Arlington, VA

When moving into a small living space, growing crops seems like a faraway possibility.

Local company Love & Carrots wants to prove otherwise.

As a part of Arlington’s “Urban Agriculture Month,” on Friday, October 11, Love & Carrots hosted a public tour of their ordinarily private rooftop garden at the Ten at Clarendon apartment complex, where they taught visitors how to successfully grow vegetables in their own homes or apartment buildings.

During the tour, Carly Mercer, director of garden programming for Love & Carrots, debunked common issues with urban farming, including a perception that it’s difficult to do well.

“A lot of it comes down to frequent watering, pest control, and maintaining a deep enough level of soil,” said Mercer.

Many urban gardeners who grow herbs out of their balcony, she said, plant them in shallow pots that, unbeknownst to most, require watering every one to two hours.

But growing plants on a rooftop also comes with its faults, Mercer added.

“We can’t grow crops on a trellis, so things like grapes are out of the question. And with heavier winds, we had to rule out heavier produce — a butternut squash once went flying off of a rooftop.”

Across the D.C. area, Love & Carrots creates garden spaces for schools, non-profits, residences, restaurants, and residential communities. Every other week, Love & Carrots gardener stops by to help maintain the plants. The company is growing as local interest in urban agriculture blooms.

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Their space at Ten at Clarendon provides apartment residents with a monthly share of the produce, and every other week, a Love & Carrots farmer lays out fresh harvests in the lobby for all residents to enjoy.

Additional urban agriculture activities throughout the month include a screening of the movie “Growing Cities,” and open garden tours through the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

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(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) An Arlington Transit bus has careened into the Barton Street community garden after a crash near Courthouse.

The crash happened around 3:05 p.m. at the intersection of 10th Street N. and N. Barton Street.

At least two vehicles were involved: a sedan, which suffered heavy front-end damage, and an ART bus, which knocked over a light pole and street signs before coming to rest in the middle of the garden.

A passenger told ARLnow that the bus had a green light and was coming down the hill on Barton when it was struck by the sedan. The sedan’s driver was cited by officers for running a red light, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said.

Passengers could be heard comforting the bus driver after the crash, saying it “could have happened to anyone.”

No serious injuries were reported, though one female passenger said her arm hurt. Drivers should expect lane closures on 10th Street and slow traffic in the area while crews work to clean up the crash scene.

The crash follows an incident on Tuesday in which an ART bus crashed into a building after rolling through a rental truck depot.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report.

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Arlington County is turning trash into treasure by growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce for a local food bank using compost from residents.

Last February, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau began a pilot program to create compost from residents’ food scraps. Now some of that compost is coming full circle and being used in some of the local gardens that supply fresh produce for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

AFAC is a nonprofit that receives around a million and a half pounds of food donations annually. The goods comes from several sources: grocery stores, private food drives, farmers markets and farms, and gardens around the region, according to spokesman Jeremiah Huston. Part of that comes from its “Plot Against Hunger” program, which cultivates the fresh produce.

AFAC staffer Puwen Lee manages this program, which she helped grow back in 2007 after noticing the food bank distributed frozen vegetables even in the summer months.

“And I thought, ‘This is really strange because I got so many vegetables in my garden,'” she said. After mentioning it to the nonprofit’s leadership, Lee said the director dropped off 600 packs of seeds on her desk and left it up to her.

Since then, Lee, who grew up gardening in Michigan, estimates the program has received over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and has grown to include gardens from the Arlington Central Library, schools, and senior centers — and now it’s experimenting with using waste from residents themselves.

Trading trash for treasure

The Solid Waste Bureau collects food waste in two green barrels behind a rosebush by its headquarters in the Trades Center in Shirlington. The waste is then dumped into a 10-foot-high, 31-foot-long earth flow composting stem that cooks the materials under a glass roof and generates 33 cubic yards of compost in about two weeks.

When Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky opens the doors to the machine, the heady smell of wine wafts out, revealing a giant auger slowly whirring through the blackened bed, turning the composting food.

Grabowsky said the final mix is cut with wood chips — something not always ideal for most vegetable gardens. But Grabowksy says it’s an “evolving” mixture that the department will tweak over time and which he plans to test in the department’s own garden next to the machine.

