A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 24 – Strawberry

FragariaSpp

“Berries Galore” – Spring 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Seven Days of Fruit and Berries

The garden strawberry (or simply “strawberry) is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria (collectively known as the strawberries)… It is cultivated worldwide for its fruit… The fruit (which is not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit) is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness…

Technically… The strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit… Meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries… Each apparent “seed” on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it…

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“Ready Berry” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

Strawberries are popular and rewarding plants to grow at home… They can be grown almost anywhere in the world… The best time to plant is in late summer or spring… Plant in full sun or dappled shade… In somewhat sandy soil… The addition of manure and a balanced fertilizer aids strong growth… Alternatively they can be planted in pots or special planters using compost… Fiber mats placed under each plant will protect fruits from touching the ground…

Strawberries are tough and will survive many conditions… During fruit formation, moisture is vital, especially if growing in containers… Protection must be provided against slugs and snails which attack the ripe fruit… The fruit matures in midsummer and should be picked when fully ripe…

Propagation is by runners… which can be pegged down to encourage them to take root… Or cut off and placed in a new location… Established plants should be replaced every three years or sooner if there are signs of disease…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

New To writing and never had to site sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring… My source is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information… But much of this is just related from the web…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Definition and Introduction

TheForgottenFS

“The Forgotten Farm Stand” – Summer 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – The forgotten farm stand was a guerrilla farm stand used by the neighborhood kids to sell the produce grown on our guerrilla farm.

Definition and Introduction

This post is part of a larger body of work titled “The Guerrilla Gardeners Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Urban Gardening – is the cultivation of land, primarily located within the confines of the city. Urban gardening presents challenges not commonly found in the suburbs and rural areas found around a metropolitan area. Urban gardening has many sub categories ranging from food to forest, personal needs typically being the deciding factor.

Guerrilla Gardening – In my own words… Is the cultivation and remediation of blighted land that the gardener does not own… Manifestos differs from garden to garden, but the common denominator is always vacant, bare or blighted land. This land can be anything from a small street side “hell strip” (the grass between the road and sidewalk in urban areas), all the way up to massive “brown sites” (tracts of land that at one time were zoned industrial). Often an abandoned site or area that is neglected or polluted by the land owner. Guerrilla gardeners often do not even have the opportunity to ask the land owners permission as they are often deceased, illegitimate, or buried behind a corporate wall.

PeaceG

“The Peace Garden” – Center Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – Now defunct… But the property is in a state of rehabilitation by the new homeowner… This guerrilla garden was built by myself and the neighborhood as a result of a murder that happened on this corner…

Now a little about me…

In the case of my neighborhood, a small dead-end street located in Wilkinsburg, PA. Out of the original 24 houses, 10 are abandoned, 2 have been torn down, and the rest are currently occupied. When my girlfriend and I moved onto Whitney Avenue 5 years ago we were greeted by a community art project coordinated by a local artist, the goal of which was to involve community members in the painting of ply wood to be hung on the abandoned houses on our street. This art project was called the Whitney Avenue Art Gallery and was a complete success.

While the community was preparing the panels for installation, I was left wondering how the art would be seen given the jungle-like characteristics of my street. Nine out of the ten abandoned houses are located on one side of the street, the result of this was uncontrollable blight that combined to resemble an Amazonian jungle. Over the Summer of the art project, myself and a few neighbors managed to landscape every abandoned yard on the street. After this monumental task was complete, garden beds were cut and plant life installed… The only maintenance required is the occasional lawn mowing and minor weed pulling.

One of the interesting results noted from this project was the fact that some of the worst looking yards on our street were owned and lived in by people. These were typically the people who were throwing a stink when we first started our efforts. Once the abandoned yards surrounding their own yards were cleaned up and looking like something out of better homes and gardens, they began to take interest and ask questions.

This was one of my first permaculture epiphanies... Notice the greens are sprouting faster the closer to the bricks you get...

“Whitney Avenue Urban Farm” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – My first guerrilla farm… Consisting of two side by side lots on my block… Now gone…

The end result of the guerrilla gardening that took place on my street was the residents taking an interest, and not only asking us to help them clean up their own property, but get competitive with the other neighbors over whose yard was going to look best. To this day these houses have spring flowering bulbs, summer moon flowers, Canna Lily, roses, and in some cases small amounts of food and herbs.

