Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Part Two on Pests

As mentioned earlier, pests are inevitable in any garden. For organic gardeners, there are a few good tricks of the trade.

Get to know the bugs in the garden, too. While some bugs see the garden as a buffet created for their enjoyment and nutrition others are helpful and considerably less destructive. (Check out this nifty page of photos from a UK gardener. Some are different, some the same, but it's well done.)

Other simple ideas to ward off pests or just stop them are listed below, and this list of recipesalso looked handy.
Cutoworm Collars
This absolutely classic remedy for cutworm is perhaps the simplest one yet. Simply fold newspaper or a sturdy piece of thin cardboard (from a cereal box, etc.) into a strip about four inches wide and perhaps six inches long. Fashion it into a circle or collar around the stem of the seedling, and push it into the ground about an inch. The cutworm operates below the surface of the soil usually, and this will simply detour it around your plants. This page offers some good additional information on cutworms, too.

Slug Beer and Boards
Another classic solution to pesky slugs that snack on cabbage plants is a shallow pan of beer in the garden. Just set it out the night before and in the morning the slugs are swimming. Chickens love this now marinated appetizer when they first run out of the coop, too! A board placed in the garden near the affected plants can also do the trick. Set it out at night, and turn it over in the morning to pluck off the little guys. Check out this list for even more ideas!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plotting for Pests

Pests, like weeds, are one of the things every gardener knows is lurking somewhere out there. Organic gardeners tend to think of the soil first, which means plants are that much more resilient and healthy in the face of assorted troubles. For those pests and critters that do attempt to make a move on the garden, this article from Fine Gardening offers a wide variety of home remedies for many of the most common troubles.

Recipes, photos, (she is NOT blending up the Japanese beetles, by the way, but rather a REMEDY for them), step by step instructions and helpful commentary make this one worth hanging onto for future seasons.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Salve for the Soul

A favorite edible flower for summer salads is without a doubt calendula. Those blazing petals sprinkled on the verdant green of lettuce, chard, and kale is one of the prettiest sights going this time of year. Yet, like basil, there can be a wee bit too much as the season kicks into high gear. Caryn Simon, local doula, will be teaching a class on how to make a handy salve out of that excess.

Caryn took the time to talk a bit with Project Grow about the class, the importance of learning about herbs, and the value of working with herbs.

How long have you been making salves?
Since 2001. I had just moved back from New Mexico, and was working as a postpartum doula for Dr. Beth Barclay. She supported my brainstorms to come up with an all-purpose salve and hand out samples at Liberty Pediatrics where I worked.

Why did you start?
I wanted to make money doing something I loved. I think it is very important that we as consumers can identify all the ingredients in the products we use on our bodies and our babies bodies, too.

Did someone teach you how to work with herbs or did you also take a class?
I've mostly apprenticed with various elder women, and read lots of books and experimented slowly on my own.

If someone is a first-timer at something like this, what would you recommend as a starting point?
Making your own herbal tea is very simple, and a great way to connect with plants in our area and get to know them. My first was a tea made out of lemon balm. I was studying with anayurvedic herbalist in Cazadero, California, and she taught me how to make tea in a mason jar. Lemon balm was the herb I connected with first because it was growing in abundance on her land. A few herbs that grow around Ann Arbor that would be great are raspberry leaf, nettle, red clover and such.

Clearly, your class is a good start, but if someone is looking at, say, an abundance of lavender, what might you suggest?
Making herbal baths with lavender would a great use. Adding the lavender to some nice sea salt and taking a dip - this kind of bath would be great as a stress reliever before bed-time or for headaches or cranky babies.

Do you need alot of special equipment or ingredients?
Not at all. A double boiler is essential, some beeswax, a cutting board and knife, a Pyrex pitcher helps, little jars...a May Erlwine CD...

If I was interested in doing this sort of thing, what kinds of plants would you recommend growing?
For salve, I'd recommend calendula, comfrey, nettle, plantain, yarrow, and lavender. Many of these grow on their own in ABUNDANCE.

Are there any books or other resources you might recommend for folks interested in learning more about making their own salves or lotions?
Yes! There is an excellent book by Dina Falconi called Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair: Natural and Healthy Personal Care for Every Body. I would also highly recommend any of Rosemary Gladstars books. She is a living goddess.

What other products do you make out of natural ingredients?
Where to begin? Shampoo, breath freshener, mosquito spray, herbal tea, tinctures, bit and sting paste, powder....the list goes on!

What's your favorite thing to make and why?
I love developing new products and playing with recipe ideas. Right now, I'm working on a product that is going to have mica in it! Fun, fun for little fairy girls!!

What do you find the most satisfying about creating these products?
The packaging. I almost studied graphic design at Madison. No really, it slows me down. It helps me feel grounded and womanly.

Why do you think it's important to teach others about how to make this kind of thing?
There are so many reasons. To connect with the earth and slow down, consume less, protect and honor the plants, empower our abilities to heal ourselves gently, gather communally.

Do you think making these products is a good match with being a doula? Why?
Oh yes, indeed. My line of products is expanding, but it was originally focused on mothers and babies. Because I am around new families so much, I get ideas about what they might need and come up with natural, simple, herbal ways to fill that need. I feel my two passions fit really well together. Both are very grounded paths - being around birth and playing with herbal medicine - and both are really calming to me. I feel my herbal knowledge benefits the families I work with, and my love for babies and children in turn inspires alot of my herbal ideas. Maybe soon I will teach a class with little ones!

