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

Farming in small backyards: Urban homesteading.

Farming in small backyards vs growing gardens simply for ornamental reasons, which are now as outdated as owning a Prince Albert tea set that may almost never be used. Farming in cities and towns, known as urban agriculture, is the future and possibly the planet’s saving grace.

Where to start when considering farming in small backyards?
Combine edible and ornamental plants, insect and animals and micro-climates to create a sustainable ecosystem. The outcome should be a beautifully space to harvest food and also relax in.

Edible and ornamental plants are grown side by side as companions (see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/ ) to attract beneficial, and deter harmful pests. This really works! Your need for pest control will drop dramatically. Always plant successively so that you harvest today, next week and the week after from the same type of plant by sowing plant types 10 days apart.

Container gardens are a great consideration in regards to farming in small backyards: turn a little (possibly rented) outdoor space or window area into a small urban farm. This is an easy and cheap answer to most people.

Most importantly, the focus needs to be on polyculture (a word to describe growing many different plant types together) which will maximize yields. Combining climbing plants on a corn plant (which acts as a trellis) with pumpkins at their feet (to shade out weeds and help with water retention) is a great example. In order to do this successfully, you will need to feed your soil with compost. This is a great opportunity to stay within your own loop and use your own kitchen and garden waste to create soil food (see how to compost easily: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily)

Animal inclusion does not come easier than keeping quails (for smaller gardens) or chickens. Quails can be kept in a mobile upside-down chicken-wire “box” that allows them to move on bare earth but be protected from predators. They can thus be constantly moved to new spaces. Make sure the size of this wire-basket is big enough to allow their bodies to take up only 10% of the entire space and the rest is for moving around. Provide water and top-up food. Chickens and quails provide free pest control, fertilizer and eggs. It’s a win-win situation.

Ornamental plants are grown to attract pollinators or feed your bee hive if you have one. Group larger numbers of flower plants and herbs together because insects need spot these plashes from far away or they will fly to your neighbour’s. Would you like to see a plant list of pollinator attracting plants? Check these out: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/
Alternatively, keep your own bee hive. It’s never been this easy. Check out the mason jar method: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/25/is-mason-jar-beekeeping-method/