Photo by Marcel Ray

Bucket Brigade is a vegetable container gardening project that rescues unwanted buckets and turns them into mini vegetable gardens for people who want to grow some of their own food.

Volunteers at Bucket Brigades teach people how to plant and seed vegetable containers and give them gardening resources and information to make their garden a success!

Since 2008, more than 1,200 people have taken home a Bucket Brigade container garden and seeds to keep their garden growing.

Photos by Carlos Paradinha Photography

Help us kick off spring gardening with a tomato Bucket Brigade!

When: Saturday, May 14, 9 am - 12pm

Where: West Seattle driveway: 3726 SW Austin St. (between Webster and Ida)

Pick up a tomato bucket (rare and unusual varieties) and 3 mini-packs of seeds for $5. Throw in an Urban Land Army t-shirt for an even $12.

Bring your vegetable gardening questions, and if you have a bucket from a previous Bucket Brigade, bring it along and we’ll replant it.

Hope to see you there!

It’s been a long, wet, clammy winter here in the Pacific Northwest, and, like any good Canadian, I took the winter off.

But we’re back in business, helping people to get their spring gardens growing, planning Bucket Brigades, and going to cool events, like this one:

This Saturday and Sunday, April 16 & 17, from 12-3 pm, I’ll be at “A Mighty House” - a stop on the Northwest Ecobuilding Guild’s 2011 Seattle Green Home Tour. I’ll have demonstration container gardens, seeds, and tips for starting your spring garden, even if you don’t have any land!

Stop by and see us, and check out this really cool house - a renovation project of Mighty House Construction that has created a healthy and green family home using energy conservation methods, reused and salvaged materials, and more.

Hello, spring!

The Garden is a night of film, music, and conversation about urban agriculture, and we would love to see you there.

The evening begins with a screening of the documentary, “The Garden”, which tells the story of a group of scrappy community gardeners in LA battling against property developers (aka “The Man”).

Then, a panel of gardening types - including yours truly - will discuss our experiences and ideas for urban agriculture in Seattle (and beyond!).

And then the music starts….

Please come!

When: Saturday, October 9, 7-10 pm (doors open at 6:30)
Where: Pigott Auditorium, Seattle University

Check out more info about the event and get your tickets:

Hurry! It’s just one week away.

You know PARK(ing) Day? It is an annual global event where city people transform metered parking spots into temporary parks. Man, we love this stuff.

PARK(ing) Day is tomorrow - Friday, September 17, and Urban Land Army will be parking itself next to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) at 5th and Columbia downtown. Our park celebrates Seattle’s Year of Urban Agriculture and we’ll be sharing seeds, dispensing gardening advice (this is SDOT, so think parking strip gardening), and hanging out with chickens.

Stop by to see us 9:30-2:30 and check out the other parks-for-a-day!

Real life gardens are way more fun than interweb ones, so stop by and see us, eh?

Saturday, July 10, 11-4, is the 3rd annual West Seattle Edible Garden Tour sponsored by Community Harvest of Southwest Seattle, and Urban Land Army Headquarters is on the route.


a t-shirt draw…

a Bucket Brigade display…

… and a tour of the unseasonally short but mighty garden await.

Get your tickets and a map at St. James Community Garden: 9421 18th Ave SW, 98106 or through Brown Paper Tickets.

We’ll be waiting.

Rain. Chill. Drip. Blah. We know.

Don’t have the garden in yet? Freaking out a little?

If you’re a Seattleite, there will be three Bucket Brigades tomorrow to help you get growing!

Bucket Brigade is a little project of ours that turns unwanted buckets into vegetable container gardens. On Saturday, June 5, we will be planting up and handing out bucket gardens at not one, but three locations:

1. The Duwamish Community Environmental Health Fair at Concord Elementary School in South Park from 11-3.

2. Delridge Day/ReFRESH Southwest Festival from 1-5 pm at the Delridge Community Center and Playfield in West Seattle.

3. Beacon Hill Festival at the Jefferson Community Center, 11-4. Sustainable South Seattle is taking the lead on this one, so look for their booth.