Whitney Avenue Urban Farm was my first experiment into urban farming. Originally intended to be a small guerrilla garden for my girlfriend and I, the project blossomed when four neighborhood boys began to show interest. What was intended to be a few tomato plants turned into a multiple lot farm complete with grapes, blueberries, strawberries, figs and so many vegetables we actually had to open up a small farm stand so the boys could earn a few dollars from all of their hard labor… Which they did…

Whitney Avenue Urban Farm lasted for 3 Summers, during which time we introduced children that had no prior knowledge of the fact that you could grow your own food to the joys of gardening. Given the fact that this small farm was essentially a guerrilla garden, it eventually had to be closed when the house beside it was sold and the new owner had plans of their own.

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“.25 Auto” – Sewer Way – Wilkinsburg, PA – A reminder of why I am a guerrilla garden… I may not be able to physically stop the violence… I may not have enough money to fix all of the houses… But I have the knowledge and skills to green the hell out of the neighborhood… So that is what I will do…

Since losing this farm I have developed another lot into what most people describe as an urban paradise. Multiple raised beds full of food sandwiched between a mulched seating area surrounded in shade perennials, and a stunning annual garden… I even designed and built a grape arbor entryway out of salvaged wooden ladders.

Currently I am sourcing materials for what will be my third urban farm. Located a block down the street from my current site, this farm will be aimed towards production as opposed to beauty… The new site will be loosely “food forest” based, and will hopefully have chickens and bees.

Urban gardening, whether food or flowers, is essentially meant to inspire. A garden should draw the eyes away from our tedious day-to-day routines. In the case of urban gardens, they attract the eye towards vacant space or blight with the intention of bringing beauty to it. Any city that has a homeless or poor population should be absolutely ashamed of every abandoned home and vacant lot, they are a direct spit in the face of the residents. Guerrilla gardeners help bring awareness to these forgotten parcels of land, often creating a fresh food source where there was not one before. Regardless of the intent, guerrilla garden activism is here to stay as long as there is vacant, unattended land coupled with hunger and blight.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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Morning to Evening – October Session

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Prints available @ http://www.society6.com/chriscondello plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

October Gardens – Sun Sprinkles and Sage

This gallery contains 6 photos.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Clearing Mindspace – September Calling

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I take more photographs than my old ass computer can edit… I desperately need new equipment… From time to time I will post a few photographs under the name clearing mindspace… These photographs are simply a selection from the past week or two… I sell prints of my photography here – Or you can contact me […]

Practical Permaculture – People… Beneficial or Pest?..

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“The Garden Table” – © chriscondello 2013 – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – To the person that stole all of our vegetables over the weekend… You pretty much stole our harvest party… Which is open to anyone in the community… Not Cool…

I am writing this post with a heavy heart, as the garden project I am involved in known as The Garden Table has been robbed of produce. My girlfriend and I stopped up on Friday before we went camping to grab a tomato for sandwiches, and all was well. I can only speculate what happened, and for this reason, and this reason alone, I will chalk it up to someone needing it more than us… Though they should have simply asked…

I have been urban gardening for 8 years now, and farming for 4 of them, and as long as I can remember I have had to deal with people steeling vegetables from my gardens. Occasionally, I have been able to isolate the problem and deal with it swiftly. Though not always pretty, I have had some success…

My first experience happened immediately after moving in to my current apartment. We had started a small vegetable garden at the end of our street a few months before we moved in. As a peace-offering, we told the immediate neighbors that we would share the produce with them. The thought behind this was that everyone would respect the garden enough to wait for us to harvest and share, this is not as universally understood of an ethic as I had originally thought.

Within a week of planting the zucchini plants, baby zucs started disappearing before the flower even had a chance to whither. At the same time I was finding MASSIVE piles of dog poo everywhere I looked in the garden… All signs pointed to the neighbors living next to the garden… These specific neighbors were pretty open about their drug problem, because of this, social skills were virtually non-existent. Any attempt at a civil conversation regarding their dog was met with very aggressive behavior, often times ending in threats of physical violence.

This went on for an entire summer, although I was able to get them to stop picking unripe produce… I was never able to solve the dog problem… The only certainty that I had to go on, was the fact that their problems were getting worse, and I knew from experience that it was only a matter of time before they screwed up their rent payments and would get evicted… Which is exactly what happened the following spring as I was preparing for my second gardening season.

TheForgottenFS

“The Forgotten Farm Stand” – © chriscondello 2011 – June 17, 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – One of my favorite photographs I have ever taken… Brings back good memories… The boys in the neighborhood who were helping out in our garden asked if they would be paid… I said sure… But not by me… This was the result…

In a separate incident… One evening, my girlfriend and I were enjoying dinner when we were interrupted by a flurry of knocks on our front door. As is typical Wilkinsburg protocol, I did not answer the door. I instead went to peek out the window in order to assure it was not someone from the neighborhood, looking to bum a cigarette. To my surprise, my buddy Brandon from down the street was standing in my front yard waving his hands yelling for me to come outside.

