Friday, June 18, 2010

The Comploo: A Gardener's Dream Come True

Gardeners adore compost. It's a cure-all for whatever ails in the garden. The bucket on the counter turns into all that plants need to grow well to feed a household. Vegetable and fruit castoffs return to the bucket to return to the bin and then to the garden again. Tea bags, yard waste, garden leavings, and kitchen scraps all go in and come out as plant-scrumptious hummus. (The kind eaten indirectly rather than the other garlic-laden delight, of course.)

Bakoko's little creation - the Comploo - is something near to a dream come true. Taking advantage of the heat produced during the composting process, the Comploo is a sweet little building that it's easy to imagine tucked somewhere near the garden as a perfect spot to take a bit of a break between chores. Or a cozy place on a rainy afternoon for viewing the garden, plotting new plantings, or just basking in the glow of all those adorable vegetables. Heated by food, garden and yard scraps merrily composting away in bins that round the edges, when the plotting and planning is done just open a bin to scoop some of that wonderful stuff out.

Designed with public spaces like community gardens or parks (or even a cafe growing the majority of its food just out the back door) the Comploo creates a space for gathering that takes advantage of plant materials in place. Talk about a great way to warm people up to the idea of their own composting after touring the vegetable patch to see what's in season!

All images courtesy of Bakoko.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Decorating Tips from Bees

Busy, buzzing pollinators bees are a gardeners best friend. Favorite fruits and vegetables would not grace our plates if it weren't for these flying friends. Well, now these little critters have gone a step further: home decorating. You've heard of The Not So Big House? Well, welcome to the bee's version! Using flower petals to make some of the prettiest little nests a garden fairy could ask for, this particular bee makes a number of these in close proximity and snuggles a single egg inside each one.

Inspired? Well, next to the row planted for the hungry add one specifically for the bees! By planting a row of flowers or setting up a section of native plants not only will pollinators be attracted to your garden, but those tiny immune systems will get a healthy boost in the battle against Colony Collapse Disorder. Get buzzzy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Local Food Week in Michigan

Whether your garden sits on a roof, in a series of pots, or at one of our community garden sites you can celebrate Local Foods Week in Michigan! Running from Sunday, May 16th through Saturday, May 22nd, Local Foods Week is an opportunity to find, enjoy, and celebrate some of the best in local foods Michigan has to offer.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

Plant a row for the hungry. A great way to celebrate local food is to decide to share it, and planting a row for the hungry is one of the best ways to do that. Whether or not you've signed up for the potato pledge, you can pick up a few extra plants at the Project Grow plant sale and know those little gems will help a neighbor. Now, how cool is that?

Head to the farmer's market. One of the most fun ways out there to celebrate local food is a trip to the farmers market. Meet the growers and producers that are just around the corner or right in your backyard, sample their wares, and take home a few favorites.

Consider growing some of your own. Think of this as the year to finally plant that garden, sneak a few tomato or basil plants in the flowerbed out front to start that edible landscape you've always been thinking of, or do a combo pot of edible flowers, herbs, and greens!

Take a local farm tour and see what's out there. SIMBY (Sustainability in My Back Yard) Agritours is another fun way to meet growers and producers in person, but this time on the farm. Check out their schedule of upcoming tours and hop on along!

Join a CSA. Fresh vegetables grown locally by folks on the ground - literally - of the local food movement. Another one of the best and easiest ways to be part of a local food movement find a comprehensive guide at The Farmer's Marketer.

Volunteer with Project Grow. You can't get much more local than a community garden. Check out ways you can lend a hand and be part of the fun!

Got more ideas? Let us know and we'll be more than glad to share them with our readers!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flavors of Spring

A spring garden is full of more than a few bits of bounty. Peas, rhubarb, mint, a few small greens, and the first blush of strawberries fill the rows and come into the kitchen to emerge on plates and in bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Radishes are an early favorite adding a bit of zing to a rainy day sandwich, and the greens can be added to salad or that very same sandwich. Combine peas and mint and savor the fresh taste of spring, too!

Then head on over to the Project Grow Plant Sale to see what great tomatoes, peppers, and basils are on offer to start the summer garden rolling. Check out the full list of plants and start planning and plotting!

