The City of Philadelphia’s Water Department has a great program for getting rain barrels to collect water run off from our rain gutters. We have had ours in place for 2 or 3 years now. They are great for collecting rain water for your small lot gardens.
The rain barrels are delivered and installed free from the Philadelphia Water Department. Here is their website:
All you have to do is take a Rain Check Workshop. Philadelphia Water and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) offer free Rain Check Workshops in Center City and neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. At the workshop you schedule a free install.
There is maintenance required. Every Fall season you have to disconnect the hose from the down spout as leaf matter will clog the drain. Just take a hose and wash it out. The other maintenance is to remove the water from the barrel before the weather freezes in winter.
These things are great for watering your small lot garden, especially for raised garden beds we use in our.
Attempting an Urban version of a potato tower in our raised Philadelphia small lot veggie garden. I saw a video on Facebook about building a potato tower and I was hoping to give it a try. As of May 2017 everything on the zoning challenge front is still in the fight, so I figured why not? Our Urban experiment of a Potato Tower is documented in this blog post. Maybe we will make enough potatoes to offset the property taxes.
The really neat thing about this potato tower is that it is above ground and when the potatoes are ready you just take the tower walls away and you have potatoes.
The original article was published in Facebook by Patricia Lynn via shareably.net. It is a good thing I tried this because as I tried the link to the site, it appears that the original post is now gone. However, there are plenty of articles out there just search “create-a-potato-tower-for-plentiful-potatoes”.
My problem was finding straw in the city of Philadelphia and building this tower. I found substitutes Home Depot had this small green 10 ft in length fence for $6 each and I bought two. They also had chicken wire for about $11 dollars. So the cage is covered.
Problem, where do I find straw?
So I figured why not try a brown paper bag? Plus we had plenty of tree sticks from our big old tree in our compost bin.
I figure straw won’t last forever, so why not try a few things that anyone would be able to find in an urban city?
I basically made a very simple square box with the small green fence and then created a circle wall with the chicken wire inside the small green square. The chicken wire comes with extra little pieces of wire which I used to secure to the green fence wire.
Then I lined the inside of the chicken wire with a brown paper bag the I torn in half to cover the wall. Once the bag looked a little stable I went ahead and lined the sides with twigs from the compost bin.
Here is my 4 year old recording me add the dirt and providing commentary as he is trying to call our Big Dog. The video is posted in YouTube. It is funny, well at least to me.
The finished potato tower would look like this:
Now you just add the potatoes. The instructions say cover with about an inch of dirt. The seeding potatoes I had sat around for a while but some already looked like they were spouting.
I marked my Urban Potato Towers with the pictures from the seed potato bags.
Even though these towers were pretty close to the diy sites, I was worried that the dirt would dry out. One of the issues of raised beds and flower pots is the dirt drying out. So today I was shredding old papers and decided to try using the shredded paper to keep the moisture in.
I made about a 1/2 inch layer of shredded paper and covered it with dirt and watered. I hope this works. It seemed to work.
This is definitely an Urban Garden Experimental now. Reusing paper bags, raised garden, compost twigs and now shredded paper. Oh and I almost forgot our captured rain barrel water from the city of Philly. This will be cool if it all works.
Cheers and Happy Gardening in your Small Urban Garden Lot.
Some of the early May 2017 pictures of our garden. Crossing our fingers.
Small lots provide many opportunities for families and local communities to enjoy nature and family time. Our family has been gardening our lots for many years. Every year we try new things. In our 15ft 9in x 20 ft corner lot we have set up: two 4ft x 8ft gardens, a number of garden pots and even a crab sandbox for the kids to play in. Next year we are going to try some vertical gardening. I’ll bet we save a few hundred dollars a year in veggie savings.
This year we are trying Square Foot Gardening (if you are interested here is a link www.squarefootgardening.com). It is a neat way of organizing the plants and rotating selections during the season. We’ll put up more postings of pictures as the plants grow.
As a family, gardening is a great way for the parents and the children to bond. Everyone gets to participate in the planting and harvests of the veggies. I think the kids favorites are the strawberries and the tomatoes. They tend to eat more than they put into the bucket. The kids also love playing in the sandbox and create little worlds in the sand. The big dog loves her piece of dirty we set aside. I think she just loves being along side her family and guard her family.
Little gardens also give neighbors a chance to meet and share. We love sharing some of the pickings with neighbors. I know our neighbor around the corner likes the peppers we gave him. He even dropped of a surprise gift of a gardening book for us. So you know, he always gets his peppers every year. We also have a teenager in the neighborhood that loves to take pictures of the flowers my wife grows. She is always welcome to take pictures of the flowers.
Our 80-plus year old tree is in danger from development plans on an adjacent lot that is just too small for building or living, 14ft wide x 20ft deep. The design calls for a 3 story trinity house which would force cutting almost half the branches. If the shock doesn’t kill the tree, it would still be unbalanced, posing the danger of falling toward our house or neighbor’s properties,
The plan is coming before the Philadelphia Zoning Board soon. Hopefully, they will see that the lot is too small for the suggested plan. However, if the Philadelphia Zoning Board releases the lot’s owner from the open space requirements, our tree will be destroyed.
