They Make It Easy!


After being somewhat inactive for the last two years, due to illness, I am very happy to be back writing about life, experiences and things that mean a lot to me.  Hopefully, you all enjoy my musings and if I can use the number of visitors to my sites even during my absence, many of you do.  Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite subjects…Keep Growing Detroit!  There is something about this time of year (mid-April) where I am acutely aware of their existence and all of the good things they have done and continue to do after all of these years.  It’s kind of like Memorial Day or Independence Day where just before the holidays you might feel a little more patriotic than other days.  It’s a great feeling and where there are a lot of reasons why, there is one primary reason that validates their existence…their being…their worth, they make it easy!

Yes, they make it easy for anybody to garden.  Anybody with a dream…a desire…a plan, whatever, they make it easy!  I was at the cold-crop distribution last Thursday and I happened to witness a Keep Growing Detroit volunteer take a “senior” gardener by the hand and help her navigate the gathering of shoots and seeds.  It was obvious it was her first time and I was impressed and moved by the patience and guidance this particular volunteer gave this elderly lady.  Maybe she has had some gardening experience but her uncertainty was just enough to warrant the care and attention she received.  She couldn’t buy that type of customer service.


That’s not the only way they make it easy.  As a member of Keep Growing Detroit I can participate in…


  • Community Garden Workdays
  • Learn & Earn Workshops
  • Gardening/Cooking Classes & Tours
  • Exclusive Grown In Detroit Events & Programs
  • Garden Resource Program Events and Plant Distribution (Seeds; Cold Weather Crops; Hot Weather Crops; Fall Crops)


What does it cost to partake in all of this fun?  An easy $10 for a family garden or $20 for a community or school garden.  To be a full participating member you must live in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park.  Even if you don’t live in Detroit you can use Keep Growing Detroit as your vehicle for volunteering in Detroit.  People come from all over the metro area to help make Detroit’s urban farming initiative into one of the most recognized programs in the country. And that’s not easy to do since there are hundreds of communities and programs nationwide that foster urban agriculture activities.  Don’t have time to volunteer?  Donations are always welcome!!!


There are over 1400 gardens in the tri-cities area and I think that the people at Keep Growing Detroit know each and every one of us.  I would love to see their LinkedIn page…talk about a network.  These guys are so involved…so in touch with the city, their efforts make it easy (there’s that phrase again) for us to just be gardeners.  They are on the side of urban agriculturists who include beekeepers, chicken farmers, and goat or sheepherders.  From teaching to selling Keep Growing Detroit has been making it easy for over a decade and it looks like it will keep going and growing in Detroit for a long time.


For more information on Keep Growing Detroit contact them at (313) 757-2635 or


My Garden Life – July 2013


My Garden Life  – July 2013

The Old Farmers Prayer (abridged)


Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet


On the farm I work each day

This is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds, each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out


I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons


All that will live is in the bosom of earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back to her someday!

 By Malcolm Beck & Robert Tate


Those of you that are regular readers on this site know what a difficult year 2012 was for me at my home garden and for my associates that worked with me at Nolan Elementary-Middle School (Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners).  Between the vandalism at the school garden that literally forced us to start over [1] and the oppressing heat that definitely affected farm and garden production across the country (record heat waves in the Midwest), 2012 was nearly a devastating year.  But through all that, my friends and I, fellow gardeners and kids survived and conquered our enemies, natural and man-made, to have productive yields at both gardens.[2] .[3] . [4].  So as the year ended I was feeling pretty doggone good!

One of the last things we did with the kids was a garlic-seeding lesson coordinated by what was then the Garden Resource Program.  We all met at a community garden in Hamtramck to do some clean-up work, drink some fresh pressed apple cider and learn how to plant garlic.  I’ve got to tell you…that cider was damn good…it was cold and tart and natural and cold and sweet and cold…it was fabulous.  One small cup was all I dared to consume.  One small cup…the nectar was addicting!  One cup more would have led to a jug and then just hanging out at the cider press.  This stuff was that good.  Of course we couldn’t keep the kids away from it, but we did manage to get them to focus at what was at hand.  It was a fun day and even I learned something because I was out there.

So I got some garlic from my good BUDDY John Adams and planted it on Nov. 4th along the back row of the garden.  Starting from the West/South end heading north I planted: Music (14); Japanese (13); Kilarney Red (27) and Chesnok Red (30).  Also buried pumpkin shells to add material to the soil.  I was ecstatic because I had a lot of momentum at behind me and I was feeling good about 2013’s prospects.

