Managing Pests and Diseases the Organic Way


Once you have started your garden outdoors one of your major concerns will be how to deal with pests and diseases safely and organically.  Yes, you can always buy a spray or something that will work to prohibit most insect problems or infestations but in doing so you may be adding chemicals to the food that you eat.  There are some organic solutions sold commercially, you may have to look a little harder to find them and you may have to apply them a little more frequently to address your problem.

Through my membership in the Garden Resource Program, I have received some very intelligent information as for how you can deal with with pests and  diseases that might attack your garden.  So of the most common pests and diseases are aphids, imported cabbage worms and loopers, flea and cucumber beetles and you will find them discussed in the attached pdfs.  As well as preventive measures like crop rotation, crop diversity, planting techniques, tools and other methods.   Of course your first line of defense is a clean, weed free garden.  By keeping it clean you don’t give the pests a haven to breed and attack tender plants as the begin to grow. 

Thanks to the Greening of Detroit and to the author of this information, Jeremy Moghtader – MSU Student Organic Farm 2008



Got a question about gardening?  Feel free to ask it here or send me an email for a personal response at


Looking For Signs Of Hope…Finding It Everywhere!


A couple of days ago I got a call from the people of the Garden Resource Program asking me if I was still going to come out and work at the community school garden being placed at Nolan Elementary/Middle School.  The first thing that came to my mind was, “Gee, when did I volunteer for that?”  That will teach me to stand and go to the bathroom when someone is talking!  Oh well, its kind of close and it was the junior high school that I attended when I was a kid, I’ll do it.  Besides, it will be nice to see how these things were done.  Whatever I learn from this experience I will be able to share with the people (teachers, administrators, students and sponsors) that are involved with Project Sweet Tomato.

The designated date and time was Saturday at 3:00p.m.  Of course, when I got up Saturday it was raining.  I looked at the calendar and noticed that this was the weekend of Detroit’s Downtown Hoedown and it almost always rains on Hoedown weekend.  “Well there goes that”, I thought as I decided to take care of other important but non-essential activities.  But as my luck would have it, the rain stopped and in spite of the gray skies overhead, I did not get a call saying that the days gardening activities were cancelled.  So at about 2:30 in the afternoon, I started to slowly walk to the school not quite sure what I had got myself into.

Upon arriving at the school and meeting some of the students, teachers and leaders from the Garden Resource program, I was immediately given the assignment to go pick up some tree stumps at the house of a neighbor of one of the teachers.  I left with two other individuals to go get the stumps and to get there we had to go through an area of the city that has been hit pretty hard.  There were burnt out houses, abandoned homes, businesses boarded up…evidence of decay and the lack of any measure of effort to correct or improve the neighborhood.  I must admit I was more than a little embarrassed, since our driver was a “rose-colored cheek” intern from U of M and a resident of the city of Northville.  She had undoubtedly seen and heard about this aspect of Detroit (let’s thank Newt Gingrich for that), but nonetheless this is not the visual that I would want someone to take away from of our city.

As we proceeded to our destination, we came upon an event that actually caught me by surprise.  For here amongst all of this rot, decay and unsightly destruction someone dared to throw a party.  We couldn’t stop to see exactly what was going on, but there were balloons, music and a lot of merriment taking place.  It wasn’t like one could ignore the overall plight of the environment, but it was like a decision had been made not to let this beat you down…keep you down…that you should hold your head up…keep striving…don’t stop until you get ahead.  There was hope here…plain and simple.

“Look, Look

Look to the rainbow

Follow it over the hill

And the stream”

So when we finally got back to the school, I had a moment to reflect on what I had just seen and what I was about to witness.  I took a hard look at the kids that came out to work on the garden.  These kids didn’t get dropped off by their parents in some big and fancy car.  No, there was not a big spread of exotic delicacies from around the world.  No cases of imported water either. These were not the children of wealth and privilege.  Definitely not!  So why were they here?  If you were to believe not everything but most of what you have heard or read about the youth of Detroit, what I was seeing was either a mirage or perhaps the result of drinking tainted water.

