Just what is the Urban Farm?
The Urban Farm is the home where I live, located in the middle of Phoenix, AZ. These days I call the Urban Farm an environmental showcase home, which sports a primarily edible landscape, 60 fruit trees, rainwater and greywater harvesting, two kinds of solar panels, one for creating my own electricity and one for heating the house, a patio that is primarily made from reclaimed materials, an outdoor kitchen and outdoor shower.
For several years I have been opening my home for tours and classes. The intent of these events is to share with visitors the different green lifestyle choices that they can make. Of late I have been getting requests to put my tour online and with technology where it is at the tools are here. Over the next few months I will build a comprehensive list of articles and pictures of the different projects that we have installed over the years. Check out the Urban Farm Tour section of my blog for the latest additions. I encourage you to ask questions and jump in and try these different technologies in your own yard.
Some Beginning Philosophy
I’ll be the first to admit that the yard is somewhat different than you may have experienced before, having food to eat throughout the entire yard. We believe as a culture we are taught that it is our job to control mother nature, we on the other hand choose to leave her alone and let her produce that which she feels is appropriate. To that end here are several tenets that I believe.
1. If a plant is growing…let it grow. There are quite a few volunteer plants that have chosen to grow here. Among them are broccoli, lettuce, hollyhocks, palo verde, mesquite, pecan, tomatoes and cucumbers.
2. Build soil. People spend a lot of time, energy and money cleaning up the plant debris from their yard, then spend more time, energy and money to fertilize. Contained in those leaves are a plethora of nutrients that can easily be converted to nurture the soil.
Use a mulching mower to grind up the leaves. In other areas, use the leaves (especially in the summer) to create a nice thick layer of mulch to protect the soil from the summer heat.
Both of these practices build the nutrient value in the soil giving us great vegetables and fruits.
3. Use everything as many times as possible. We attempt to use each asset as many times as I can before it leaves the property. One example of this is the tap water that is used to cool the air from the evaporative cooler is collected and placed in a stock tank for use later in the year. There are fish in the pond, adding fish fertilizer to the water. Then the water is used to water the various plants growing in the area.
4. If it doesn’t produce food or flowers why plant it? You will notice that most all the plants that are growing here give something that is useful, either fruits, vegetables or flowers. This is a concept called edible landscaping. Wouldn’t it be great to convert whole parks to this idea.
These concepts come from an area of study called permaculture, the art and science of living with nature. For more in-depth explanation, check out the book Permaculture by Bill Molison.