Two reasons I was feeling good were John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy[5] and Law Academy.  They both became members in the Project Sweet Tomato program.  They both had so much too work with, greenhouse (!!!), a more than cooperative attitude and importantly, the correct vision.  The teacher/coordinator, the newly retired Ms. Gwen Bouler was excellent to work with and when you see her garden you will know why [6].  Another reason for heightened expectations was the development of a fine relationship with the staff of Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Nolan is an EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) project school and in this new environment there has been considerable growth and improvement in literally all aspects of the program…from administrative staff to the CEO Ms. Angela Underwood (principal) and her Parent & Community Involvement Specialist, Ms. DeAndrea “DeDe” Rogers to the teachers and most importantly the kids and their grade scores.  Wonderful things are going on over there and I am excited about its future.

There’s another garden-related program in the city that initially I was pretty high on.  The Detroit School Garden Collaborative, when I first heard about it I was ecstatic.  Six-raised bed with all the fixins’ would be given to Detroit Public Schools that applied for them.  There would be new jobs for students (paid-internships) and for adult assistants.  The gardens would grow vegetables that would be used in the school’s cafeterias.  There would be classroom programs, horticultural and agricultural education, nutrition, and community outreach.  Unfortunately they have had some problems getting it off the ground.  It is going to be a work in progress, and for it to succeed it will need help from a lot of organizations.

As the New Year started, when I am typically checking out my gear and determining what I want to grow (my seed catalogs were coming in almost daily), I found myself not counting the days, but procrastinating about what I was going to do and when I was going to do it.  The first thing off of my “bucket list” was germinating seeds indoors.  My excuse was I didn’t want to take on the process of converting my dining into a plant laboratory.  So to be sure, I cleaned up the dining area, got it looking regal and all that, but slowly but surely it got loaded up with seed packets and garden paraphernalia anyway.

Then came the cold weather crops distribution courtesy of my friends and mentors of Keep Growing Detroit (a spin-off from the Garden Resource Program) in April.  I thought I was going to regain my mojo but “po’ pitiful” me couldn’t get any traction.  The weather didn’t exactly help either (at this date a token excuse), but I did get out and plant carrots and for the first time since I began gardening here, I will be a carrot eating fool!!!  Yum, Yum Eat ‘Em Up!  That sound you hear is not thunder…nor a earthquake…neither a sonic boom, no that’s me taking a bite from a carrot pulled fresh from the garden.  I planted several varieties like:

  • Nelson
  • Danvers
  • Royal Chantenay

They are all doing very well, the stems, a parsley-like green…tall and flowing.  But, as exciting as the carrots are, I’m still not quite there.

The month of May kind of shot by for me and before I knew it, warm-weather crop distribution, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit, was upon me.  I was picking up for my home garden and the Nolan School garden too!  I got there and instead of being excited seeing old friends and making new ones, I meandered from distributor to distributor and gathered my plants and split.  It was no big deal…it didn’t register on me then but upon reflection I should known then that there was a different feeling this year.

I shared my thoughts/feelings with several of my gardening friends and surprisingly was told the same thing.  Almost everybody I know, that is into gardening, considers this year to be an off year as for interest and effort.  They will get what they get but they don’t intend to work too hard to get it.  This behavior probably explains the lack of gardening conversations between my friends and I.  Everybody claims a lack of focus this year too.  They’ve got a lot of major projects going on elsewhere and something’s got to give if they are going to get them done in a reasonable space of time.  Something had to give and for many it was gardening.

I think that for myself, I have spent a considerable amount of time assisting the effort to get the gardens going at Nolan and John R. King.  Both of these school gardens got in before mine.  I was fortunate that some veggies that over-wintered in the garden gave me some of my earliest taste experiences.  I had lettuce and scallions in May and June, plus the garlic I planted last November has been harvested as I write this.  I didn’t really get anything in the ground until June 2nd.  I spent the entire day and the two days that followed (between rain storms) putting every plant I had in and planting seeds also.  So in spite of my laxity of energy and desire I have happily managed to get the following crops in:

  • Greens (All Greens Mix)
  • Arugula
  • Nelson Carrots
  • Napoli Carrots (Fall)
  • Lettuce (Mesclun Mix)
  • Spinach, Space
  • Yankee Bell Pepper
  • Early Jalapeno Pepper
  • Italia Sweet Pepper
  • Big Beef Tomato
  • Brandywine Tomato
  • Cherokee Purple Tomato
  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Green Zebra Tomato
  • Paste Tomato
  • Marketmore Cucumber
  • Georgia Collard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Belstar Broccoli (Fall)
  • White/Green Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tenderbush Green Beans
  • Goldmine Yellow Wax Beans

