community...]
7 First Steps: Visiting the Farm Service Agency
8 Soil Quality [Assessing & Managing]
10 Water [Educational, Funding, Community Resources]
11 Accessing Capital and Financing [Funding & more]
12 Infrastructure [Federal funding & more]
14 Financing Infrastructure for Indoor Growing Environments
15 Production Strategies [Educational info, Tech support & more]
17 Applying for a Federal Grant
18 Market Development
20 Training and Mentoring [Federal, Community Resources]
21 Safety and Security
22 Appendix A: General Guides for Urban Agriculture
23 Appendix B: Cost Estimates for Urban Farming [Cost Estimates... Location, Site Preparation, Structures, Growing and Selling]
24 Cost Estimate Table: Chicago
26 Cost Estimate Table: Indianapolis