Come chat with us about growing vegetables in containers and in other small city nooks and crannies, and take home a container garden!


By Anne Taintor

This could be you!

Want to start a vegetable garden this year?

Want to improve your gardening skills with hands-on help?

Urban Land Army offers vegetable garden consulting and we are booking appointments now.

We can help you to plan, plant, and learn how to grow a vegetable garden that would make your grandma proud. We also offer customized field manuals and pocket guides that are filled with gardening information and designed to help you plan and keep track of your gardening exploits.

Call or email Sandy to arrange a free half-hour consultation.

206 932 5880

We are all-organic, all the time.

We are based in West Seattle, but love to travel. Contact us to see if your yard is within range.


Spring Into Bed is a city-wide day of garden building happening this Saturday, May 8, across Seattle.

Spearheaded by Cascadian Edible Landscapes, the goal of Spring Into Bed is to build and revive as many vegetable gardens as we can in one day. The square footage will be tracked, hands will get dirty, and the day will wrap up with a big fun party at South Seattle Community College Arboretum, 4-8 pm.

Learn how to become a Brigadier!

Urban Land Army, together with fine folks from King County Public Health and Seattle Parks & Recreation, will be holding a Bucket Brigade demonstration to coincide with Spring Into Bed.

Not everyone has a piece of land to call their own, but a container garden can turn a sunny balcony, patio, or a unsightly brown area into a veggie paradise. And you can help bring them to the people! Look for us at the Spring Into Bed wrap-up party at South Seattle Community College. Find out what Bucket Brigade is all about, how to volunteer at upcoming Brigades, or how to hold your own.

Where: South Seattle Community College Arboretum, 6000 16th Ave. SW, Seattle, WA, 98106

When: 4-6 pm (but the party goes until 8pm!)

Get your garden on

Want to build a garden or help someone else with a garden? Visit the Spring Into Bed website to find out how to get involved and check out the garden map to see all the new little patches of green!

It is a warm and sunny weekend in Seattle - ideal for outdoor spring cleaning and pea planting - but alas, I am confined to the chesterfield with the flu.

It’s not all bad though - I’ve been able to prepare a long list of projects for Urban Land Army’s Head Scavenger, Baker, and Master Builder, and he’s already tackling the most pressing and exciting one: the cold frame.

A cold frame is essentially a mini-greenhouse - a box with a glass lid - where you can grow burly little seedlings like lettuce, spinach, beets, parsley, and other hardy greens. Starting them outside in a cold frame lets you get a jump on the season, and it frees up space indoors for growing the more sensitive, heat-loving crops, like tomatoes, peppers, and basil. You can also use the cold frame to “harden off” (toughen up, weather-proof) these plants when they move outdoors in late-spring.

In researching building plans for cold frames, I came across a detail-oriented Canadian who provides a materials list, photos, and step-by-step instructions for building this solid and most excellent cold frame.

Note that building this particular cold frame is not for the faint of heart - you will require a circular saw and at least a rudimentary understanding of beveling - but you can simplify the design and take what you need from it. The basic principles - taller at the back than at the front, a wooden box with a hinged glass lid, are all there.

Prefer old-fashioned bricks and mortar or no-nonsense concrete blocks? These would work as a base too: just stack them up and add a glass or plexiglass top that is secured, weighted down, and easily removable in some way, shape, or form.

As for us, Head Scavenger has accumulated a good deal of scrap wood and old windows, so a quick trip to the back of the garage and we were well on our way.

The mock-up:

I will report back next weekend when the cold frame will hopefully be primed and painted, and ready to house the first seedlings of spring!

It’s nice to share

This Saturday, February 20 from 1-4 pm at South Seattle Community College, there is a Seed Swap and Sale!

Hosted by the good folks of Community Harvest of Southwest Seattle (CHOSS), you can swap and buy a wide variety of vegetable seeds from local seed companies and your neighbors. View a seed list, get directions, and read more about the event.

