Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2010

"A Backyard Community Garden"

A couple weeks back, Randy and Irene, got in touch with me about helping them start a garden. Only...they wanted "their" garden to go in their neighbor's yard. Come to find out, they were actually partnering with said neighbors-- in addition to another family across the street to start and maintain a raised vegetable ("community" or "friends") garden. The family with the most sun offered their backyard; Randy and Irene oversaw and joined me in the work of planting, and the other family will help as needed. When harvest time comes, they'll share the bounty.

"A Backyard Transformation"

Took a neglected corner of a Betton Hills backyard and spruced it up with a double, raised-bed Food Garden complete with mulched paths and an arbor. There are kale, brussel sprouts, two kinds of lettuce, spinach, red chard, and snap pea plants; cilantro, parsley, basil; shallot bulbs; and carrot and cucumber seeds. Tomatoes, peppers and squash will go in as it warms up a little.

Head Start, Bees, Calamondins, and the Food Movement

My buddy, John is always chiding me because-- though I wear overalls-- when it comes to sunrise, I am no farmer.  My cousin's boyfriend jubilantly, regularly, invites me to join his "crack-of-noon" club.  Well, I daresay, I'm not that late of a sleeper, but when Jason, who works at Tallahassee Nurseries told me last week that he woke every morning at five so he could get up, drink coffee, greet the day, read, walk his dog, etc... both my mouth and eyes opened involuntarily, and without thinking, I whispered, "Wow." So, with that grain of salt, I'll go on to tell you that first thing yesterday morning, John and I-- John , my buddy who's running around with me for the month to learn about soil, seeds, and growing food-- we loaded up the truck with tools and compost.  Then, following Sandra Wilton, a fellow gardener and friend we headed to Romac for lumber.  We planned to install a raised-bed garden at the Midway Head Start so the kids-- in Sandra

"The Man in Overalls Grows Food Gardening Dreams in Tallahassee"

Natural Awakenings of Tallahassee's March Issue has a fantastic write up on Tallahassee Food Gardens and... me, the Man in Overalls. I worry that I receive more praise than warranted; it is, however a great synthesis of what I'm up to.  Thanks to Donna Konuch, the publisher. "Recently gardener, Nathan Ballentine, aka "The Man in Overalls" hosted the first of a series of workshops to teach 5-12 year-old kids in Tallahassee how to build, plant, maintain, and eventually eat from a raised-bed vegetable garden..."  to see more, find the article on pages 22-23 in the March Issue .  Donna also mentions me in her "Letter from the Publisher" on page 4.

Roadside Revisited

Over the next few weeks, I plan to make roadside appearances. So, for those of you that have yet to see this video, I thought I'd share. It's been a busy week. Monday, I caught up with the books, emails, and phone calls, etc. It was, after all, pouring rain. Tuesday and Wednesday we worked on "A Backyard Transformation" (watch for the upcoming video) at a Betton Hills home. Tuesday evening: a community garden meeting in Havana planning for their New Gardener Orientation on Saturday. (At which I'll be doing a little talk about "Cheap and Lazy" gardening maintenance.) This afternoon, just after finishing up the Betton Hills garden-- just before the rain-- we dropped off lumber for a garden renovation in Indianhead Acres. I headed then to a meeting with Jennifer Taylor, Coordinator of the FAMU Small Farms Program at Barb's Ice cream at Lake Ella. We met about bringing the many disparate community gardening groups, resource people and organiz

The Day I Went to Prison

  My life is moving faster than I can keep up with.  So, for the moment-- against my storytelling nature-- I'm going to resort to a bulleted list for the day: *Headed to Romac for raised-bed lumber. *Stopped in at Gramling's on S. Adams for plants and seeds. *Dropped lumber in Betton Hills in preparation for a Monday garden build. *Picked up and ordered mushroom compost at Tallahassee Nurseries. *Built and filled an additional raised bed in the kids "Gods' Giving Garden" at Faith Presbyterian Church. *Helped upload dump-truck delivery of mushroom compost in my back yard. *Visited the FCI Women's Prison (out on Capital Cir) to learn about their Horticultural program. *Swung by to check on the Damayan sponsored community garden in the Orange Ave Apts. *Ran an errand for Manna on Meridian food pantry. *Gave away free compost; chatted with friends and visitors about community gardens, the food gardening and urban ag business, spring planting ideas, great squash

New Woodland Drives Community Garden

This past Thursday, my buddy John and I installed an extra large Square Foot Garden that will serve as a community garden amongst three families in the Woodland Drives Neighborhood. A couple weeks back, Randy and Irene, got in touch with me about helping them start a garden.  Only...they wanted "their" garden to go in their neighbor's yard.  Come to find out, they were actually partnering with said neighbors-- in addition to another family across the street-- to start and maintain a raised vegetable ("community" or "friends") garden.  The family with the most sun offered their backyard; Randy and Irene oversaw and joined me in the work of planting, and the other family will help as needed.  When harvest time comes, they'll share the bounty. The new Woodlands Drives community garden is a beautiful model for how families can join together in order to overcome the effort/time, sunlight, and too-much-food-all-at-once obstacles to home food garde