Project Grow Plant Sale
Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th
Saturday, May 22nd
8am - 2pm

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planting a Few Ideas

These rainy days can make it tricky to stay out of the garden, to say the least, so here are a few ideas to put your mind in the garden until your hands and trowel can get there, too.

The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant by Plant Guide: What to Do and When to Do It by Nancy Ondra was recently reviewed over at Cold Climate Gardening. If you're thinking about planting perennials (and who isn't at least giving it a fleeting thought in spring?) this is the book to crack before heading to the nursery. Or right after you get back with that impulse buy, which I'd also like to know who in spring has not fallen prey to?

While thinking about perennials, give some additional thought to incorporating native plants. Beneficials absolutely adore native plants, and since they're well adapted to the region (being native and all) they'll require less water and a little less maintenance over time. Not sure where to start? Check out the local Wild Ones Chapter to talk to professionals and others trying out different ideas, too!

And don't forget to stop by the Project Grow Plant Sale this weekend to match tasty vegetables starts with that assortment of perennials!

Project Grow Plant Sale
Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th
Saturday, May 22nd
8am - 2pm

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plant Sale Coming Up!

It's time to give serious thought to what will go in this year's garden. We've talked before about seeds, planning tools, and even about experimenting with a virtual garden to see what might happen. Now's the time to put that research into action to start taking home harvests like the one pictured here!

Join us Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th in front of The People's Coop talking plants, gardening, and all sorts of other fun green stuff! We'll be there once more on Saturday, May 22nd for one more chance at some terrific tomatoes, peppers, basils, and great conversation!

Project Grow Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, May 15th
Sunday, May 16th
Saturday, May 22nd
8am - 2pm
People's Food Coop

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slow Food Huron Valley Ark of Taste Dinner

We've talked about scrumptious fungus, heirloom potatoes, and classes to help decide what to grow in the garden, but here's a chance to try some of those great local foods for yourself. Think of it as research for the garden or next trip to the Farmer's Market!

The Ark of Taste Dinner is a five course meal (plan for an elastic waistband!) that will knock your socks off. By promoting these foods to your taste buds, the Ark of Taste and Slow Food (check out the Huron Valley chapter, too!) raises the chances of keeping them growing for future generations. Wander over to the Grange Kitchen and Bar to sample some of this amazing fare and see what your taste buds would plant!

Ark of Taste Dinner
Thursday, April 22nd
7pm - 10pm
118 West Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
$65/per person
Reservations required so sign up now!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FDA Wants Your Opinion

The FDA is looking for feedback on a proposed regulation to reduce food-borne illness on fresh produce. Hoping to forge a new way ahead after the food troubles of 2009, the organization is seeking public comment electronically as well as in public meetings before issuing a rule. The organization hopes to hear from a variety of people - growers, producers, and packagers - about this topic and what concerns them most. (It's recommended reading for consumers, too, to find out what a favorite grower or local grocer might need to do to get those favorite greens to the table.)

The deadline to share with the FDA your concerns and thoughts about this important food safety issue is May 24, 2010. These handy instructions will let you see what others are saying and make your voice heard on this important issue.

Comments may also be mailed to:
Division of Dockets Management,
HFA-305, FDA,
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061,
Rockville, MD, 20852

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dirt + Seed Dispensing Gumball Machines = Garden

Everyone knows about the transformative power of seeds, but here's a new twist on the idea - old gumball machines turned into a seed dispenser. Created by Greenaid, these contraptions make gardening easier than ever!

While you're thinking about seeds, check out Dirt! The Movie to see what's under your feet and why it matters so much. Screened at Sundance and Environmental Film Festival in Washington D.C. this year, the film will also air on PBS the week of April 20th. Garden adventures await!

Get ready to get your hands in that dirt, too, with these upcoming classes!

Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers
Saturday, April 17
10am - 11:30am
Leslie House
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor
Instructors: Royer Held and Tom Scheper
Learn how to select, start, and grow tomatoes and hot peppers using organic cultivation methods.

Introduction to Composting
Saturday, April 24
10am - 12pm
Leslie House
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor
Instructor: Geoffrey Kroepel
Explore composting basics perfect for any gardener as well as alternative methods and creative bins.

