Alright! This is John Kohler with growingyourgreens.com.
Today I have another exciting episode for you. And I’m on a field trip. I’m all the
way down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Gotta say half the world right now is freezing,
got record cold temperatures these days. I just came from freezing temperatures. Had
to cover my plants and bring some inside. And here it is nice, tropical weather. I believe
we’re all meant to be living in tropical weather. Not in northern climates. And I love my topical
fruits. In any case, why we are here today is to actually
show you guys a cool garden that’s happening right here in downtown Fort Lauderdale. And
it’s uh Fort Lauderdale Vegetables and uh the Fort Lauderdale Vegetables actually is
on Andrews off Sixth Street and you could see like right next to me here is a big, public
supermarket, right. So, think, public supermarket. You could buy your produce in there, right? Why grow a garden, right? I actually had somebody
say this to me the other day, “Why grow a garden when you could go to the supermarket?”
[laughter] Well, obviously they’ve never grown and tasted homegrown food before. And you
know, the uh — the “industrial system” is just a system and it’s a — it’s a system
to make one thing. To make money. To make profit for the farmers or the, you know, most
likely the corporations that own the farms that are growing food to be distributed on
a mass market level, like a centralized system. So, why I’m here today to show you guys how
you can grow in south Florida or wherever you live, but also using a more decentralized
uh method of growing food to get it out to the people so, you know, no longer do we need
super, ginormous farms that — that are doing monocultures on acreage and acreage, but each
and every one of us could have a small, little farm to grow a wide variety of things to distribute
to the local people. And I think, you know, local food makes much more sense and especially when it’s being grown
uh sustainably with compost and in things like rock dust and even getting a higher quality
food that’s gonna taste better and guess what. When it tastes better people are gonna eat
their fruits and vegetables. So, anyways, let’s head down the street. Show you guys
the farm here in Fort Lauderdale. Right, so, there’s the entrance to the publics
there. People are going and shopping. But, uh little do people know that they could actually
just go right next door and get Florida grown, Fort Lauderdale grown, fresh produce. And
you’d never know by driving by. This looks like a fence with a whole bunch of, you know,
vines growing up it. Which I think are some kind of uh squash vine or something like that.
Kinda creeping out the front here. Here’s a nice squash flower. And that is — Actually
that’s nice and beautiful. Check it out. Oh, here’s a papaya tree. I love the tropics.
More papaya trees — they should have like a papaya tree
every six feet here. But, as you guys can see, like, uh beyond
this fence, which is kinda architectural is uh a whole, nice garden. And check it out.
This garden is not planted in the ground. South Florida is infamous for, you know, its
uh sandy soil and not good soil and maybe you live somewhere where they don’t have good
soil either. Whether it’s uh sand or actually clay that’s actually fairly good soil you
just need to work with it. Um. Or you have a black top, cause maybe this used to be a
parking lot. But check it out what they’ve done they’ve
simply put down landscape fabric on the ground and uh they have all these little container,
garden pots. and uh we’ll look at those in a minute. And I mean they just have literally
containers stacked up next to each other filled with some good, hopefully organic compost
and other amendments, coconut core. And they’re growing amazing amounts of stuff.
I mean right next — in this city. I mean, there’s a busy street. Cars driving by. And
uh, check it out. Here they got some um beautiful sunflowers growing. There’s one popping it’s
shiny flower out. And uh over on this side we’ve got one of my favorite uh. Kales. Looks
like a red kale over on this side. Oh here’s another beautiful sunflower. Really nice.
Over on this side looks like some basil that’s been uh cutback and over here. Check it out,
you know, just in a little fabric pot, a huge papaya tree.
And I mean these guys are planted uber close. And check it out if you think, “Oh I need
a lot of space to plant a tree, John.” No! This is, like, maybe, like uh I don’t know
twenty-five gallon pot, right there. Fabric pot to grow these beautiful papaya trees.
I love papayas. Getting down to the end of the row as you
guys can see. I mean it just goes on and on and on. They have a whole bunch of different
kinds of crops growing. Excuse me, including kales and oh here’s some dinosaur kale. Looks
like they’ve got some swiss chard. And oh here’s some pepper. Look at these beautiful
pepper plants. And they’re most like little miniature trees and they’ve got some herbs
and I see some chives growing. They have to be growing some moringa here somewhere. Oh
some pak choi, love the pak choi and the bok choy. Definitely a good one to grow here in
south Florida. And of course we’ve got some eggplants. Looks like they’ve seen uh some
better days. Farm. Literally, city urban farm goes on and
on and on. Here’s a whole row of just different herbs. Once again more eggplants. I kinda
like growing myself a little small eggplants like they are growing here. Uh. Here’s some
uh looks like some Radishes over on this one – this row. More
herbs. Carrots even growing. More peppers. And check this out. They’ve even got little
hoop houses. They could put up bird netting and shade cloth to protect their crops. Or
even to keep the bugs out. And uh how they’ve done this is uh super simple, super easy.