For a guy that’s supposed to be experiencing an overwhelming feeling malaise this is no small undertaking.  There are 3-20 ft. rows of each bean type…17 tomato plants, 6 varieties14 pepper plants, 3 varieties24 cucumber plants (trellised)4 of each cabbage…6 collard greens…6 broccoli (plus 6 to be planted).  This year I didn’t plant two of my standards, yellow squash and zucchini, as well as a host of peppers (long/short cayenne, ancho/poblano, hot/sweet banana).  I also skipped on the tomatillos.  I guess the several containers of frozen Salsa Verde in my freezer should serve as a reminder of what I should not grow in the immediate future. 

Maybe I am slightly disaffected because there have not been the usual challenges as per seasons before.  I used to get so much fun looking out my office window, keeping watch on the squirrel population as they devastated my garden.  My BB gun has been in the closet now for two years.  Or the times when 50 to 100 birds, black ones with black beaks and iridescent chests, would land in my yard and walk from one side to the other eating and destroying (breaking) everything in their path.  They got a lot of insects but there was a toll to pay.  They would use the garden as a giant dust bath, just flipping and flapping…sometimes fighting around the garden.  Breaking whatever they could…collateral damage, right?  Of course there were the rabbits…my hip-hop friends that nibbled exclusively on young, tender shoots.  All of this has stopped.  Stopped virtually completely!  And I think I know why…my inflatable snakes.  The inflatable snakes from last year.  I haven’t had to put them out this year because no animal…bird or rodent…has come into my yard.  They stopped coming in last year and with the exception of one rabbit and one squirrel hopping quickly across the yard I have not see any pest/varmint in my garden this year.  Maybe they think that the snakes are still out there somewhere…lol.  I do miss the birds, especially the wide variety I did see, but I don’t miss the rest of them that’s for sure.

I ultimately think that I am slowed more than just a little because of the unpredictability of the weather, here and across the nation.  Last year, we were experiencing extreme heat and violent outbursts of weather.  A combination that was not conducive to high output at any level.  This year, with the somewhat mild winter, we were hit by a spring that was somewhat reminiscent of past springs (not as moderate as last year) and a summer that to me was kind of slow to take off.  Last year we had the heat and this year, so far, we’ve got rain…Rain…RAIN and plenty of it.  We have had more than enough rain.  Last year from June 1 through July 30, I hand watered each and every plant on almost an every other day basis.  Because of the heat, unfortunately I over-watered.  So far, this year, I have physically watered my garden only 3 times.  Imagine that…only 3 times (and one of those times it rained afterward).  Between June 1st and July 21st, 61 days…it has rained 29 times!  That’s almost every other day!  Perhaps, I and many others are feeling like we have no control…no control of the weather (how much rain can be too much rain)…no control over the care of the vegetables…no control of the overall outcomes.  All we can do is plants them…put them in that damn ground and nurture them to health and productivity.

Is this what our forefather’s faced?  The Scott’s brand or Miiracle-Gro didn’t exist!  Technology for them was a well that was not more than 10 steps from the garden.  Man, Woman, child, family and friends against the elements.  You didn’t get fancy or waste a space with something that wasn’t going to come close to expectations or needs.  It was about land management.  You had to seasonally rotate and manage crops so that you could eat all year.  Frigidaire?  What was that?  Kenmore?  Come On!  You better get your crops down into that “root cellar”[7] and let them set for keepin’!  Back then, you gardened/farmed with an ongoing desperation and frustration, so maybe that’s what I am feeling now.  As much as I would like to have it, that magically charged green thumb, it’s not going to happen.  I will have to adjust, think smart and adapt to whatever the elements and the environment give me. It looks like in several ways this year will be as good as last year and better too in specific areas.  My bean production should be up, while I am sure my tomato output will be down.  I will take a good bean yield any day! My cabbages are off to a slow start but the collard greens are doing quite rightly so.  Hot banana peppers are looking good and plentiful, jalapeno peppers are at standard and bell pepper plants are flowering.  I will have a good yield from my cucumbers; the plants right now look vigorous and strong.  I will need 101 different ways to prepare this vegetable if they hold to form. 

2013 photo 1

Cucumbers and plum tomatoes

2013 photo 3

All my little bean soldiers standing in a row!

