Standing Stone Brewing Company

rooftop garden

Starting Up Our Rooftop and Farm Gardens + Tips for Yours

In Southern Oregon, spring keeps farmers and gardeners busy sowing seeds and transplanting starts. This year, we’ve joined the action. Our efforts launched last summer when we started a rooftop garden, and we began leasing farmland last fall to grow produce for our restaurant menu. We’re excited to get going on our farm and rooftop garden, with a full season ahead of us.

Melza Quinn, Standing Stone server and chicken caretaker (photo below), is also a gardener with a super green thumb. She’s been planting seeds for vegetables, herbs and flowers, including artichokes, basil, cauliflower, pink corn, kale, tarragon, tomatoes, hollyhocks, poppies, morning glories and sweet peas.

If you visit our restaurant and brewery, you’ll see some of our seedlings in the front window, getting their start in compostable cups. We’ve got many more inside under our skylights and grow lights.

When they’re ready for transplanting, we’ll take them to our rooftop garden and farm. We’ll leave a few inside the brewpub, too, to beautify the space while educating and captivating our guests.

On our farm, we’ll test them in different areas to find the best growing conditions. Over the winter, our farm team constructed some raised beds using a sheet mulching method. They laid down corrugated cardboard to squash out star thistle, then added a layer of mulch from spent grain and a layer of farm-fresh compost. This is a quick, easy, low-cost and successful way to start a garden in any area where you have grass or poor soil. Try it at home!

We chose heirloom varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, which specializes in heirloom varietals and gathers seed from a network of individuals who save seeds from home gardens and small farms. When buying seed, look for local growers and family farmers, too, like the Rogue Valley’s Siskiyou Seeds. If you have several friends who want to share a bulk seed order, the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative is a great option. They’re a co-op of small farmers in the western US who produce open-pollinated, organic varietals, including lots of heirlooms and select varietals adapted with traditional breeding. Their seed is available in bulk online.

We can’t wait until our efforts bear fruit – or veggies, herbs and flowers, to be exact! Growing food is a fascinating process that rewards us with fresh food, slashes food miles and eco-impact (especially if organic methods are used) and gives us exercise, fresh air and sunshine. What a delicious deal!

We hope you’ll join the fun and fulfillment by growing some of your own food. If you need guidance, contact your local Extension program or seed companies for information about when to plant specific crops in your area (from seed or transplanting starts), and optimal growing conditions for them. The Rodale Institute is a great source of information on organic gardening, too. If you need inspiration, stop by Standing Stone to say hello to our seedlings. Happy planting!

( photo credits: Top left – Rachel Koning, others – George Rubaloff

By in Food, Sustainability 0

Year-round Food Gardening: Tips for Cold Weather Cultivation

Photo: M. Schweisguth

Once fall comes into full force and edges toward winter, we often see this as end of the produce growing season. However, in Southern Oregon, and many climates, we can cultivate food year round. We just need to do a little digging to learn what can weather the winter, and how to protect plants and soil from the elements. Several crops can be plated in the fall or late winter for harvest through the winter or early spring. Others are traditionally planted in the fall and mature later in the spring.

At Standing Stone Brewing Co, we’ve been doing a bit of research to help us expand our rooftop garden into a year-round source of fresh ingredients for our restaurant.

To help get more folks into the fulfilling, sustainable fun of four-season gardening, we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned. While it’s a bit late to plant all but a few roots and bulbs for the fall, you can start planning to get an early start on your 2012 garden.

Choosing Crops

Lots of well-loved veggies can take the cold, including beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, chard, collards, kale, parsley, parsnips and scallions. Garlic and fava beans are generally planted in mid- to late-fall and mature in spring. Don’t forget perennial crops like sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), which sustain themselves year after year. To determine what will work where you are, look for localized gardening calendars and information, check seed packets and plant tags, or ask seed providers for temperature ranges needed for germination, growth and survival.

Raise the Temperature

Reuse old windows and doors, laid on bricks or a wooden frame, to make a cold frame. Cover rows with home-size tunnels from a garden supply store, or make some from reused plastic sheeting or pallet wrap on a frame of bamboo or flexible branches. Those with more space and extra cash might consider a small greenhouse. We’ve built a cold frame for our rooftop garden and are devising a way to route heat from our waste heat recovery system to our garden to warm it in winter.

Protect Plants

Pallet wrap garden cover (photo: M. Schweisguth)

Cover plants that aren’t in a cold frame or other shelter when nighttime temperatures are predicted to get close to or below the lowest temperature at which they can survive. Reused large plastic bags and pallet wrap work well. Gardening stores sell various plant coverings, too. Put leaves, reused plastic sheeting or seasonal row cover over the tops of root vegetables to keep them alive during hard frosts and snow, then uncover during the day to promote growth.

 Safeguard Your Soil

Mulch around plants to keep soil from freezing. Mulch or cover unused garden beds to prevent soil compaction from heavy rain, sleet and snow, too.

Grow Indoors

Small plants like herbs and greens can thrive indoor in pots, and you won’t need to brave the elements to harvest them. Turn sunny windows into winter gardens, and delight in the flavor, clean air and ambience this provides.

Happy gardening!