And as you guys can see all they’ve done is literally uh downward attachment point right
here. What they’ve done is, if I lift this guy up, you could see all they did is put
a piece of rebar in there, stuck out the ground and they put this in there. And they just
have, you know, have it going over one of the rows. And you could see there. They got
a nice little hoop. And you could put the uh fabric on top of it and it looks like they’re
just using some very simple tie wraps to uh tie it together. Here they have a bunch of
different tomatoes growing and more eggplants. Looks like they’ve got a lot of arugula just coming
up. Alright so what we’re looking at now is the
start of the garden coming up real soon. What they do here is they do what’s called a rotational
or uh successive plantings. What this means is that you know they plant one crop, it’ll
go to fruition or produce to its end and then they’ll plant something else. So every few
weeks they’re always planting something new so that they’ll have a continuous supply of
produce to harvest throughout the season. I also encourage you guys to do this at home.
You know, you wanna harvest things and, as the plant kinda gets older, have new plants
to go in their place to replace it so you can continue to eat out of your garden instead
of the publics or other local grocery stores. So next I wanna show you guys what makes this
farm successful here growing in south Florida. Now, the first thing I wanna mention is that
they are on a short term lease like I think a little over a year or so and uh
so they may need to move at any time. So for that reason they didn’t want to plant a garden
or a farm in the ground like many you guys maybe renting your home. You don’t necessarily
wanna start making capital improvements to the — your place that you don’t own.
Another reason in south florida they have as I mentioned earlier sandy soil which is
not the optimal soil to be growing in. So what they’re doing instead is they’re growing
in containers and literally you could think of this farm as a container farm. I mean it’s
just using all these containers that are lined up and they buy these hundreds at a time and
the trick is if you buy them direct from the company, you know, you’ll get them a lot less
money as long as you’re buying a sufficient quantity of them. And what these pots are
— these are simply a fabric pot, but these aren’t any kinda fabric pot. These are actually
called the Jackpot. I hit the jackpot! [laughter]
And uh let’s see here it’s uh betterroots.com. It’s a website if you guys
wanna look that at up. And what they using here is a fifteen gallon Jackpot and uh they
figured out that this uh fifteen gallon size is about an eighteen inch diameter so that
means you can plant, you know, depending on what you’re planting a bunch of different
plants in one container. So for example if you’re growing like an eggplant, uh tomato,
you might only wanna plant one because they’ll spread out so much. But, if you’re planting
carrots you could *probably get at least a dozen carrot plants in here or things like
herbs you could *probably plant a good, you know, four uh basil plants and I don’t know
like twelve little small lettuces and what not. So you could really maximize the use
of the space. In addition they’re filling it with a good
mixture of basically a good potting soil mixture that’s really heavy on the compost. Compost
is what makes it happen and compost also happens uh like we’re gonna see in a minute. In addition
they have an automatic watering system or Irrigation system that’s gonna come on at
preset times that they’re gonna turn that on and its gonna water each container so they
don’t have to go around with a hose and do it manually.
Now I always encourage you guys to get some kind of automatic irrigation system. So it
takes — it makes your garden you know that you do less work on it ’cause if you gotta
water, you mean, that could take a garden of this size, you know, a good half hour at
least to water every plant, but with an irrigation system it’s all gonna be done for you and
it just takes a little bit of investment to buy all the stuff and set it up. And it really
is easy to set up I do have videos on setting up irrigation if you’re interested.
Anyways I wanted to get back to these Jackpots and uh why they’re using them. So here in
South Florida it does tend to rain quite a bit and the reason for these fabric pots is
because the water will drain through them, not only the bottoms like our standard pot
would but also water can flow out the sides. So this is very critical so that the roots
don’t get too wet inside the fabric pot.
In addition there’s another feature these fabric pots have. It’s called air pruning.
So when the roots grow to the edge of the fabric pot, instead of wrapping around like
you know getting uh root bound like many of you guys have seen in plastic pots, uh the
roots hit the side of this. It says, “Oh, no, there’s air,” and the roots splits off
and it actually keeps branching out and creates more root. The more root the more fruit you
got, or the more leaves you got too. In addition, because of all the aeration you’re
getting, you’re also getting more aeration to the roots and to the soil and what this
is gonna do is this is gonna encourage the beneficial microbes in the soil, which are
an active part of the ecosystem in the little fabric pot so that they can surely thrive.