2013 photo 4

2013 photo 5

A row of carrots planted between two rows of garlic

2013 photo 7

2013 photo 8

2013 photo 9

All of the garden scaffolding…can’t wait till the tomato plants fill them out.

2013 photo 10

These pictures were actually taken about 3 weeks ago and a lot has happened since they were taken.  I’ve got beans on the plants and tomato development and growth is improving.  Fall crops will get in next week.  I have come to like this garden.  It’s different…it’s practical…it’s creative.  Like most experienced gardeners and farmers, I will learn from this year, put it in my toolkit, and get ready for 2014.

All Good (?) Things Come To An End!


It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and I am enjoying fresh vegetables from my organic garden.  Just yesterday I cooked collard greens, boiled potatoes, cornbread with a side of slice tomatoes for my mom.  The greens and the tomatoes were from my garden.  After that super hot and drought-like summer, I am totally amazed that there is anything out there, let alone it being edible.  In addition to the greens and tomatoes, I’ve got yellow squash, peppers, and tomatillos “on the bush” too, so to speak.  This is in spite of the pronounced chill in the air that we’ve had since the middle of September, with a few exceptions.

I know I said I wasn’t going to keep track of what I harvested but I decided to do it anyway.  I am a fool in love when it comes to gardening and it didn’t make sense to abandon the process for one year just because this summer didn’t turn out as well as the year before.  But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad year…it was a good year and if things had been slightly different I would have had a great yield.  At the end of the day my yield was off nearly 45% from the previous year

Vegetable                                                 2011                2012                Diff +/-


Cabbage/Greens/Lettuces/               31.5 lbs.        21.3 lbs.          -10.2 



Beans (all varieties)                            16.3 lbs.         2 .4 lbs.          -13.9


Peppers (all varieties)                        19.75 lbs.      12.53 lbs.      -7.22


Tomatoes (all varieties)                      121.47 lbs.   66.54 lbs.     -54.93


Tomatillos                                                9.01 lbs          4.84 lbs.         -4.17


Zucchini/Squash/Cucumber               22.5 lbs        22.63 lbs.     +0.13


Onions/Shallots                                      9.0 lbs.        .25 lbs.             -7.75


Herbs                                                        1.0 lbs           0.625              -0.375


Totals                                                      230.53 lbs       132.16 lbs.      -98.37


Surprised?  Yeah, so am I!  I am surprised that it did so well. There are some very unique things going on which I should explain so that the numbers make more sense to you.  For example…

  1. I didn’t plant as many tomatillo (2 vs. 4), pepper (24 vs. 51) or tomato plants (34 vs. 34, of which only 14 were not cherry/small tomatoes vs. 5 in 2011) as I did in 2011.
  2. I didn’t plant onions.
  3. My zucchini yield was off this year but the yellow squash made up the difference.  Cucumber yield was about the same or slightly more.
  4. Cabbage production was down significantly (small heads) whereas the greens and broccoli were up.  I did not plant any head lettuces just the leafy varieties.
  5. The bean output was just pitiful.  More plantings than in 2011 and far less yield, the worst ever in 6 years.
  6. 2011, I literally went crazy…planting and cramming as much into the garden as I could.  And when I ran out of room I bought pots and bins.  The goal was to not have to work as hard in my garden this year as I did in the previous year.  I think that there is a happy medium and I am confident I will find it in 2013.
  7. I hand-watered the garden. I didn’t want to water the weeds (which, thankfully I didn’t have many)!   I hand-watered in 2011 too, but it got to a point that I had to use the hose.  2012, though I had fewer plants they needed just as much attention.  Look at the number of plants (see point #1) I had in both years.  Hand watering takes time!  I felt like I was working myself like my mother likes to work my “government mule” ass.  I overworked myself in 2011 and wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2012…and yet I watered AND WATERED!  I was averaging between 90 – 100 minutes every 2 or 3 days through the middle of August.  Hot days took longer.  The plants looked like they were doing great even with the heatwave, but with the notable exception of the tomatillo plants, which unexpectedly grew to nearly seven feet tall, they were all rather spindly and ultimately kind of weak looking.  But like I said, the numbers were there but the size and weight wasn’t.

In spite of the overall low production, I did have a spell there, for a while, where my dining room table was loaded with vegetables of all kinds. There was more room out of the refrigerator than in so anything that didn’t have to be refrigerated right away stayed out.  My plan was to can and freeze as usual, but there was an insufficient amount of the tomatoes I wanted to can and not enough beans to do a proper freezing project with.  When I did manage to freeze something it actually seemed like it was a lot but in reality I spent only three days in the kitchen, which I intentionally spread out over the days.

