An Urban Farm Design Contest! Enter Now…

Thursday Apr 4 | BY |
| Comments (28)


Annmarie and I were blown away at the suggestions in the comments from our post about our new garden and yard space here.

There were so many great ideas and it seemed like a lot of you wanted to enter into a contest to share your own and get rewarded for it. So we’ve decided that we’re game to run one for you!

Here’s how it will all play out

I thought about a few different ways to run this thing, and each one had its good and bad.

Ultimately, we’ve decided to do it this way.

1. Anyone who would like to submit an idea or mock up of plans will be entered. (We’ll count all of you who commented on the last post as well.)

2. We will award these two specific categories for complete mockups (on either the entire yard, part of the yard, or the garden.) These categories are Most Creative and Best Overall — as judged by Annmarie and I.

3. We’ll also award ideas — for those of you who aren’t interested in more complete mockups. We’ll pick 3-5 of the best ideas that we use and we’ll give you a prize as well.

4. How to enter? If you want to share plans — they don’t need to be exact in terms of measurements — then you can scan and email them to, or if you want, you can mail them to:

Renegade Health
2532 Durant Ave, Suite 105
Berkeley, CA 94704

If you want to just share ideas or not draw out anything, then you can put your “entry” in the comments section on this post. If you’ve already commented on the other post that’s fine too — we’ll be pulling ideas from both.

5. I haven’t decided on a prize just yet, but the two categories with full plans will be the most rewarded and any ideas we choose to use will be rewarded less. If you have any ideas about what rewards you’d like, then please share them in the comments. (No, we won’t be rewarding you for the idea for rewards that we choose, LOL.)

Regardless, they will be good!

So here’s what you’ll need:

OK, so I have pictures of all the spaces here. So that’s important so you can get a good idea of what we’re dealing with.

Second, I’ve drawn out — not necessarily to scale, the yard and the garden. The garden is approximately 20 X 40 ft.

You can see the entire yard here:


Here are some things that I’d like to say about this space…

  • The carport in the front is covered and we’ll keep it that way.
  • There is a little sun in the side yard, but not much.
  • Very little sun in the front yard, due to a palm tree in our neighbor’s yard.
  • The sun in the yard is mainly limited to the left of the Unknown tree — though we will be trimming some of the trees to create more sun around the deck and dirt area between the trees, deck stairs and garden.

The garden:


The sun right now is limited to the left of the plum tree — though we will be trimming these back.

And a view from above from Google:


Each one of these should help you out.

I, of course, understand that it’s not exact, and don’t expect exact anything. I think ideas and mockups using estimated sizing and assumptions about sun, etc. are fine to us.

I’ll be around the blog here the next few days to answer any questions you may have, so please post them here and I’ll answer them as fast and as best I can.


Since some people may be mailing some plans in, I think we’ll do a 30 day deadline on this one. So May 4th, 2013, will be the day we close entries.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress, as well as get you some prize ideas in the next few days!

Enter Now: What are your ideas / plans for our new space? (Go ahead and post below, or send plans via email or snail-mail.)

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. victoria says:

    Well, do NOT forget to go vertical! Very important with a city garden. grow the corn and the squash together in bed A. grow the cantelope so that when it grows up th wall/by the fence behind the deck, you have poles so that you can hammock the melons so they don’t break the plant. When you plant the carrots, (bed B) sow them with raddishes, the raddishes will be harvested before the carrots even think about growing. AND make sure that there isn’t much under that redwood, nothing will grow there in the shade except the chickens. This is the bay area we are talking about! And make sure the tomatoes are in the warmest part of the garden with the basil, or they won’t do very well. AND, behind the fig is where I would put the compost bin/pile/rotator drum, next to my big container for compost tea…you know, the one with the spigot at the bottom for watering and fertilizing your plants naturally?

    Okay, I can’t do a drawing, but, you are going to do great, no matter what you end up choosing!

    Bless you,
    victoria hinton
    oakland, ca/fairmont, nc

  2. I would suggest that you plant strong scented plants to deter pests. I plant garlic, as my grandmother did decades ago. But herbs are great such as basil and thyme. As well as cilantro works. If you think your yard has a snail problem then crushed egg shells will stop them, or I have made a beer trap out of tuna cans, so I bury them in the soil near the plant and fill it up with beer. Nothing like a drunk snail or slug, but they drown. If you want to keep them away from the plant, and keep them alive…crush the egg shells they won’t want to cross them. Good Luck!

