Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

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New House, New Farm, New Beginnings

I’d like to offer my apologies for the lack of posts lately. We’re still maintaining our gardens, harvesting, selling, preserving, and re-planting for fall. But a lot of our time has been taken up with our newest venture: buying a house!

house screen shot

We found a house in the city in a great location that sits on a triple lot (13,320 square feet, almost 1/3 acre), completely fenced in. As luck would have it, we’d already been talking with someone in that neighborhood about farming his land (31,800 square feet, about 3/4 acre), just down the alley.

The plan is to use the large lot as our farm and to create an edible food forest, with room for the chickens, dogs, and an outdoor kitchen in our yard. It’s going to be a lot of work, on top of some indoor renovations, but we’re so excited!


Wild Gourd Farm

farm logo gourd winner more words wrapped bottom copy

You may have noticed some changes to the blog here. Well, it’s official, our operation finally has a name- Wild Gourd Farm.

No, we’re not changing our game plan and only growing gourds. We’ll still be tending our various garden patches with various plants throughout the St. Louis area (and have plans for two more gardens in the works). So where’s the name come from?

wild gourdEric recently found a wild gourd vine growing off the banks of the Meramec River, with several dried gourds still attached. Was it cultivated by Native Americans in the area? Did it germinate from seeds swept down the river? This find was mysterious, rare, and beautiful.

wild gordWe’re determined to grow this wild gourd variety and keep its heritage alive. We’ve split one of the gourds open and are working on germinating some of the seeds, which is proving to be a challenge.

In the end, these artifacts symbolize our approach to life and gardening- a return to self-reliance in the wilderness (urban though ours may be), following the natural flow of the seasons, always ready for a challenge.

We’re looking forward to a new gardening season with our new name. St. Louis friends, look for our produce around town, especially at the Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market, starting this Friday, May 3rd!

A Sad Mystery

We have some sad news to report. Fanny, our Jersey Giant hen, has passed. We’d had the ladies out free ranging the evening before, and all seemed well. The next morning, she was dead- no feathers or bloodshed in sight. We hadn’t noticed any signs of disease, but we’re closely monitoring Chica, Yolko, and Mother just in case.

In looking through the Backyard Chickens forum, it appears that mysterious chicken deaths are not uncommon. That doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Fanny was a wonderful bird and a great pet, the most curious and human-friendly of our flock, and, I must admit, my favorite. She will be missed.

The Great Plant Shuffle

With the low last night dropping dangerously close to freezing, we decided to move our tomato and pepper plants out of the hoop house and into the kitchen. That’s 70 tomato plants (with 40 more in the basement under grow lights) and 32 peppers taking over every available surface!

They were returned to the hoop house this morning, but maybe  not for long- it’s supposed to get cold again tonight. We’re debating whether we’ll move them inside again.

The Onion Experiment: Seedlings

As you can see, there’s a distinct difference between the two experimental groups of onions we planted. On the left, the Ailsa Craig and Italian Red Onion seedlings were kept under a grow light, with a fan blowing to simulate a breeze. On the right, in the round pot, Italian Red Onion seedlings were kept in a south-facing window with no fan.

We should mention that the seedlings in the window did stand up straight on sunny days.  We’ve had a lot of gloomy, rainy days in a row!

Today we moved both groups into the hoop house.

onion seedlings

We can’t wait until the seedlings are strong enough to transplant into the garden!

Keyhole Gardens

In our research on gardening methods we’ve come across keyhole gardens, which are extremely functional because they allow easy access to the interior of the garden. We particularly like the style of keyhole garden that is used in Africa, which includes a compost basket in the center.

We built a compost basket out of sticks and stakes we had lying around the yard. We wove the basket with pliable pine branches, keeping it loose enough to allow the compost to work its way out over time. We dug a drainage pit in the keyhole area that will hopefully collect water to build up a small aquifer beneath it,  ideally reducing the amount of watering we’ll need to do this summer.

We like the keyhole concept so much that we wanted to build another one at our Iowa Street garden (formerly Dave’s Place)!

We had a lot of open space to work with, which unfortunately included a very intrusive grass. We laid down cardboard to smother and hopefully kill it. We then outlined the shape of the keyhole garden with “urbanite,” which we got for free from someone tearing up their sidewalk.

Next we added some of the soil that had been in that area, as well as some leaf compost, straw, and our own finished compost (thanks to the hens). We’ll continue to build up the soil before we plant– we just got some granite dust and sand to add.

Instead of weaving a basket, we used a roll of wire, similar to chicken wire. As you can see, the wall is 2 rows high. We’ll probably continue to build it, as the taller the retaining wall and the higher the mound of soil, the less bending we’ll need to do.

Between our two new keyhole gardens, we’ll have lots of new space to plant this year. We’ll be trying new plants, like ginger, jerusalem artichokes, and some new flowers and herbs.

An Assortment of Native Artifacts

The weather’s been so beautiful in St. Louis this winter, we’ve been able to enjoy the outdoors more than we expected. We found a new creek in the area and discovered the above arrowheads and native stone tools in one afternoon. We’re looking forward to exploring the creek system further and hope to find more artifacts.  When winter finally hits, we’ll have time to research and learn more about our archaeological  findings.

A neighborhood menace


This hawk was sitting on top of our chicken pen this afternoon… it was about as big as Chica! Good thing the ladies are completely fenced in, including chicken wire and corrugated plastic on top, and chicken wire buried along the sides underground.

Roly Poly Radish

We found this roly poly family in one of our radishes.

Rolly polly family

It turns out roly polies are in the crustacean family, so they require moist habitats and are often found helping break down organic matter in compost piles.

Exciting News! Farm Stand at Labeebee’s!

We’ll be selling some of our produce outside of Labeebee’s Mid-East Cafe this coming Saturday, September 10, 2011, starting around 11 AM. Labeebee’s is located at 2609 Cherokee Street, just west of Jefferson (here’s a map).

We’ll be offering peppers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, salad greens,  basil, and more. Stop by and say hi!


We'll have lots of fresh carrots for you!