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Urban Gardner: Climb Upwards for Success

Saturday, April 26, 2014

 

Urban gardeners seize opportunity in spaces large and small. We gamble on sunshine between close buildings. Odd neglected corners, broken pavements, deserted lots ironically not good enough for anything else, rooftops, window sills, all serve our need to cultivate, to grow, to reach beyond. Deep generative impulses trump the dark forces. Gardens offer hope and aspiration. They are expressions drawn from the inner being made manifest. Each delicious salad, meal, array of fantastic forms, scent, color, and taste are aspects of the greater existence within everyone. Let’s take advantage of what others may see as the cast offs and unworthy. Life is profoundly strong and beautiful.

Gardeners with unlimited horizons stay close to the ground. Most of us are in more limited circumstances. Do not allow fences or small footprints smother your dreams. They are actually the rungs on Jacob’s Ladder. Let’s climb these barriers for vertical success. Gardeners have faced this challenge since Adam and Eve cavorted among the apple trees. Let’s take a look at techniques available to the smallest budget and the tightest corner. 

Look upwards towards the sun. Pause and firmly place your feet in contact with the earth. Imagine energy as a taproot penetrating the ground beneath towards the planet’s center. Allow the energy endless depth. Release the energy from below upwards from heal to toe, upward through the calves and hips, pause for a moment just below your deepest breath. Your breath is the glue. Inhale the garden’s scent. Exhale the past and envision growth upwards. Energy will spread through the limbs and upward through the crown of the head. It’s easy for gardeners to embrace this metaphor and look upwards higher and higher into space. You’ve found it! Here’s a place to grow where none existed before. 

Vertical gardening enjoys a renannaisance. Not since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have vertical spaces become as conceptually available for the gardener. Everyone deserves to enjoy the bounty and joy of growing upwards instead of feeding the ravenous desire to spread outwards. Community garden plots are especially suited for vertical growth. Do not restrict yourself to isolated plots. Walls often offer the best southern exposure and wind protection. Gardeners perceive the advantages of the exposure and site. Let’s take a look at techniques ready to help realize dreams.

The trellis has long associations with gardeners. They are any upright support that lifts sprawling plants higher and above. Shape is the whimsy of gardener, materials and site. There are many plants of different purposes that thrive, indeed demand, support. The pole bean, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, grapes, and many others have evolved to tower, tangle, twist, over those below. Encourage them.
A trellis is an artful creation. They can be simple or complex. Re-cycled materials are your friends for these projects. Whether the upright supports are to last generations or a season, urban gardeners enjoy robust sources of materials on sidewalks, dumpsters and yes, garden centers. Let your imagination dominate. 

Orient whenever possible a trellis north-south for the best solar perspective. Compromise when forced, don’t settle for less when given the choice. A trellis allows leaves, fruits, and blooms to exist in vacant spaces. A traditional example abounds in our cities. Many driveways paved to the nth degree are surmounted by pipe or lumber arbors. Grape vines appeal to the practical home wine maker. Greenery shades pavements baked in sunshine. Surely the food laden table under an arbor beneath lovely bunches of hanging grapes is a setting familiar from generation to generation. Gardeners grow many things, not least the heart. Let yours swell too.

Welcome shade offers peace and privacy. Green leaves and blooms flaunt their beauty where nothing grew before. North/south orientation gives the best advantages to your garden beauties. Fertilize the plants roots and they will rebound and grow upwards. Taller plantings offer gardener’s with painful backs a new chance to nurture the garden. No longer confined to stoop labor frees gardener’s from painful choices. There are more advantages.

Fruits and vegetable grown upwards are not in contact with soil borne diseases. They ripen evenly and free from contact with mulch or bare soil are blemish free and easy to clean. Anyone who has grown cucumbers knows trellis grown cukes never have a yellow side where they’ve rested upon the mulch or soil. This axiom prevails with tomatoes as well. Better looking produce is eaten first and least forgotten.
My favorite trellis is made of re-cycled large heavy duty wire mesh. Available from construction site dumpsters are odd pieces of wire usually employed to strengthen poured concrete. Snip and trim your finds to fit. Nail to repurposed lumber, support much greenery during the growing season, strip in the fall, roll up and store on site or under cover until next year. I have wire trellises that have lasted for years in different locations. The couch is not the only possession to follow urbanites from apartment to apartment. 