  3. daliya robson says:


  4. I think that your urban farm transformation would be a great subject for an “HGTV” style show. Perhaps a series of episodes that could focus on each section of your yard. Maybe you could use some of the plans that are being submitted for this contest. You have the on-screen personality that would make this type of show entertaining to watch, and the information would be helpful to others who would like to make these changes in their own yards. Obviously, you have marketing skills and an established fan-base, so selling your project should be easy! Get your agent right on this!! lol.

  5. Joanne says:

    Dear Kevin and Annemarie,

    I think you are healthy thinking people so my suggestion would be a beautiful but practical one, a conversational masterpeice of your doing and that would be a useable mixed herb garden with a mix of other plants and things on your back fence all along where the garden is ( there doesn’t seem to be anything there at the moment by your drawing ) the same side as the area where the small trees are, the sunny side of the yard would be perfect. One of those complete walled gardens, a peice of art, your own tapestrie, a creation like a canvas that you painted that you can do as a Family, one with colours and things that grow and die with each season at differant times so there is always something fresh growing all the time. It could extend all along that fence or you could make a brick or stone climbing wall along there in front of the fence. You could put a rock, brick or stone wall even part way up and then a gardners weed cloth on the rest of the fence to the top of the fence and just attach your desires. Your walled garden could be depending on your taste and personalities like a hodge podge or big patches or it could be running vertical or horizontal or if you built the stone wall suitable plants could be growing and crawling out of where the stones meet, never the less what ever way it could be from the ground to the top of the fench with as many herbs
    ( favourite most used ones first and ones that flower and smell beautiful like rosemary, lemon thyme, miniature lavenders, sages, mints, camomile and the list is endless and then mix in beautiful edible flowers like pansies, violets, succulents for contrast, possibly some sweetpea (which are edible ) runners popping up throughout, perhaps some honeysuckle and a whisteria at one end etc etc, some small or large things like drift woods, shinny things tucked in here and there with lots of colour and bling all things to attract butterflies, bees, birds ( especially humming birds) and well, you know just alive with life in a busy garden. The basil plant as far as I know is one that needs protection and can’t get to wet if you are thinking of basil. Then you could have some beautiful patches of grass throughout the backyard with some stepping stones, several together here and there in patches with lemon thyme planted between the stones so that when you walk across it sends up a heavenly scents of lemon and also there is this almost kelly green moss which is either Irish or Scottish (the brighter one) is another idea to add in between the stepping stones for colour and contrast. I once saw that beautiful bright green moss covering to make a complete pathway from the gate at the front yard to where the back yard started with stepping stones placed here and there and they said they just mow it like normal except when it gets its tiny flowers they left it longer between cuttings. It was a narrow pathway and with the moss it was a magical site. Well I hope you can make sense of my wording and hope you enjoy my suggestions.
    Loving your emails and blogging of wisdom and warmth.
    Warm regards

  6. Babs Harris says:

    Pick a sunny spot & plant “Tire Potatoes”, takes a lot less space, 4 tires high have produces about 50 lbs., I wanted 2 types, so only used 2 tires for each, got about the same amount. Dig down at least 8 inches, put a tire around it, put in about 5 good eyed potatoes, cover with soil. When they start to poke through, add more potatoes & soil, keep doing it till full. Make sure you push soil into the tires or cut back the rim’s before to give more room.
    Do “the 3 sisters” plant corn, squash & climbing beans all together(I prefer Scarlet runners – which produce until freeze up as long as you pick them), don’t forget to plant squash in a raised bed, hill the corn as it grows. Hummingbirds love the Scarlet runners & 6/8 will feed a family well. I prefer the long narrow beets, cook & taste much better & tender, nicer in presentation & pickles. Herbs are awesome, can be tucked in almost anywhere.
    Try to find a good book on “Companion Planting”, my first effort – garlic with strawberries was great. I believe that if I have to support & care for it then it must provide for me, so my trees are September Ruby apple, awesome for hand eating or with cheese & a Birch for my soul, shrubs are blueberries, raspberries & saskatoons, all the other trees had to go as they kept out too much sunlight. I have 2 raised beds, 20 ” high, 4′ wide & one 8′ long, the other 10′ long, take up far less space, you can plant them very densely & easier to plant/weed/& harvest. I am single & had lots to give away, had 16 different veggies, about 8 herbs. Enjoy

  7. LuAnn says:

    Lotsa berries can go in that overgrown brambled area. Container plantings in case you want to move them around the sunny areas. Grow vertically – wood pallet vertical gardening. Salad greens in garden bowls that move in and out of sunny areas as needed.
    I would love to see the inside also and see how you guys are redecorating your new nest. Share please.
    Welcome Home!

