Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"I'm a big believer in community gardens ... both because of their beauty and for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across the nation and the world."
-- Michelle Obama, speaking at USDA headquarters
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Julie Roth, the Hunt Park Steward who had already worked with Natural Area Preservation (NAP) and neighbors on work days to plant some new trees and perennials helped bring the issue to neighbors who responded enthusiastically. According to Roth, “I think the gardens will bring a stronger sense of community, more neighborhood sense of investment in and ownership of the park, and of course even more visual interest. They are being placed in a very underutilized, flat and open area behind the tennis courts.”
“We have worked long and hard with the Parks Department to get gardens open in park areas, especially where the neighbors have approached us about opening a garden like they did at
The addition of this site brings the total number of community garden locations up to thirteen throughout
Plots vary in size while water, tools, and a notice board are available at each site. A site coordinator manages each garden site and answers questions and offers help when needed. To see the garden sites, maps, and download an application visit our website and click on
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
And then you can attend this upcoming Project Grow class to get started with your own bees!
Introduction to Beekeeping
Saturday, March 14th
1pm - 2pm
Leslie Science Center
Friday, February 13, 2009
1. Purchase seed packets of flowers you'd like to give that person.
Bouquets are beautiful, there is not a speck of doubt about that, but a packet of seeds ensures a full season of showing your affection. Everything from sunflower seeds to cosmos to daisies will make a bright spot in the garden for months to come. How about Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories or some edible flowers?
2. Offer a pot of forced spring bulbs like daffodils, tulips, crocuses or hyacinths.
While February is a beautiful month, it's also nice to see that spot of color on the desk or table to greet each day. Lots of local stores, like Downtown Home and Garden or Chelsea Flower Shop, have a terrific selection. And the bulbs can be planted outside to bloom again and again for years to come!
3. Take a gardening class together!
Project Grow offers a bundle of great classes covering everything from keeping your own bees in the backyard to the basics of organic gardening to landscaping with native plants. Local experts share their knowledge to get you and your garden off to a solid start.
4. Nothing says love like an heirloom tomato.
Ok, maybe that's just us, but those heirloom veggies are brilliant in color and taste. Imagine a Green Zebra or Hungarian Heart Valentine - unique coloring and so tasty you won't believe it! (Email us to find out about the Project Grow seed collection or take a class on heirloom vegetables!)
5. Garden together.
Imagine spending beautiful summer evenings working together in your Project Grow garden. Birds sing their final songs of the day while snacking on mosquitoes before they get to you, and the sky is a brilliant show of orange and purple as you pull the last weeds and load up on the harvest for dinner. Now, that sounds romantic...
Thursday, February 12, 2009
For the past few years, Project Grow has worked with Mitchell Elementary, part of the Ann Arbor Public Schools system, to create Go! Gardening. Go! operates at the Project Grow community garden at Mitchell Elementary in conjunction with a Title One summer school program. During the six-week long session, students spend 30 to 60 minutes in the garden each week, participating in activities like planting seeds, pulling weeds, pruning and staking tomato plants, fertilizing the soil, and best of all, harvesting and tasting the produce.
Integrating gardening into the classroom provided new opportunities for learning and having fun. To connect the garden to other summer school activities, the Mitchell teachers did a great job of integrating garden themes with their lesson plans. The garden contributed much to the classroom, not only for science and math, but also reading, writing, history, and other areas of study. Last summer, one class combined their reading, writing, and drawing skills with what they learned in the garden to write a book about gardening. Garden activities, like writing plant labels and measuring sunflower height, reinforced classroom lessons. The garden became an engaging learning environment with the added benefit of physical activity through caring for the space-- a great outlet for kids restless after several hours at their seats. To balance the “work,” the kids also sang songs and made craft projects.
Perhaps best of all, spending time in Project Grow’s Go! Garden exposes students to a side of food that is often new to them: its source. When they first come into the garden, many kids don’t know that many ingredients for their favorite foods –everything from salad to pizza and tacos-- grow in a garden. Sometimes foods from the garden are new or unfamiliar, which might otherwise scare off the kids. However, after planting, growing, and caring for the plants, the new little gardeners are eager to taste the food and often want to take it home to their families.
The program’s growth over the last year has made for better garden experiences for both students and teachers. Now, we’re ready to take it a step further.