Grow a Row for the Hungry Neighborhood Garden Workshops

From the cyber-vine, I hear that lots of folks are interested in neighborhood garden workshops.  If you are such a person, please let me know.  I'm willing to to help organize and/or teach such a workshop, but we've got to move quickly.  Spring planting is upon us come the middle of March.  I could be available on March 6th and/or the morning of the 13th to do a workshop. Starting in March, I plan to do a bit of fundraising for Second Harvest of the Big Bend (our local Food Bank).  In this vein, I hope to use intro gardening workshops as a means of educating food gardeners and to raise money for Second Harvest' planned new facility that will enable them to distribute 2 million more pounds of food per year.  Central to the food movement is the idea that everyone in town gets to eat good food.  A first step in that direction is to make sure everyone eats something.  Second Harvest does great work in this area, and I want to help make sure they can do even more. So if you

Two Valentine's Day Gardens

Two Valentine's Day Gardens this week.  This one here John Wood and I installed for Mr. O'Brien Monday and Tuesday.  It's a 3x7x2.5ft Raised Herb Garden of cedar construction treated with linseed oil, complete with a micro irrigation system filled with a well draining, nutrient rich and biologically active soil. Look closely to see the micro irrigation.  (Look VERY CLOSELY to see the micro nutrients.) Upon finishing the cedar herb garden, Mr. O'Brien came out to inspect. "It looks great," he said. He then told us: "Just got off the phone with my wife. I told her, 'Instead of jewelry like you wanted for Valentines Day, I got you a coffin full of compost.' She laughed," he finished. He then explained that she's excited about growing herbs for fresh home-cooking. We put in this Square Foot Garden as a Valentine's Day surprise.  Fritz, the man with the plan, made arrangements with me a few weeks back.  Then yesterday, he let us

Meet John Wood

John Wood, a recent graduate of Warren Wilson College is in town for the month to "learn how to grow food."  He's volunteering his time and effort in exchange for a place to stay and the chance to put seeds in the ground.  He has questions about soil, business, and rooting oneself in the broader community.  John's real job is working with North Carolina Outward Bound as an Instructor with groups of teenagers.  He recently completed an assignment in the Everglades where he lived with eight thirteen-year-olds on a 12x12ft platform atop five canoes.  At the beginning of April, he reports to the Rio Grande in south Texas for his next expedition.

Havana Work Day

  This past Saturday, I spent the morning hours at the first Havana Community Garden workday.  In the course of four hours, we ran 100 yards of "hog" fence along the highway to provide enclosure for the garden property; set posts and fenced the garden plot area to keep out rabbits, painted a white-picket fence, built a compost holder, erected the beautiful sign, and had a laughing good time. I spent most of my morning working with Mr Lynn Coulter and Thaddius.  We ran the hog fence together.  Amidst "sureing-up" the fence ends, pounding posts in the ground, running and tightening the fence and then clamping it to the posts, I got to know the two gentlemen rather well.  Mr. Coulter is an older gentleman who started out his career as an agricultural extension agent in Iowa.  After several years at that, he went back to school to study Agronomy (don't worry, I had to look it up too: "the science and economics of crop production").  Then, he traveled the

Three Stellar Women and a Community Garden

1)This morning, I met with Maggie Theriot, Sustainability Coordinator for Leon County.  She heads the Office of Sustainability .  A large part of her job right now is event planning for the Leon County Sustainable Communities Summit 2010 which will focus on "how to foster a sustainable local economy and the importance of sustainable food systems ."  Last fall, Maggie got in touch with me about being involved with the Summit.  She was looking for referrals for farmers and other folks engaged in making our local food system more sustainable.  She also indicated that I might could serve in some kind of public capacity at the event itself-- whether exhibiting or speaking-- since my food gardening entrepreneurship happened to overlap so perfectly with the Summit's two main focuses. But that's not why I met with her today. We met today to talk about her ongoing work in partnership with and under the direction of the County Commission and and the Leon County Agricult

Visit to Art Alley

  On Monday, I stopped in for a visit with Paul Rutkovsky's Get Green Art class/workshop.  They have adopted two alleyways connecting Railroad Ave. to Gaines St.  The alleys were abandoned by the city and overrun by litter and invasive plants.  So, Paul, his students and other volunteers and artists cleaned up, planted, and decorated the alleys with artwork.  They continue to do maintenance and integrate new artistic and landscape ideas on a regular basis.  It's amazing how aesthetic and inviting the alleys are per their work. Paul invited me both because he likes what I'm up to generally and because some of his students are interested in food gardening in the alleys.  So I chatted with the folks in the picture-- Chris, Dana, Lauren, Echo (sigh, I can't remember remember everyone's name)-- about sunlight, drainage, seasonal vegetables, where fruit trees and where a raised-bed garden could be planted.  We also talked about urban food production in other cities, co