  8. Tine says:

    Vertical gardening in dappled shade is fantastic for herbs, lettuce, etc. Easy to water by installing drip feed system – could even be automated. There are lots different ways to grow vertical. One of my favourite ways are old baskets, boots, etc especially for cherry tomatoes. I know someone who even uses bras to grow her herbs in…How is that for a focal point?! Something else springing to mind would a solar powered water feature. Does not need to be at ground level to make it safe for little people.

  9. eva winderix says:

    how about a herbal wall?? you plant vertically so you gain a lot of room for other projects.a flower wall is also an option as well as a veggy wall. well hydrated they need little attention afterwards(exept for enjoying them,that is!)

  10. John says:

    It looks like you get quite a bit of eastern sun. But as the sun turns toward the west it gets filtered by those “small” trees. I think leafy green vegetables and plants from the mint family will work–though the latter needs to be restricted to a chosen amount of space due to its invasive tendencies. But that’s why we have containers! Mint and leafy green vegetables are hardy and actually need less than 6 hours of sun. Plus they cab thrive in the shade. Also mint is hardy to zone 6, so that works too. Both plants don’t do too well in hot weather though.

  11. Ella says:

    Chamomile lawn for unwinding and relaxing together, and grey water system, rain water collection areas to make the most of the water and recycle it as much as possible. You could also innoculate some logs with mushrooms!!

  12. Lynn Rhoades says:

    Congratulations on the new house!
    Personally I would incorporate a aquaponics system into the yard/garden area. A nice decorative/functional fish pond maybe with a water fall(solar pump to insure the plants stay hydrated), stocked with tilapia or whichever fish you prefer. The pond could be built 2-3 feet high, incorporate a cover to keep fishing birds and small children from accessing the pond. The fish supply the nutrients for the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Time to maintain is minimal, water consumption is minimal, mostly evaporation. Also I like the round (shaped like a pie with a piece missing) gardens like the missionaries have been teaching the tribes in Africa to build to grow their gardens. Again they are 14-16 inches tall, a wire “compost tower” in the center (accessed from the missing pie piece) to add daily kitchen scraps which will break down and fertilize your crops. This design too requires minimal water. The round design also allows a patio umbrella to be used in the hot summer months to protect tender vegetation from being burned up and extend your growing season. One other Item I would include if it is not against any codes is a bee hive (keep the lawn mower away, it really stirs up these other wise peaceful creatures). Bees are great helpers and best of all Fresh RAW honey and plant pollination too! Again if ordinance does allow I would incorporate a rain catch/storage system from the roof. There are some unique underground water storage systems that can be installed prior to construction for maximum water storage and efficiency (some can be installed under a driveway, not cheap though).
    A home is where your heart is.

  13. Ana says:

    Hi dear Kevin and Annemarie,
    I don’t know if you are asking only for vegetation ideas,
    but my suggestion would be to leave spaces for the kid-s to play, work, exercise, etc., unless you have a lot of playing, working, exercising spaces outside of your home, very nearby.
    – Sandpit and/or play “quarry” where they could dig, build with mud, etc; water play (even a little plastic pool) for when they are small.
    – For later on, a table or surface where they can freely paint, glue, model, nail, etc. without fear of staining the house floor, plus shelves to hold all the creative materials.
    – If you have a medium size flat space, crocket is simple, fun and great for coordination and little kids can start playing it from a VERY young.
    – A swing hung from a tree? Don’t know if your trees are big-strong enough.
    – A trampoline (my grandson, 3 years old, REALLY enjoys his and his legs are very strong from it)
    – A horizontal ladder for strengthening the muscles and increasing the lung capacity.
    With much love,

  14. LynnCS says:

    The Urban Homestead® – A City Farm, Sustainable Living …

    You may have already discovered these sites, but thought I’d pass them along. There are some pretty good ideas. Lynn

    • annie says:

      I just want to say a big THANKYOU to Lynn for passing along the link to the Garden of Eden film. I, for one, had no knowledge of this system. I watched the whole film yesterday (and its free) and I’m totally awestruck by this discovery – so amazingly simple and beautiful. If only the whole world could know about this – Right Now !