I did eat more of the veggies this time.  Since preserving them wasn’t going to work, I took the time to enjoy my garden in the moment…most of the time the veggies were picked that very day.  I had something substantial from the garden every two to three days.  I highly recommend the GRP (Garden Resource Program) Salad Mix of lettuces and their All Greens Mix (great for stir-frys).  I got compliments from everybody that I shared produce with and in spite of my low yield I still shared a lot.  Rotating at the top of the popularity list were the Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and the Cubanelle, Sweet Banana and Yellow Hot Peppers.  I had never tried to grow the Cherokee tomato variety nor had I ever had a Cubanelle pepper.  The peppers grew to a very nice size and the tomatoes had a very unique and sweet taste.  Anybody living in Detroit that owns or plans to start a garden should check out the Garden Resource Program at  It’s a great program and resource.

Another pleasant surprise was the shallots!  I didn’t think that I grew that many (20 oz.) but I have been using them about once a week since they were harvested at the end of July.  This was also the first year that my green bell peppers grew to size.  I only had 6 (out of 8) plants that actually grew some and they were beautiful.  I ate these while I froze the Cubanelle and the Sweet Banana peppers.  I was afraid to attempt to let them mature to red because I thought I was pushing my luck with the squirrels.  But, ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.

I had fewer problems with the squirrels due to the inflatable snakes I had in the garden.  In fact, I didn’t lose one pepper to the squirrels and at the worst I probably lost only about 4…maybe 5 tomatoes before the “I didn’t care” mentality took hold (October 20th).  Even now, the squirrels avoid going into the garden…hahahaha!  The garden was also fenced all around, so I didn’t have problems with rabbits either.  The sad thing was that my birds didn’t stop by and visit.  I always thought that the birds came from miles and miles away and I really enjoyed the different colors they brought to my window throughout the day.  But the snakes kept them away too.  Oh well, I guess it was the appropriate trade off, because there is a particular type of black bird that would come into my garden en masse and they would be as destructive as the squirrels.  They loved to attack any green shoot coming out of the ground and fight amongst the squashes.  But this, the year of the snakes, meant no birds…ces’t la vie!

So all in all, I enjoyed this year’s garden very much and I am sorry to see it end.  As I conclude this blog on Monday, Nov. 5th, I am proud to say that I got the most out of it I could.  Imagine picking hot and sweet peppers and tomatillos as late as Nov. 4th.  I had tomatoes out there were still ripening too!  They were small but not much smaller than the heat stricken tomatoes I had in the summer.  And I will concede that they didn’t taste as good either, but still…man…it’s “freakin” November and I was pulling healthy productive plants out of the ground.  What a summer (climate change and all) and what a fall…all good things (?) do come to an end!

P.S. I can’t wait until next year!  I have already planted nearly 60 cloves of garlic of four different varieties (Music, Japanese, Kilarney Red and Chesnok Red) in two 20 ft. long rows.

Thanks to John Adams, Jenni Littsey, and the Garden Resource Program for helping to make this year’s garden fun!

Green Thumb? Maybe…Maybe Not!


This year has proven to be a real challenge for gardeners and farmers around the world.  Though there are a lot of people (mainly politicians) that want to discredit all notions of global warming there are a lot of signs or indications, whether it be heavy snowfalls, severe rainstorms or the consistent high heat  and drought-like conditions, that point in that direction.  You’d have to live on another planet not to be aware of the impact the climate has had on cost of living now and perhaps into the future.  Fruits and vegetables are going to cost more this year.  Our feed crops for animal consumption have been hit pretty hard too.  Creating a domino effect that virtually ensures that the meat we eat, beef, poultry and pork, will cost more.

If you have been watching our local and national newscast, you have seen how the high temperatures of this summer have affected the crop production in many of our key states.  The corn in Indiana is about half the size it should be.  Wheat production in many of the plain states is way off.  High heat and the lack of rain has been a recipe for disaster.  And what is truly amazing is that despite or inspite of the extreme weather conditions, weeds…and I do mean WEEDS,  continue to grow and do very well.  The lack of rain or watering has not stop the weeds from “uglying” up our lawns, gardens or indoubtedly our farms.   Maybe weeds will be the crop of the future.

