Practical Permaculture – Breaking Ground on Another Urban Garden

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“Looking on from Rebecca Avenue” – The vacant lot from the street… Sidewalk in the foreground… The trees in the rear will be heavily trimmed this spring… There is a brick alley in the rear… And my very involved landlady owns the houses on either side of the lot…

So… I am excited to announce that after an entire year of observation and preparation, I will be breaking ground on a new guerrilla garden/farm here in Wilkinsburg, PA late this winter. Located roughly one block from my current garden (The Garden Table), this lot will focus on production as opposed to aesthetics. I intend to document every project I undertake, much of it will be shared through this blog.

As is my typical fashion, I intend to complete this project using very little money. That may not seem like a big deal, but given the fact that it typically takes $25,000 in grant money to get one of these things off the ground…  I think I’m doing pretty good so far… In fact, this will be the fourth vacant lot I have converted into a beautiful urban garden with a budget of basically nothing.

The lot itself is 60’W x 140’D, with a 4′ rise over the first 15′ of the lot. It was a relatively recent demolition, wood frame and sandstone foundation. As a result, the lot has not had a chance to become too overgrown. Myself, as well as the borough employees maintained the lot over the summer through regular mowing and litter removal. Although there are some invasive weeds growing throughout, I have managed to keep them to a minimum through regular removal.

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“The Garden Table” – This is where I went when I had to move Whitney Avenue Urban Farm… Now that it has filled up… I have found myself seeking a place to overflow… My new lot will be used for all of the food I want to grow… But can’t quite fit into one small lot…

As it sits today, the grass is mowed and the lot is clear. I have been dumping leaf and wood debris all summer, remediation will be performed throughout development. The front quarter of the property will be raised using salvaged foundation stones, the fill will be locally available compost created from the leaves collected from the streets of Wilkinsburg. Bricks are a constantly available resource in my neighborhood, so I intend to work with them as much as possible. It is always tough for me to speculate what materials I will find in the immediate area, for that reason my plans typically change throughout the course of construction.

Fruit producing trees will be planted throughout, underneath each of these trees will be appropriate guilds. Vegetables will be grown in both contained rows, and interspersed among other plants. The quarter of the lot closest to the street will be mainly ornamental, the purpose of which is to make people driving by turn and take notice. The top of the slope will be a line of dogwood and redbud trees, which will also help in privatizing the rear of the garden from the road.

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“Whitney Avenue Urban Farm” – You are looking at one year of work… This farm lasted two growing seasons before I moved it… But I did… Brick by brick… Roughly two blocks away to The Garden Table…

Just to give you an idea of some of the things I will be including… Fruit trees will be (but not limited to) plum, pear, peach, apple, cherry, serviceberry and figs… The figs will be surrounded by south-facing keyhole style gardens to protect during the coldest months… Blueberries, currants, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries will be sporadically placed… Rows will be cut and vegetables will be numerous… I’m hoping to get into bees… The gutters from the neighboring houses will be collected or diverted into the garden… The lot also has a run-off issue towards the street… I intend to fix this with a bioswale… Everything on site will be recycled and locally scavenged… All plants will be personally propagated or donations from friends…

The food grown will be made available to locals on a (as long as you don’t steal it all) basis… As always… Volunteers always get first dibs… As of right now… I am the only person signed on… Though I do have a friend who is interested in helping… Regardless… I will be planting fruit trees come the thaw…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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16 thoughts on “Practical Permaculture – Breaking Ground on Another Urban Garden

  1. laflor5233 says:

    Very ambitious, but I know you will succeed. I will try to work as hard on my own garden.

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  2. evolution says:

    Very exciting. I wish you much success in your new project, and I look forward to learning more through your blog posts. You really are a great inspiration to those of us starting out.

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  3. Kay says:

    Sounds like an awesome project do you have a lot of issues claiming land in the name of gardening? (There are very few gorilla gardens here). I’m also in awe of the fact you moved a whole garden.

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    • C.Condello says:

      I have actually had a few problems… People aren’t always receptive… Most think I’m crazy… I work a little more conservatively as a result… I may follow this up with a post…

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      • Kay says:

        I hear ya around here they’re more likely to hand out fines for violating some bylaw and rip the garden out than appreciate it. That’s what’s “crazy” not someone wanting to beautify a space and maybe feed some people too.

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  4. It’s a great project!
    Hope to read news about it!
    I didn’t try to grow edibles, since now but you’re inspiring me.
    Keep up the guerrilla!

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  5. randomrose says:

    Fantastic Chris, I look forward to your progress posts. Cheers randomrose

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  6. Why don’t you get a local newspaper or glossy magazine involved to publish what you do?

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  7. cool move on the gutters, look forward to your choice of guilds between the fruit trees. what is serviceberry? peace and guidance Q

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    • C.Condello says:

      Amelanchier… Also known as – shadbush, juneberries, and Saskatoon… Small purple berries on a small trees… Ripens in June… Tastes like a mild blueberry… One of my favorite trees…

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  8. britpref says:

    This is such an awesome endeavor!! I hope you see much success and lots of produce 🙂

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  9. grassfed55 says:

    Love what you’re doing here, Chris. Perhaps you’ll inspire me to some guerrilla action, too.

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  10. Tony Condello says:

    Chris, I know you will do a great job. I appreciate what you do for the community even though I don’t live there. Perhaps I can do a little work and earn a little kale.

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