(Image courtesy of Greenaid.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oldies but Goodies - Growing Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers

Join Royer Held and Tom Scheper for Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers this Saturday, April 17th! These two heirloom vegetable and gardening enthusiasts will be at the ready to impart some of their tried and true methods for growing organic tomatoes and peppers. Experienced trowels at the ready, Royer and Tom will share their favorite cultivars as well as tips for a beautiful and bountiful harvest. Don't miss it!

Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers
Saturday, April 17th
10 - 11:30am
Leslie House,
Leslie Science and Nature Center

Can't make this one? Check out these upcoming classes and get them on the calendar!

Introduction to Composting
Saturday, April 24
10am - 12pm
Leslie House at Leslie Science and Nature Center

Join Geoffrey Kroepel to learn composting methods that suit the needs of every gardener. Basic composting principles will be discussed as well as different methods for making it.

Bees Up Close and Personal!
Saturday, May 1
1pm - 3pm
Dawn Farms
6633 Stoney Creek Drive
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
$7.50/per person

Lora Kadwell will lead a hands-on introductory class and honey extraction. Meet the bees, see the equipment, and give this sweetest of endeavours a try.
*Participants should plan to wear jeans, long-sleeve shirts, and shoes.
** Class size is limited to 15 members, so don't wait to register.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Royer Held on saving potato seeds and seed potatoes

Seeds are a gardeners pleasure, and saving seeds from year to year an invaluable skill. Here in the third part of our discussion with Royer Held we talk about saving potato seeds as well as some of his recommended reading about potatoes. Read about how he got started growing his own and a few tricks of the trade in preparation for his class - Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips - this Saturday, April 10th. And then take the Project Grow Potato Pledge!

PG: Do you save your own potato seed or seed potatoes or slips? How do you do that?

RH: Potatoes produce fruit that looks like small green tomatoes. Most people don't realize that this happens because the fruit is well hidden on the plants. If you know to look for it, you will find it. I pick the fruit when it is ripe and extract the seed. The seed is about the size of a pin head and it is in a slimy gel. I spread it on paper to dry and package it up like tomato seed for storage.

I have always ordered sweet potato slips and have never bothered to try to produce my own for planting out. I have had sweet potatoes produce slips, but they have done that in the dead of winter when I can't make use of them. I have not tried all of the sweet potato varieties that will grow in Michigan, so I'm still looking over the catalogs for new ones to try.

PG: What's the most important thing to remember when saving seed potatoes?

RH: Keep an eye on them. Don't let them dry out and don't let them rot. Also, don't allow them to freeze. My solution has been to keep them in my fireplace. The fireplace damper lets in just enough cool air to keep temperatures low but above freezing. This isn't ideal, but it works for me.

PG: How long do seed potatoes keep?

RH: Seed potatoes are only good for the following season unless you do tissue culture, which is something growers are doing but is not something a home grower would typically try.

PG: Are there some varieties that are better for saving than others? Some varieties that are more difficult but worth the effort?

RH: I haven't noticed any difference in shelf life for different potato varieties.

PG: What's different about saving seed potatoes than other kinds of seeds?

RH: When you save seeds the seed will remain viable for many years if it is properly processed and stored. Seed potatoes will only make it to the next planting season. They are perishable.

PG: Any recommended reading or a favorite reference?

RH: Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire goes into great detail about the potato and how it is grown in the US. The book is alot of fun in general. It inspired me to contact the USDA regarding Bolivian potato seed.

There is a wealth of information on the internet. My favorite website is that of PROINPA, an organization located in Cochabamba, Bolivia dedicated to the promotion of Andean crop varieties. The website is in Spanish, but that just makes it more exotic. Their pdf featuring photographs of 100 potato varieties indigenous to Bolivia is a gem.

Irish Eyes is a great website for potatoes, and Sandhill Preservation website can't be beat for sweet potatoes.

PG: Does the class talk mainly about heirloom varieties of potatoes and sweet potatoes or all varieties?

RH: The class deals with growing potatoes and sweet potatoes in general, but I do make the point that there are a considerable range of varieties that can be grown and illustrate the point with photos. I also talk about my experience with Bolivian potatoes, which are perhaps the most venerable of the heirlooms.

PG: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you want to be sure to mention?

