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Living Veggie

It’s National Garden Week – Tips from Marijane of Urban Farming™

Lightlife recently partnered with Urban Farming™, donating $150,000 to help them in their mission to end hunger, empower people, and encourage healthier eating through sustainable gardening. As a part of our partnership, we are encouraging our fans to grow their own tomatoes and other veggies at home – through the Plant Our Future campaign - to pair with their favorite Lightlife products. Veggies and Lightlife!? Sounds like a winning combination to me! ;)

This week marks the start of National Garden week, and I thought you’d all enjoy a few gardening tips from a Master Gardner at Urban Farming™ as a way to celebrate! Marijane from Urban Farming™ was kind enough to volunteer to help us all learn how we can all grow our own vegetables at home, which will go great on our new burgers, even if you live in a city or don’t have space in your yard.

Blogitarian: Tell me about what you do for Urban Farming?

Marijane: I started volunteering with UF over two years ago. At first I was helping manage different wall gardens that are in L.A., and then over time I started to manage the instillation of a few simple garden designs in low income areas. I also teach people to garden at the Weingart Foundation, which is a non-profit center that works with residents to recover and transition from various situations.

Blogitarian: How long have you been gardening?

Marijane: All my life, or at least for as long as I can remember!

Blogitarian: What led you to gardening?

Marijane: My mom grew up on a farm and as a result I grew up always having fresh fruit and vegetables. When I was young I would help her in the garden – I wouldn’t always want to when I was a teenager – but I‘m so glad I grew up with her teachings because it has grown to be such an important part of my life. No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve had a garden and as time passed it became a real passion for me.

Blogitarian: What is your favorite thing to grow?

Marijane: That is a tough question – I really like to propagate. For example, I love growing violets from just one of their leaves. I put a single leaf in a small jar of water and cover it with wax paper. I suspend the leaf in water, keep it in a filtered light, and eventually the roots grow off of the stem of the leaf. Little tiny leaves start to grow at the base just above where the roots are growing. It’s fascinating to watch the leaves grow in the water! When there is a good cluster of leaves you can plant it in the ground.

Blogitarian: What is the most important thing you’ve learned – in regards to gardening – through your years of experience?

Marijane: How important the soil is! My mentor, Daren, says all living organisms come from soil; soil is the basis of life. The soil is life for the plant, so I don’t use any chemicals at all. When we fertilize we are feeding the plants, when what we need to do is feed the soil. If I see problems in the garden then the soil needs to be fed, so I either add compost or something that will add nitrogen back into the soil.

Blogitarian: What would you suggest a first time gardener start with in their garden?

Marijane: Strawberries and most herbs are really easy to grow. Greens are also easy, such as spinach, chard, and kale.

Blogitarian: Any general tips for the novice?

Marijane: Sometimes beginners plant more than they can take care of – so start with something you can manage. A garden takes a lot of work, so it’s wise to start small and over time increase the size as your confidence builds and you become more knowledgeable.

Blogitarian: What would you suggest someone grow if they live in a city and only have a windowsill to grow things on?

Marijane: A strawberry plant or herbs – both perfect for a windowsill!

Blogitarian: What about the wall gardens you mentioned previously? Can you explain what they are, and how the average person could construct one?

Marijane: A wall garden is exactly that; a vertical garden on your wall! You can create your own with Woolly Pockets. They are made out of recycled plastic that has been felted, come in different sizes, and are fairly easy to install. What I like about these in particular is that they are deep pockets so you can grow just about anything, including root vegetables.

Blogitarian: My ‘green thumb’ is a little lacking to say the least, and I always seem to either over or under water my plants. Any suggestions?

Marijane: Giving watering guidelines is a challenge because there is no set schedule – it varies from plant to plant. What I recommend is in your garden – whether its vegetables or ornamental – identify a plant or two that starts to wilt and that is your trigger plant. When your trigger plant starts to wilt the next time around, that’s when you need to water again. It’s tricky to tell if you’re watering too much or too little because the symptoms of both are the same!

Blogitarian: Do you have a favorite gardening resource?

Marijane: I have a couple! I like the Sunset Western Garden books, and the UC Davis website. Any university that has an agriculture department is a great resource.

Blogitarian: Do you ever cook vegetarian foods?

Marijane: Oh of course!

Blogitarian: Do you ever cook with Lightlife? What is your favorite Lightlife product to pair with veggies from your garden?

Marijane: Yes I do! At the moment I have to say my favorite is the Smart Dogs! I started using your tempeh to make with veggies because I saw a few of your recipes. My best meals are when I’m really in the mood to cook and I throw things together – your recipes are inspiring me to be more creative with your tempeh. I just harvested my fava beans so I’m going to make them with your Wild Rice tempeh!

Thanks to Marijane for all her great insight on gardening and how to incorporate fresh veggies and produce into even the smallest of yards. Has this whetted your appetite to get our in the garden and get your hands dirty? Don’t forget to mail in for your Plant Our Future starter kit. Do you have your own garden? I can’t wait for my tomatoes to start to grow so I can make a Smart Deli sandwich!

Rachael

Your Lightlife Blogitarian

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About Blogitarian

Lightlife's resident blogger and veggie enthusiast, Rachael, gives you an insight into the vegetarian world as well as a peek at what’s new in Turners Falls.

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