Upon reaching my front porch, Brandon informed me that someone had gone through the community garden that had recently been constructed behind my house, and thrown all of the produce into the alleyway. His annoyance of the situation was immediately apparent, and he insisted that I come check it out. I initially thought he was being a drama queen, but upon arrival I realized that, what seemed like all of the produce in the garden had been smashed in the alley, you name the heirloom variety, and it was crushed in the alley behind my house.

So while we were mourning the losses of our fallen vegetable soldiers, we hear a bunch of kids coming up the alley. To my surprise, Brandon insisted we hide in the garden in order to catch them in the act. A few moments later a group of really young kids entered the fenced in area, baseball bats in hand, and began setting up a game of vegetable baseball. Brandon and I confronted the kids, and they all started crying their eyes out and ran home.

I proceeded to send an email out to the gardeners, informing them of the slaughter that had just occurred. The overall consensus… Given the fact that we knew who the kids were, and their parents had not been cooperative in the past, the gardeners decided to call the police. A police officer arrived shortly thereafter, and after a short explanation, was off in his cruiser in search of the offenders. Twenty or so minutes later the police officer was back with the three boys in the back of his car, he asked if they were the ones, to which we replied they were… He opened the back door and said “then they are all yours”…

Those boys spent the next 2 hours cleaning up the alley… With the very same gardeners who they had taken the vegetables from… All the while the community gardeners taught the boys about composting… Still to this day that story gives me goose bumps… I am normally not a fan of the 5.0… But in this case… I’ll just make an exception…

Garden thievery is the biggest problem I face in my specific location, I have yet to plant a garden that was not robbed clean at some point… It is really sad… And often times disheartening… But in an urban environment… It is unavoidable…

HPCG

“Welcome Arbor” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Jeanette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – Believe it or not… Community gardens with 25 gardeners are not immune to garden thievery… This garden has been experiencing some minor problems… Though in true gardener fashion… The gardeners chalked it up to the thief being needier then they were…

Earlier this summer, I received a call from one of the other gardeners informing me that the reverend of the neighboring church had witnessed someone stealing stuff from our garden. When I got on site, I was greeted by the reverend and my friend. They said the reverend had gotten the license plate and description of the woman who was taking stuff. It turns out that a woman had asked the reverend about the garden and he told her it was a private garden, and that it was a community oriented project. The woman apparently took that as free for all as she proceeded to walk in to the garden, and rip herb plants out by the roots in order to take them home for her garden.

Luckily, the reverend saw this happening and had the foresight to get her license number. My friend called the police to report the incident and the very same cop from the story above showed up, we gave him the license plate and he said he would call her up. The officer called a little later and said the woman was really sorry, and would be returning that evening to put the plants back… A few hours later… The plants were back in their respective holes… Though the trauma proved too much and the plants ended up dying anyway… Never the less… She won’t be taking plants from anyone’s garden again… Success…

Now I rarely endorse calling the police… And I would not personally call them for anything but the most serious of offenses… But in this case, I let it go… The reason being, plant and vegetable thievery are very common in my neighborhood, just a few days before this incident I had a very similar incident on my street.

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“Ditch Lily” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This is the abandoned house garden that was targeted by a thief earlier this summer… You can see the hosta she targeted next to the steps… I don’t care who you are… This does not look like a neglected yard…

I was at home in my office writing, when I noticed an unfamiliar car park across the street from my house. The driver stepped out of the vehicle and was looking at the modest gardens we have planted in front of a few of the abandoned houses. She walked around for a few minutes looking at plants, making me think she was just admiring the gardens. Then, she walked back to her car, looked around quickly, and proceeded to unload a shovel and several 5 gallon buckets.

By the time I got to my front door, she already had a hosta most of the way out of the ground. At this point she realized I was coming. I asked her just what in the hell she thought she was doing. She angrily replied that it was an abandoned house and she could dig up whatever she wanted. I informed her that it was a community project that just happened to be in front of an abandoned house, but the garden was by no means abandoned and she had a better chance of winning the lottery then getting one of our hostas off the street. By this point she was yelling curse words at me as she walked back to her car… As she turned her vehicle around, she put down her window and told me she hopes I stay awake all night because she would be back… To which I replied that if she wanted to come to my neighborhood after dark… Well then… That’s on her… She has yet to come back…

The point is this… This problem is not isolated to my neighborhood. Wherever there is hunger, food will be stolen. The obvious solution is always a fence, and they do work, but I wanted to look beyond that… I want to change the behavior at the core of the problem.