What I saw on this day were hardworking kids that had been instilled with a little something called hope.  Because they had “hope” they were out there building the boxes for raised beds.  Because they had hope they were shoveling and pulling up sod.  Because they had hope they were hauling away the dirt…building a compost pile…setting up their rain barrel.  There was no crying about how tough it was…how hard the ground was…how heavy the load.  No crying about the work assignments or the distribution of duties and responsibilities.  That was not what they were here for.  Here we had a group of kids that represented the hope of better days ahead…for themselves, their school, their community and last but not least, the city of Detroit.

Ms. Bonnie Odom and students picking up transplants 5/19/11

They were here because somebody told them that if you plant a single seed something magical might happen.  They were here because they were told that as an individual working within a group that something significant could be accomplished.  They were here because as a team or as unit they were told that they could bring about change that would benefit not just themselves but also an entire community.  Hope would give them the richest rewards they would ever find.

“Look, Look

Look to the rainbow

Follow the fellow

Who follows a dream”

Everywhere I looked I saw hope!  Those that came without hope took some home with them.  Those that came with it walked away with a little more.  A little hope can go a long way…and we’re just getting started!

Nolan Elementary School is not currently part of Project Sweet Tomato.  It will be considered for the program in 2012.  If there ever was a school that should be part of the program, Nolan and its “Knights” definitely qualify.  If you have a business or work for a company that might want to sponsor the garden at Nolan or any other Detroit Public School, please contact Arthur Littsey/Nine Below Zero at (313) 369-1710 or

To volunteer to assist the students at Nolan please contact Bonnie Odom at

To learn more about the mechanics of Project Sweet Tomato please click here.

A special thanks to Ms. Michelle Schwendman, School Liasion and Ms. Bonnie Odom, Community Volunteer at Nolan Elementary School and the Greening of Detroit/Garden Resource Program for having me at their garden groundbreaking.


Look to the Rainbow, lyrics E. Y. Harburg

The Front In The War Against Cancer…The Home Garden



Image via Wikipedia

It is said that no one food can reduce your risk of cancer, but the right combination of foods may help make a difference.  You have the ability, by growing your own fruits and vegetables, to create perhaps the most potent tool in the fight against cancer.  The following highlights “what and why” you should have in your home “Cancer Victory Garden”.  You will not only be rewarded by the produce grown, but you may also reap the benefit of a cancer-free existence as you make vegetables and fruits a part of your daily life.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in cancer-fighting nutrients and the more color, the more nutrients they contain.  These foods can lower your risk in another way, also, when they help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight.  Extra pounds will increase the risk of multiple cancers, including colon, esophagus and kidney cancers.  You should try to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (one serving = ½ cup)…prepared in a healthy way.

Folate is an important B vitamin that may help protect against cancers of the colon, rectum and breast.  To get folate try growing melons (honey dew, musk, cantaloupe), strawberries and asparagus.  Other folate rich foods you can grow are leafy green vegetables like spinach and romaine lettuce and beans and sunflowers (use the seeds).

Tomatoes are another cancer-fighting agent.  Whether it’s the lycophene – the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color – or something else isn’t clear.  But some studies have linked eating tomatoes to reduced risk of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

Dried beans are especially good for you.  Therefore, it should not be a surprise they may fight cancer too.  They contain several potent phytochemicals that may protect the body’s cells against damage that can lead to cancer.  In the lab these substances slowed tumor growth and prevented tumors from releasing substances that damage nearby cells.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale.  Components in these vegetables may help your body defend against cancers such as colon, breast, lung and cervix.

Dark green leafy vegetables such as mustard greens, lettuce, kale, chicory, spinach and chard have an abundance of fiber, folate and carotenoids.  These nutrients may help protect against cancer of the mouth, larynx, pancreas, lung, skin and stomach.

