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Hello Guest!
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Urban Garden Ideas

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Post  spencecat 2/2/2011, 12:22 am

Hi! I have come across a big problem with my proposed community garden and I hope someone can offer some insight.

I am proposing a garden in what are now long-abandoned tennis courts. My initial proposal has been to leave the courts exactly as they are and put in portable raised beds.

There have been some concerns that raised beds would drain too quickly and become a watering nightmare. In addition, it has been brought up that the heat from the asphalt will cook the poor plants and kill them.

I looked around a little on the web and I can't find examples similar to mine, with the exception of one in West Sussex where some people turned their tennis court into a garden. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1291267/Game-set-vegetable-patch-Couple-transform-tennis-court-garden.html?ITO=1490). As I am not in England, I am in Utah, I think there is a strong likelihood that a raised bed garden on asphalt may get too hot.

I can find garden examples where concrete or parking lots were torn up and gardens inlaid, and ones where there are container gardens on cement, but this is not the same.

It is also not like rooftop gardening. This is a tennis court that touches, directly, two roads along two of the sides and a parking lot on a third side. There may be a tremendous amount of heat reflected off of these surfaces during the summer.

I want to know if we can leave the pavement intact and still expect to do minimal watering. Does anyone have any ideas? Besides covering the asphalt with organic matter or painting it white?

I have considered that maybe we should plant corn along the edges to kind of "shield" the rest of the garden during the hottest part of summer...

Also, will Mel's 6 inches be deep enough in such heat? EVERONE here is telling me it's not deep enough, we are in such a dry area, etc. I want to know, has anyone out there put a 6 inch deep garden bed on asphalt in full sun in a dry climate?
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Post  miinva 2/2/2011, 12:36 am

What about white dropcloths or paint? If the pavement wasn't dark, it wouldn't absorb as much heat. Mel's Mix is designed to drain properly so I think that would be the least of your problems.
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Post  boffer 2/2/2011, 1:03 am

Last summer we had one member who had boxes on concrete in Cleveland. I realize your situation is more difficult, but that's the closest I know of.

I'm thinking you may need to adopt some techniques more common to the U.S. southwest, ie. Phoenix

  • little or no gardening in the hottest part of summer
  • deeper boxes
  • mulch
  • automated watering
  • sun screen cloth
  • consideration of what veggies are heat tolerant

Space blankets could be useful. So could 1/4 inch bubble wrap sandwiched between 2 layers of aluminum foil. The rate a raised bed will drain will depend on how you make them.

How many boxes are you planning on?

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Post  kimbertangleknot 2/2/2011, 1:05 am

I think weather you plant in 6" or 12" no matter where you live there is usually some type of watering issue. Weather it's too much water or not enough, that is really going to have to be determined with trial and error. MM is designed to hold as much water as possible and drain the rest right through. It holds as much as it can so plants don't be come water logged. Also, a way to help retain moisture, consider mulching around the plants. This will help as well.

Also, with the planters being raised or not raised, I would think that having it down on the ground might be better. You have to realize, where you put the boxes themselves, that ground underneath wont be near as hot as it going to be out in the open. I can remember helping friends parents doing some chores (sleep over, I guess it was payment for food) and they had asphalt on their driveway, where it was shaded/covered was always much cooler.

As for intense heat in general from the parking lot/roads... heat will always rise, but I do see a concern with it, though you should also look around huge parking lots where there's asphalt and then the places where they plant stuff. They can last there with not being tended too a lot, and they don't roast. Some have irrigation some don't. I think the corn "shield" would help and it's worth a shot to try, but I can't see it helping that too much.

I say, if you can swing it, why not try a couple of different methods? Try a 6" and 12" on the direct ground, try a 6" and 12" enclosed on wheels, here is one that was made and has casters on it. And if you can think of another way to try, try that as well. There is no reason why growing on cement, asphalt, or tennis courts can't work without ripping it up, you just have to figure out how to adapt to your surroundings. We're humans, it's what we do!

