Urban Agriculture: Building Sustainability and Food Security into the Landscape

Since this blog is not at all about doom and gloom (more about do+glue, meaning do it and stick with it) I’m not going to quote the plethora of varying statistics about the percentage of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by agricultural activities. Suffice it to say that agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and that is good news, since you and I can do something about that.

Even growing a small amount of food in your backyard or on your balcony makes a difference. Think about the trips to the grocery store that aren’t taken, the food miles that don’t happen, the health benefits of using fresh ingredients and the environmental benefits of using seasonal food. Then there’s also the benefits to the pocketbook, to pollinators and to the sense of well-being that can be gained from nurturing seeds and seedlings into mature plants.

Growing your own goes beyond simply planting rows of crops or using the square foot gardening method. We need to think outside the raised bed planter. There are many other ways to build food security into your yard - ones that ensure a yearly harvest with a minimal of time and money inputs each year. Our classic agricultural inspired gardens use annual crops. This means that we are reseeding every year. While there is joy in this way of gardening, there’s also a way of gardening that frees up time and actually provides you with more secure and sustainable food sources.

Our current food system is a somewhat fragile system. Reliance on fields made of a single crop or series of crops means the plants are more vulnerable to outside forces. Traditional and/or perennial food systems contribute to greater food security by working with flora that are native to and/or thrive in this Bioregion. These food systems use a diverse set of crops, provide nectar and forage for native pollinators and birds, allow more food to be grown in a smaller space (through the use of layering) while helping us to gain access to a wider variety of vitamins and minerals.

Think about it, most of us survive on a mere handful of crops. There is a whole world of phytonutrients available in plants that don’t normally make it onto our plates and it’s pretty much an established fact that having a diverse diet is what will help you live in optimal health.

At THRIVE, we mingle food crops with edible ornamentals and other beautiful bits and pieces. So many of our classically ornamental plants are actually culinary or medicinal in nature. A few that come to mind are Violet, Epimedium, Agave, Cimicifuga, Daylily and Rose to name a few. These plants let you merge the classic landscape with landscapes that allow you to bring some 100 mile diet principles into your life. You don’t need to sit and wait 50 days for your radishes to be ready, you can go out and pluck some petals or harvest roots of these plants throughout the year.

But what does this have to do with you, you ask?

This, the second month of the year, is a great month to plant fruit trees and shrubs. February is when the seasons begin to change here in the Pacific Northwest, though our Gregorian calendar tells us that Spring doesn’t begin for another 50 days or so. Days are longer, but there’s still not a lot to do outdoors. Use this time to plant.

Aside from your usual Apple, Pear, Fig, Plum and Cherry trees, try these for a bit of looks combined with a bit of practicality:

  • Salmonberry.

  • Blackcap Raspberry

  • Trailing Blackberry

  • Mahonia nervosa aka Dull Oregon Grape (I take exception to this label since there is nothing dull about this plant.)

  • Salal

  • Vaccinium Ovatum (This is my current plant crush. Its voluptuous habit defies definition.)

  • Saskatoon

  • Baldhip Rose

  • Nootka Rose

If you’re having trouble deciding on what should go where, give me a call!

Insert segue here...

I just picked up the 2016/2017 Fall/Winter issue of CONCRETE GARDEN. If I were the envious type, I’d sulk in my livingroom for months, since this glossy semi annual mag is simply fantastic. Definitely worth the read, it is all about food and food security in the Pacific Northwest, written and published by UVIC students. The content is as as timely as it can get, providing information on sustainable and indigenous food systems; not at all a token nod to hip food politics. You get the sense that the magazine could be the next “it” rag in the city and that the contributors actually believe in their work. Have a read. The new issue is due out in the coming weeks...

 

THRIVE in 2017: Designing the Future

Greetings and Happy New Year! I hope that the holidays afforded you some time to relax, reflect upon the triumphs of 2016 and chart your course for the New Year. Being a “1” in numerology, 2017 carries the energy of new beginnings.

For THRIVE, this year is about laying the groundwork to become a leader in the field of green business by providing you with the total package when it comes to Sustainable Landscape Design + Build services. This journey brings many new partnerships and possibilities that will allow us to offer you quality services that address the challenges of today while adding value to your home and building a resilient Capital Region.

LEED Certification

This year, we will begin working toward our Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) Certification. Since we have not yet worked on a LEED Certified project, we must start with the LEED Green Associate Exam and work our way up to the LEED AP BD+C (LEED AP Building Design + Construction). This Certification will be valuable as we move further into the world of small structure construction as the process of densification begins in earnest in our region.

Partnerships

We are beyond thrilled to announce that we are partnering with some outstanding green businesses and community groups to offer you even better products and services and bring sustainable landscape practises to the forefront.

Urban Harvest

With a selection of over 400 Certified Organic, Non-GMO vegetable, herb and flower seeds, seedlings and a line of natural garden amendments, Urban Harvest sets the bar for organic growing in the city. This year, THRIVE is bringing these seeds to the West with their inaugural appearance at Seedy Saturday - February 18th, 2017 at the Victoria Convention Center from 10am - 4pm. Come and get your “Banana Legs” Tomato seeds!

Saanich Native Plants

The inspired native plant and Garry Oak Ecosystems experts at Saanich Native Plants, Kristen and James, will be providing THRIVE with plant lists catered to the specific conditions of your site, for those of you wanting to convert your property to a native ecosystem, habitat or pollinator garden. Their nursery sells the largest selection of native plants and seeds in the CRD. Visit them at Haiburton Farm.

Julie’s Living Foods

After meeting at a Food Forestry workshop, it became clear that Julie had the same vision for Food Security in Victoria as we do: Create beautiful spaces that encourage community use, provide education about health, traditional edibles and growing food in the city while contributing to a vibrant streetscape. For the individual homeowner, we offer edible boulevard or backyard conversions that are easy on the eyes.

Community Groups

In keeping with our commitment to community, we are partnering with Neighbourhood Associations to help bring community allotment gardens to fruition in Victoria neighbourhoods. Stay tuned as these projects develop over the coming months and years.

Setting Sail

This year we are committed to a more sustained effort to get information to you. We will be using our blog to provide you with timely and relevant information for building a sustainable landscape and to alert you to THRIVE promotions and services. Our newsletter will provide you with seasonal tips, information and promotions from a variety of health and sustainability related businesses.

Our Blog series is published on the 1st of the month from February to December, yearly. Our newsletter comes out quarterly and is published on the 15th of February, May, August and November. See our Blog by visiting thrivegardens.ca. Sign up for the newsletter while you’re at it!

We look forward to another year of building relationships, growing together and providing direction and leadership in the field of sustainable landscapes in this beautiful bioregion that we live in.

Sincerely,


Shan