Newer materials and a careful eye to watering is converting walls into growing spaces. Find a south facing wall for intense vertical gardening. Sacks woven from durable re-cycled fibers will suitably contain root systems and allow foliage to drape outward and vertically. What was once a desert is now a paradise. Pay attention. Faithfully water. Have some fun and mix up plants. Like the American family, vertical gardens explore new relationships. 

Some of my favorite trellis plants are well known to you. Roses do well on trellises and please spirit and nose. French horticultural beans sometimes known as Scarlet Runner Beans and other varieties of beans clamber over trellises with true abandon. Cucumbers are no longer humble pedestrians but aviators, zeppelins of the garden. Tomatoes offer larger yields when staked up and indeterminate varieties will grow endlessly with support. Plant peas at the foot of the trellis. When your peas are failing in hot weather plant beans at their feet. The beans will grow up and over the peas to offer two crops from one space. 

Privacy is an added bonus to this garden style. Grow morning glories as tall as you can build. They will surmount high supports and drape in dramatic cascades. Honeysuckle will achieve the same results and contribute their inspiring fragrance to the garden patch. 

Grow upwards and discover unknown space. Double up on crops, mix flowers and vegetables, create private spaces where none existed. Urban gardeners adapt and repurpose spaces long consigned to vacancy and debris. Rise up dear friends grow.
 

 

Related Slideshow: Spring Has Arrived: 25 Great Events in New England

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New England Family Fun Festival

Providence, RI - April 26-27, 2014

In April, the Rhode Island Convention Center will host The New England Family Fun Festival, which offers fun and educational activities for the entire family. The festivities will include rides, games, bounce houses, face painting, rock climbing, live performances by The Toe Jam Puppet Band, Vanessa Trien, Story Tellers Len Cabral, Carolyn Martino, Tammy Titus and Valerie Tutson, Marine Biology and Aquarium by Biomes, Arts & Workshops and the Providence Friar’s Official DJ, Finesse playing music during family competitions like Lego building and Simon Says. Festivities will take place from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Admission: $12 for adults, $7 for kids

For more information, click here.

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118th Boston Marathon

Boston, MA - April 21, 2014

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the world’s best-known road racing events with over 20,000 participants. Amateur and professional runners flock to Boston from all over the world to compete on the hilly terrain. The race starts west of the city in Hopkinton and ends in Boston. Approximately 500,000 spectators line the 26.2-mile course each year, making the Boston Marathon New England’s most widely viewed sporting event.

For more information, click here.

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Virtu Art Festival

Westerly, RI - May 24-25

More than 185 selected artists from New England and beyond participate in this free two-day exhibit and sale of artwork and fine crafts. Featuring food, live entertainment and free children’s activities.  This event, which will be held at Wilcox Park, will take place rain or shine.

For more information, http://public.westerlychamber.org/events/details/virtu-art-festival-4162" target="_blank">click here.

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Knights! Community Day Renaissance Faire

Worcester, MA - March 28-30, 2014

Later this month, the Worcester Art Museum will celebrate the opening of Knights!, a major arms and armor exhibition. The festivities include music; costumed performers; theater; storytelling; and art making workshops. On Saturday, come dressed as your favorite historical figure: knights, pirates, princesses, and more. On Sunday, the museum will celebrate fantasy. Dress as an inspired super hero and enjoy all the fairies, wizards, and other colorful characters wandering around the galleries. Each day will have great food and beverages for sale.

For more information, click here.

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Pond Skimming at Sugarbush

Lincoln Peak, VT - March 29, 2014

An excellent spectator event, the "Annual Rite of Spring at Sugarbush" is oldest continually running pond skimming event in the country. Dive right into spring in your craziest costume. Registration from 9am-11am in the Gate House Cafeteria. Limited to the first 100 competitors.

For more information, click here.