Many of my friends have asked how I and my garden are dealing with the summer of 2012, so I have quite a few pictures I would like to share with you all that show how I am handling things.  I must admit my green thumb feels like it’s only a green pinky.  I do not believe I will have the same production from my 2012 garden that I got from the 2011 effort.  Tomatoes are smaller, bean production is off and some things like carrots never sprouted.  Afraid that my zucchini and squashes were parched, I probably over watered them.  Even plants, like peppers, that typically enjoy hot weather conditions are undersized.  My expectations are so low as of now, I am seriously considering putting away my scale (courtesy of the Garden Resource Program) for the summer.  Gardening is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work too.  I have worked harder to have fun  this year than any previous year.  And even with all of my whining and complaining I still believe it will be worth it.

Stage One – June

I am off to a good start…

Check out that soil!

New fencing to keep out the rabbits and the squirrels…hahaha!

So much promise…so much to look forward to!

Stage Two – The Beginning of July

The first week of July…Nice!

After this, virtually no rain for the rest of the month!

Stage Three-The End of July

Cucumbers…looking good!

Yellow Wax Beans

Now, I know you are all looking at this and saying what in the H*** is he talking about?  Well, there are times when even I look at it and ask myself the same thing.  But don’t let the green grass fool you.  It is brutal out there…absolutely brutal.  Some plants are doing very well and some are well below normal expectations.  I have re-planted beans three times.  My pole beans are a total disaster.  The yield from my zucchini and squash, as previously mentioned, is so low it is almost disgraceful.  I do have to accept the fact that somethings, especially the weather, are totally out of my control.  Oh, but I will more than make do though.  Again, as previously noted, my lettuces and greens are doing exceptionally well.  It still looks like I will get a lot from my Yellow Wax Beans.  All varieties of my tomatoes will ultimately do well…they just won’t be as large or as plentiful as they have been in the past.  My peppers, all types, will have a banner year.  So I will survive, but the price for surviving has gone up…way up.  Because to get what I have, I have had to work twice as hard this year to get even close to the output of previous years.  That’s right…twice as hard!

Is it worth it?  Easy answer…”Yes it is!”  Since I preserve a lot of what I grow, I will appreciate my efforts whenever I go to my freezer and pull something out that I grew this summer.  Plus, the most significant benefit will be the money saved.  A quick visit to my local supermarket has already proven that too.  Prices are already starting to rise while the quality, unfortunately, is going down.  Growing my own is still the best way…the most cost efficient way to eat fresh, quality food on a daily basis.  Without a doubt it has been a struggle this year…a real test of my green thumb (and the rest of my fingers).   But guess what?  I can’t wait until next year.

Related articles on this site…

  1. Compost Tea…A Most Beneficial Brew!
  2. I Thought That All Dandelions Were Good For Was Making Wine!
  3. 10 Things That Successful Gardeners Know or Do!

Are you having problems with your garden this year?  Drop me a line…misery loves company!  Also, the people at the Greening of Detroit are a good resource for dealing with problems you might have with your garden.  Contact Lindsay Pielack (313) 285-2300 or go to

I Thought That All Dandelions Were Good For Was Making Wine!

1 Comment

I just read an article that said that cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue again after falling out of favor for many years.  You see this a lot on some of the TV cooking shows and I have experienced this myself at a few of our most upscale restaurants.  I used to have a neighbor when I lived in Wixom, a couple named Chris and Marti Baumgartner, who did a lot of foraging and you should never be surprised that when invited for any meal, Marti had included one or two varieties of flowers in the meal.  I was afraid of Marti…I didn’t trust her…I didn’t believe she knew enough about what she was harvesting to know if it was safe or not.  We lived at 12 Mile Rd. and Grand River.  12 Mile Rd. was the onramp for the expressway and I can tell you that a lot of cars went down that road…by the second, the minute and the hour.  Traffic was non-stop and there was no telling how toxic the growing conditions were along the road.  Just no tellin’!

My past fears aside, I think that people are once again enjoying their edible flowers because it is a practical thing to do.  The movement back to more simpler times, when what we smelled or tasted was more natural…organic, I believe has a lot to do with it.  I know there are plenty of people who never left the bandwagon, like vegetarians, who legitimately may think what’s the fuss.  If you were to open a magazine like Vegetarian Times, you will not only see advertisements about herbal or flower-based remedies and supplements, but recipes that feature flowers in one way or another on a pretty regular basis. 

If you read the right magazines or cookbooks and watch the right television cooking shows, you already know that there are a lot of ways to use edible flowers in your meals and the secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple, do not add too many flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower.