After the wood chips, the mix is shifted through a hulking “trammel screen” and distributed to AFAC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

On a recent weekday, workers Travis Haddock and Lee Carrig were busy in Bobcats shuffling dirt off the paved plaza Grabowksy says will host the department’s first open house next Saturday, June 8 to show how the recycling system works. Normally, they manage repairs to the auger and the flow of compost in and out of the machine.

(When asked what their favorite part of the job was, they joked it was when the auger “stops in the middle and you got to climb in there.”)

The department’s free June event, called “Rock-and-Recycle,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s lot in the Trades Center and will feature music and food trucks. Attendees will also be able to check out the compost for themselves, as well as the nearby Rock Crusher and Tub Grinder.

From farm to food bank

AFAC is currently experimenting with using the compost for one of its gardens. The nonprofit also makes its own mix using plant scraps and weeds pulled up from the beds.

Near AFAC’s Shirlington headquarters, volunteers run a garden that donates all its yield to the food bank. Boy Scouts originally built the raised beds that now make up 550 square feet of gardening space, and grow lettuce, beets, spinach, green beans, kale, tomatoes, and radishes, on a plot near a water pump station along S. Walter Reed Drive.

Plot Against Hunger manager Lee said the space was originally planned as a “nomadic garden” in 2013, but thanks to the neighboring Fort Barnard Community and the Department of Water and Sewer, it became a permanent fixture on Walter Reed Drive.

Certified Master Gardener Catherine Connor has managed the organic garden for the last three years. She says she’s helped set up the rain barrels and irrigation system that waters the beds in addition to supervising the planting. Now the beds are thick with greens and bumblebees hum between the flowers of the spinach plants that have gone to seed.

“Last year, we had just an incredible growing season,” Lee said. “From the farmers markets alone we picked up something like 90,000 pounds [of food.]”

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Morning Notes

Bicyclists on a group ride in Lyon Park

McAuliffe to Sign Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will sign two pieces of school-related legislation during a visit to Wakefield High School Thursday morning. McAuliffe will sign SB 336/HB 895, which updates and modernizes high school graduation requirements, and SB 573/HB 279, which makes it easier for those in Career and Technical Education fields to become adjunct teachers.

Clement Calls for More Paving — Perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who is running as an independent for County Board, is calling for Arlington County to accelerate its street paving. “There are way too many potholes and cracked and broken pavements for Arlington residents to drive or walk safely to work, school, or shopping centers — let alone to bike,” Clement said. [Audrey Clement]

County Regroups After Crowdfunding Fail — Arlington County tried to raise $10,000 in donations to make the Glebe and Lang Street Community Garden accessible to those with disabilities. After raising only $465, the county is looking for matching funds in its budget to build a scaled-down version of its original plan. [Washington Post]

Basketball Star Selling Lyon Park Home — Trajan Langdon, who recently was named Assistant General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, is selling his Lyon Park home for $2 million. Langdon was a first round draft pick who struggled in the NBA but went on to stardom in the Euroleague. The home includes a soda machine and a giant walk-in shoe closet. [Real House Life of Arlington]

Proposed CIP Doesn’t Include New High School — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan includes additions to Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools, which will add 800 seats, but does not include a plan for a new high school. Even with the additions, Arlington’s public high schools are expected to be overcapacity by the early 2020s. [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Hello, Spring (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

Water Main Repairs to Close Road — Arlington Ridge Road is scheduled be closed in both directions at 23rd Street S. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today for water main repairs. Detours will be in place, but drivers should consider alternate routes, Arlington County says.

Airport Strike is Back on Starting Tonight — A strike by contract service workers at Reagan National and other major U.S. airports is back on, starting tonight. The strike was initially planned for last week but was postponed due to the Brussels terror attacks. [Washington Post]

Arson Suspect Due in Arlington Court — A Reston man suspected of a home invasion and arson in Fairfax County is scheduled to be in an Arlington courtroom tomorrow. Antwan Green is also facing multiple charges stemming from crashing a stolen vehicle in Arlington on Dec. 10 and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. [Reston Now]

Fundraiser for Accessible Community Garden — Arlington County is trying to raise $10,000 from donors in order to build four “vertical gardens” that are accessible to those with disabilities or mobility issues. Currently, none of the county’s community gardens are accessible. The vertical gardens would be built at the Glebe & Lang Street Community Garden, along S. Glebe Road. The county is hoping to complete fundraising and construction by the end of June. [Fund Your Park]

Arlington Startup Acquired — Arlington-based startup Encore Alert has been acquired by Meltwater, a San Francisco-based brand analytics and consulting firm. As a result of the acquisition, the Encore Alert team has moved to the Bay Area. [DC Inno]

Co-Working Growing Quickly — Co-working providers are growing quickly and are expected by some analysts “to absolutely explode over the next five years.” Two of the top players are WeWork, which just opened a new office in Crystal City, and MakeOffices, which is opening a new flagship co-working space in Clarendon within the next few months. MakeOffices is based in Rosslyn, after being founded as UberOffices in 2012. [Bisnow]

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

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Arl Comm Garden For the second time in a year, Arlington County is planning to expand one of its seven community gardens.

