Photo courtesy of World Coffee Cafe.

Why I grow: Downtown rooftop gardening

More and more of Asheville’s downtown dwellers are finding creative ways to use their urban spaces for growing food. Russell Thomas, owner of the Flatiron Building, tells Xpress how he and his staff are converting the rooftop of the historic building into a hydroponic and raised-bed garden that is a source of both veggies and renewable energy for the building and its businesses. 

Photo by Jessica Merchant, courtesy of FEAST.

FEAST supplements the curriculum with garden-based education

Incorporating garden-based education with an emphasis on healthy eating into the regular curriculum is the goal of two in-school programs run by FEAST, an extension of Slow Foods Asheville. Funds gathered by FEAST and school PTOs will support faculty positions in two elementary schools this academic year where a FEAST Garden and Cooking Coordinator will work to bring the schools’ gardens into the classroom.

Greening up the neighborhood: Gardeners like Joel Beacola are transforming unmaintained city spaces into public gardens. But navigating the bureaucracy of gardening in public spaces can be a hurdle. Photo by Carrie Eidson.

Greening tactics: Different paths lead to gardens in abandoned spaces

Many gardens in Asheville rest on public property that was once overgrown and unused. These spaces have been transformed but the methods that brought the transformation sometimes differ. Some gardeners in Asheville have taken their spots through guerrilla gardening. In some ways it’s comparable to being a graffiti artist or even a squatter, but some say it’s preferable to jumping through the hoops of bureaucracy.

Black Mountain librarian Denise King. Photo by Carrie Eidson

Check it out: Seed sharing is sprouting at the library

The premise of a seed library is relatively simple — patrons of the library “check out” their selections to grow the season’s crops and then return usable seeds from their harvest at the end of the season. The goal is to provide a free source of locally adapted crops and contribute to the biodiversity of local agriculture. Ideally, as the seed library continues to operate, the number of seeds and varieties available will continue to increase.

Keeping swimming: Aquaponics is creating quite the stir — literally! The systems keep water flowing between symbiotic environments of plant and fish habitats, creating a year-round farm. Photo by Hayley Benton.

Technology and nature blend in soil-less farming

It’s a cycle known as aquaponics, which uses dual-tanked plant-and-fish habitats to create a symbiotic environment and a sustainable system that mimics the natural world. One tank holds the fish; the other, the plants. A pump flows water between the two, aerating the water in the process. Along with hydroponics — a similar idea that focuses solely on raising vegetation — it’s a creating an alternative to traditional in-soil farming.

Take a good long look: The Cullowhee Native Plants Conference, running from July 15 through July 19, encourages enthusiasts to really 'dig in' to their love of native plants. Photo by Ashley Evans, courtesy of WCU.

Video: Plant enthusiasts assemble for the Native Plants Conference

Brace yourselves — the plant enthusiasts are coming. From Tuesday, July 15 through Saturday, July 19, Western North Carolina will once again play host to the Cullowhee Native Plants Conference, an annual event with workshops and field trips exploring many aspects of native plants. Get a feel for the conference with a video tour of the plants of Black Balsam Ridge.

The eve of Wamboldtopia: "This whole place is a love story," says Damaris Pierce, seen here in the garden's wedding circle — Damaris' "engagement ring" built by Ricki Pierce (left). "There's a lot of letting go." Photo by Carrie Eidson.

Leaving fairyland: Wamboldtopia’s creators say goodbye to their garden home

Since 1999, Wamboldtopia has been the ever-growing home and garden of artists Damaris and Ricki Pierce. It began as a steep, shady hillside covered in grass, but after 15 years of transformation, Wamboldtopia is a West Asheville institution — a fairyland covered in stone. But for Damaris and Ricki, this is the last season in the garden before they place the home on the market and prepare to move on to new and separate lives.