  15. Walter Smith says:

    An idea for your carport.
    Replace your roof with fibreglass panels that are transparent. Place hanging baskets of tomatoes, strawberries and
    blueberries all along the outside edge. Leave inside open (next to your house) so you can water, prune and pick.
    As this area looks to be quite sheltered you should have a good harvest.

  16. Rona says:

    Mini spa in the car port. Enclose it and add a sky light. You could have a steam room or a float tank. Or just a really pretty green room with lots of plants and a tub so you can take a hot bath under the stars.

  17. kat says:

    Stain your driveway and carport concrete terracotta colored – with a big concrete saw cut grooves and then
    stain the concrete in an excellent imitation of terracotta paver tiles, say 24” square, or whatever works best with
    your area.
    Build a wide narrow planter box to place in front of the carport (placed so you still have access) using cheap 4″
    X 4″ pine fence or redwood posts (or concrete slab). Just stack them up, no mortar or anything (you want
    water to be able to escape-will email pictures with the stacking pattern). Take a big long drill bit and drill holes down
    through the stack and pounded steel rebar into the holes. Then seal up inside and out with waterproof
    stain/varnish in several coats. Partly for cosmetics and partly to help the wood keep lasting you might redo the
    outside and concrete stain every few years. Since these sit on a concrete patio, put a layer of gravel in the bottom for drainage, top with weed fabric, topped with potting soil. After planting you can top with coconut coir to assist with
    keeping soil moist.
    Purchase or build (ie. redwood or copper pipe) several obelisk trellis to plant in the box, effectively building a
    plant wall to shield the contents within, and improve feng shui. Plant with beautiful shade loving vines such as
    Japanese hydrangea. If you see a weed, pull it.

  18. Scott Meier says:

    I like the Permaculture Food Forest in the Yard. — Check This Out Great Suggestions
    Enjoy Your Journey

  19. Pat says:

    I would do the following:

    1. MOVE TO IDAHO/ Reason: Radiation from Japan has destroyed west coast of America and the Pacific Ocean.
    Sale your home as soon as possible before the masses wake up to this horror. 22% of children birth to 3

    WEB SITE: has more on the fruits veggies and nuts from California that have cicium137
    and 134 in higher than norm’s allowed by regulations. They are stationed in Santa Monica CA.

    Also, covers Japan’s Nuke disaster ever Monday night on his web radio show.

    2. If you do stay putt I would do AUQUAPONICS Under cover of a greenhouse. You get fish, veggies and fruits
    that are as pure and life supporting as you can farm for your self. NO GMO NO CHEMTRAIL ALUMINUM or
    other crap to destroy your DNA RNA MATRICS

    I wish you well

  20. Im not a gardenEr type, I would like to be but learning some from this experiment. This is what I would do
    Carport plant lots of mushroom types, herbs, kale, spinach. A wall herb garden would be neat or mushrooms on the wall
    One area outside in garden…carrots!! Yellow for sure.

    Good luck it’ll be fun, Stephanie

  21. Gracie says:

    Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
    Lots of great advice in that book!
    A great resource for any level of gardening expertise.
    No need to enter me in the contest.
    Happy Gardening!

  22. Tammy says:


    Succulents, cactus and shade loving potted plants go under the carport.

    A couple of fruit trees would do well in the side yard.

    Plant vines and berries along the wall.

    Definitely use a greenhouse for tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and other edible cultivars.

    Try growing vines, melons and squash type plants in the garden beds. and also, plant herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, mint, thyme, and lavender either in your garden bed, or in pots or wine barrels.

    Make a compost area too , because your chickens are going to want to scrounge in it and eat yummy leftovers if you allow it… (However, rodents in the area make this one tough)

    and plant Roses if you like those too~ my latest favorite is hanging basket strawberry plants ~~

    hope that helps some. ~~

  23. Rosemary says:

    We live in the foothills of northern California and we have very limited sun in the forest. We got tired of fighting the deer jumping over the fence and eating our veggies. Our best sun was on our second story deck. We put wheels on half wine barrels and planted our veggies and herbs in 5 wine barrels. It works great as we can move them around the deck if we want.