For your culinary enjoyment I have prepared a short list of edible flowers exclusively from the flower category.  Other categories that you should be aware of include, herb flowers, vegetable flowers and fruit.  Regardless of the category, there is one universal rule…


Commercially grown or roadside flowers can be extremely toxic.  You have no idea as to what has been used to make them grow.  Plus, many flowers even though they are edible have parts that are hard to digest or are harmful and then there those that are completely poisonous.  So by growing and harvesting your own, you will always know that what you are eating is not harmful to you and your family.  Don’t be a “Marti,” okay?

The blooms that you can eat will make a decorative, tasty addition to any meal you prepare.  Add flowers to salads and stir-fries or you can add them to a wide variety of foods like herbal teas, jellies, spreads, vinegars and marinades.

You can prepare flowers for use by harvesting the bloom right before eating and give it a gentle rinse.  Follow whatever your recipe calls for at that point whether you are using them raw or have to blanch them.

Edible Flowers

  • Calendula (Pot Marigold), tangy-flavored orange or yellow flowers.  Can be used like Saffron.  Use in soups, pasta, rice dishes, herb butters and salads.
  • Chrysanthemums, tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange.  They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower.  Can also be used to flavor vinegar.
  • Dandelions, member of the Daisy family, these flowers are sweet when picked young.  They have a sweet, honey flavor.  Young leaves taste good steamed or tossed in salads.
  • Dianthus (Sweet William), clove-like flavor
  • Impatiens, this flower has a sweet flavor.  Can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.
  • Nasturtiums, red, orange or yellow flowers that brighten up salads.  Blooms have a spicy, peppery flavor that is reminiscent of arugula or watercress.
  • Pansy, the blooms have a mild vegetable flavor and is often used to decorate cakes and salads.
  • Roses, the flavor depends on the type, color and believe it or not, the soil conditions.  Its flavor can be reminiscent of strawberries or green apples.  Sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice.  All roses are edible, with the flavor more pronounced in the darker varieties.  Many uses include as a garnish on ice cream and desserts, sprinkled on desserts and salads, and in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads.

I must reiterate how important it is to not eat roses that have been exposed to systemic fertilizers or disease control rose food.  You very well could be digesting those properties and they will make you sick!


  • Tulips, the beautiful blooms of this plant have a mild, vegetable flavor.  

Did I miss anything?  What have you tried and enjoyed?



Dandelion Wine Recipe

3 qts. Dandelion Flowers

1 lb.  Golden Raisins

1 Gal. Water

3 lbs. Granulated Sugar

2       Lemons

1       Orange

Yeast and nutrient


Pick the flowers just before starting, so they are fresh.  You do not need to pick the petals off the flower heads, but the heads should be trimmed of any stalk.  Put the flowers in a large bowl.  Set aside 1 pint of water and bring the remainder to a boil.  Pour the boiling hot water over the dandelion flowers and cover tightly with a cloth or plastic wrap.  Leave for two days, stirring twice daily.  Do not exceed this time.  Pour flowers and water in a large pot and bring to a low boil.  Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and orange.  Boil for one hour, then poor into a crock or plastic pail.  Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange.  Allow to stand until cool (70 – 75 degrees F.).  Add yeast and yeast nutrients, cover and put in a warm place for three days.  Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug).  Add the raisins and fit a fermentation trap to the vessel.  Strain and rack after wine clears, adding reserved pint of water and any additional required to top up.  Leave until fermentation ceases completely, then rack again.  Set aside for 2 months and again rack and bottle.  The wine must age six months in the bottle before tasting, but will improve remarkably if allowed a year. 



Do you want to learn more?  Maybe you should attend some of Urban Garden Education Series Classes put on by the Garden Resource Program Collaborative/The Greening of Detroit.  There is a fee for non-members.  Set your calendar for


  • Sunday, July 7th “Wild Edible Weeds: Edible & Medicinal Weeds”
  • Thursday, September 27th “Herbal Health: Teas, Tinctures & Salves”


For more information go to or call Lindsay Pielack at the Greening of Detroit (313) 285-2300

10 Things That Successful Gardeners Know Or Do!


A few Saturday’s ago, my friend and fellow gardener/farmer John Adams was over and as he stood in my driveway he was able to take a long look at my garden bed.  The first thing he said was that “my garden was all set and ready to go” and he asked when I had the time to turn it over?  I thanked him for the compliment and said that I hadn’t touched my garden since I closed it down last October.  He couldn’t help but notice that my bed was virtually weed free and this was in spite of the fact that I had dumped untold amounts of compost in the garden throughout the growing season last year.  You could see that the soil had definitely improved as a result of these efforts and the added benefit is that I could (with the right precautions) go out today and plant cold-hardy plants or seeds in the garden with a minimum of fuss or work…the soil is that ready. Hail Gloria Hallelujah!

