Q&A with Kevin Espiritu, author of “Field Guide to Urban Gardening”

By Shelley Pierce | June 2, 2019
Image by Quarto Knows
by Shelley Pierce
June 2, 2019

Kevin Espiritu is an urban gardener, plant lover, and the founder of Epic Gardening, a website dedicated to a goal of teaching 10,000,000 people around the world how to grow their own plants. He focuses on practical growing methods and demystifying all of the complex terminology and processes into simple, easy-to-follow guides. In his latest book “Field Guide to Urban Gardening“, Kevin shares the basics of growing plants, offers tips on how to choose the right urban gardening method, and troubleshoots the most common problems you’ll encounter. Read on to learn more and enter below to win a copy from Quarto Publishing Group!

How did you become interested in urban gardening and why do you feel it is important?

I started gardening with my brother about 8 years ago as a fun summer hobby to get outside and spend more time in nature. We bought basil plants at the local nursery and I also (for some reason) decided to grow hydroponic cucumbers. The basil grew incredibly. The cucumbers? Less so. The were horrible! However, I was HOOKED on gardening at that point.

Urban gardening is important simply for the fact that most of us to NOT live in spaces where we can set up vast, sprawling gardens. We have to make do with the space we have, the light we have, and, as busy urban dwellers”¦the time we have. I like to focus on this segment of gardening because I find it’s often under-valued in the grand scheme of growing plants.

Tell us about your urban gardening set-up? What are you growing and how are you doing it?

I grow in a 15′ x 40′ front yard on a somewhat busy urban street. In my yard, I’m growing in raised beds, 5 gallon buckets, grow bags, in the ground, and vertically using trellises, arches etc. As you can see, I like to cram it in there! It’s my only south-facing outdoor area, so I make the most of it. I also have a side yard where I grow tons of shade crops like leafy greens, herbs, etc. Inside, I’m constantly starting the next batch of seeds in my 3-tier seed starting system that I keep in my bedroom.

Right now, I’m focused on calorically-dense crops like potatoes, beans, and peas. That’s because I’m trying to live off of my own garden for an entire month! So that’s changed my typical gardening planting quite a bit this late Spring / early Summer.

What are some of your personal favorite projects that are featured in this book and why?

It might sound funny, but my favorite projects are the simplest ones. The Sub-Irrigated 2 Liter Bottle and the Dead Simple Raised Bed aren’t fancy, aren’t complex, but they ARE accessible. And that’s what I’m about. I want to make gardening as easy and accessible as possible, instead of overwhelming a beginner with complex building plans and gardening jargon that they don’t understand.

What are some new methods or new things you have learned about urban gardening since this book was published?

Since publishing Field Guide to Urban Gardening, I’ve dug quite a bit deeper into soil health and have experimented quite a bit with microbial and fungal inoculants, as well as commited further to the “no-dig” or “no-till” approach. Even though I’m only growing in raised beds, I find the method to be time-saving and yield-increasing, so it’s become a no-brainer way for me to garden.

How does your book help to inspire and to help those with urban gardening adventures? What are some features that readers will find helpful as they begin an urban gardening journey?

My book is structured in three sections:
Green Thumb Basics: My “teach a man to fish” section. Giving you the “why” instead of the “how”, so you can understand how plants grow from a fundamental level and solve many of your own gardening problems.
Growing Methods: In-depth breakdowns of 6 different gardening methods, including garden plans. No matter how small or large your space, there’s a method for you in this section.
Growing Problems: Did you know 40% of new gardeners never garden a second year? This section is my attempt to lower that number, by including the top pests, diseases, and mistakes you’re likely to run into in the garden.

What tips do you have for beginners just starting on their urban gardening journey?

Only two tips here. First, grow what you like to EAT, not what you think you “should” grow. If you don’t like basil”¦don’t plant it! Simple as that. Seems obvious, but I’ve gotten countless emails from people struggling to grow plants they don’t even use in the kitchen.

The second tip: start small. There is ALWAYS opportunity to increase the size and complexity of your garden down the line. Get a few “wins” under your belt by successfully growing plants, and then expand from there. You’re way more likely to have success.

Enter to win a copy of Field Guide to Urban Gardening!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight (EST) on Sunday, June 9, 2019 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What questions do you have about urban gardening?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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