RH: Bolivian potatoes have been selected to cook quickly, because they are grown at a high elevation where water boils at a lower temperature. They only need to boil for five minutes at our lower elevation. Whoever would have thought there would be Energy Star potatoes?

Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips
Saturday, April 10th
10am - 11:30am
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road
Ann Arbor

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grow Your Own Scrumptious Fungus

Matt Demmon over at Little House Farm is once again offering his most-fascinating mushroom class. Learn how to grow and get tips on preserving and cooking up your own delicious fungi, and enter a world of tasty beauty with Matt as your guide.

To whet your appetite, read my interview with Matt from last year and then check out his mouth-watering recipe below!

Backyard Mushrooming
Sunday, April 11th
12pm - 3pm
Little House Farm
$50 for class; $70 to take home your own log
Call Matt at 734-255-2783 or email to register
Hurry! Class size is limited.

Quick and Easy Mushrooms with Cream Sauce ala Little House Farm

8 oz. fresh mushrooms or 2 oz. dried mushrooms (reconstituted in water first)
1/2 of a small onion
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour (can be a combination of millet, amaranth, buckwheat and/or teff for those hankering after gluten-free)
1 cup milk or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Pasta of your choice

Saute the mushrooms in the butter for about five minutes, and then add the onion. Continue sauteing until the onion is golden brown. Stir in the flour and continue stirring until the flour smells roasted and changes color. Add the milk or half and half while stirring constantly until it comes to a simmer and begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste and serve over a pasta of your choice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pondering Potato Varieties with Royer Held

Gardening can be tremendously satisfying, especially when growing vegetables and herbs for your own table. Recently, Project Grow talked with Royer Held, an heirloom enthusiast, about potatoes and sweet potatoes. In the first part of our conversation, Royer shared what got him started growing tubers and why he's kept on growing them. Here in the second part, he offers advice for the grower on choosing a variety that's right for you and your garden.

PG: Are some varieties better for storing, eating, baking, or eating immediately?

RH: Potato varieties differ in starch content and this is what makes them appropriate for different uses. Baking potatoes have a high starch content while my Bolivians and fingerling potatoes have a lower starch content, which make them better for boiling. There is nothing better to eat than a "new" potato: one freshly dug or one snuck out from under a growing plant before the main harvest.

PG: What do you advise a grower when looking for a variety?

RH: Consider how you like to cook your potatoes. Many of the garden catalogs that sell potatoes make suggestions for types that are suitable for particular types of cooking.

In addition to starch content, I would consider early, mid and late season potato varieties. My Bolivian potatoes are late season. That means they tie up garden space until frost. You could grow early season potatoes and follow that crop with greens, daikon, or a cool growing crop to get more out of your garden. A first time grower should select any variety that is commonly grown in your part of the country.

PG: Why are sweet potatoes often grown using slips?

RH: I suspect that growing sweet potatoes from slips is a matter of convenience and a way to reduce cost. It is truly amazing how quickly a slip without roots gets established in the garden. Sweet potatoes root along their stems quite easily, and most of the time the slips have roots already started. Sweet potatoes seldom flower at this lattitude so we don't see seed. If you were to grow sweet potatoes from seed you would have a new variety just like you do when you grow potatoes from seed. This happens quite often in tropical lattitudes, which helps account for the large number of commercial varieties available.

PG: What's the difference broadly speaking (I don't want to give away your whole class!) between using potato seeds, seed potatoes, and slips?

RH: When you use seed potatoes or slips you are growing exactly the same plant and genetic material that produced the seed potato or slip. This assures that you are growing exactly the same thing you grew the year before, or that you are growing exactly the variety that you want. When you grow any plant from seed, you are getting a brand new genetic combination that may or may not reflect the characteristics of its parents. This is where new varieties come from. To me, growing things from seed is far more exciting than simply accepting someone else's idea about what I should be growing!

PG: Is there a particular trick to successfully growing potatoes and sweet potatoes? Is there something you do to always ensure success?

RH: Both of these plants (the potato and the sweet potato) are quite tough. If they weren't, they wouldn't be as widely cultivated as they are. Like any garden vegetable, the key to success lies in the quality of the soil in which the plants are grown. All gardeners should be paying attention to developing and maintaining a healthy soil. As long as you do that, you can grow anything.