Is there anything I haven't asked you that you want to make sure people know or find out?
My last salve-making class this year will meet August 8th and 22nd. If someone is interested in attending they should call me up (734-646-1341) or send me an email. As of today (Sunday, July 20th) I have three spaces left. I also host a bi-monthly tea gathering at Little House Farm, too! Come make tea with other women and their pregnant bellies!

(Still hankering for more about herbs? You can also read another interview with Caryn over at the Ann Arbor Chronicle.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Big Community Harvest Tour

What better way to spend a Wednesday evening than wandering from one great garden to another?

Well, as luck would have it the first round of the Big Community Harvest Tour starts rolling this Wednesday. Download a map, tour the sites - including the Edible Avalon gardens - and learn what great work is happening right here in town!

Big Community Harvest Tour
Wednesday, July 22nd 6pm - 9pm
Saturday, August 1st 10am - 1pm

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Big "But" about Basil

Basil is really coming on now, and most gardeners find they have more than enough to go around, especially if it is planted in companionship with tomatoes and eggplants. It effectively repels the bad guys, and gives the gardener something good to eat.

But, like zucchini, it can be a bit overwhelming to harvest, eat, process, and store. Organic Gardening offers some good tips on preserving basil - from drying to freezing - and this pesto recipe is an easy one. (The pesto can also be frozen in ice cube trays, popped out and bagged for single shots later in the year.) And remember, pesto and dried basil make great gifts!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grab Your Trowel and Tighten Your Laces!

Running Fit, a local running store extraordinaire, is hosting the Third Annual Big House Big Heart Run on Sunday, October 4th. This fun and friendly event is a great way to get outside after a busy morning in the garden, and run around (literally) in support of Project Grow.

Interested in running and organizing support for community gardens? Then grab a trowel and sign up!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

From the Front Yard to the Farm

Edible landscaping is all over the news (and this blog), and this article about Will Allen and Milwaukee's Growing Power Farm should offer even more motivation. Allen and Growing PowerFarm have won awards and garnered national attention for growing good food locally and intensively, and making it - the food along with the knowledge of how to grow it - available to local people.

Want to see what kind of farming is happening locally? You're in luck! Come along to the Big Community Harvest Tour and see what good stuff is growing here in Ann Arbor, including Project Grow's work with Avalon Housing at Edible Avalon. Download the map and take these self-guided tours, and we also recommend bringing a notebook to plot your own little farm once you get back home!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 6pm - 9pm
Saturday, August 1st, 10am - 1pm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Calendula - Not Just for Salad!

The bright petals of calendula often grace the garden, and subsequently make a summer salad tempting even to the most vegetable wary nibbler. The stickiness of calendula also makes it a great ingredient for salves and lotions.

Caryn Simon, local doula, is offering two classes on turning those bright blossoms into soothing salves for garden weary hands.

Fresh Calendula Salve Making Class
Saturday, July 11th and Saturday, July 25th
Saturday, August 8th and Saturday, August 22nd

Register by email or call Caryn at 734.646.1351 quick! Space is limited.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bountiful Garden Volunteer Opportunities

The growing season is in full swing at Project Grow, and opportunities (like weeds but better!) absolutely abound at this busy time. A sampling of possibilities are listed below, and we can tell you even more at our upcoming Volunteer Orientation. Leigh Ann Phillips-Knope, Assistant Director for Project Grow offers a short, sweet, and action-packed hour to let you know how you can get involved and be part of the fun this season!

Project Grow Volunteer Orientation
Tuesday, July 14th 6pm - 7pm
The Nature House,
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road

RSVP Leigh Ann by email or call 734-996-3169. See you there!

Food Bank Coordinators
Help gather and share the abundant harvest from Project Grow! Volunteers are needed to collect vegetables from our 15 scattered sites throughout Washtenaw County for Food Gatherers to then distribute.

Garden Site Coordinators for Edible Avalon
A partnership between Project Grow and Avalon Housing, Edible Avalon offers a unique opportunity for low-income tenants to learn gardening skills, build community, and gain greater access to nutritious food. Site coordinators offer hands-on gardening assistance, cooking/food preservation ideas, and support at a garden site 1-2 hours a week. (Extensive gardening background not required.)

Go! Gardening Program
Enrich the lives of elementary school students through a dynamic experiential gardening program at Mitchell Elementary! Gardeners are needed to help maintain the gardens throughout the season. (No experience necessary.) Camp counselors are also needed to assist the Program Coordinator in facilitating lessons on Wednesdays from 9am until 12pm. (Read about this great program and come on out!)

Discovery Gardens
Are you community minded and enjoy working with seniors, children, and gardeners with disabilities? Volunteers are always welcome in our gardens serving these special populations. Join this inspiring gardening community and help raise some good food and have some fun, too!

Gathering Stories/Testimonials
Visit our community gardens and unearth (pun intended!) some of the awed-inspiring stories integral to any good garden. Use your creativity - write a short story or blog post, make a video, create a photo album - to share them with the community.

Design and Technology Support
Are you a computer, website, or design expert looking for ways to put some green in your work? Project Grow is always looking for technological and creative design support to showcase our programs!