What is urban farming? A solution!

What is urban farming and its benefits? Growing enough food in the garden for one, or many families, to survive on. Urban agriculture saved Cuba from going under, and it can save the world from looming food challenges.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, Cuba lost its main food provider and were thrown in the deep end. This was the time of dig-deep and stand together.

Their plan of action however proved successful and the world can now benefit from their lessons learned. Cuba looked at available land and started growing food as fast as possible. Rice, citrus, tomatoes and greens, potatoes and bananas are the crops they focused on (which replaced the once all important sugar cane mono crop).

What is urban farming in terms of effort and planning? We have outlined the basic how-to’s of urban gardening here https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/26/farming-urban-backyard-homestead/ with very easy to follow guidelines and how to create your own successful allotment.

Due to a lack of synthetic control measures, Cuba had to (fortunately) resort to biological control including compost (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily), companion planting (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/) and attracting beneficial insects (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/).

About 5 years after their food imports came to a halt, Havana itself had 25,000 family-and urban cooperative tended vegetable allotments.

Thanks to constant soil improvement (see these easy tips on improving soil health: https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/) and regenerative and permacultural gardening (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/04/permaculture-abundance/) methods, these allotments soon produced food all year round. Single crop (mono culture) spaces such as sugarcane farms, largely came to an end, to make way for organic food-producing land.

We need to remember that all climates differ and growing according your climate can easily be summarized as follows:
-Grow most leafy (salad) greens and vegetables during a warm summer when sunshine is available.

-Fruit (shrubs, creepers and trees) are best planted in the early spring in a moderate climate. 

-Root vegetables such as beetroot can be planted at the end of summer for maturing during autumn/fall.

-High-yielding winter grains like rye is best grown in cold, wet climates. Corn and rice for example are better suited to warm, moderate climates.

“For other countries vulnerable to sudden loss of food supplies, Cuba’s experience suggests that urban farming can be one way of staving off potential famine when imports are restricted, expensive or simply unobtainable.” By Climate News Network, 13 Nov. 2019.

This wonderful video should be titled: what Cuba can teach the world about organic farming

D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide – all you need to know

What is it?
A keyhole garden is a 2m-in-diameter circular garden bed with a compost tube in the middle – an absolutely brilliant method. See further down where we provide your D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide.

This concept was developed in Lesotho by the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE), originally and specifically, for individuals that find it challenging to garden traditionally. A solution to food security. The garden has a opening in the front, so that the composting pile can be turned easily. It includes a drainage layer, a growing-soil layer, and the planting area which, together, combines in a perfect all-in-one growing space. (Taller permaculture keyhole gardens are known as banana circles.)

Why do I want one?
This raised garden is constructed for an easier gardening method due to its easy plants access. The constant compost run-off and nutrient-availability makes for thriving plants and because they hold water it is also an obvious solution for drought-stricken areas.

Want to build one? Follow these 7 steps on you D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide:
1) Build a 2m in diameter and 1m high round wall with materials such as stones, wood or bricks. In the case of using wood (and thus incorporating a bit of Hugulkultur), please keep in mind, it is less permanent than stone or brick for example.
2) Create the composting bin in the centre (30cm in diameter and 30cm taller than the outer circle) with chicken wire which can be bought at a builder’s warehouse.
3) Open the outer wall by removing a length of about 45cm materials. Build a connecting wall on each side, to tie together the open points and the central composting bin. (Tip: The shape to aim for is a round pizza with one slice removed).
4) Using plastic and chemical-free cardboard or newspaper, line out the walls and ground inside the outer walls. Follow with a layer of green (nitrogen) materials, such as leaves and soft stemmed twigs, grass clippings or chicken manure. Sprinkle a little soil over this layer. Next, add wood chips or straw, also with a little soil and moisten. Repeat the layering (including the paper layer) and end off with good potting soil and compost (deep enough for planting).
5) Build these layers to form a hill with the highest points at the compost tube so that it slopes down to the outer walls. In time, this surface will have to be topped up with a soil/compost combination as you can expect the level to drop.
6) Fill the compost bin with green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) materials. (For the easiest composting-how-to, see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily/)
7) Place your fruits and vegetables according to their sun requirements and height differences (highest at the back, medium heights in the middle and low-growing plants in front of the sun angle.

Keyhole kitchen gardens provide an ideal growing space because of its constant (compost) nutrient supply and producing nutrient-dense food. Crops can be planted in succession for all year food production and spaced intensively (when plants are planted together closely to maximize production) – but avoid tomatoes and other plants with bigger/wider root systems. Lastly and importantly, don’t restrict yourself to just one. And of course, share this D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide with friends- it’s a step in the right direction for many reasons! Happy gardening.