Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting Around Veggie Trader

We’re often asked by people ready to post listings on Veggie Trader, which section or sections of the listings should be used for their postings: “I just picked up some new garden tools. Where should I post my old ones for sale?” We also hear from people who’d like to know what they can find on Veggie Trader before they join. So here’s a quick look at the different sections of the Veggie Trader listings and their uses.

The Veggies, Fruits, Herbs, and Nuts sections are for listing your extra produce. Just choose the appropriate category!

Seeds, Plants, and Starts is the section for sharing, swapping, or selling your extra either edible or non-edible seeds, plants, and starts.

The Wanted section is where you can let people in your area know what you are looking for. This is a great section to use if there are currently no listings in your area or if you don’t have a garden but are looking for local produce.

Got something else you think might be of interest to the Veggie Trader community? The Services, Supplies & Miscellaneous section is where you can post garden tools and supplies, services, and other garden-related items or goodies you’d like to offer to the community. Keep it pertinent!

Specialize in roses instead of tomatoes? The Flowers, Bulbs, and Decoratives section is for your fresh-cut flowers, bulbs or home-made decoratives such as wreaths.

The Neighborhood Resources section is a directory of community events, courses, and other gardening activities powered by you. This is also a great section to let people in your area know if you are interested in yardsharing or coordinated gardening.

The CSAs, Farms and Farmers Markets section is a directory of CSAs, local farms, and farmers markets. Are you a local farmer? Let people in your area know about your farm. Or do you operate or have a favorite farmers market in your area? Share it with the community here.

Finally, the Donate Your Extra section is where you can list and find food pantries and organizations near you in need of excess produce.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We get by with a little help from our (six-legged) friends

Last year we wrote about how we handled an aphid invasion of our columnar apple tree. We weighed the various ways to rid your garden of aphids, and personally chose to just spray them off with water.

It worked last year but they're back this year, and they brought some friends along. So we bought some friends of our own. About a thousand chilled ladybugs to be exact.

An hour before nightfall, we warmed up the critters and released them on our garden. They sort of went crazy, swarming out of the bag and onto all the plants. They must have been hungry because a couple of days later there were no aphids to be seen.

Good riddance. See you next year? If so, we know who our friends are.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Knew Baltimore is a Farm City?

Last Wednesday I made my first Veggie Trade of the year. I had sprouted  too many tomato plants and since I had no space in my garden for all of them I posted a listing on Veggie Trader, offering them up to anybody who wanted them. Within a couple of days of I had some responses, and on Wednesday Beth (the first responder) came to my home to swap. We had emailed already, Beth was picking up her CSA box and asked if I wanted to share some greens in exchange for my tomato plants. YES! I said, and Wednesday 6pm the tomato plants found a new home and I got dinner delivered to my door.

As soon as the trade was made I took off to the Baltimore City Public Library to see Author Novella Carpenter present her book "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer". I haven't read the book yet but had caught Novella speaking on NPR earlier in the day and was intrigued. I'm not really a farmer but a girl can dream, right? Novella Carpenter gave a wonderful presentation on her urban farming exploits to a packed house in the main library auditorium. Her book is about her tiny farm on a vacant lot in a bad part of Oakland, a rough town not unlike this one. During the question/answer session Novella reveals that her farm has been bought! "Fortunately the new owner is letting the farm stay…" she explains, "but I'm going to need to move eventually…"  to this I call out, "Move to Baltimore!" and Novella sort of pauses and jokes "Maybe I will?" - and the audience breaks out into cheer and applause! Who knew that Baltimore, an old rust belt city with blight and abandonment is a hotbed for urban farming?

Later I came home and made a salad from my trade. I enjoyed the salad with some local cheese and bread from our local baker which we had on hand.  Beth graciously included a pint of the most delicious local strawberries which I had for desert and I realized that I managed to do something very rare that day. Last Wednesday I did not spend one penny whatsoever. It was a $0 day, and I felt very content.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I'm annoyed. I can’t be the only gardener who sucks at growing lettuce. I'd have been better off eating the nursery six-packs in a tiny celebratory salad of defeat. Instead I've tried my hand at lettuce five times now, but the crispy vibrant bunches I plant as toddlers all meet the same untimely end. What remains is only the little plastic (thankfully, the compostable kind) nursery gravestones marking the Mesclun and Buttercrunch, long ago departed.

I’m giving it one last go though. But one thing my failures have taught me is to be a bit more mature in my attitude toward container gardening. That means taming the excitement of what I could grow (lettuce), with what will make the most of every square inch of dirt (not lettuce!).

For what you get, lettuce is kind of a space hog. In a 24” container, I’ve got three lettuce heads. And I know I’m pushing the limits of what it will tolerate. I’m cheating, and actually angry at the lettuce because it’s using too much dirt. Whoever coined the term “dirt cheap” was wrong. Good dirt isn’t cheap, it takes time, energy or cash to get it.

With economy in mind, if I could only plant five plants for homegrown flavor and best use of space/highest yield, what would they be?

