When does spring start?  Does it start when “Punxsutawney Phil‘s shadow” says it does?  Or maybe it is when pitchers and catchers report for “spring” training?  Or maybe it is something that happens after the end of “March Madness” and right before you notice how dirty the outside windows are around the house?  Is it “Flower Day” at Detroit’s Eastern Market?

If you are a urban farmer/gardener spring probably arrives for you around the time you start to count your seeds from last year, ordering this year’s seeds and upon their arrival…plant them in little peat pods and turn every available sunlit space into a greenhouse of sorts.

You label and date when you started each seed and of course you, “over plan”.  You know not every seed you plant will come up so you might as well plan for that right out of the gate.  Last year I restarted my pepper plants about 4 times before I got a group that was hardy enough to ultimately get planted.  It was the same for my tomato plants too.  As it is with most things, the more you put into it up front…the easier it becomes as things move along. 

I would be very interested in knowing when you intend to start your garden, what you are planting and what special tricks you may have that always guarantee for you a good crop. 

In 2011, I also have the benefit of The Greening of Detroit Program.  Last year, I was virtually on my own until I went to the first group meeting.  This year, I have already received their newsletter sharing important details as for what I should be doing now to ensure a successful and productive garden.  What is really good about the support program that they provide is that they disseminate the information in a way or style that makes it easy for the beginner to understand and is not offensive to those with more experience.  They have a calendar of events that lets you know when to pick up your seeds, begin to prep/compost the garden, start your seeds and how to prepare the young shoots for outdoors and placement in the garden.  Day-to-Day…weekly, monthly and seasonal direction and support.  The assistance that they provide is very timely and goes a long way towards fulfilling the dreams and plans of the backyard farmer.

This leads me to a very important question and that is how do groups like The Greening of Detroit and places like Eastern Market do it?  How do they exist?  We understand and appreciate why they exist but that makes the question “how”  more difficult to answer and makes it even more important that we provide the right solution(s) when it is answered.

Both groups get by with the help of “friends”.  Their “friends” are the type of people that find it easy to give to something and not take anything back.  The type of people that look beyond a person’s faults and sees their needs.  The kind of people that would rather teach you how to fish than just give you one meal.  The amazing thing about some of these people…they are not neccesarily your neighbor next door, across the street or down the block.  They don’t happen to live around the corner either.  You don’t know them…nor do they know you.  It is not important to them that you do.  Knowing you won’t make them care a little bit more or work a little harder.  There’s a job that needs to get done and they just do it.  As a community we should try to embrace their spirit and find ways to add to their support.

It doesn’t take much to be a friend of the Greening of Detroit program.  It takes only $5.00 to become their friend.  I was surprised as to how little it took.  A contribution of this amount could fund 25% of a community garden‘s seeds and plants.  From my own perspective that would be 50% of my garden and I am on record here and everywhere about the yield/output from my garden.  I ate from my garden from May until November.  So talk about teaching a man to fish, right?

Becoming a “friend” of Detroit’s Eastern Market is a little more pricey.  Annual memberships start at $50.00 for individuals, $20.00 for seniors and $100.00 for families.  As a member you receive discounts from their participating retailers, a friends decal and a shopping bag.  Just their way of saying thanks for your contribution.

So, I would like to encourage anybody and everybody with the means to support community gardens and their local food co-operatives wherever they live.  In the United States more than 450 cities in 48 states have organized community garden programs.  In Detroit, there are over 1,200 gardens in the Garden Resource Program alone.  Detroit is leading the way and that is something we can be proud of.  You should also know that it is not just about writing a check, either.  They need hands…volunteers…bodies to get some of the work done.   For this, it doesn’t matter where you live…how old you are…your gender or your race.  Giving from the heart never does!

For more information (programs/events) on the The Greening of Detroit Program, please go to www.detroitagriculture.org or LindsayTurpin (lindsay_detroitagriculture@yahoo.com).  The main phone number is (313) 285-1249 and the office hours are Wednesdays 4 – 6 p.m. or Fridays 10 a.m. – 12 noon.  For volunteering, please contact Tepfirah Rushdan at (313) 237-8733 ext. 241 or Tepfirah.Rushdan@greeningofdetroit.com.  They are located at 1418 Michigan Avenue in Detroit.

For information on making a donation and/or participating in the events at Eastern Market, please go to www.detroiteasternmarket.com .  Their web site is easy to navigate and you will have no problem finding the necessary forms or directions for joining the fun.

Project Sweet Tomato is looking for volunteers for several community garden projects.  If you are interested, please contact Arthur Littsey/Nine Below Zero at (313) 369-1710 or email littsey.arthur@sbcglobal.net.


Upcoming Greening of Detroit Events


  • Feb. 5th – “Growing in the Winter Garden:  Using Quickhoops and Hoophouses”
  • Feb. 12th –  “Can” I Sell That?: The Cottage Food Bill: Selling Value Added Products
  • Feb. 15th – Garden Resource Program Citywide Potluck & 2011 Kick-off
  • Feb. 24th – Garden Oasis: How to Design Your Ideal Garden
  • Feb. 27th – Tool Sharpening & Cleaning with Janet Macunovich

Go to www.detroitagriculture.org for information on locations/dates/fees for these and other events.  Dates subject to change without notice.