Many tending veggies instead of grass

  • Wed Mar 14th, 2012 1:02pm
  • Life

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

It used to be that the greenest grass lawn was the envy of the neighborhood.

Not anymore.

In fact, there’s no more grass in Kathie Chapman’s yard. Instead, four raised beds were built, providing ample space for the Everett woman to grow carrots, beans, kohlrabi, celery and, of course, tomatoes.

Ever since Chapman moved into the residential neighborhood in south Everett, she’s been planning to install a garden in her yard.

“I’ve been thinking about it for 13 years,” she said.

She saved up and then learned about Seattle Urban Farm Co., a small local business that helps people turn ornamental yards into productive food gardens.

Enter Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, the owners of Seattle Urban Farm Co. and the authors of “Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Crops at Home.” The book hits stores today.

“We work mostly with people just getting started,” McCrate said.

Since 2007, the two college pals have built a steady business sharing their enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture. They’ve transformed home gardens into healthy, organic beds for food crops.

As a result, people are eating better food and helping the environment.

“Growing food in a sustainable way is something we can do,” he said.

Chapman had her front yard torn up, four raised beds installed with a drip irrigation system, starter crops planted, plus three fruit trees and an herb garden — all for about $3,000. The first edible plants to go in were herbs. She’ll grow rosemary, thyme and bay.

“I’m so excited about that,” she said.

For people who don’t want to hire someone, the new book is how-to guide, McCrate said. It basically recreates the same steps McCrate and Halm take when working with a customer like Chapman. With gorgeous photos and conversational writing, the authors lay out an easy-to-follow plan.

They cover how to select the best site to grow food, how to choose and create the right soil and how to build a raised bed or other type of garden. Then McCrate and Halm walk readers through selecting crops that grow well in different climates, including here in the Pacific Northwest.

They try to help people overcome common mistakes.

Soil often is overlooked, they said. Building raised beds creates an advantage because most people will start with fresh, new dirt, not the existing construction soil that’s frequently used in residential neighborhoods, McCrate said. Raised beds also allow the soil to warm more quickly and drain better.

The two men suggest starting small and planting only crops that likely will thrive and produce. Planning the garden is essential to prevent overcrowding and to get the most from your space, they say.

“Having a plan laid out is really important,” McCrate said.

Now’s the time to do that. By April, it’s time to start sowing salad greens, carrots, cabbages and broccoli. Potatoes can be planted.

“It all gets filled up pretty quick,” McCrate said.

Chapman can’t wait for her new garden to start producing. She’s expecting to have enough harvested to share.

“I’ll be giving it out at Halloween,” she said.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447;

Learn more

You can reach urban food experts Colin McCrate and Brad Halm at the Seattle Urban Farm Co. at 206-816 -9740, or check out their website at

Their book, “Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Crops at Home,” is available in bookstores, or on List price is $24.95