The Garden Guide
New and updated!
This year’s planting guide reflects some of the changes occurring in the city garden. With the popularity of raised beds, intensive planting and trellising, the old planting charts that recommend planting 200 feet of lima beans in rows two feet apart are not so useful.
Grow this super-nutritious shrub in your own backyard
Lycium barbarum, the goji berry, has become very popular in recent years. The berries are native to southeastern Europe and Asia, and their high levels of antioxidants have gained the small red fruit a reputation as a superfood. You can buy goji berry juice drinks at health food stores, and dried goji berries are available for sale, but not cheaply. Often a pound will cost you $20! These dried berries are imported from China and Mongolia—but did you know that goji berries also grow in old gardens and in the wild all over Utah?
In 1974 when Monsanto first patented the glyphosate-based herbicide they named “Roundup,” it was hailed as an agricultural breakthrough. Previously, the most effective herbicides available were dioxin-based, persistent in the environment, and highly damaging to animal life. Glyphosate was benign by comparison.
However, we’ve made up for this supposed lowered toxicity by using an almost inconceivable amount of this stuff. It’s sprayed everywhere from city ornamental gardens to suburban back yards, and genetically-modified “Roundup Ready” crops like corn and soybeans are sprayed with it during the growing cycle.
Two local urban farmers bring their passion for sustainable produce to the Salt Lake community.
The Wasatch Front supports a growing legion of foodies and environmentalists interested in sources for fresh, organic, locally-grown—and, of course, delicious—fruits and vegetables. But would-be locavores may be unsure where to turn for produce beyond a weekly visit to their local farmers market, and would-be urban homesteaders long for more information than the seed racks at big-box home and garden stores can supply. While institutions like the Downtown Farmers Market are vital for the role they play in supporting small-scale, organic agriculture, the concept of community is key for many consumers and gardeners.
Build a house for native bees and they will thank you by pollinating your crops.
The majority of our food crops rely on insects to pollinate them and allow them to set fruit. Without bees, our diets would be a lot less healthful and tasty. The wellbeing of our pollinators is important to our survival!
While the beleaguered European honeybee struggles for a comeback, here in Utah, luckily, we also have around 900 different species of native bee, all evolved here and active in pollinating our gardens and our crops.
The garden tours of Salt Lake (and some tips on spying on your neighbors’ gardens).
Many summers ago, the Utah Museum of Fine Art offered annual (or perhaps it was biennial) tours of elegant home gardens. Thousands of garden snoops would traipse through strangers’ artfully done backyards, gleaning for good ideas or just open to inspiration. I, myself, developed a crush on an alpine garden near the zoo that I tried to duplicate in my lower-altitude, shady plot; I was young and foolish, and it ended ridiculously, but inspiration takes its chances, yes?
The ins and outs of pollination and the importance of saving seeds.
Once upon a time, farmers and gardeners ensured their next year’s crops by always saving seed from the previous harvest. Crop plants were exclusively open pollinated; they had evolved to fit into local ecosystems over generations, and had been adapted by farmers for reliable performance over many years. Individual plants from these varieties might vary considerably, but the strain as a whole would “come true” from the seed collected. Open-pollinated heirloom varieties developed resistance to local pests and diseases and were well adapted to the local climate.
City gardener? Urban farmer? Either way, it’s just a label identifying someone who gets serious pleasure out of playing in the soil. We could say the gardener is more about looks, the farmer takes something home. As with every holistic process, it’s both.
What we call farming is no longer a question of size: Some of your “fields” may be measured in inches or feet rather than acres. Say, an orchard of a few dwarf apple trees trained to a trellis alongside the garage, and a container of eggplant and tomatillos on a roof porch.
Your produce is likely grown in raised beds—and your beds, like mine, might be in the driveway. For a voracious gardener, every open space where sunshine falls is up for grabs, including patios, front yards and, yes, even rooftops.