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The Annual Bud Light Reggae Fest

Carrabassett Valley, ME - April 10-13, 2014

Held at the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, this annual spring party draws thousands of spring skiing and reggae enthusiasts to the mountains of Maine. Jam out to sensational reggae tunes. The biggest winter music event in Maine mixes with perfect spring skiing.

For more information, click here.

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Gaspee Days Celebration

Warwick, RI - June 13-15

In June of 1772 brave colonists from Rhode Island burned the British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, in what has become recognized as the first overt action leading to the American Revolutionary War. Since 1965, the village of Pawtuxet has commemorated this act with its annual Gaspee Days Celebration. The event features colonial fife and drum corps, Civil War era units, modern day drum and bugle corps, and more.

For more information, click here.

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Wildquack Duck River Festival

Jackson, NH - May 25, 2014

Held at Jackson Village Park, this outdoor action-packed day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire brings singles, families, strangers, businesses and guests all together to forget about life’s trials and tribulations if only for a few short hours.  Laugh out loud as 3,500 yellow rubber ducks make their way downstream to the finish line.

For more information, click here.

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The Atlantic Cup

Newport, RI - May 24-25, 2014

Pack a picnic and come down to Fort Adams for the Atlantic Cup's Inshore Series. Teams will race in Narragansett Bay in the third and final leg of America's only Class 40 sailing race. With an up close view of the start and finish line, live commentary and fun activities for all ages, you won't want to miss any of the action.

For more information, click here.

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1st Annual 4B Festival

New Haven, CT - March 22, 2014

From craft brews to bacon, bourbons to barbecue; come enjoy the finest flavors from around the region to tantalize your taste buds and tickle your senses. The 4B Festival will bring together national and local purveyors all in one place to offer the most delicious and creative samplings to “4B” aficionados, all highlighted with musical performances, interactive art displays and live competitions among home brewers, BBQ taste tests and a bacon eating contest for the real meat eaters. If you wish to purchase tickets, act quickly because only limited quantities are left.

For more information, click here.

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Great Chowder Cook-off

Newport, RI - June 7, 2014

Sponsored by Polar Seltzer, the Newport's Great Chowder Cook-off is the largest and longest running (over 30 years), chowder festival in New England. Located right in the buzz of historic downtown Newport, this event features national and regional competitors. Festival-goers will taste-test a myriad of traditional and exotic chowders from all kitchens, then vote for the best in three categories: Clam, Seafood and Creative.

For more information, click here.

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Worcester VegFest

Worcester, MA - April 6, 2014

Now in its fifth year, the Worcester VegFest is a FREE festival that brings together Worcesterites to celebrate vegetarianism animal-friendly, environmentally sustainable, and healthy lifestyle. The event features socially responsible businesses, national inspiring speakers, free samples of tasty vegan food, and a vegan food court.

For more information, click here.

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Misquamicut Springfest

Westerly, Rhode Island - May 9-11, 2014

Held at Misquamicut State Beach, SpringFest will include beer, blues, BBQ and rock & roll tent with entertainment throughout the week, a Ferris wheel and major rides, a petting zoo, pony rides and more. New this year: arts & crafts displays featuring local vendors. The event also includes fireworks on Friday night.

For more information, click here.

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Nantucket Wine Festival

Nantucket Island, MA - May 14-18, 2014

What better reason to visit one of America’s most famous vacation islands? Come enjoy this boutique experience of world class wines and award winning food. Over the past 17 years, the Nantucket Wine Festival has become one of the most celebrated wine and food events in the country. You must be 21 or older to purchase tickets to events that include wine or spirits. Valid ID required for entry. The Opening Reception, Harbor Gala, La Fête and Grand Tastings are the heart and soul of the five day experience.

For more information, click here.

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Art in the City Gala

Worcester, MA - May 9, 2014

Join the Family Health Center of Worcester on May 9 for an evening of art and entertainment featuring a great selection of original artwork created by dozens of local artists. The evening includes live music by the Kallin Johnson Trio with a cameo performance by Dale LePage, a live auction hosted by local celebrity Jen Carter from WXLO, a wide selection of gourmet hors d'oeuvres and much more. Whether you are new to the arts, an avid collector, or just out for a night of fun, don’t miss this celebration of the arts.

For more information, click here.