Another common solution that I see as effective is the community outreach theory… Basically, you throw a party or two, and invite the entire community to let them know what is going on. This serves two purposes… To allow the community an opportunity to see what is going on in their neighborhood, and to inform people that the food grown is not free for the taking… I don’t care who the gardener is… We are always willing to share the harvest… Even excited to share the bounty that is often produced in our gardens… And usually willing to do it unconditionally…

So you see that word “unconditional”… That is a perfect example of how I thought when I was first starting to urban farm. Then I realized something… When financially stressed people find an unconditional source of resources, they will exploit the fuck out of that resource… Think about it… If you found a way to eat without ever having to pay for it… Or work for it… It is human nature to use it… This becomes the case with a large food source in an urban community… There is very little that can be done about this other than exclusion measures…

FragariaSpp

“Berries Galore” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Jeanette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – A shot of the community garden from earlier this year… I can understand people tasting… I will often pick a single fruit from a variety I have never tried… But I never clean house as is so often the case…

One of the very first things I learned in permaculture is that if you provide a large food source targeted by a specific creature, then said creature will proliferate and destroy the food source. In the case of people, often times if they see a bunch of unattended vegetables in a garden… That happens to be in a supposed abandoned and unprotected garden… Well then it must be free… Again… The only thing one can do is adopt the paradigm that whoever stole your food must be worse off then you… It is the only frame of thought I have found to quench the rage burning in my stomach…

Another permaculture practice that I am attempting to integrate into my urban gardens is species bio-diversity. I have filled the front quarter of the garden with tall ornamental plants, the idea with this is to attempt to hide the bounty growing immediately behind them. As far as the vegetables are concerned… I have found that a neat vegetable garden often invites thievery, when the tomatoes are easily accessible from the paths they tend to get stolen. But when I let the plants grow all over themselves and out into the paths, it tends to be too much work for a quick-moving thief… This often leads to them targeting more accessible vegetables… In the future… The front of this garden will be filled with “sacrificial” vegetables that will be very easily accessible… Basically… If the untrained eye can’t spy your vegetable supply… Then they can’t take them either…

After losing the two lots on my street, I have had to spread out my gardening efforts. When my garden was next door, security was surprisingly simple. Now my garden is 3 blocks away, and keeping constant tabs on it is impossible. I have yet to build an urban garden where I have not considered building a 10 foot tall electric fence with machine gun turrets and razor wire.

At the end of the day though… I want people to be able to see into the non-guerrilla gardens that I create… I create the spaces to be enjoyed and help brighten a neighborhood… A massive fence would have the exact opposite effect…

BrandonPhotoBomb

“A Brandon Photo Bomb” – © chriscondello 2013 – The Garden Table Urban Garden – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Taken at 7:30 in the morning last summer… I had no idea he was walking up to me as I was concentrating on the shot… Only after the camera processed the photograph and I had a chance to check it did I notice Brandon standing right in front of me… That happy accident turned into one of my favorite photographs of 2012…

On the complete opposite end of this spectrum is the fact that as far as most community urban gardens are concerned, they would not be possible without human volunteers. People really are one of the great yields of the urban garden, I am constantly surprised by the people who seem to pop out of the woodwork. Most adults appreciate a garden, some appreciate them a little too much and appreciate them in the wrong way. I have had some of the scariest guys in the neighborhood come to ask me for home-grown vegetables to impress their girlfriends, even gangsters appreciate a home-grown pepper.

A simple harvest party once or twice a year is often all that is needed to eliminate much of the non-kid related garden damage. Kids are one of the great mysteries of the garden, in my experience, a kid can help you build a garden from the ground up… But the moment they are alone with their friends… Peer pressure will often take over with disastrous results… Having been a troublemaking kid… I actually get this and am a little more understanding of this type of behavior than most… A little compassion now… Will go a long way in the future…

Unless someone witnessed your garden being robbed, than there is little you can do. Some people get so disgusted that they give up, never to plant a vegetable garden again. I would recommend that you stick with it, in the city… Neighbors can change overnight… What is now a very hostile street, can change in a matter of a few weeks. Taking a summer off may be an option, or temporarily scaling down. But all things change… And this to shall pass…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within… Are provided free by the author… Me… I sell prints of some of my photography online – www.society6.com/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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Pavement and Petunias – Clearing Mindspace

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Occasionally… I accumulate a bunch of photos… Sometimes they get stored away for winter… But I liked enough of these photographs to post them… This is the result of a camera dump from the past week… I have prints available to purchase here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello – Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for […]