Garden revolution on Delaware Street: Community has three of 21 gardens on upcoming tour
- on May 30, 2012
On Saturday’s Lawrence Food Garden Tour, you’ll find three of the 21 featured gardens clustered at Delaware Street Commons.
There’s the cohousing project’s community garden, a large square plot everyone shares. There’s Tina Haladay’s front-yard-turned-food-garden, where the landscaped array even includes goji berries.
And then there’s Kirk Devine’s garden, which is, well, different.
First of all, it’s in a resident’s basement. Second, it has no dirt.
And there’s another thing.
Devine’s garden is fueled by a barrel of goldfish.
“It’s revolutionary,” he said.
The “Fish in a Barrel Garden” concept is a sustainable loop where waste from the fish is put to use nourishing vegetables, in this case a crop of artisan lettuce.
Devine’s “barrelponics” contraption features three 55-gallon barrels, one for fish and two for lettuce. About once an hour, a pump in the fish barrel draws water up to the lettuce, planted in pea gravel. The water, filled with nutrients from the fish waste, provides all the nutrients the plants need.
“They’re getting, like, room-service feeding every hour,” Devine said.
Devine adds only light — long bulbs suspended over each bed of lettuce — and basic fish food. The water, naturally cleaned as it filters through the plant beds, is recycled.
Devine, who gardened outdoors first, said he was constantly fighting pests or the weather. With barrelponics, he said, “you’ve really got the traditional farming dilemmas on the run.”
After attending a three-day training seminar about the gardening method, he set up a system in his basement around Christmas. A few months ago, he set up the system featured on the garden tour in the basement of Judy Metcalf, 1218 Del., No. 2.
Devine said such a system costs between $250 and $350 to set up. Energy use is low.
“The payback in salads can occur within a year,” he said.
A few doors down at 1224 Del., Haladay’s “Gratitude Garden” is more traditional but experimental in its own way.
After storms damaged a large tree, Haladay tore it out. She then set about turning her newly sunny front yard into a food garden.
She layered up cardboard, mulch paths, then manure, grass, leaves and compost to create soil for raised garden beds.
She planted her favorite greens, tossing out mixed seeds by the handful. She planted blueberry bushes that, thanks to acidity created by pine needles added to the soil around them, actually have berries on them. She has herbs including stevia, fennel and lemon balm.
There’s also snow peas, carrots, turnips, tomatoes and potatoes, plus black raspberries, goji berries and even two kiwi plants, still small but on the up and up.
“I just go for it,” Haladay said. “Whether it’s going to make it or not … we’ll just see what works.”
Haladay’s own children enjoy picking and eating fruit and vegetables straight from the yard, and she said she tries to share with other neighbors, too.
The community garden idea seems to fit the mindset at Delaware Street Commons, where the main community garden at 818 East 13th St. is flanked by a fire pit and tree-trunk seating.
“It’s kind of an old-fashioned neighborhood where everybody knows everybody,” Haladay said.
Tour coordinator Caryl Hale said most of the gardens on this year’s Lawrence Food Garden Tour are new.
The event, now in its fourth year, aims to show what can be grown inside the city limits.
“There’s several farm tours, but there’s just a growing interest in urban gardening or urban farming, and this is a way that we can do that here in Lawrence,” Hale said. “And for the gardeners … it’s just a great way to share and exchange knowledge.”
Take the tour, see ‘Fresh!’ the movie
The Lawrence Food Garden Tour is Saturday, June 2. (In case of rain, the tour will be rescheduled for Sunday.)
There’s also a new kickoff event Thursday night, featuring a screening of the award-winning documentary film “Fresh” at 7 p.m. at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass. Admission is $5.
In addition to the film — which explores the farmers and businesspeople exploring healthy, sustainable alternatives to the industrial food model — the event will feature presentations and resources on local food.
There will be food to eat, too, with the Blissful Bite organic food truck serving up organic fare outside.