Sharing seeds is really smart for city gardeners because we often don’t have enough space to plant all the seed that comes in a pack. Over time, seed starts to add up, expire, and mildly irk Mr. Urban Land Army when new, different, bigger, better seed comes waltzing through the door each year. Sharing seeds with fellow gardeners helps to smooth things out and it is much easier on the budget.

Plus, sharing is nice.

If you are on the lookout for a handy way to share, store, and keep track of your seeds, we produce and sell the very nifty City Seed Pack:

These are empty packs that include space to fill in all the information you need to grow a good plant: seed name and variety, days to sprout, days to maturity, seed spacing, and more. Simply copy the information from the pack you’re taking seed from and fill it up with a tidy amount of seeds. Just what you need!

The City Seed Pack is sold in stacks of 5 for just 1 American dollar. If you would like to place an order, drop a line to Headquarters. We’d love to send some your way.

In warmish climates like the Pacific Northwest, the days are starting to get longer and a bunch of us have seed starting on the brain. Now is the time to get some of those babies started, and we’ll be showing you how with photos and how-to instructions.

In the meantime, get yourself to the Seed Swap and start building your seed bank!


It’s a new year, people.

And we’re busy planning it!

Bucket Brigade

We’ll help you throw your very own Bucket Brigade with a Bucket Brigade toolkit and workshop.

Grow It Yourself

Need help getting your vegetable garden in order? Want to learn how to start seeds indoors this winter? We offer one-on-one coaching and instruction, and will help you to build your gardening skills and eat well from your garden all season long.

Land Link

We’ll also be beefing up the Land Link program and rolling out some fun new projects like seed liberation and lawn and parking strip conversions.

The seed catalogues are starting to roll in and momentum is building, so stay tuned!

It’s 2010. Let’s garden better…faster…stronger!

Happy New Year.

Here’s the deal:

Seattle Tilth has been teaching people how to grow food in the city for over 30 years - way before most of us ragtag gardeners jumped on the bandwagon - and they’re holding their annual Harvest Fair this Saturday, September 12, 10-5.

Gardening workshops, urban livestock, a farmer’s market, music, and good times await you just behind the cheeriest address in Seattle:

Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N. (in Wallingford)


Every scrap of our gardening know-how has come straight from classes at Seattle Tilth, so we will be standing proud at the Fair with a booth in the Community Show and Tell area. Stop by! We’d love to meet you and hear how your garden made out this season and your plans for next year.

If you need a hand getting your garden in order, ask us about our brand new Grow It Yourself consulting biz. We can help you transform your yard, balcony, or parking strip into a vegetable garden that would make your grandma proud. I am scheduling appointments and work parties now to get you started on building soil this fall for spring planting.

Also ask us about our Bucket Brigade adventures this year (625 veggie containers handed out!) and how you can hold one of these events yourself.

We’ll be selling Urban Land Army t-shirts…

Harvest Fair pricing! $12 one day only.

And City Seed Packs for sharing seeds with that special someone.

Of course, we’ll have some cute little giveaways too.

Hope to see you there.


What is Bucket Brigade?

Bucket Brigade is a vegetable container gardening project that rescues unwanted containers, turns them into mini vegetable gardens, and brings them to the people.

The idea was hatched last year with Little Rae’s Bakery, which was accumulating 20 plastic buckets a week that could not be recycled.

To save these former egg and fruit containers from the landfill, we hauled them back to Urban Land Army Headquarters and had a planting party.

We then teamed up with St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank - where Little Rae’s sends their extra goodies - and handed out 40 vegetable container gardens.

70 more of the veggie buckets found homes in West Seattle on a rainy Saturday morning.

And supplied folks with fall and winter greens…

Photo by Jerry Whiting, satisfied bucket customer

…all the way up to the big freeze of ‘08!

Bucket Brigade spreads like wildfire in ‘09!

This year, the idea really caught on. Urban Land Army teamed up with neighborhood groups, community centers, public health programs, community festivals, and sustainability organizations to host 10 Bucket Brigades, which brought 625 vegetable container gardens to more than 500 people!