That said, sweet potatoes and potatoes should not be supplied with extra nitrogen. That will cause both types of plants to produce foliage rather than tubers. Potatoes and sweet potatoes also benefit from mulch. They both like even soil moisture and do not like to dry out until the end of the season.

When harvesting both regular and sweet potatoes take care not to injure the potatoes. Sweet potatoes that have been bruised, scraped, or otherwise injured are more likely to rot in storage. The same is true to a lesser degree with potatoes.

Want to find out more? Check back here for the third and final installment about saving potato seeds, and don't forget to read how it all began. Sign up for Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips to talk to Royer in person, and take the Project Grow Potato Pledge!

Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips
Saturday, April 10th
10am - 11:30am
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road
Ann Arbor, MI

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pondering the Potato

An unsung hero of the vegetable world is the potato. Often berated as a carb carrying fiend, the potato is really a source of great culinary delights and nutrition. Not to mention, it's got a fascinating history. Project Grow (PG) interviewed Royer Held (RH) about his passion for the potato, and his upcoming class on growing potatoes in the garden. Read this first part of the interview where we talk about the potatoes he grows and the spark that got him to grow his first tuber.

PG: I was aware of your interest in heirloom tomatoes and peppers, but not potatoes and sweet potatoes. What sparked your interest in this group?

RH: I first started growing my own potatoes about twenty years ago. I was eager to try some of the varieties offered by a mail order business that had close to 100 different kinds. I ended up growing a number of fingerlings and some other varieties that sounded interesting.

I grew them off and on, but my interest took off twelve years ago when my daughter went to Bolivia as an exchange student. She came back talking about all the different kinds of potatoes that were available in Bolivia. She said some tasted like bananas, and some were orange. I started looking for a way that I could try some.

About eight years ago I found that the USDA Seed Bank had hundreds of Bolivian potato varieties in their collection. I submitted an application and received ten different varieties that I've been growing ever since.

PG: What appeals to you about potatoes and sweet potatoes? Do you like both crops for the same or for different reasons?

RH: Both potatoes and sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and easily grown in your garden. If you grow them yourself, you have access to hundreds if not thousands of varieties you can't get in the grocery store. Potatoes are easier to grow and better suited to Michigan's cooler summers.

Ever since I received the Bolivian potato seed I have been growing Bolivian potatoes in my garden. I would have to say that I have a fondness for them that is somewhat irrational. Since each potato you grow from seed is unique, each time you raise a potato from seed (as opposed to from a tuber or seed potato) you get a new variety. I have been growing potatoes from seed ever since I got the first batch of seed from the USDA. At this point, I don't know how many different varieties I currently have. Each year I collect seed from plants that produce fruit, so theoretically I could produce 1,000's of new potato varieties if I had enough space to grow them.

I got inspired to try sweet potatoes reading about them in the Sandhill Preservation Catalogproduced by Glen Drowns. Glen grows sweet potatoes in Iowa. I figured if it can be done in Iowa, we should be able to do it here. If you choose early season sweet potatoes you can get a decent crop. It's fun to try an assortment because they have different flavors and textures, just like potatoes.

PG: What's special about heirloom potatoes?

RH: Variety is the spice of life. Commercial growers are not growing heirloom potato varieties in large quantities. Since potato varieties must be grown from tubers each year this makes it hard to keep them going. Will Bonsal who is the curator of the potato collection maintained by Seed Savers Exchange is having a tough time keeping all of the potatoes in his collection from going extinct. Home gardeners should step up and take on this responsibility because they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the preservation of these varieties.

Hungry for more information? Check back for the next installment where we talk with Royer about the varieties he grows, and some specifics about growing potatoes and sweet potatoes. Better yet, register for his class, and take the Project Grow Potato Pledge and get yourself growing!

Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips
Saturday, April 10th
10am - 11:30am
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Road
Ann Arbor, MI

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ann Arbor Eggs

A reader raised a great question about Ann Arbor eggs. If you don't want (or your neighbors are a bit hesitant to agree to let you have) chickens in your backyard, is it possible to get your hands on some neighborhood eggs?

Here are a couple things that might be helpful resources.