The potent antioxidants in blueberries may have wide value in supporting the fight against cancer too.  Antioxidants fight cancer by ridding the body of free radicals before they can do damage to cells.  The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.  Other antioxidant vegetables and fruits are (by category):

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Green Peppers
  • Kale
  • Turnip/Collard Greens
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tomato
  • Watermelon

 Vitamin C

  • Berries (all types)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Honeydew
  • Kale
  • Red, Green or Yellow Peppers
  • Snow Peas
  • Sweet Potato
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato

 Vitamin E

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Mustard/Turnip Greens
  • Pumpkin
  • Red Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower Seeds

So get your vitamins naturally from the food you grow.  Both the American Cancer Society and the American Institute of Cancer Research emphasize that getting cancer-fighting nutrients from foods like nuts, fruits and green leafy vegetables is vastly superior to getting them from supplements and eating a healthy diet is best.  So come on everybody…start digging!

Primary Source: WebMD

“If The Good Lord’s Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise”


This is a story that almost didn’t happen.  Sometimes having even the best of intentions isn’t sufficient…not enough to get the job done.  My grandmother used to say something like…”If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise”…all things in life are a possibility.  And on Friday, April 29th, 10:00a.m at Remus Robinson Academy, I was lookin’ for a willin’ Lord and a creek that was slow to rise!

The Detroit Public School System has been all over the news lately with a lot of attention focused on some school closings and teacher layoffs.  It is a very difficult and complex time.  The emotional and mental state of everyone…from the students to the principals to the janitors…there is a high degree of uncertainty in the air.  Questions are asked and the answer is the same for all of them…“Keep On Pushing!”  There could only be one answer.  This is not the time for the weak or faint hearted.  Motivation has to be found…it needs to be re-ignited so that plans, promises, commitments, wishes and prayers of so many can be fulfilled.

I had been in contact with Principal Sharon Lee and it was easy to sense the stress that she was going through.  Though not on the immediate closing list, there were several unsettling issues that remained to be addressed.  Morale was, as anybody would expect, kind of low.  Not to say that people were just going through the motions, people just needed time to react…absorb…bounce back!  And that’s what they got.  They got the best thing that could have happened for them, the school and the garden project…SPRING BREAK!

On the day after Easter, students returned to class and teachers returned to work.  The weather projection for the week didn’t look promising initially, but as the week progressed there were small but positive signs that the weather on Friday just might turn out okay or be just good enough.  I had a brief conversation with Principal Lee, mid-week and a conversation with Beverly Outland, Co-op Services Credit Union, providing her with an update on the groundbreaking.  Yes, it was still going to happen, but to be honest I didn’t know what to expect.  I was hopeful but something just didn’t feel quite right…and it wasn’t the weather.

So Friday morning my sister (who is responsible for most of the photography you find on my blog) and I packed up some gear and headed off to the school.  When we got there I had my personal “WOW” moment when I saw, for the first time, the sign that Co-op Services Credit Union made for the garden.  You know the satisfaction you get when you get that first forkfull of strawberry cheesecake, the last tug on the straw of a cold black cherry phosphate or your first banana split of the summer…well that’s how I felt when I saw the sign. SWEET!

Another pleasurable moment of this day was the turnout of significant others related to the program.  The ultimate “significant other” that showed up for the day’s ceremony was Lisa Fawcett, the Marketing Director of Co-op Services Credit Union. 

Lisa Fawcett, Marketing Director, Co-op Services Credit Union (l), Beverly Outland, Product Development Coordinator, Co-op Services Credit Union (r)

Lisa’s presence clearly underscored the strong commitment that the credit union has made to the school and the community that surrounds it.  She had an “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world” look of joy and pride as she witnessed and heard the appreciative banter of the kids, the teachers and a small group of parents (“more significant others”) that showed up for the event.  It was like now she, too, was a member of the Remus Robinson Academy family.  Welcome to the village!