Another thing they’re doing here with the fabric pots is instead of just standing these
guys up tall and filling them up all the way, which would actually take more soil, they’re
actually also folding these guys down and folding it over, so you can fold it over like
once or twice and actually make it go down really low. Now
if you’re planting like a big tree or something large you’d want to fill it up to the top.
But um you know tomatoes or other vegetables you know *probably — you had at least ten
to twelve inches of soil you’re *probably alright. I was also told that by folding over
this way it actually prevents some of the slugs and snails getting in here. So that’s
actually something that I’ll have to try that’s new to me.
Next let’s take a look at a few more areas of this amazing downtown garden.
So one of the things you guys should totally grow if you live here in south Florida are
bananas. You know, most all bananas that you buy at the grocery store are all imported
and they’re one variety. They’re called the Cavendish variety. Imagine if you went to
the grocery store and bought apples and they’re always Red Delicious apples. You know. Growing
your own bananas there’s over i don’t know fifty varieties easy that you could get. There’s
a company called going-bananas.com you can actually order plants. They’ll ship you plants
to anywhere in the United States and you can even grow bananas
in containers as they’re doing here. They got a couple nice banana plants. Now bananas
are not trees although people call them banana trees. They’re herbaceous plants cause they
don’t actually have any wood. And uh looks like they’re doing pretty good here. They’re
simply in twenty-five gallon Blackjack pots. So, yes, even if you don’t have a lot of space
you know like in the ground or own your own home you could have some containers and grow
a fabulous garden like you’ve seen, but also some smaller trees and herbaceous shrubs like
bananas. Alright coming up the backside. Backside of
this garden and as you guys can see here’s another Blackjack pot, fabric pot. Growing
something real cool. This is actually called the dragonfruit. I love eating dragonfruit,
and hopefully this is the yellow variety dragonfruit as they are the sweetest. The white ones actually
not so sweet. I do like the red ones a bit more than the white ones or the pink ones and uh also they’re growing up the fence.
I always encourage you guys to grow up your fence uh you know if you look at a fence you
can see oh yeah the fence that keeps the people out that keeps dogs out that might be keeping
the wind out, but you could also use it to your advantage as a little trellis. As you
guys could see what they’re doing is they’re growing little cucumber plants up the fence
and there’s a nice cucumber just waiting to be harvested.
Next let’s go ahead and take a look at how they’re watering all this and also they’re
little compost tumblers that are homemade. So, as you guys could see they have some homemade
compost tumblers. And what they’re made out of is something real simple that many you
guys may be able to find on craigslist for relatively inexpensive. It’s these big fifty-five
gallon plastic drums with like large lids that literally screw off. I like screwing
off more than I like screwing on. And there we go and as you guys can see it’s
filled up with all the cuttings from the garden and what they’ve
simply done is they took this nice large plastic fifty-five gallon drum which is actually a
cooler shape. This is kind of a square shape that I’ve never seen before. I like it more
than the round shape you often see. They drilled a whole bunch of holes in it making it literally
like swiss cheese. *Probably like half inch holes and just a bunch of them in there and
then they made a big hole in the side, put a piece of like uh electro-conduit — EMT
conduit be like, I don’t know, three quarters inch or one inch and just uh some simple four
by four posts with some two by four bracing on the bottom to secure it. And now. Oops.
[laughter] They have a compost helper. Just make sure you put the top on all the way before
you spin it. [laughter] Next let’s go ahead and share how they water
this container garden here in south Florida. Basically what they’re using is they’re using
the IBC totes. Once again these totes can be available
on Craigslist and depending on where you live they may run fifty to a hundred and fifty
dollars. They each hold uh two hundred and fifty gallons of water so with four of these
they literally have one thousand gallons worth of water storage.
Now while they can collect water off local rooves and then reuse that water, they’re
actually just using filtered city water here that they’ll actually fill up in here and
then because the water in these IBC totes, you know, have a lot of pressure coming at
the little spigot at the bottom it goes into the white irrigation tubing that’ll then feed
the uh garden the water. So uh definitely really cool.
