The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › Cold Frames & Raised Beds in the City

Cold Frames & Raised Beds in the City

Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 261
I have my own thoughts about this but wanted to solicit other ideas...

Promoting kitchen gardening - especially raised beds and cold frames for greens, etc. - seems like a great idea for many residents of the Portland peninsula. But, of course, nearly all the soil "in town" is a total menace.

If someone wanted to go ahead anyway, what strategies do you suggest to avoid uptake of toxins and the cultivation of healthful food.

1. Always start with a soild test, then...???
A former member
Post #: 58
!. (testing esp. for lead and cadmium contamination)
2. Remove contaminated soil in the area you want to grow and replace it with other
soil and compost that you know is not also contaminated
OR
3. Use phytoremediation and mycoremediation to clear the soil until contamination levels
become acceptable
OR
4. Become an avid 'container' gardener

Winnie
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 262
Thanks Winnie! Good steps. I was asked about whether an impermeable layer could be placed between the cold frame or raised bed and the contaminated ground beneath it. Plastic sheeting? I think that's a really tough way to go...basically creating a mud pie in the rainy season due to lack of drainage. Plus, where does the soil ecosystem come in?

Any other ideas out there?
Sue M.
user 3284483
South Portland, ME
Post #: 16
I think container gardening is a very viable way to garden in a situation like that. My first garden on Brackett St. in Portland years ago was a couple of five gallon buckets with a tomato and a cucumber plant. There are many sized of containers and many things that can be repurposed to use for gardening containers. I myself, use window boxed for some of my lettuce cutting gardens because of my limited space. I have one going right now in my outside room. I have grown beets in a window box, and baby pac choi in a pot. I just bought a book by the Lasagna gardening lady called "Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces". She talks a lot about containers in it.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 265
Really good points, Sue. I think it's just too risky with some of the soil in Portland unless a full-blown remediation is undertaken.

I had a friend who lived on Danforth Street and wanted to have a kitchen garden. Her soil test results were, essentially, "don't even let children play in this yard" due to heavy metals, etc.

On a related note, what if someone wanted to rip up their driveway and turn it into a garden (also in the city)? Same soil issues, I would imagine - plus you're having to bring the soil ecosystem completely back to life since it has been entombed for decades...???
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 96
Although my comments about tilling the front yard and plantling it may have seemed in jest you certainly could make a political and environmental point with your neighbors and possibly many more by planting the whole thing in spinach.

Let the HOAs and the neighbors howl a bit. Get the soil scientists behind you and once they understand why, the howling may subside. They will think about their own soil and their safety. The best thing that could happen is that the media could show up bring awareness of the soil problems into the homes of many people.

If you have bad soil in Portland area and you are not happy about it........
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 97
I have grown a crazy amount of food in 5 gallon buckets in the past. I had about a dozen buckets on my back deck in Hallowell quite a few years back and found that I could easily grow two 6 foot tomato plants per bucket as well as squash, cukes, beans etc. etc. I grew squash and beans out of the same bucket on to the same trellis. I used a lot of peat moss with relatively small amounts of cow shit and compost. I found I could pack them in much tighter than most would suggest quite successfully.
zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 36
Did you make drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets?
Sue M.
user 3284483
South Portland, ME
Post #: 18
Drainage holes are always a good idea, if you don't have them you would have to bring them inside almost every time it rained, otherwise the plants would always be swimming, and the soil spilling over the top. I know from experience! I had to drill holes in the bottom of pots that were full of plants and soil in the middle of the season. Not fun. There are all sorts of other useful containers to use. wooden boxes or barrels, window boxes are great. I found several big (huge) pots by the side of the road last year during Portland's big item pick up. I set someone at work up with the means to grow beans and tomatoes all free!
zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 39
Sue, other good containers miught be those wide, but relatively shallow cleaning tubs at hardware stores, like Home Depot and Lowes. The tubs are 18-24" high and about 3 feet wide. I would think those type of tubs wouldn't b e so sensitive to drying out like smaller containers are....
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