The County Board yesterday unanimously approved the purchase of a house at 2822 S. Arlington Ridge Road, a .22 acre property adjacent to the Lang Street Community Garden, for $699,000.

The house is described as a “modest, colonial-style home built three-quarters of a century ago,” which was determined to not be historic.

The County plans to tear down the house and use the land to expand the garden, which is currently 1.2 acres and includes 70 garden plots. The expansion will enable the addition of 45 half-size plots.

Arlington has seven community gardens comprising about 300 individual plots. As of now, the wait list for one of these plots has close to 500 names on it.

Photo via arlingtonva.us

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The community garden on S. Four Mile Run Drive will grow by almost 10,000 square feet, giving space for 40 new gardeners to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the garden’s expansion, entering into agreements with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — which owns the land — and Dominion Power, which runs power lines above where the garden expansion will be.

“What a great example of thinking outside the box to find solutions,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “This is a win-win for everyone. Not only will the County be able to provide more garden plots, the space is currently overrun with invasive plants, which will be removed when the garden is built by Parks and Recreation staff.”

The expansion will tack on 9,900 square feet to the garden, which is directly adjacent to the W&OD Trail, and across the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The garden will be on the NVRPA’s land, and as part of the agreement, if the park authority deems it needs the space, or the garden is encroaching too much on trail users, it can terminate the agreement with 60 days’ notice. The county is responsible for maintaining the garden, and the gardens are each run by a community association and an appointed “chief gardener.”

The expansion will add space to help whittle down the ever-expanding waiting list of gardeners hoping to use county space to grow their plants, a recommendation of the Urban Agriculture Task Force. According to the county, there are about 350 people on waiting lists for plots and half-plots of space at one of Arlington’s seven community gardens.

One plot costs $60 a year with water and $50 without water. The expansion will bring the total number of plots in county gardens to 265. Full 20-foot-by-20-foot plots are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and those interested in joining the waiting list can apply online.

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There are eight community gardens around Arlington, and each has a wait list. At the South Four Mile Run garden, however, one gardener is wondering why the county is allowing the high-demand plots to fall into a state of disrepair.

“I am a co-gardener of a garden plot in the Fort Barnard Community Gardens, [and] if my garden plot looked the way that many of the plots on South Four Mile Run do, my plot would be considered abandoned and the privileges to the plot would be revoked,” the man wrote in an email to a county official. He asked that his name not be used in this article.

“Nearly all of the plots are in violation of one or more of the County Community Garden Rules,” the gardener wrote. “I waited for 2 years to get a garden plot. To see residents [who] have garden plots neglect them and not use them to their full potential is frustrating.”

The man called the Four Mile Run garden an “eyesore” and said sent photos along to prove it. He said the photos show:

  • “Many of the plots were never cut back and cleared for the winter. Vines and weeds have overtaken many of the plots and fences. In some cases the vines have grown beyond the boundaries of garden plots.”
  • “Many of the gardeners have erected 6-8 ft wooden structures that are crudely constructed to grow vines on. Many of the structures have collapsed, are broken, or leaning.”
  • “Trash such as empty buckets, jugs, milk crates, tarps, propped up carpets that are used for weed barriers, wheelbarrows, shoes, lumbar, broken chairs, bed frames, and PVC pipes are some of the items that litter the garden plots.”
  • “The fences that create the boundaries for the community garden are in disrepair. Many of the rails are broken and laying on the ground. In one garden plot the fence has been pulled down because of the weight of the weedy vines growing on it.”

The county’s 200+ community garden plots are in high demand among apartment and condo dwellers who have a green thumb but no land to call their own. But Jamie Bartalon, the landscape and forestry supervisor for the county’s parks department, says that regulations only require the gardens to be cleaned up in time for the summer growing season.

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