Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Urban Gardening

My Farm in San Francisco will come to your house and install a vegetable garden in one day. They bring their own topsoil and compost, so even suboptimal soil in urban plots can still support vegetables. The cost: $500 to $1,800 for the installation, $50 to $250 per week for maintenance. The service includes a weekly visit for weeding, irrigation, and pest control. The people who live at the site of the garden can work on it themselves or can just let the farmer who comes once a week do all the work (and the farmer will leave a box of fresh vegetables on the porch.) Similar services are available in Portland and Seattle.

Right now, grass is the biggest single crop grown in the U.S., and there is something charming about turning some of that into crops we actually eat. The vegetables plunked in the box on your doorstep, by definition, are unprocessed. There was no packaging, no shipment, no gasoline for trucks, no illegal labor doing the picking, and since things grow year round in San Francisco, the vegetables come year round. Although I suspect that means that in winter you get things a lot of Americans don't eat, like parsnips and rutabagas and squash. The vegetables would be fresh. And as a person who once spent $40 for a tomato, I can admire the impulse to spend serious money on vegetables. (Although I had hoped to pay a lot less.)

I'm an indifferent gardener, gung ho in spring, bored by summer, overrun by weeds by mid-season. At the moment I plant things like rosemary and thyme which require no maintenance at all. I don't spend $50 to $250 a week on vegetables, so My Farm would be admirable but not budget concious for me. Still, I like it a lot better than hiring a gardener.


Blogger Michelle said...

I'm curious, McHugh, what did you make with the sacred $40 tomato from last summer? Salsa?

January 03, 2009 1:01 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I sliced it, salted it, put a little olive oil and basil on it, and ate it as a salad.

I figured if I was going to spend $40 on it, I might as well taste it.

It was, alas, not a great tomato.

January 05, 2009 10:05 PM  
Blogger irongoddess said...

I LOVE squash and rutabaga. Not so big on parsnips, but I'm sure I could find ways to love even parsnips. Especially if they're fresh.

We have a friend who does sustainable landscaping with Florida natives, and one of his big goals is to get a similar service going so that people can grow their own vegetable gardens. I'll have to send him to the SanFran site. (I'm guessing Tampa prices will be a lot cheaper.)

January 07, 2009 8:38 PM  

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