Starting a garden is not as simple as one might think. Some plants don’t do so well together, or your location might not get the right amount of light (at least six hours/day). Your soil might be contaminated. These are all factors that will have to be taken into account when starting your own guerrilla garden. Ey yi yi. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s not as hard as one might think.
This is the beginning of a series of posts about starting a guerrilla garden. We started our own and we will have in depth details about our garden in the next couple of days, but until then here is some seed for thought.
First, you should choose your site. For those without the proper area, for what you want to do, I recommend using Pittsburgh’s Garden Waiver program. Once you have a site, you’re going to want to find out if the soil is contaminated. It is not uncommon for soil along busy roads to be contaminated due to the bygone era of leaded gasoline, from lead based paints, or from Pittsburgh’s tradition of heavy industry. You can get your soil tested cheaply using the UMass Amherst soil testing, or through Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. These tests are very important if you’re going to plant directly in the ground. That all comes into focus if you look at the “whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man as one great subject.”
Regardless of soil quality, there are more options. You could build a raised bed and introduce new, uncontaminated soil. You can get soil delivered by AgRecycle, head to the city compost pile in Wilkinsburg (go north on Coal street off of Penn Ave), or you could just have some container crops. When you do container planting it is important to take the root structure of the plant into account. You must plant something that will do well in a smaller setting. For instance, you may have to choose a determinate tomato, as opposed to an indeterminate. Again, a couple of great places to look for some heirloom varieties of seeds include: The Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. These websites, and or catalogs will have detailed descriptions of the fruit, and considering the extensive variety you should have no trouble finding your ideal cultivar. You can also get seedlings through Grow Pittsburgh, Blackberry Meadows Farm, The Home Depot, or your local nursery.
Just to put this into perspective, we must:
1. Find a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
2. What kind of garden will I have? (i.e. ground, raised bed, container)
3. What am I going to plant?
This is just a quick overview of getting started. We have a tomato planting post that you should check out, and included in the post are some important dates for PITTSBURGH gardening. I hope you found this helpful, and we’ll have more posts in the coming days, and weeks.
We are Bridge City Guerrilla Gardens. Let’s bridge the gap between us, our food, and our communities.