Keep us updated on the progress. I'd love to find a community garden myself, and applaud everyone who has or is a part of one. (this is all just my .03 on it as well Smile ) Also, as per your bold question. I believe there was a discussion earlier (pretty sure this link is it) where someone was going to try growing on a concrete pad. It might help a little bit to see another idea on the matter.
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Post  miinva 2/2/2011, 1:17 am

I think shade is a great idea Smile If nothing else you can pick up sheets at Goodwill. I've considered doing that for the hottest part of our Virginia summer.
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Post  spencecat 2/2/2011, 2:24 am

Thanks for the ideas! As for how big is it... it is 6 tennis courts. I measured it at about 50 x 20 meters, or 165 feet by 66 feet (roughly). It was measured with a GPS, so it is not to the inch, but close. If you calculate it out, this is about a quarter of an acre. Much too large, I think, to mulch. And very likely too big to paint, cost-wise.
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Post  spencecat 2/2/2011, 2:30 am

I forgot to mention that, if you calculate using 4x4 beds spaced 3 feet apart, the garden will have 220 beds. I am looking more seriously, however, at longer beds, as no one seems to dispute that they will retain water better because they will have so much more soil. I am currently looking at doing 4ftx24ft and 4ftx32ft beds. With these sizes, we could get away with 69 beds instead - much more managable.
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Post  genes 2/2/2011, 10:44 am

WOW! You'll be bringing in Mel's Mix by the dumptruck loads; that will be quite a sight to behold. Best of luck.
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Post  FarmerValerie 2/2/2011, 10:51 am

I would also consider some sort of block between the surface and your box. I recently read an article, wish I could find it, about some community gardens with raised beds, where after years of growing someone tested the soil the beds sat on. The soil was full of lead, and had contaminated the beds, and yes some of the produce.

Maybe a tarp under the box, a couple of inches of gravel, and then MM.

Just a thought.
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Post  miinva 2/2/2011, 10:59 am

Another option to avoid contamination would be a layer of pea gravel in the bottom of the box, then put weed block over it before adding soil.

I didn't realize you were going to try to tackle turning the whole thing into a garden at once! Maybe you could try different things in different areas and see which works best?

I'm a big fan of long, narrow boxes. The new boxes that we add are 2 feet wide for ease of harvest, and our new tomato bed will be 16 feet long. That's a whole lot of Mel's Mix, but after the first year you just have to add more of the 5-kind-blend of compost.
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Post  FarmerValerie 2/2/2011, 11:58 am

Try here
https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t4951p75-just-planning-thinking-waiting#42150
Last post on page 6 by boffer, SFG on wheels or Winnebago!!!
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Post  camprn 2/2/2011, 1:53 pm

miinva wrote: but after the first year you just have to add more of the 5-kind-blend of compost.
I just add my homemade compost.
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Post  miinva 2/2/2011, 3:49 pm

I add the same blend recommended in the book for the same reason he recommends it, so that the beds get the full spectrum of nutrients replenished. I would imagine that's less of an issue if you practice crop rotation, but we aren't to that point of complexity yet.
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/2/2011, 4:22 pm

Most often your homemade compost is going to have a variety of ingredients, so you might well end up with more than 5 ingredients, creating a good blended compost with lots of the various nutrients.

Ingredients might include:
vegetable peelings and ends from your kitchen scraps
egg shells
coffee grounds
dried grass clippings
garden thinnings
shredded paper
leaves
possibly multiple types of manure
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Post  miinva 2/2/2011, 4:34 pm

When I get to where I produce enough compost to be of use (which I haven't managed yet Smile), I'll consider it one of the five types that I'll restock my beds with. I don't think I'm going to get the beneficial nutrients that are found in mushroom compost in my home pile, although I could always add a myco supplement to the mix. There are so many possibilities!
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