Friday, December 12, 2008

Gifts of the Garden - A Different Variety

This time of year the focus is often on gifts to give and receive. Gardeners know all about giving and receiving - giving the soil all you've got to receive a bounty of tomatoes and eggplant to can and then give away; gratefully giving up evenings, early mornings, and clean hands for a bouquet of zinnias or a hearty row of basil to make pesto to share with friends at the next potluck - and most likely don't think about it. It is simply part of the process.

Project Grow gardeners are no different, of course. Over the course of this past summer the gardeners gave and grew as usual, but something other than pesto and bouquets emerged. Project Grow gardeners grew and donated nearly 300 pounds of organic, locally grown produce to Food Gatherers during the 2008 growing season. And that's not including a tally of the food raised and given away by organizations like the Packard Community Clinic and the Beth Israel congregation whose patches are cultivated with the sole purpose of sharing the bounty.

Such news offers a note of relief and joy in these tough economic times where concerns over food security and local economies run high. Donations of fresh food allow local food banks to offer those seeking their services a more nutritious alternative to many canned foods traditionally found on their shelves. And the influx of donations during the summer - often a slow time for food banks - is also welcome.

Project Grow gardeners at all ten sites shared a portion of their harvests with others in the community that are in need. Everything from tomatoes to zucchinis to winter squash landed at Food Gatherers warehouse for immediate distribution to the community. "Good food is meant to be shared, and our gardeners bring that to our community's table," says Melissa Kesterson, Executive Director of Project Grow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Gift Ideas

Here are a few more gift ideas for the gardener on your list or those you might like to inspire.

Holiday Plants and Heirloom Seeds
Seeds make a great gift for that gardening friend, and heirloom seeds are some of the best. Unique varieties of tomatoes, popcorn, squash, and even flowers abound. That little packet offers a taste (sometimes literally!) of the past, and increases the diversity of our food sources. Great places to find heirloom seeds include Project Grow, Seed Savers Exchange, or Old House Gardens for nearly forgotten bulbs. You might even get a nice bundle of tasty and beautiful treats come summer! (Hint: A Project Grow garden plot makes an excellent home for those seeds, too.)

And don't forge the traditional Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus that bloom while the snow flies. Both make delightful gifts for the friend who doesn't garden, but likes a bit of color. Both are easy to care for and offer a feast for the eyes.

Tools make great gifts, and can often be found at a local store. Trowels, kneeling mats, dandelion diggers, gloves (especially the colorful Project Grow gloves!), and even plant tags are items any gardener would love to receive. And what better place to learn to use those tools than at a Project Grow class!

Treats from the Garden
Homemade jam, a jar of Grandma’s secret recipe tomato or barbecue sauce, or a pretty bundle of dried herbs from the garden make excellent gifts, too. Pair it with some homemade bread or another baked good, and winter just got a little warmer!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gardening Books as Gifts

Each year it can be tricky to come up with unique gift ideas that don't get dusty, go out of style, or need batteries. The gift of gardening - a book, a tool, or a sample of summer's harvest - provides long-term joy and happiness. It's a way of sharing the fun of gardening, the tradition of sharing food, and offering some inspiration for new endeavors and adventures. This is the first in a series of posts about simple and relatively inexpensive gifts that can be found locally and are sure to please t he gardener and non-gardener alike.

Now that snow is falling and it's hard to get outside (or get motivated to get outside), the following books offer some inspiration and help justify snuggling into that favorite armchair. Following is a sample of the many terrific gardening books out there. Head off to your favorite local bookstore and see what other resources you can find!

Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit by Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden, 2008, Timber Press. A new book about garden design that focuses on plants and plant selection, which strangely turns much of garden design around. A promising read!

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy, 2007, Timber Press. Wildlife in the garden seems like an oxymoron until you read Tallamy's discussion of why it is so deeply integral to the success of our gardens and our very lives. Terrific photos paired with clear and compelling explanations make this a fascinating read and expands the garden almost exponentially with the turning of each page.

Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting Systems for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden by Sally Jean Cunningham, 1998, Rodale Press. A must-have for any gardener, Cunningham offers an excellent compendium of plant information, gardening techniques, and inspiring photographs.

Early American Gardens "For Meate or Medicine" by Ann Leighton, 1986, University of Massachusetts Press. Just one of the books about historical gardening written by Leighton, this one offers a fascinating look at colonial gardening describing techniques, plants, and philosophies. An inspiring read for anyone interested in American history or gardening.

The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst, 2006, Beacon Press. Knowing this book won the 2007 American Book Award is no surprise once you dip into these beautifully told stories of eleven gardens and those who tend them. Moving and delightful this book is sure to please any reader on your list.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greens Fair Today!

Alrighty, folks! Today is the Annual Greens Market sponsored by the Ann Arbor Branch of the Woman's Farm and Garden Association at Mattheai Botanical Gardens. Project Grow is there sharing information, selling seeds and gloves, and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Head on over to say hello, check out the tasty baked goods, fresh holiday greens, and so much more. (This is a great opportunity to explore the gardens, too!)

The Market is open from 10am to 12pm for Members, and 12pm to 4pm for the general public. See you there!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Greens Fair Volunteer Opportunity

Lend a hand at the Greens Fair this Thursday, December 4th at Mattheai Botanical Gardens from 10am to 4pm and scope out all the fun before jumping in!

Project Grow will have a table at this terrific event, and we could use a couple folks to help out. We'll be selling those great gloves, offering a preview of our 2009 classes, and talking about how much fun gardening is to anyone who stops by. How much fun is that?

Here's a schedule of shifts:
- 9:30am - 11:30am Set-up and the event itself.
- 11:30am - 2pm Event itself.
- 2pm - 4:30pm Event and Closing-up.

If you're interested in helping out, contact Sheri Repucci via email or at 734-996-3169.