Here is a summary of our discussion with the lot’s owner/developer so far:
In our very first encounter (Early 2015) before he purchased the lot, we told him the lot would not be worth it. There was no way the local area was going to permit a curb cut for a garage, because they just turned down similar requests to larger houses down the street.
The next encounter (Saturday 5/16/2015): The gentleman approached saying that he bought the lot property next to our house and said he was going to build upon it. I told him we would fight any zoning changes for the property use. Here is one of his comments as it related to the Old Tree:
You are going to have to get the tree off my property side when I build my work shed.
That’s when we asked our tree company to trim up the tree as much as possible to get room for the developer. Our Arborist said that if they take away that big branch, we will have to take away the entire tree for safety.
We heard nothing for a year, until Friday night (6/3/2016), when the developer posted a notice for a zoning meeting on Tuesday 6/7/2016. This left us one weeknight to circulate a petition among the neighbors. In less than 2 hours we got 47 signatures Against the Zoning Relief!
At the Pennsport Civic Association Zoning meeting (Tuesday, 6/7/2016), the Developer said:
If the tree is on my side, I can trim that, correct?
After the 6/7 meeting, we figured the next meeting would be on August 3, 2016 with the Philadelphia Zoning Board in downtown Philly. However, we got another late Friday night (6/17/2016) notice for a meeting on Tuesday 6/21/2016. A bunch of neighbors were complaining about the late notice, and how only a few people could make the meeting.
At the next Pennsport Civic Association Zoning meeting on Tuesday 6/21/2016, I mentioned that we had the arborist clean up the tree as far above his lot as possible. The Developer replied:
Did you get a quote for cutting down the tree?
We don’t want our tree to be cut down! It is one of the oldest, tallest trees remaining in our neighborhood of South Philly. The Big Tree helps
Your 34 inch Trunk Diameter Tree of heaven will intercept 14,151 gallons of stormwater runoff this year.
Urban stormwater runoff (or “non-point source pollution”) washes chemicals (oil, gasoline, salts, etc.) and litter from surfaces such as roadways and parking lots into streams, wetlands, rivers and oceans. The more impervious the surface (e.g., concrete, asphalt, rooftops), the more quickly pollutants are washed into our community waterways. Drinking water, aquatic life and the health of our entire ecosystem can be adversely effected by this process.
Trees act as mini-reservoirs, controlling runoff at the source. Trees reduce runoff by:
Intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches and bark
Increasing infiltration and storage of rainwater through the tree’s root system
Reducing soil erosion by slowing rainfall before it strikes the soil
Your 34 inch Trunk Diameter Tree of heaven will conserve 291 Kilowatt hours of electricity for cooling and reduce consumption of oil or natural gas by 8 therm(s).
Trees modify climate and conserve building energy use in three principal ways (see figure at left):
Shading reduces the amount of heat absorbed and stored by buildings.
Evapotranspiration converts liquid water to water vapor and cools the air by using solar energy that would otherwise result in heating of the air.
Tree canopies slow down winds thereby reducing the amount of heat lost from a home, especially where conductivity is high (e.g., glass windows).
Strategically placed trees can increase home energy efficiency. In summer, trees shading east and west walls keep buildings cooler. In winter, allowing the sun to strike the southern side of a building can warm interior spaces. If southern walls are shaded by dense evergreen trees there may be a resultant increase in winter heating costs.
Air pollution is a serious health threat that causes asthma, coughing, headaches, respiratory and heart disease, and cancer. Over 150 million people live in areas where ozone levels violate federal air quality standards; more than 100 million people are impacted when dust and other particulate levels are considered “unhealthy.” We now know that the urban forest can mitigate the health effects of pollution by:
Absorbing pollutants like ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide through leaves
Intercepting particulate matter like dust, ash and smoke
Releasing oxygen through photosynthesis
Lowering air temperatures which reduces the production of ozone
Reducing energy use and subsequent pollutant emissions from power plants
It should be noted that trees themselves emit biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) which can contribute to ground-level ozone production. This may negate the positive impact the tree has on ozone mitigation for some high emitting species (e.g. Willow Oak or Sweetgum). However, the sum total of the tree’s environmental benefits always trumps this negative.
This year your 34 inch Trunk Diameter Tree of heaven tree will reduce atmospheric carbon by 1,236 pounds.
How significant is this number? Most car owners of an “average” car (mid-sized sedan) drive 12,000 miles generating about 11,000 pounds of CO2 every year. A flight from New York to Los Angeles adds 1,400 pounds of CO2 per passenger. Trees can have an impact by reducing atmospheric carbon in two primary ways (see figure at left):
They sequester (“lock up”) CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems and leaves while they grow, and in wood products after they are harvested.
Trees near buildings can reduce heating and air conditioning demands, thereby reducing emissions associated with power production.
Combating climate change will take a worldwide, multifaceted approach, but by planting a tree in a strategic location, driving fewer miles, or replacing business trips with conference calls, it’s easy to see how we can each reduce our individual carbon “footprints.”