Carol of UrbanFig

Carol Carimi Acutt, the owner of UrbanFig, has made it her goal to help blossoming urban gardeners get their feet wet.

UrbanFig, an online urban garden magazine and gardening shop, has a simple, clean design, with easy search capability. The site contains thorough articles by Acutt and Michael Nolan (the Garden Rockstar) about urban gardening, plant care and garden tool and supply suggestions. “Click a couple buttons and there you are. We’re trying to streamline the whole process. I want this to be for everyone. Especially for people who are busy.” We like it. 

Organic Authority recently spoke with Acutt and found out why she loves organic gardening, about UrbanFig’s start, and what she has planned for the future.

Organic Authority: What’s your favorite aspect of gardening and organic produce?

Carol Carimi Acutt: There’s nothing more empowering or rewarding than growing my own organic food. As I tell my readers, control your food source. We live in a world where our food supply has been chemically tainted and manipulated (GMOs) and worst of all, there is no labeling standard indicating this. Most of all, growing my own food truly keeps me in tune with nature. There’s nothing like digging in the dirt, eating snow peas directly off of the vine or making a salad from the garden. The reasons I love to garden are endless, the list goes on!

OA: Are you involved in any other community garden projects? Do you teach any gardening classes in the area?

CCA: Locally, I am a garden consultant. I help people start their own vegetable gardens, and I’m also involved in my daughter’s preschool gardening project. I look forward to new community projects as they come my way.

UrbanFig plants

OA: The area you live in seems to be ideal for growing different kinds of produce. Do you have any examples of items people can grow in less tolerant climates?

CCA: In areas that have intense winters, with enough sunlight shining through a window, one can easily grow herbs or lettuces. We have a few posts about this topic on our site. And if someone has a green house, they really can grow anything all year round. When there is a will, there’s a way to grow food. It’s all about sunlight and controlling the temperature. I also encourage people to use UV lights inside if outside is uninhabitable for vegetable growing.

OA: What’s the history behind the name UrbanFig?

CCA: When I first came up with the concept of UrbanFig, I knew that I wanted to target people living in urban areas. I threw around many names with the word “urban” in the title, but finally landed on fig. Figs are not only delicious, but have many symbolic meanings that resonated with me, such as prosperity, abundance and knowledge to name a few. Figs are highly valued in many cultures and in some are even sacred. They are often present in times of celebration, which is symbolic of community to me. UrbanFig is all about creating a community focused not only on growing organic food, but on ideas about sustainability, gourmet cooking, garden design and the future of food. Thus, the name UrbanFig was born.

OA: What are some of the things you’ve learned from the “Farmers of the Week” featured on your site? Any new gardening tips, ideas?

CCA: The wonderful thing about our Farmers of the Week series is learning about everyone’s unique approach to gardening. I view gardening like raising children; we each approach it in our own away. It’s good to learn different techniques and gain knowledge from others, but ultimately, each person has to do what works best for them in the garden. 

OA: Are there different types of plants that do better in a backyard vs. front yard garden? I assume all of this is dictated by how much shade, sun is available…?

CCA: Growing vegetables and fruits is all about space and sunlight. To me, it doesn’t matter whether you grow food in the front or back yard. I determine what to grow based on space, light, need and design. If you are using your front yard, it’s good to consider if your neighbors will be respectful of your garden.

OA: How do you decide what items to feature and what garden tool/seed companies to include in your store?

CCA: The products in our store have been carefully selected. Our tools, garden sheds and boxes are well-designed, high-quality products that will last. The organic seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and soil that we offer have been tested and approved by us. I only offer items that I have used or would buy myself. Quality is very important to me, as is customer satisfaction. We feature items that we think customers may be interested in depending on the growing season.

OA: What other services, issues would you like to write about? Would you ever consider quitting your day jobs and making this full time?

CCA: We have many ambitious goals for UrbanFig. We are planning to incorporate garden design into our content as well as expanding our product offerings. Food is an extremely important issue to me and the number of topics we can discuss and make videos about are nearly endless — from sustainability to GMOs, to growing food for survival, to garden communities, to gourmet cooking — we plan on exploring them. There are so many interesting people out there doing wonderful things in the world with gardening. We want to shine a light on all of it. Would I quit my day job? Absolutely, but I’ll never leave filmmaking behind, it would just be incorporated into UrbanFig.

OA: Other than “just do it,” which truly is the best advice, what’s something any first time gardener should keep in mind?

CCA: I suggest starting small. Find a container or two, move it to a space that has 6-8 hours of sunlight, fill it with high quality organic soil and grow something you like to eat. By limiting one’s responsibility and time commitment at first, you’re more likely to have success and then the addiction begins.

OA: Do you have any tips for apartment dwellers who only have balcony space and no land?

CCA: If you live in an apartment, it’s all about sunlight. If you have enough sunlight on your porch or balcony, you can grow as much as your space will allow. Soil, sun, water and a few drops of love — these are the key ingredients to get any garden growing.

OA: Gardening is truly uncomplicated. Do you find that many people have unrealistic fears about starting a garden?

CCA: Absolutely. Many people feel that gardening is overwhelming because there is so much to know. There is a lot to know, but honestly it is simple. You don’t have to know everything to garden. Gardening is like drinking wine. You can enjoy a glass of wine without being a wine expert, but it sure is fun to learn about wine. When I first started gardening, I would search the Internet to find solutions to problems and I became frustrated. So many of the websites I came across felt “messy” and unorganized, or there was just too much information. This was one of the reasons I started UrbanFig. I wanted to create a site that was simple, user-friendly, and could relate to the busy urban gardener.

images: Carol Carimi Acutt