Here is a picture show of a few Bucket Brigades held this year…

Rainier Valley

Neighborhood families filled 50 buckets of compost and swapped seeds and plants for spring planting.

Brigadiers: Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition

Rainier Beach Community Center

25 buckets of soil and handfuls of seed packs found homes on a sunny spring morning.

Brigadiers: Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition and Urban Land Army HQ

International District/Chinatown Community Center

30 kids planted up 40 buckets with veggie plants on Earth Day.

Brigadiers: International District/Chinatown Community Center, Seattle Tilth, Urban Land Army HQ, and Seattle Parks & Recreation

Safeway Parking Lot, Rainier Avenue

70 Saturday morning grocery shoppers took home 80 container gardens.

Brigadiers: Urban Land Army HQ, Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition, and Sustainable South Seattle

West Seattle Edible Garden Fair

50 buckets from a local bakery, tomato plants grown in the neighborhood, and a bike-powered garden hose to water the plants. Sustainable West Seattle all right!

Brigadiers: Sustainable West Seattle and Urban Land Army HQ

Othello Park International Festival

85 containers of plants and 100 packs of seeds will keep people in fall greens through the fall and winter.

Brigadiers: Urban Land Army, the Garden Hotline, Master Composter/Soil Builders, and Seattle Tilth

Want to host a Bucket Brigade of your own?

We learned a lot this year about how to organize these events, like what kinds of buckets are best for certain events, where to get buckets, plants, and soil - and how much.

We also learned that a Bucket Brigade can be anything you want it to be: a free event organized with friends, part of a spring seed, plant, and tool swap with your neighbors, or a fundraiser for your community organization.

A Bucket Brigade is also a really fun project for kids and would make a great school fundraiser, especially those that already have a garden for growing plant starts.

The Bucket Brigade Field Guide

Now that we have some lessons and statistics under our belt, Urban Land Army will be producing a Bucket Brigade Field Guide that will be a helpful planning guide for any community group, school, or individual that wants to host a Bucket Brigade of their own.

The Field Guide will include information such as what plants work best in  containers, how to grow them yourself or source them from someone else, schedules and work plans, supply lists, volunteer roles, and much more.

The Guide will be part of a larger Bucket Brigade Field Kit that will include (almost!) everything you need to host a Bucket Brigade, like container gardening information cards, posters for advertising your event, those rad bucket stickers you see here, handy tools for record keeping, and templates for seed pack stickers.

The Bucket Brigade Field Guide and the Field Kit will be available for order from the website and will be ready in lots of time for spring Bucket Brigades.

In the meantime, get in touch if you have questions about hosting a Bucket Brigade of your own and check out the Bucket Brigade page, too.

Thank yooouuu!

Photo from

This year’s Bucket Brigades were made possible by generous donations and discounts from local businesses and the hard work of volunteers. Thanks.

Little Rae’s Bakery (egg and fruit buckets)
Reclaim Media (cd spindle covers)
Tutta Bella Pizzeria (Columbia City) (tomato, artichoke, and chick pea cans)

Backyard Gardener
King County Greenhouse
Oxbow Farm
Neighborhood gardeners

Dragonstone Farms
Neighborhood gardeners

Cedar Grove Compost

Top Brigadiers of 2009

Diana Vergis Vinh, Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition
Kate King, Sustainable South Seattle
Maren Neldam, South Shore School Garden
Sue Gibbs, Sustainable South Seattle
Richard Wilson, Sustainable South Seattle
Pam Wrenn, Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition
Becca Fong, Seattle Parks & Recreation
James Morse, Little Rae’s Bakery


Tomato season is in full swing.

So that means the prize winners are reaching their full glory…

The beer can: a Canadian unit of measurement

…and it is time for some tips.

Is this tomato ripe?

You can tell when a tomato is ripe and ready to pick by its colour and feel.

As your hard green tomatoes begin to ripen and change colour, they will pass through a few shades before they are ready to pick and eat. If you’re not sure what they’re supposed to look like when they’re ripe, look up your tomato variety online or in a seed catalogue.

