Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘planting’

HOMEGROWN Life: Raised Beds versus Rows

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREEN-150x150There are many types of vegetable gardens out there, from the traditional rows – one plant wide row with walkways in between – to raised beds (and wide beds) – to more natural, loose organic gardens. I try to stay away from rows because they are much less space efficient than the other two types. With rows, you end up devoting a lot more land to walkways, which isn’t a good use of space if you’re trying to maximize your harvest. They do make harvesting easier and are better suited for using equipment, which is why some people still use them.


At our old house we used raised beds, which have many benefits. You can lay hardware cloth (metal mesh) and weedblock under them to keep out gophers, voles, and weeds. They are the perfect solution for problem soils, whether you’re dealing with heavy clay or lead contamination (use filter fabric underneath to keep soil from migrating into the bed.) They can be used on slopes as terraced beds, just make sure you have proper supports to hold the weight of the soil.

garden 6-26-07

Organic, loose garden beds are a personal preference for many people. Lines are not straight and the plants are not organized into rows. I do really enjoy the looks of these types of gardens because they are productive while also being very aesthetically pleasing. There is usually more mixing of plants since rows are being utilized, which can be very beneficial in regards to companion planting and confusing pests.


We currently use wide beds. Raised beds are cost prohibitive at our scale and rows don’t produce enough. A 4′ wide bed can produce 4 times more produce than a row of the same square footage. Plants are closer together (no walkways in between) which means less weeding when the plants get larger and shade the soil.

Of course what you choose to go with is totally up to you because it really is personal preference. As much as I love the organic flowing look, I’m just too OCD to try it.


Rachel-Dog-Island-Farm1Rachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!


HOMEGROWN Life: My Topsy Turvy Tantrum

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011






First off, let me start this post with an apology to all of you reading right now.  What I write may offend you and be critical of something you very much enjoy.  For that, I’m sorry.  Though I don’t intend to alienate you from reading my posts, I need to get something off my chest or I’m going to explode…


I CANNOT STAND THOSE ABSURD TOPSY TURVY TOMATO CONTRAPTIONS!  And since it’s that time of year again where friends, relatives, neighbors, and complete strangers are dusting them off and letting those Topsy Turvy freak flags fly, I’m going absolutely berserk.

True, they’re terrific for getting people interested in gardening: They’re compact if you’re short on space; they hold water for days if you’re busy and away; and they’re conveniently sold at places like Walgreens so you can pick up your prescription drugs, the latest Us Weekly, a pack of smokes, and your Topsy Turvy all in one fell swoop.  It also eliminates all the struggle, hassle, and physical pain associated with conventional gardening.     Hooray!

So what’s my problem?

How about the fact that it’s a manufactured, mass-produced, plastic device shipped from overseas?  Probably plenty of people are attracted to the Topsy Turvy due to romantic delusions of being more sustainable and growing one’s own vegetables.  However, if you’re growing in something that traveled half the globe to get here, and it won’t ever biodegrade, is it still sustainable?

Why not just fashion your own DIY upside-down planter out of repurposed materials?  Upcycling, even if it’s a plastic milk jug, is wholly more sustainable than purchasing something from the As Seen On TV store.  It doesn’t take much effort, or even much skill, to figure out how to put together something similar to the Topsy Turvy.


Then there’s the issue of soil without toil…  The Topsy Turvy promotes itself on being a way for people to enjoy the fruits of gardening without the bothersome nuisance of having to actually garden.  There’s no need for a trowel, getting dirty, pesky bending up and down, or breaking a sweat thanks to this modern marvel.  While I can understand this being a benefit to folks that are disabled or elderly and want to enjoy fresh tomatoes, many of the people I witness hanging Topsy Turvys in their yards are physically capable of gardening and could likely gain from the fresh air and time spent outdoors.     You know who you are.

If you’re a Topsy Turvy enthusiast, great.  I’d rather you eat upside-down tomatoes than no tomatoes at all.  It’s just that our species’ relationship with food and agriculture is so perverse these days.  The Topsy Turvy seems to only further disconnect many of us from the growing process at a time when it’s so pivotal to feel truly connected to and involved with the food we eat.

Yellow Tree Farm’s web site is


Danielle Yellow Tree

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008.  Together, we grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri.  I don’t have children.  I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”