Ann Arbor Chickens are on Facebook. Post the question to the group. Might I also suggest also offering a trade as a bit of a carrot? For example, if you've got a garden offer some veggies or better yet to clean out the coop in the spring and haul off the manure for your garden! (Take a look at the Project Grow Facebook page while you're there, too!)

Ann Arbor City Chickens is a web site dedicated to, well, Ann Arbor City Chickens. Check them out for ideas, some reference materials, and ideas for supplies.

Peruse the Ann Arbor (including the Westside Market!) and Ypsilanti Farmers Markets and look for community eggs. There's an ever-growing list of producers present, so it's worth investigating.

And now I'm hoping for ideas from all of you! Any leads on getting your hands on neighborhood eggs? Got neighborhood eggs you want to share? Give a shout and let us know!

Upcoming Class Reminder!

Potato Seeds, Sweet Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips
Saturday, April 10
10am - 11:30am
Leslie House at Leslie Science Center

Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers
Saturday, April 17
10am - 11:30am
Leslie House at Leslie Science Center

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Take Project Grow's Potato Pledge and Plant a Row for the Hungry

While planning this years garden - whether electronically or using pen and paper - don't forget to plant a row for the hungry. It's not difficult (what's one more row, really?) and can provide fresh food that can make a world of difference for a neighbor in the community.

And Project Grow and Downtown Home and Garden are making it even easier! Take our Potato Pledge and pick up two pounds of seed potatoes from Downtown Home and Garden on April 17th and get growing! Potatoes are easy and satisfying to grow, and are a favorite staple of food banks everywhere.

Potato Pledge
1. Find the Project Grow Potato Pledge Form at Downtown Home and Garden, the Ann Arbor Public Library - Downtown Branch, the People's Food Coop, and Whole Foods. (Take the upcoming class Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips on Saturday, April 10th and pick up the form there, too!)

2. Bring the Pledge to Downtown Home and Garden on Saturday, April 17th to "Potato Alley" behind the store (enter at Liberty Street and exit via Washington Street), and turn that paper into two pounds of beautiful seed potatoes ready for planting.

3. Plant those potatoes! Without a doubt our Project Grow heirloom devotee, Royer Held, will offer some of the best insight on growing potatoes to be found during "Potato Seeds, Seed Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes" on Saturday, April 10th. (Well-timed for Potato Pledgers so sign-up now!)

4. Harvest in late summer or early fall. Details on collection dates, times, and places can be found at this blog, our newsletter, and via email.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fall Bulb Planning Now or Any Excuse to Get Outside

Put those Spring blues at bay for the moment and head out the door. This terrific idea about planning now for fall bulb planting is absolutely the perfect excuse to get out into the yard and to work. No digging or uncovering or planting - all a bit risky for the chilly days still in store for us - but some excellent fun!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Savor Seva: Not Just a Benefit for Your Tastebuds

Looking for someone to talk over that garden plan with? Hankering for a taste of Spring? Or just looking for a great meal at one of Ann Arbor's great restaurants?

Then come on out and join fellow gardeners and gardening enthusiasts on Monday, March 29th to compare notes over some of Ann Arbor's best vegetarian fare at Seva Restaurant. And remember, twenty-percent of the evening's proceeds will benefit Project Grow Community Gardens!

Savor Seva
Monday, March 29th
5pm - 9pm
Seva Restaurant
314 East Liberty
Ann Arbor

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fowl Play: Enjoying Backyard Chickens

It goes without saying that a garden - large or small, potted or free-range - with a few favorite vegetables, herbs, and flowers is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get fresh food. Backyard chickens are another. Fresh eggs from birds that are surprisingly funny, affectionate, and a fantastic source of fertilizer for the garden make them an instant delight!

Getting Started
While the idea of having chickens is appealing, knowing where to begin can feel a bit intimidating. A good overview on chicken basics is helpful as is learning about different chicken breeds that are well-suited to the backyard are great first steps.

Coop designs range from the traditional coop (stationary chicken house) or chicken tractor (a mobile coop that allows for contained free-ranging in safety). Your final choice will depend on the chicken ordinance you live under as well as the available space in your yard.

