The Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project

The Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people in ways to live healthy, sustainable lives.  We plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables around Pittsburgh with the goal of turning city streets into healthy eats.

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How to trim lettuce

The great thing about lettuce is that after you cut all of the leaves off to eat, it grows more so you can keep making salads with a small investment in some seeds and the proper cutting technique. 


When the leaves are about 3" long, they're ready to harvest.  Clean a pair of scissors to make sure you're not transferring any bacteria to the plant.  Pull all of the leaves into one bunch and cut about 1/2" - 3/4" above the soil.  Do this with each of your plants until you have enough for a salad.  I cut half of my lettuce leaves on Friday of last week and the second half on Sunday.  You can already see the new leaves sprouting and it's only Tuesday! 


Grazie alla famiglia Minella

Garden #1 is complete.  Thank you Minella family for donating a total garden to the Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project.  Today we planted 30 pickling cucumber plants, and 3 tomato plants.  We'll also be adding a cuc tracker in the weeks to come so the family can compete on which plant will produce the most cuc's.  My pick.... second from the center.  I'll let you know how I do.


Composting Basics

As the weather continues to warm and Mother's Day approaches, I decided to build my mother a compost bin and log shelter to help fertilize her garden and put her compostable materials to good use.  I started building today but more importantly, put together a starter guide for her so she knows what to do when it is built.  Here, I share the guide with you so you can all start your own compost as well.

  • Compost should be 3 parts “brown” (dead leaves, dead plants, straw, shredded paper, shredded twigs, pine needles, sawdust from untreated wood) which is high in carbon and 1 part “green” (fresh grass clippings, garden prunings, green weeds, manure, seaweed or pond algae, non-meat, non-dairy kitchen scraps) which is high in nitrogen

  • Do not use house pet feces!!!

  • You should bury all the plant food waste in the center of the pile and cover the top of the pile with a one-inch layer of soil, dry leaves, or finished compost to avoid attracting flies.

  • One way to test if your compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If no strong odors are released when you open the bag, the compost is done.

  • Chop or shred large pieces to 12 inches or shorter (thick, woody branches should be chipped, ground up, or left out).

  • One of the most common mistakes in composting is letting the pile get too dry. Your compost pile should be moist as a wrung-out sponge. A moisture content of 40 to 60 percent is preferable. To test for adequate moisture, reach into your compost pile and grab a handful of material and squeeze it; if a few drops of water come out, it's probably got enough moisture, if it doesn't, add water. When you water, it is best to put a hose into the pile so that you aren't just wetting the top. You can also water as you are turning the pile.

  • Not all bugs are bad. In fact, all bugs play a role in nature. Many compost pile organisms eat other organisms and turn them into compost. At least one-third of the volume in a compost pile is made up of the dead, decomposed bodies of soil organisms.  Still, you don't want just any old bugs in your compost pile. So lets learn about what you might find in your compost pile so you'll be able to decide whether there really is a problem or not.  The food web decomposition process is divided into three levels:
  1. Level 1 is made up of herbivores: bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, nematodes, mites, snails, slugs, earthworms, millipedes, sowbugs and worms. Note that some types of mites are carnivores. 
  2. Level two is comprised of the organisms that eat level one organisms.  It includes both herbivores and carnivores: nematodes, protozoa, rotifers, soil flatworms, springtails, some types of mites, and feather-winged beetles. 
  3. Level three is comprised of the organisms that eat level two organisms.  It includes centipedes, mites, rove beetles, ants, spiders, psuedoscorpions and earwigs


A special thanks goes out to Mimi Wilps for being the first donor to the Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project.  Her generosity provided us a garden plot, $6 in seeds, 48 tomato starts and a mini greenhouse to start the seedlings in.  This $6 in seeds yielded 83 basil plants, 19 cucumber plants and approximately 50 lettuce plants.  On top of that, we only used half of the seeds!!!  Proof that growing your own produce is cheap.... 


Gone Fishing....

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, that it only took a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor."

The American scoffed. "I am a Wharton MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But señor, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "Fifteen or twenty years."

"But what then, señor?"

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions, señor? Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."