But in real life, a good way to tell is by giving them a squeeze.

Take hold of the tomato and squeeze it gently. Ripe tomatoes should be firm but have some give to them, especially on the bottom and on the shoulders.

If you’re still not sure, the best way to tell is by picking it and eating it. The flavour and texture will let you know if it is ready. If you do end up picking a tomato too early, just leave it to ripen on the counter.

Now, we all know what a ripe red tomato looks like, but what if you are growing yellow, orange, green striped, or purple tomatoes? What if it is called Black Pineapple? Ivory Egg? Black Prince?

A few ripe tomatoes

Green-striped tomatoes like Green Zebra or Green Moldovan turn a lime-green or yellowish colour when they are ripe…

with a little red on the bottom.

Black Pineapple: the reddish one in the middle is ready to go.

Sungold - when it turns orange, let it get orange-er. The one on the right is ready.


Ripening tomatoes can crack if they are exposed to wild fluctuations in moisture. Say it has been hot and dry and maybe you forgot to water for a few days and then there is a 2-day rain and KAPOW! The tomato cracks open.

Dang it.

If this happens, pick the tomato and eat it because it will not keep very long. Just cut off the cracked bit.

Shock horror!

A vegetable tragedy

This travesty is a disease known as blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot occurs when a lovely ripening tomato starts to develop a dark, watery spot on the bottom. The decay spreads quickly and eventually leaves the bottom of the tomato a sunken, scabbed over mess.

The sad truth is that once the bottom starts to turn dark, it cannot be stopped. This particular tomato is done for. Your only option is to pick it and toss it in the Yard Waste bin (maybe not a good idea to put it in your compost).

The problem usually starts with the first (lowest) set of tomatoes on the plant. Sometimes if you pick tomatoes that are showing signs of the disease, the rest of the plant will recover and the other tomatoes are not affected. Sometimes, though, the whole plant is doomed.

Why? WHY?!

Blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency in the plant that can be caused by:

  • Uneven watering. Maybe the plant wasn’t watered enough during a period of hot weather, or maybe it has been watered too much and has been sitting in cold, wet soil. Maybe there is a clog in your soaker hose next to this particular tomato. Planting a tomato too early in the chilly spring can also make it susceptible to blossom end rot. Make sure to water regularly, deeply, and uniformly.
  • Your soil may not have enough lime and therefore not enough calcium. The only way to know this is to get your soil tested (For instructions, see “Time to Bring in the Scientists”). An easy way to add calcium directly to the plant is to add a handful of bone meal to the planting hole when you plant the tomato.
  • Shallow root systems. In order for the tomato plant to take up the calcium and nutrients it needs through its roots, the plant needs to have its feet rooted in deep, well-drained soil. Planting other plants too close to the tomato can also interfere with the tomato’s root system.
  • Not enough phosphorus (P). Tomatoes need a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus - this is the middle number in that triplet you see on the fertilizer box. The middle number should be higher than the other numbers.

If you want to read more about this crappy disease and what you can do to prevent it, head over here.

An advanced move

Since we are almost in September and the long, warm days of summer are beginning to wane, you may want to take a good hard look at your tomatoes and decide whether or not these tomatoes are going to ripen on the vine before it freezes or at least turns cold.

To ripen your tomatoes faster, gradually stop watering. Depriving the plant of moisture stresses the plant and forces the tomatoes to ripen. Around here, we back off on watering in mid-August (to twice a week) and by the time we hit mid-September, we have stopped watering them completely.

Some handy tomato tools

Tomato preparation is made a lot easier with two handy tools:

A serrated knife. Your bread knife is the only knife worth using on a tomato. No squishing, spurting, or sawing.

The tomato shark. A melon baller with teeth. We don’t go for the one hit wonder kitchen utensils around here, but this serrated little number scoops out the stem (and seeds, if you don’t want those) very nicely.

And suddenly, every drop of water from the hose is worth it.

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