Monday, March 4, 2013

Tricycle Gardens Headquarters

Eek! Lauren's first blog post ever. I've been thinking about this whole blog thing for the last couple months and how much I've been slackin'. Kate's African adventures look so awesome and inspirational!

I've been living in Richmond, VA since October doing an winter internship with an urban farm in the city. Below is a picture of the Tricycle Gardens headquarters located in the Church Hill community of Richmond, VA.

Tricycle Gardens has a diverse presence in the Richmond area; growing and sharing food with residents, engaging the community with open-door policies to their demonstration gardens, creating community garden spaces, and helping increase food accessibility. And what an awesome and empowered group of people driving these tasks: Sally, Danny, Isabel, and Josh are a four person unstoppable force.

One of the first days I got to Richmond I followed Danny, the organization's handy man, around headquarters pestering him with questions.

"We're all sort of amateurs at this, city people that have these ideas on how to grow food," he says as his long white hair blows in the breeze. Every time I see him he is wearing incredibly comfortable-looking knit sweaters. He has the look of an artist more than a farmer, but his appearance and demeanor, like most everything else at Tricycle, is simple, artistic, and disarming. Farming at Tricycle is not an overly complicated affair. There's no concern with soil cation exchanges and weather degree days. Rather, it finds its comfort in making food accessible by incorporating it into the Richmond cityscape in aesthetically pleasing ways.

Above, Danny works on building another pallet compost bin. In the city, pallets are ubiquitous and make great composting heaps. Pallet compost design plans are almost as plentiful. At Tricycle they are often lined with chicken wire on the inside and have removable fronts for easy unloading. Ideally, plant material should be composted at a C:N ratio of 30:1. This can be achieved by layering equal parts green with brown. Green material includes kitchen scraps, freshly pulled non-seeding weeds, grass clippings, etc. For the brown, Tricycle uses leaves raked from under the trees surrounding the property, although dead stalks and wood chips work, too.

The garden at headquarters offers a solution to a common problem in urban farming: working in small spaces with contaminated or otherwise unusable soil. Built on an old gas station, the tanks that once held gasoline are still buried below the surface. Though mulch and gravel line the lot, all planting is done above ground.

"I am really interested in small space maximization," he says as we walk around the garden, which looks to be sprouting the city skyline overhead. Noting the keyhole gardens (right, above), sub-irrigated planters, greenhouse, and experimental raised beds (center bed made from sand bags, above), I realize just how much this city lot has been transformed. Even the GoogleEarth photo has not yet been updated from the bare asphalt it showed years before. My head can't stop nodding in agreement.

Below on the left is a basic cardboard model of the greenhouse. I believe it was designed after Will Allen's Growing Power operation  in Milwaukee (, the Elliot Coleman of urban farmers. The floor is made of crushed gravel and covers pipes which carry solar-heated water through the floor for supplemental heating in winter. Danny reports mixed reviews on its effectiveness. Though the structure would probably still be stable using less building materials, I like the extra storage space created above the seeding racks (on right).

Here are other pictures taken around headquarters:

Inside office looking out
Thursday's Farm Stand

Inside Headquarters

More pictures to come soon from the urban plot located in Richmond's southside and from the healing garden at the Bon Secour's Memorial hospital in Mechanicsville, VA.

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