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. 

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.