Now the last IBC totes over on this side they’re actually using it to brew up some compost
tea to enrich the garden with uh the beneficial microbes. And I always encourage you guys
to insure that you’re getting beneficial microbes and the fungi and the fun-girls in
your garden cause they are a critical part of your garden to be successful because it’s
literally the bacteria and the fungi and all the other food-soil, wet creatures that are
in the soil, breaking it down and creating more fertilizer, free fertilizer, for you
to give the plants the nutrition they need to grow to be bountiful so that you don’t
have to buy expensive fertilizer from the big box store.
So I know what some of you guys are thinking earlier. “John how is a papaya or one of those
trees or bananas gonna survive in a small fifteen gallon pot?” It’s like the genie in
the Aladdin’s lamp. How did he fit in there he was so big, right? But, uh anyways as you
guys can see here this papaya tree is technically in that same fifteen gallon pot and check
out I mean I’m gonna let the video image speak for itself this little papaya tree in just a fifteen gallon pot is loaded with
papaya. One of my favorite fruits are papayas. I love all tropical fruits actually and I
think it’s really sad that most the papayas that you know these days can be genetically
modified. Actually if they’re from hawaii high probability is probably GMO. So uh I
encourage you guys to grow your own non-GMO prized papayas if you’re lucky enough to live
in a place like South Florida or some other tropical locale. Also you know papayas you
get right off your tree always gonna taste better than the stuff you buy at the store.
Unfortunately, to my knowledge, all papayas that you buy in the store, at the standard
grocery store, are picked far too early because they gotta pick them early so that they’re
hard, because if they pick them when they’re too soft they’re gonna mush and go bad or
the farmer or the corporation that owns the farms is just gonna lose their profit so they
gotta pick them too early and it’s only at full maturity do all the full flavors and
sugars develop and let me tell you I love those natural fruit sugars.
So hope you guys enjoyed the tour of the little farm here at street level in South Florida.
Next I got another special treat for you. Not only does Fort Lauderdale Vegetables grow
here. They have another location a few blocks away on the top of a sky scrap — scraper
roof so uh we’re gonna go ahead and check that out and show you guys how to grow not
only here in the city, but also on the roof and I think this is something that every large
roof should have, an edible food garden to feed local people.
Alright so now we’re at the second site of Fort Lauderdale Vegetables. And uh we’re actually
on top of a roof here. Check it out. There’s a street down below us there. On top of the
roof. It’s a one ten tower here in Fort Lauderdale and uh even up on this green building they
got food growing on the roof. Totally cool and uh Fort Lauderdale Vegetables
doing that. Let me go ahead and turn the camera around and show you guys. Check it out. So
up on the roof here and they’re currently in their replanting process. They got a whole
bunch of different vegetables growing and once again they’re using the same Jackpot
fabric pots you guys saw and look at the amazing success they’re having. They got radishes.
They got collared greens. They got callaloo. They just harvested a bunch of onions and
they’re currently replanting carrots actually that are growing quite fast and doing quite
well. And uh some other things. So next we’re lucky maybe we’ll get to even speak with the
owner and have him share his insights on growing here in South Florida and local food.
Alright, so now I have the pleasure of introducing the farmer here. Michael. He’s not only an
urban farmer but he’s uh food policy agent because one of the things he’s learned is that he
literally has to educate people about eating fruits and vegetables and local foods more
importantly and create a market for this stuff because, you know, as this system is set up
in this day and age, you know, people think food comes from the grocery store and from
the fast food joint right? No. I want you guys to know that food can come from your
front yard or even your backyard if you live here in Fort Lauderdale. So we’re gonna simply
ask Michael a few questions on how all this came to fruition. So Michael how come you
started the Fort Lauderdale Vegetables here? Michael: Well I had this idea of being able
to create a new career around growing food in a climate where we can do it all year round.
And if we can eliminate the transportation and distribution and storage of the food we
can save a lot of money and people can earn a reasonable living doing it. I practiced
architecture here in the city for thirty years and unfortunately ended up with a degenerative
eye disease that caused me really to have to get out of that business. But I’m still able to see enough that I can
actually run an operation like this. So that really was the basis of looking for a new
career in a system that I could run year round uh use sustainably and not just sustainably
um by environmentally but economically because some businesses are not that economically
sustainable and food can be one of those. John: Yeah I mean everybody’s always gotta
eat so, you know, you always gotta market whereas if you’re doing some other profession
if the economic crunch comes maybe you’re gonna get laid of but everybody always needs
to eat. So, I want you guys to think about that. So, Michael, what’s the one top mission
and message you want to get out to my viewers today? Michael: Well the mission really is a lot
of what I just mentioned earlier. It’s we have to develop a sustainable system for growing
food that can be repeated so people like myself and others can actually have careers as urban
farmers. It’s important that it be economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable.