Lisa Fawcett (l), Principal Sharon Lee, Remus Robinson Academy (r)

As we watched the kids march out of the school, I thought I heard one of the teacher’s aides say “If the good Lord is willin” and I thought again about my grandmother and her use of the phrase.  Here we were on a chilly and damp morning that still held a threat of rain, out on the former baseball field that was now going to be a garden…a new field of dreams if you will.  In spite of the week’s rainy weather, Kristopher Hoemke, the teacher that is managing the program, had gotten out and turned over a considerable patch of land, with the assistance of the father of a leader of the LSCO (Local School Community Organization) a certain Ms. Taylor.  Hmmmmmm…“was the Lord willin?”

"It's A Start!"

As the kids surrounded the initial plot, I noticed that each kid was armed and ready to work in the garden.  They all looked so cute wearing gloves, caps and holding hand tools.  Kindergartners and up, wearing big smiles on their faces, each without a clue as to how much work there really was to be done.  I am glad that through a little hard work, they will ultimately know, understand and appreciate the knowledge and the character building that this empty plot will give them as it transforms into a bountiful garden.  Good things do come out of hard work.



So now comes Principal Lee.  Marching from the school to the plot, she has time to shake the hand of every parent out there while at the same time making sure that no kid acts out and embarrasses the school.  She stands at the garden site and looks over the rows of kids like Generals Patton or MacArthur surveying their troops.  She is proud…very, very proud! 

Lisa Fawcett (l), Principal Sharon Lee (r)

Principal Sharon Lee (l), Beverly Outland (r)

Principal Lee must have gone to the “James Brown Communication Academy” because like the singer every gesture…arch of a brow…wiggle of a finger or wave of the hand had a meaning or a message for the throng standing there.  All eyes, young and old were on her and it was a joy to watch her radiate in the moment.  This was a church meeting and standing over the new garden sign like it was her altar, Principal Lee began a call and response routine with the kids.

Principal Lee facing the crowd!

She introduced Misses Outland and Fawcett to the kids.  There were cheers and applause.  She talked to them about the Rock Star Savers program that the credit union was executing on their behalf.  More cheers and a louder applause!  Once again she had the students thank them for the donation that the credit union made in support of the program.  And as she spoke you could see it in the eyes and in the smiles of each and every kid out there, and their parents too.  You could see that they felt important enough for someone to care about them.  On this day they believed that someone believed in them.  That someone that matters showed that they mattered too.  It was my turn to cheer and applaud!

Ribbon Cutting with Principal Lee, Student and Beverly Outlandfrom the left, Beverly Outland, Lisa Fawcett, Principal Sharon Lee and Kristopher Hoemke (Teacher/Remus Robinson Academy)

There are only a few times in ones life you don’t need a picture to hold and capture a moment forever.  I will remember this day for the rest of my life.  Friday, April 29, 2011 was the day that the “good Lord was willin’ and the creek surely did not rise!  Remus Robinson Academy will have their community garden.  Hallelujah and Amen to that!

Do you want to be part of all the fun?  Remus Robinson Academy could use a small group of dedicated volunteers to assist with the gardening program.  Contact the following:

The office of:

Principal Sharon Lee

(313) 866-5500


Kristopher Hoemke

(734) 717-5859


To learn more about the services and programs of Co-op Services Credit Union click here.  Let them know how you feel about this and the other community programs they have embraced.

Project Sweet Tomato, a Nine Below Zero program.  Contact Arthur Littsey at (313) 369-1710 or

Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates…


Forrest Gump

“Life is like a box of chocolates,” Yes indeed, and it is because you don’t really know what to expect.  When I put out the call to businesses and friends to support the Project Sweet Tomato program, I had no real expectations as to who would step up and embark with me in an effort that could impact and influence the lives of our children by demonstrating how to have a healthy lifestyle in a fun, yet educational way.  A broad effort that included social outreaches and not just to the children/students, but to their families and their community, also.  Relevant, inspirational and motivational outreach to many was the intended outcome goal of the program but to witness it, as I have, has been a totally pleasurable experience.  An experience that I believe has been shared by my partners in the program, so far.  Many have embraced Project Sweet Tomato and a lot of people have shown their support for the program in unexpected but highly valued and much appreciated ways.  One such supporter is Maura Ryan-Kaiser.