Chickens don't require a great deal of specialized care (no need to take them for a walk every night, etc.), but they do have a few minimal requirements. A safe enclosed coop that keeps them sheltered from the cold of winter and the heat of summer, fresh water, a little extra food to augment bugs and grass, and at least an annual cleaning of the coop to keep things tidy.

Classes, Books and Blogs
Our upcoming class on chickens led by Peter Thomason of Thomason Family Farm is full, but here are some other good resources to check out in the meantime.

A good basic primer on chicken-rearing is Christine Heinrich's How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know (2007) while Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, Third Edition (2010) is perhaps the definitive reference for your shelf. (Check out Christine Heinrich's blog, too!) There's also Martin Gurdon's Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance (2005) to inspire the chicken farmer in all of us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Savor Seva with Project Grow!

Spring is the time of year when a gardener begins conjuring up images of all the bounty the summer will have to offer. Seed catalogs lie open on the table and check lists abound of what to get and to grow. The path to the garden is already well worn from short visits to see the first rhubarb sprout, the first crocus, and maybe even to do a little measuring for this year's agenda.

Project Grow and Seva invite you to take a break from all that planning to come on out for an evening of fun and food with fellow gardeners (and eaters!) all in support of Project Grow. What better way to spend a Monday?

Event Details
Savoring Seva
Monday, March 29th
5pm - 9pm
Seva Restaurant
314 East Liberty

Check us out on Facebook, too, for more events, articles, and information!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Backyard Chickens 101

Hankering for fresh eggs? Well, now folks living in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti can now enjoy the company of up to four chickens and all the eggs those lovely ladies will deliver. (Sorry, no roosters.)

Not sure where to start? Well, join us this Saturday, March 20th for A-maizing Chickens! to learn the basics about getting, keeping, supporting, and enjoying hens in an urban environment. Come on out to the Thomason Family Farm where Peter Thomason will share his knowledge and experience in fowl play.

A-maizing Chickens!
Saturday, March 20th
10am - 12pm
211 Woodward, Ypsilanti
Registration Required
$15 class fee
(Sorry! This one is full, but check out our other upcoming classes, too!)

Potato Seeds, Sweet Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Slips
Saturday, April 10
10am - 11:30am
Leslie House at Leslie Science Center

Heirloom Tomatoes and Peppers
Saturday, April 17
10am - 11:30am
Leslie House at Leslie Science Center

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seeds for Cold Weather Places

This post about seeds for a cold climate on Cold Climate Gardening is just terrific. The subsequent discussion in the comments section is also well worth a read. Some great seed sources are listed, as well as things to keep in mind while shopping for seeds.

Keep in mind that heirloom seeds have been chosen and saved for generations in an area or region not just for their fantastic flavors, but because they are well-adapted to that particular climate. Local heirlooms from Project Grow are available at the 2010 Annual Seed Swap on Saturday, February 13th, and can also be found at People's Food Coop, too.

Seed Savers Exchange specializes in heirlooms, and offers lots of good information about where they come from, how they grow, and the flavors they produce.

Garden Faerie also does a fun little seed swap, but you'll have to plan on participating next year. Check out her book - Fun with Winter Seed Sowing - to get a jump start on things, too!

2010 Annual Seed Swap
Saturday, February 13th
10am - 11:30am

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Garden Tally

We all garden for a number of different reasons, but most likely one of the really big ones is having that favorite vegetable fresh for the dinner plate. Or for canning up a tasty tomato sauce recipe. Or just the satisfaction of growing the food that graces the table for some portion of the year. Or maybe this is the year you're looking for a few good reasons to start gardening!

Ever wonder just how much food is produced from that little plot? Well, Emily over at Eat Close to Home shared her formula for figuring out how much food comes pouring out of her gardens each year.

The bounty one space can produce is really impressive, and while calculating the savings reaped might be tedious it's well worth the effort, too. So, consider turning that lawn into a garden like Fritz Haeg suggests and be part of a burgeoning green economy!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seed Swap Coming Up!

One of the beautiful things about these early Spring days is the fact that the mailbox starts to fill with seed catalogs. One of the challenging things about all those seed catalogs is making choices. There are always the old favorites, and then there are those enticing new plants that are difficult to resist.