So, just creating food in a fun way may not be that
economical. We have to look at the system that we’re using to make sure we don’t have
waste. That it’s efficient. That it’s productive. That basically it’s relatively easy to do,
not complicated. We don’t end up with a lot of waste or a lot of packages and things.
We really create almost all of our nutrition here on site by using compost tea. We collect
our seeds when we can so we really try to make it an internal system that reduces the
inputs and the cost and, of course, if we can produce the food at a reasonable expense
we can sell it at more reasonably as well. And I think there’s a good margin in there
where we can save the overhead of owning a supermarket and operating all the electric
and cooling in that building by just selling the food direct from the farm. Part of the
mission really is to make a repeatable system that somebody else can actually operate as
well so I’m not gonna be the only farmer in Fort Lauderdale doing this. Where ultimately
we’ll have a network of small farms creating employment, more access to
food, connection to nature. So that’s generally the mission we’re trying to do. John: Wow. Great. So I mean this sounds like
a decentralized farming I mean farming as its set up now its centralized we got the
big massive agri-farm businesses monocropping one type of crop and then they ship it off
to millions of grocery stores across the US but simple if everyone had a small farm like
all you guys watching out there maybe you’ve been looking for a new career. Maybe you’re
an architect that can’t do architecture anymore. Maybe you’re an auto-mechanic and I don’t
know you hurt your arm so you can’t do that. Everybody needs to eat and everybody, especially
you guys, that you guys have been growing food now. You’re home for hopefully years
now. You have the experience to take this to the next level, to start growing food your
community it’s healthy, rewarding. And I can’t think of anything better to do.
So uh one of the things that actually I wanted to talk to Michael about cause he had to actually
take a smoke break earlier [laughter] is — is smoking in your garden. I mean, we
know that smoking — and there’s a warning you know on every package, “Can Cause Cancer”
and all this kinda stuff. But, Michael what’s the one reason why if you’re a gardener you
shouldn’t be smoking? Michael: Well you shouldn’t be smoking — I
don’t smoke a lot. I smoke once every other day. But I have to be extremely careful because
if I get tobacco residue on my hands and I touch plants I can transmit a disease to those
plants. Tobacco mosaic poisoning. And it’s actually happened. Uh we’ve had people come
out here who were smokers who didn’t even know they were smokers and they may have tobacco
on their hands. They’re volunteering. And all of the sudden we notice uh patterns in
the leaves uh and we look it up and we find that it’s one of of these poisonings. So regardless
of smoking or not when you’re bringing in contamination to the garden you gotta be careful.
So, washing your hands, uh things you may have touched with your hands including your
tools is an important thing to consider. Uh we keep a small container of um white vinegar on the job really for cleaning
almost anything we work with. Whether it be our coolers that we store food in, our uh
tools and I wash my hands with it as well um to make sure I’m not spreading disease.
But yes, smoking’s not a good thing in general, and it can actually be very dangerous to your
garden. John: I definitely agree. Dangerous to your
health and dangerous to your little babies growing in your garden. So uh the last thing
I want to mention is uh you know, Michael is here like virtually almost every day. And
he’s looking for people to teach how to do this stuff in the form of volunteers, because
he also could always use some extra help. So if you’re interested in actually working
with Michael and learning how to do this and maybe even weeding or harvesting or who knows
what he’ll have you do uh you wanna definitely contact him. If you’re not up to growing your
own food which I think you should be and you live in the South Florida area you definitely
wanna call this man and get some of his crops. He grows some high quality stuff here. So,
Michael if somebody wants to get a hold of you to buy some of your crops maybe they’re
a chef and they want to supply their restaurant or maybe they’re just somebody that you know lives here in town
and wants to learn how to garden and get real world experience from somebody that’s doing
it. How can they get a hold of you? Michael: Well there’s a couple ways they can
go to our website, fortlauderdalevegetables.com, all spelled out FORT, and there they — contact
information is there and we have a contact sheet on the web. They can also — phone numbers
there, our email address is there and you can reach out to me in any one of those ways.
I also have a facebook page, Fort Lauderdale Vegetables, and you can message us there and
see a lot of our posts of what we’re currently doing. John: Awesome, Michael. Well I want to thank
you so much for uh inviting me out today and allowing me to film this video to share with
literally the world on what you’re doing. I think what you’re doing is really important
and I think everybody in every city should have a little urban farm like Michael is. Michael: Thank you. John: Hopefully you guys enjoyed this episode.
Once again my name is John Kohler with growingyourgreens.com. We’ll see you next time. And remember, keep