1.) Cucumbers. I can get two plants inside a 24” container, each one yielding over a dozen snacky cucumbers.
2.) Basil. I’ve jammed three plants into the 24” container. There’s nothing like having it at your fingertips all summer long. Plant basil 6” to 12” apart.
3.) Tomatoes, but not cherry. Just looking at yield, I’ve had more volume grow of the regular size tomato.
4.) Peas. So good and crispy when fresh off the vine. 2” apart! Row spacing, 18”
5.) Rosemary. Grows big in a small pot (and I can't seem to kill it!).

The wildcards: the columnar apple will fruit this year, and we’ll see what the beans I planted yield.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's Time for Farmer's Markets...and Jabuticaba!

It's that time of year again, when farmer's markets all across the country are waking up from winter. Do you have a great farmer's market in your area? You can share it with people near you by listing it in the Farmers and Farmer's Markets section of Veggie Trader...

On another note, we love learning about new fruits and veggies out there, and came across this unique and interesting fruit tree from South America: Jabuticaba. If you've seen how it grows, you'll know why we're so intrigued!

Has anyone been fortunate enough to try it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Feverish

We've got it. The first days of spring gifted me a flu bug, and I’m ready to squish it and get outside. After melting lettuce crops*, the Florida iguanafreeze, and the huge snowstorms that dumped all over the East Coast (including our Baltimore crew), we're probably all ready for some sunshine and sprouts.

If you've got the fever, here are some ideas to get your spring garden going:

Start here to check your area’s last Spring frost.

Try your hand at Companion Gardening.
It’s a well practiced idea of planting different varieties near each other for mutual biological benefit—everything from pest control to soil enrichment. We’ve discovered a number of charts online (here’s one) to figure out vegetable friend and foe. Sad onions never get asked to the ball.

Short on space? Meet the Vertical Vegetable Garden.
We successfully turned our wire balcony railing into a trellis for our tasty pearl cucumber vine last year. Right now, we’re doing it again with the peas. But these people take it beyond basics with an idea we found clever (the stinky shoes would have to go).

Gravitationally Challenged? Just grow them upside down.

Let us know if you give any of these a try.

*As a follow up to our Hooptie Houses post, we found our low budget mini greenhouses got us through a fickle winter. Except for the lettuce. Arugula, beets, carrots and peas did fine but the lettuce melted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Diabetes in the Garden?

I was going to write a diabetes valentines post for this blog. I was going to write something pithy about love equaling food, and try to relate that somehow to overloading yourself with love and getting diabetes. I was going to write this in the context of the Let's Move campaign started last week by First Lady Michelle Obama. Because the First Lady has started vegetable gardening at the White House, and has been promoting it heavily, I thought it would be easy to tie this all together here but it's not.

When I started researching Let's Move last weekend, I found a lot of criticism of the campaign and when I looked through I found a poorly designed site, which is too wordy and links too much to other poorly designed websites. Not to mention that Let's Move barely alludes to the garden's role in people's health. I did find this really interesting (when it works) Food Environment Atlas on the USDA website.

Childhood obesity is a very serious issue. One of the reasons I'm excited about working on Veggie Trader is that it is a direct way for people to find, share and eat healthier food. How cool would it be if 10 year olds are swapping cherries for grapes this June? Or if a child can post (with her parent's permission of course) their garden abundance, making new gardening friends online? Hopefully this site will inspire some new gardeners and encourage others to regard an empty lot as a potential source for food.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Exciting Newness in 2010

2009 was a great start for us here at Veggie Trader. This time last year we had just an idea, and like seeds germinating into a spring garden, after a few months of hard work we launched a new website, blog and service. Then the hard part started... Like with anything new we didn't know how people would respond to Veggie Trader. We weren't sure what the limits are for using the web to connect gardeners, localvores, and others, so we focused on having fun and trying to learn as much as we can about how Veggie Trader can help our new friends.

As any gardener knows, there's nothing like trial and error to help improve your process. So we observed this garden and how it grew, and now we're about to plan some exciting new changes to Veggie Trader for launch in the Spring and Summer of 2010. Look for better, improved categorization within Veggie Trader, as well as some useful 'auto notify' features to help people know what's fresh even when they're not on the site. A secret new feature will be launched by April, and we'll be doing much more food & gardening writing on the blog and in other formats. Our plans are ambitious but our "slow season" is limited so we need to hear from you, the fans and followers of Veggie Trader.

What would you like to see more of in the Veggie Trader service, or in the blog? Please leave a comment here on the blog or in our handy contact form.

Happy new year and new decade to everyone. Here's to fulfilling technology's promise of making life, actual life, better for everyone.

Dear Mom, Now You Can Swap Your Roses On Veggie Trader

A few people (including our moms) have lamented to us that they'd like to trade flowers, bulbs, and decorative items on Veggie Trader. Why not?! So with this in mind, and looking forward to spring, we've added a new section to our listings where you can find or offer fresh cut flowers, bulbs, or homegrown decorative items like wreaths and garlands.

We hope that Veggie Trader members will find this new section useful.  Since this is a new section, we'd love to hear from all you people who grow flowers on ways to improve it.