I am already meeting with teachers from Mitchell Elementary to plan this year’s program. We are laying the foundation for a garden that will eventually integrate into every classroom at the school, engaging even more students and teachers, plus parents, other school staffers, neighbors in the community, and other community gardeners.
We would love to engage even more Project Grow supporters. If you want to join the team, or just want to chat about our Go! Garden vision over a cup of coffee sometime, contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Project Grow office.
Monday, February 9, 2009
We are working on getting the documents up from Saturday's class, Growing in a Hoophouse. (We're experiencing some technical difficulties, but they will hopefully be remedied shortly.) Drop us a note at Project Grow and we'll find a way to get you the information you want.
The Resource List offers links to various websites, recommended reading, and a short list of blogs. Suggested additions to this Resource List would be more than welcome. One great idea from an attendee on Saturday for those who don't wish to fool around with creating their own was, I believe, Greenhouse Mega Store.
The actual presentation offers mostly pointers, guidelines, and some lessons learned. Questions on Saturday centered mostly around ventilating - how long and at what temperature; building materials - pvc or no pvc; site selection and ordinances on building such a structure.
Ventilating the hoophouse is pivotal. Built to help retain heat and protect plants inside from cold weather, temperatures inside can easily and quickly run high. Left unattended a little too long in the early days of having one, our temperatures reached into the low hundreds. The transition from hot to cold could prove a bit much for plants - cooking then freezing which would wilt me, I must confess - and needs to be mediated a bit. A good rule to follow would be that if interior temperatures run above 90 degrees it's time to ventilate. To keep some of that great heat it's best to close it up again an hour or so before sunset.
Some suggestions about heat included having barrels of water inside painted black. These would act as a heat sink during the day and slowly release their accumulated warmth through the night. They could also be used as a water source for plants. Others suggested building the hoophouse against another structure with a south-facing wall such as a garage, shed, or fence.
We used PVC pipes and translucent plastic, but not without some trepidation. As we learn more about how such plastic is not the best for us, some attendees asked about alternative materials such as electric conduit. Our neighbors at Frog Holler made theirs out of cedar milled from their land to create one of the prettiest hoophouses one could imagine. (Theirs also succumbed, unfortunately, to the snows this winter.) No structure is infallible, but it pays to research the design as well as the design materials to see what you think will work best for what you want.
Our criteria were that it be relatively easy (we're not handy people), inexpensive (the whole point of building this was to keep eating our own food as much as possible), and temporary (we wanted to switch it to other beds or take it completely out as desired.)
Site Selection and Ornery Ordinances
We built ours on existing garden beds with relatively established crops we wanted to keep growing and that were cold tolerant, i.e. kale, broccoli, parsley, beets, swiss chard, etc. The spot already received a fair amount of sun and would continue to do so over the coming chilly months. Remember the sun swings lower in the sky, so trees or buildings that might not cause a shade issue in the summer may as winter approaches.
We also live in the country so we have relative freedom to do what we like despite the opinions of our neighbors. Folks in the city may not have this luxury, and it might be a good idea to chat with your neighbor who shares the view of your backyard. (An offer of vegetables, soup or other meals might prove the winning ticket in this instance. Maybe even space to grow something!) You may also run up again rules of neighborhood associations or the city itself. As someone at the recent Local Food Summit suggested, a touch of green civil disobedience may be interesting and generate interesting conversation for these long winter months.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Good plants to attract pollinators abound and range from the annual alyssum to perennial natives like Bee Balm. If space in the garden is tight, try containers for natives and annuals, or create a specific bed for them.
For other ideas and to learn more about attracting pollinators and other beneficials here are a few handy resources to get you going:
Enhancing Beneficial Insects with Native Plants - An MSU study outlining a recent study using native plants for more sustainable agriculture. It includes a great list of plants and their ratings in terms of pollinator attractiveness.
Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, Rodale Press, 2000 - An absolutely terrific book for learning and thinking about organizing your garden to attract beneficial insects. Includes lists of plants, design ideas, and terrific diagrams.
Introduction to Beekeeping - An upcoming Project Grow class on Saturday, March 14th that offers the full scoop on housing those little fuzzy buzzers yourself.
Landscaping with Native Plants - Learn how to incorporate native plants into your current landscape and garden in this Project Grow class that is also part of the Organic Gardening Certification course.