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

What are Hugelkultur beds and why are they popular?

The short answer to what are hugelkultur beds: Hügelkultur is a technique where a mound is created by placing wood in the shape and size of your desired growing bed. Eventually decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is planted as a raised bed and this is an environment fit for plants to thrive in for years..

Due to our very sandy soil situation here next to the coast and not always having wood available, I pondered the question of what are hugelkultur beds on single plant scale and also started incorporating hugelkultur on a smaller scale for when I want to plant individual shrubs or trees.

– Water the space where you intend to plant.
– Find woody weeds, pruned sticks and branches plus kitchen waste. Position these to form a bowl by first laying down your base cover. Build a “dam” wall with the rest. Keep going to above the height of your plant’s root ball.
– Fill the bottom of your “bowl” with a mix of compost and potting soil plus a small amount of bone, or blood meal.
– Test your plant’s height and when you are happy proceed with planting as you would into a container.
– Finally, add a sheet or 2 of newspaper over the top and around, followed by 5 cm (2 – 3 inches) layer of mulch.
– Water well.
(- I add a handful of organic fertilizer to these planting pockets so that my plant can get all the nitrogen it needs, regardless of the wood chips I use)

The benefits have been obvious and plentiful. My trees are never dry, or water-logged, and mostly only gets their water from rain. Due to the mound, it also never gets waterlogged as the shape runs extra water down to the ground level where it can penetrate the soil further down and still be accessible for uptake.

(interested in more information?  https://gardeningeden.net/category/hugelkultur/ ?)

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

To understand what are hugelkultur beds one must understand the properties and nature of wood. Decayed wood turns into nutrient-rich, moisture retaining soill. Building beds to incorporate wood is a brilliant abd long-lasting soil improver.
For small gardens or single plants, copy the shape and principles of a bird’s nest. Photo by Sarath C M on Unsplash