  24. Athena Dyer says:

    I visited an organic aquaponics garden a few weeks ago on a military spouse field trip. They have great solutions for small spaces and vertical gardens that practically run themselves. Their YouTube channel is filled with all kinds of info. Can’t wait to see the finished project! 🙂

  25. Phil says:

    Sounds like you have lots of great design ideas, so I’ll just mention another part of the story – your soil!

    As I’m sure you already know, buying and planting a bunch of plants for a new garden without testing and improving your soil first is like buying and taking a bunch of supplements without testing your current level of health.

    You can do it and you’ll get decent plants, but if your goal is nutrient density, which is actually much more difficult than it sounds, my suggestions would be:

    * Send a soil sample to a good, organic lab and follow their recommendations for balancing soil fertility
    * Learn how to make or buy high quality compost to increase organic matter and improve soil biology
    * Use microbial inoculants like compost tea, effective microorganisms and mycorrhizal fungi to ensure you have a healthy and diverse soil food web
    * Use some of those broad spectrum fertilizers you’ve discussed on your blog before such as rock dust and sea minerals

    Have fun! Phil (Smiling Gardener)

  26. Hi,
    Thought with an area only 20×40 it would be best to go aqua ponics. Put a 300 gallon or more fish tank in the less sunny area so less algea grows in it and keeps the fish cool. Then pump the water from the tank high enough that three grow beds 4×4 get watered by gravity then returns to the fish tank again. Or just gravity feed the water from the fish tank to the grow beds then pump the water back to the fish tank. You would have a fish pond for your little one to enjoy, and the fish waste feeds the plants so you don’t have to fertalize, the plants sustain the fish and you have a sustainable garden. The plants grow way faster this way so you have food sooner, plus you can also add vertical towers over the grow beds for even more space. University of Wyoming shows one way to use the towers in aquaponics or make your own with PVC pipe with melted knotches for each plant space. Murray Hallom in Austrailia best describes how to set up a homemade aquaponics with 300 gallon totes. That is what we are doing at this time. You can also feed the fish by saving food scrapes in a special conainer outside that trapes flies, thier larva crawl into a separate trap. You freeze the larva and feed that to the fish. Cool. Hope you check it out

  27. I am not an amazing gardener and landscaper like all these other folks, wow some great information you’ve received!! I wanted to pass on some information about an amazing product that I just came across in my adventure to get healthier. I am absolutely in L-O-V-E with it! It’s benefits are innumerable, and with someone like you, with limited space, it’s a perfect solution to getting as close to organic garden as possible, without the needed expanse of land. It’s an aeroponic vertical growing system, a “Garden Tower” on which you can grow anything that isn’t a root, or that grows on a tree or bush. So all lettuces, bean, squash, strawberries, celery, herbs, ANYTHING that grows out of the ground. The flavor of the food is AMAZING! Nothing I have ever tasted before. If you love good food and love to cook, the Tower Garden is a must.

    Probably the greatest impact it has on our environment – it’s a closed system which reuses water! The fertilized water is circulated inside the tower and reused, and waters only on the roots; the roots grow into the tower and the produce out of the tower. A professional landscaper who uses this product estimated that it takes approximately 150 gallons of water to grow an organic garden from seed to salad, with the Tower Garden it takes approximately 5 gallons. WOW!

    The fertilizer was developed by professional gardeners and scientists to produce the most nutritious food in the least amount of time. A recent study showed the yield to be 1/4 more with the tower garden vs a conventional soil garden. No phosphates are used, but being a closed system you have no worries about runoff anyway because it all stays in the system.

    So I live in Minnesota and the BEST part about this system for me, I can take it indoors when frost hits (our growing season is from May to October, at best). I can take my Farmer’s Market indoors with me!! With the use of growing lights, I can have local, “organic”, non GMO produce year round. I love that!

    If you want more information, please contact me directly. I’ve posted my website and email address. This product has so much to offer you and your family. I realize I’m not offering you something entirely “organic” for your yard, but this vertical growing system is just something you need to check out.

    Best of Luck!

    Comments are closed for this post.