Alameda Backyard Growers

Many people don’t think too often about the dirt beneath their feet, but the dirt that covers most of the Earth’s dry land makes growing things possible. For those of us who want to have healthy and happy gardens, the composition of that dirt — usually called “soil,” in this context — is vitally important. 

Gleaning — an ancient practice that goes back to Biblical times — is not scavenging (to search for things that others have discarded), nor is it foraging (gathering foodstuffs from the wild). It is, in essence, gathering food that has been overlooked. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines gleaning as “the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state or county fairs or any other sources in order to provide it to those in need.”

 

Project Tree’s first Tree Care Workshop on Jan. 26 was quite the success. The Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) reported 32 attendees received 28 coupons to purchase trees at local nurseries (one to a household). The coupons were underwritten by a donation from the Alameda Sun.

ABG volunteers helped guide gardeners with a wide range of gardening know-how, from beginners to seasoned professionals. The group hosted a lively discussion on the variety of factors that come into play when trying to choose and plant the right tree in the right spot in one’s yard.

Artificial lawns — usually installed to save water and reduce yard maintenance — are popping up all across Alameda. Unfortunately, there are many serious environmental drawbacks to artificial turf, and they are not a good solution for Alameda.

 

Project Tree was created in 2016 when the publishers of the Alameda Sun, alarmed at the decline of Alameda’s urban canopy post-drought, offered Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) $1,000 to buy and plant some trees. A fledgling program was designed to purchase and plant fruit and shade trees in private yards around town. Project Tree Phase 1 eventually proved itself a success by putting 34 new trees in Alameda soil.

 

Majestic stands of Live Oak trees once thrived on Alameda, along with willows and other species. Development and the passage of time have taken many historic trees, but some remain and many have been replaced, as Alameda values its urban forest. Designated a Tree City USA in 2011, Alameda protects its oaks and other heritage trees by restricting their removal. 
But more trees are needed. Adding trees to Alameda and protecting current trees improves our environment and our well-being: 

Though nurseries offer a great selection of tomato plants in the spring, anybody wanting to try an obscure variety will need to start ahead of time from seed — now is not too early to begin planning for indoor tomato seed sprouting. Alameda Backyard Growers’ informal tomato growing team always gets busy just after the New Year sowing unusual varieties for Alameda’s Earth Day Festival the following April. Requests for tomato-starting pointers abound. In the spirit of giving, those pointers are presented here.

According to “The Super Bowl of Beekeeping” an article by Jaime Lowe in the Aug. 9, New York Times Magazine, “About one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat wouldn’t exist without bee pollination.” While local gardeners may not be feeding the world from here in Alameda, the Island City does have a farming history and it does host a lot of fruit trees.  

So providing pollen for bees, which is essential for the growth of seeds and fruits, is a big deal. Whatever the size garden, there are many ways gardeners can help promote, protect and feed our precious pollinators. 

Summer is an especially wonderful time to enjoy fresh produce. Tomatoes, green beans, peaches and berries all beckon us to enjoy them. 

But fresh produce spoils more quickly than other food. So summer is a good time to talk about preventing food from going to waste. 

It’s hard to believe, but 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted. We can do something to change this, because 43 percent of all food wasted in the U.S. is wasted by households. Simple changes can reduce wasted food and return nutrients back to the soil by composting food scraps. 

Becoming involved in Project Pick was the main reason I decided to join Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) back in 2010.

While driving around town (in my electric car) I had always noticed how many fruit trees we have in Alameda. Everywhere you look there are trees loaded with many unpicked lemons, oranges, apples or persimmons, depending on the season. Alameda trees also produce plums, figs, loquats and avocados — an amazing bounty of delicious food. 

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