One day, last summer, over a lovely dinner with Maura, her husband Jack and a friend, we had a fun conversation about Farmville one of the games on Facebook and a game that Maura had totally embraced.  I chided her for playing the game when to my surprise she told me about her container gardening efforts and the landscaping effort that was now their backyard.  I have to tell you that looking out over their yard with the colors so natural, rich and vibrant was like viewing a frame of an early Disney movie…like living in a Technicolor world.  Further testament to her love of actual gardening was that we had tomatoes from her container garden in the salad.  Not bad!!!

I don’t know if it was at that moment that I thought that the Kaiser’s would be interested in getting involved with Project Sweet Tomato, which at the time was still a concept.  One thing I did know was that if they were to get involved it would be in a most sincere and significant way.


The Kaiser Family

I was very happy when I got the call that the Kaiser’s and their family business, Snelling Staffing Services were joining the program.  We shared several emails discussing the finer points of the program and throughout the entire process it was clear that there was a vision, that, like my other sponsors went beyond giving a bunch of kids some seeds to plant in the ground.  Maura had shared the concept with her staff and she came to the table with a volunteer group of 13 strong, and that included her two sons.


In addition to the volunteers, she detailed other elements of her vision or more appropriately her mission now that she was engaged in the program.  She saw an opportunity to use her client base to create an ongoing series of career fairs.  Real world…in real time, frank discussions on what it will take to be employed in the present and the future.  Another element was establishing a mentoring program.  This would be something she would like to get her clients involved in also.  The plus side is that everybody that gets involved in the effort gains…it is a win at all levels.

Project Sweet Tomato


Snelling Staffing Services


Business Partners/Clients


Public School


Relevant Business Outreach + Positive Community Engagement



It was during the first week of April that I got the call from the Detroit Public School Foundation/Detroit Regional Chamber representative, Brooke Franklin of Business Corps, to discuss a school for Snelling Staffing Services.  We discussed two schools and due to the nature of the resources that Snelling intended to provide it was determined that the complex of schools known as Cody High would be the ideal partner for Snelling in the Project Sweet Tomato program.  Cody is made up of five schools that address different education disciplines and their names reflect their individual and independent curriculums.

 Cody - Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody

For Project Sweet Tomato, Snelling Staffing Services has been partnered with Detroit Institute of Technology.  The principal of DIT is Ms. Mary Kovari.  There are two teachers that have been assigned to work with us, and they are Ms. Forchatta Scott and Ms. C. Ramona Gligor.  We held our first meeting on Friday, April 29th, where we were introduced to another Cody/DIT sponsor, East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC,, which was represented by Ms. Lizzy Baskerville.  EMEAC has a project that they call the “Greener Schools Program.”  The school has a lot of projects and goals it wants to accomplish over the next few years and Snelling uniquely provides the ways and means for some of them to be achieved

Arthur Littsey (l.), Maura Ryan-Kaiser (c.), Mary Kovari (r.)


Facing camera...Lizzy Baskerville (l.), Ramona Gligor (c.), Forchatta Scott (r.)

So when I look at this box of chocolates that I call Project Sweet Tomato, I can’t help but wonder with great anticipation what flavor will I get the next time?  What combination of business and school will I get that will produce another sweet outcome?

Inspired?  Want to get on the bandwagon?  Want to know how you can help?  Contact Arthur Littsey/Nine Below Zero at (313) 369-1710 or email at

To learn more about the Detroit Public Schools Volunteer Business Corps/B.O.L.D. (Business/Organizations Optimizing Learning in Detroit) partnership between the Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Regional Chamber and the Skillman Foundation        click here