In spring 2010 I cycled with the charity Otesha as part of the Ferocious Farm Tour. We were a group of 19 activists on bicycles making our way across Ontario’s foodscape and performing plays about sustainable living for over 2,000 students.
Mid-route – planting season upon us – I was overtaken by the sudden urge to garden. We were given handfuls of soil and heirloom seeds from local farmers. Before long, wheat grass was sprouting from my bicycle fender, peavines inched their way from the water bottle holder to the seat post and a spinning garden of rye grass whirled around the hub of my front wheel.
We found that gardening in containers on back racks and in water bottle holders was the easiest. We simply poked holes in the bottoms of reclaimed containers and planted densely to lessen soil loss when riding over bumps and potholes. By the way, pea and sunflower sprouts make delicious snacks while on the road.
Gardening without soil was tricky, though it allowed us to grow directly on our fenders, frames and hubs. Grains, such as wheat and barley, are key. They’re incredibly rugged, and the tufts of grass can be snacked on like chewing gum. We soaked some wheat overnight, kept it moist for two days, then “planted” it by wrapping it in layers of cheesecloth. Then we watered it. Constantly.
The weather can be fickle. Sunny days and head winds can spell trouble for young greenery. As bicycle gardeners, we needed to develop a habit of dousing our gardens every time we took a drink ourselves. A lush and living bicycle is well worth the effort.
Meghan Kelly is a food activist and urban gardener living in Quebec City, QC. She works and volunteers for the urban ecology collective Craque-Bitume (craquebitume.org) doing non-profit urban gardening and unlikely agricultural experiments (like growing rice in buckets and making vertical gardens with reclaimed soymilk containers). She runs the Veganic Agriculture Network (goveganic.net) to promote plant-based organic farming and gardening. She regularly fumbles through bike mechanics and participates in winter cycling expeditions at the local bike co-op Velocentrix (velocentrix.org).