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Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport

Mystic, Connecticut - June 12-15, 2014

In June, Mystic Seaport will host its annual Sea Music Festival, one of the world’s premier sea music events. Thousands of people gather each year to hear Mystic Seaport’s Chantey Staff along with performers from around the globe carry on the classic musical traditions of the Golden Age of Sail. Enjoy featured music from maritime cultures around the world, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Iceland, Poland, Netherlands, France, Canada and Africa, as well as native peoples within the United States.

For more information, click here.

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Annual Vermont Maple Festival

St. Albans, VT - April 25-27, 2014

This festival celebrates the state of Vermont’s signature product: pure Vermont maple. It offers maple exhibits, cooking demonstrations, sugarhouse tours and a maple buffet. Enjoy Main Street entertainment, pancake breakfasts, fiddlers’ and youth talent shows, a carnival, an historical museum, delightful downtown shops and a Grand Parade.

For more information, click here.

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Antique Car Rally

Sturbridge, MA - June 1, 2014

In June, Old Sturbridge Village will host its annual Antique Car Rally. More than 50 pre-1946 automobiles will be showcased on the Common throughout the day and a grand procession of the autos will take place at 3:30 p.m.

For more information, click here.

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Down East Spring Birding Festival

Cobscook Bay Area, ME - May 23-26, 2014

The Annual Down East Spring Birding Festival provides a unique experience in “the real Maine” where birders can get out on their own and observe a great variety of birds in diverse natural environments.  The festival offers birders various self-guided explorations as well as guided hikes, boat tours, and presentations led by area experts. Over 400 bird species have been sighted in Maine, and almost three-quarters of them have been seen in the Cobscook Bay area.

For more information, click here.

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Boston Jazz Week 2014

Boston, MA - April 21 - 30, 2014

Jazz Week is a collaborative, decentralized celebration of the music by the entire Greater Boston jazz community. This year’s event is being held one week earlier than usual – launching on Boston Marathon Day (also Patriot’s Day holiday). Once again Jazz Week will cover a 10-day period, ending on another special day – International Jazz Day, Wednesday, April 30.

For more information, click here.

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Boothbay Annual Fisherman’s Festival

Boothbay Harbor, ME - April 25-27, 2014

Trap hauling, cod fish relay, old-fashioned fish fry, Miss Shrimp Princess Pageant, lobster crate race and other contests are all a part of this celebration of fishing in this beautiful mid-coast Maine town. Boothbay Harbor, in mid-coast Maine, boasts the largest fleet of excursion boats on the coast for viewing lighthouses, seals, islands, whales and puffins.

For more information, click here.

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Brew Woo

Worcester, MA - April 19, 2014

On Saturday, April 19, The Ranch will present Worcesters Original Craft Beer Festival, Brew Woo. Now in its fourth year, the event will feature two sessions from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and 6:00pm to 9:00pm in the Convention Center of the DCU Center. The event will feature breweries with craft beers and local brews, live music, and several vendors.

Admission: $35.00; $30.00 in advance

For more information, click here.

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Meriden Daffodil Festival

Meriden, CT - April 26-27, 2014

Outdoor family festival with more than 600,000 daffodils on display (61 different varieties) in the 1,800-acre historic Hubbard Park. Events include parade, juried crafts show, three stages of entertainment, fireworks, amusement area and food tent.

For more information, click here.

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Annual Cape Cod Maritime Festival

Cape Cod, MA - May 19 – June 21, 2014

The month-long event will include a variety of Cape-wide maritime-themed activities, including guided kayak excursions, lighthouse and walking tours, nautical art exhibits, the Annual Cape Cod Maritime History Symposium at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, the Wellfleet Harborfest and Nautical Flea Market and more.  Maritime Days will culminate with the Annual Cape Cod Quahog Day on the Cape Cod Canal on June 21st.

For more information, click here.

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Newport Craft Beer Festival

Newport, RI - April 26

The 3rd annual Newport Craft Beer Festival will be held at the Great Friends Meeting House Lawn. Every brewery in Rhode Island will be in attendance as well as many from New England and all over the US. The event will also feature a home brewing demonstration, live music and food from local restaurants.

For more information, click here.

 
 

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