Curtis from Gilbert Grow Tub Gardens
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is your farm’s name? Size? What are you growing? What kind of climate are you growing in?
The Gilbert Grow Tub Gardens is a result of having a typical small Arizona backyard. We have really strived to combine space for family and pet activities, as well as have fruits and vegetables that were home grown. Sun exposure was the most limiting factor-either too much or too little, so we had to find ways to move our garden to the right location each season. Thus, a 2’ x 5’ waist high garden on wheels and 14 tubs. We do have one 4’ x 8’ in-ground garden in a side yard that is very seasonal-sweet potatoes in the summer and leafy greens in the fall/spring and a 2’ x 4’ climbing garden on a fence for cucumbers.
We typically grow sweet potatoes, spinach, mixed lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, and strawberries. In our herb gardens, we plant basil, oregano, mint, cilantro, & rosemary. We plant garlic around the yard as a natural pest deterrent.
We also have three fruit trees-Kino oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.
Essential to our gardens are pollinators-so we plant sun flowers, lantana, honeysuckle, and seasonal wildflowers to draw bees, butterflies, etc.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
I was raised in Iowa and my family always had a large garden. Gardening was a hobby for me, so I looked for ways to have a few patio plants, but expanded without overloading the yard.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We grow organically.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants grow?
The Town of Gilbert supplies compost bins to any resident that wants them. We have several bins that we compost in. Most of the compost is kitchen scraps & coffee grounds. We add some yard waste as well. As long as you keep it damp and hot, it produces some of the richest soil you can use to add to existing tubs and in-ground gardens. And it smells awesome-very rich.
What do you do with the food you grow?
Most of what we grow is shared with our extended family or neighbors. Fruit excess goes to the food bank. We usually dedicate one cherry tomato plant as our salsa plant. It’s so easy to harvest a few cupfuls, grab some cilantro and blend up fresh salsa.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Correct sun exposure is the greatest challenge in back yard farming. Having the ability to move tubs to sunny locations is essential.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
Besides better tasting food, it’s a relaxing hobby that produces rewards in many ways.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
Urban farming is essential because it’s a healthy way to eat. You know how the food was grown and you have fresher foods. It’s hard to tell how many days grocery store vegetables have taken to get to the store shelves or how they were grown. Urban farming also supports the existence of our bee population which is essential for life. And if done well, growing your own food can save you money.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
Urban farming is only part of the answer to the future of agriculture. Cities can do more to promote urban gardens for sharing. It appears that smaller organic farms are fitting into the supply chain and competing with the mass producers because consumers demand it. Consumers can speak with their dollars-know where the food comes from. If you are anti-GMO, take your dollars elsewhere.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
For people just starting, start small with a few plants that you know you will eat. Be patient, experiment with locations around the yard for the best sun exposure – then enjoy your rewards. Also mulch mulch mulch. Grass clippings work well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
When friends come over, many love to see what we are growing. We have given some of the children seeds to plant at home hoping that their families would get involved.
Having an automatic water system available really helps and allows you to take that summer weekend trip or week at the beach without worrying. Your plants will survive. Have fun and enjoy.