Add to the list of enticing things for this month Project Grow's Annual Seed Swap. Going for nearly ten years, the Seed Swap is offers a real-life seed catalog for perusing. The added bonus is that the grower and collector is on hand to answer any questions and talk about the pros and cons of a particular variety. There will also be a nice selection of Project Grow heirloom seeds available, too, and experienced gardeners to talk them over with, too.

Come on out to find a new favorite, talk with other gardening enthusiasts ranging from the newbie to the super-experienced, and get your garden off to a great start!

P.S. They make a great Valentine's Day gift, too!

Project Grow Annual Seed Swap
Saturday, February 13th
10am - 11:30am

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Few Ideas for Implementing Food Rules

Michael Pollan's new book is hitting the shelves offering simple advice for those looking for a better way to eat and think about their food. But you confess that while edible landscaping is appealing you really do like your lawn. And you don't know the first thing about starting seeds, and aren't so fond of getting dirty. A Project Grow garden plot sounds good (accepting applications now!), but that goes back to that dirty thing again. Yet, garden-fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs are a favorite.

What to do?

The Michigan Availability Guide quite nicely lists what is in season when in our fair state. Vegetables and fruits are both listed on this handy (and attractive!) guide that could easily be tacked up on the refrigerator.

Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and get fresh vegetables each week. Most farms also offer tasty recipes to go with the vegetables, as well as fun events at the farm. Fresh food plus a fun weekend outing a few times a year - is that perfect or what?

Visit the farmer's market and choose a variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, breads, meats, and so much more from a cornucopia of vendors. The added bonus of this (like the CSA) is that you get to talk to the grower/producer and you know exactly where your money is going. (The Farmer's Marketer also offers a weekly list of what's available at the market to help with planning.)

Attend a local food event and see what's happening including the upcoming Local Food Summit. Meet other folks interested in exploring food and gardening, have a little and who knows? Maybe getting dirty won't seem so bad after all...

Consider volunteering at Project Grow to continue a strong tradition of community gardening, and learn loads. Plus, getting to know gardeners means they share the summer's bounty!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This One's on the Garden

There's another benefit to the empty pot of coffee on the counter other than that little jolt of energy to get the day started. A good source of nitrogen, the grounds also help create that hummousy soil plants (and gardeners) so dearly love. Mixing them right in with potting soil or just adding a spoonful or two judiciously to already settled pots encourages blooms and good growth.

Grounds can be often be found in bulk from local coffee shops (check near the entrance of Sweetwaters on the corner of Washington and Ashley, for sure) or from the office coffee-maker making it a simple and easy to get staple for the garden. Some creative uses (along with their subsequent benefits) of grounds, beans, and roasting leftovers include mulching paths and repelling pests. Add some eggshells and you've got a great garden breakfast!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Certifiably Dirty - Organic Gardening Courses

Registration is now open for the Organic Gardening Certificate Program! Novices and experienced gardeners alike will find plenty of great information to dig through each week in courses ranging from Organic Gardening: An Introduction to Organic Fruit Growing,Landscaping with Native Plants, and Organic Lawn Care.

Instructors - Erica Kempter and Mike Levine of Nature and Nurture and Greg Vaclavek ofThe Native Plant Nursery - bring their knowledge and tricks of the trade from years of experience to each class to make for a fun and informative atmosphere.

Classes start Tuesday, February 23rd and can be taken individually, but we feel sure you'll quickly find one just isn't enough. Top off the classes with 20 hours of volunteer service sharing what you've learned (and getting good and dirty in the process!) and the certificate is yours!

And don't forget to check out our list of other great classes and events to see how else to get a gardening fix in these winter months!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Gardening Seminar

This time of year the post begins bringing that bevy of seed catalogs from far and near. And this time of year also brings those dreams of a garden that is often a wee bit bigger than it is in reality with plenty of room to spare for that new variety of pepper, cosmos, or basil.

Well, it's time to make this garden a reality! Join Project Grow's Marcella Trautman at Whole Foods to find out how to bring that fantasy garden to life this coming growing season.

Winter Gardening: Digging Through Seed Catalogs and Planning Your Perfect Garden
Wednesday, January 27th
990 West Eisenhower Parkway

Can't make this one? Never fear! Check out our Events and Classes to see what's happening and come on out!