Actually, I am not all that surprised by the appearance of my bed right now.  And the reason why is that I had a plan.  You see a successful garden, large or small, will have at its basic core…a plan.  I know that there are a lot of people who just have the knack; some innate ability to be able to just throw some seeds out the window…anywhere…and something will grow there.  But, for every “Jack” and his rows and rows of beans, there are some “Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s” whose bad luck is of biblical proportion.  Now I can’t say that having a plan automatically saves you from the worst that could happen, but it will make a difference.  A plan will enable you to get the most out of every square inch of your garden…from the last spring frost to the first in the fall.  It is a vision that if/when it is articulated properly, will help you navigate through some of your toughest challenges.  If you have the right plan for you and your garden, it will be fun…not work. 

Here are a few things you’ve got to know:

  1. Know what type of garden you want to grow.  Are you growing flowers or vegetables or both?  What about herbs?
  2. What are you going to plant it in?  In a traditional garden bed?  Raised bedsContainer garden?  How much room do you have?  Now is the time to be smart and don’t make the garden too big for you to handle.
  3. What ‘s going to be your crop?  A basic garden crop will probably have a few tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, bush or pole beans, cucumbers, squash and some peppers.  The trick is, knowing, even when planting a basic garden, what variety of tomato or bean or whatever you want to grow.  Get those seed catalogs early, even if you don’t make your purchases from them, and do your research.
  4. Create a blueprint so that you will know what to plant where.  There are several plants that have a pretty fast from seed to harvest lifetime.  Knowing where you plan to plant these “shortermers” will give you the flexibility to cycle your crops more effectively and efficiently.
  5. Once you have started your seeds, create a timeline or a log, which you will use to chart the germination and ongoing development of your young seedlings and sets.
  6. Establish a regular weeding schedule.  So that you don’t have to do it all in one day, do a section at a time.  You will be surprised as to how little of your time will eventually be used to keep your garden clean.
  7. Feed or fertilize your garden at specific times.  It is really important that you keep a log on this too.  You don’t want to over feed your plants just like you don’t want to over water them either.
  8. Plan to water either in the morning or at night.  Since I like to work in the garden before it gets too hot, I prefer to water in the evening.  And by hand watering, I am learning exactly how frequently and how much water each plant variety needs for good growth and production.
  9. Regularly check for diseases, insects or pests.  You may eliminate a major problem or prevent one from happening if you spend a little time everyday turning a few leaves over or just looking at your plants.
  10. Have a plan for what you are going to do once harvesting begins.  You don’t want to waste your crops by not being ready or have a use for the food you are growing.  Know if you are going to be canning or freezing or drying your produce, which method works best for which product and when the products are at their peak for each method of preservation.

It may sound like a lot of work to be so organized, but you will find it is even more work not to be.  Did I miss anything?  Let me know what you think everybody should know before, during and after to have a successful and fun season of gardening.

A great resource for the novice or experienced gardener is Detroit’s Greening of Detroit Collaborative.  To join, contact Lindsay Pielack at (313) 285-2300 or

Need professional help…call Jan (Coppola) Bills of “Two Women and A Hoe®” at (248) 891-0548 mobile or email

Please read Spring Has Sprung!!! for more specific information.

The Most Important Lesson Learned From This Year’s Garden Is…


Frequent readers of this blog may recall that this year presented real challenges to gardeners and farmers across the country.  The months of April and May were rainy and wet.  June and July brought record highs due to searing national heat waves.  August was almost fall-like with the temperatures going up and down. September, well it was September, and a true “Indian Summer” never really manifested in October, as many local baseball fans would attest.  The mantra I am sure that came from everybody lips was “Deal With It…Just Deal With It!  You really had no other choice but to deal with whatever Mother Nature threw down.  Our fathers…our father’s fathers…and their fathers before them all understood what we all now know…“that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger”…DEAL WITH IT!

So deal with I did.  I posted pictures in a previous blog that showed what my garden looked like at a couple of stages this year.  At the time the pictures were taken, I was hopeful but I really wasn’t expecting much, not like last year.  Last year was fantastic…an exceptional year.  What made me more than a little concerned was that I had signed up for a program with the Garden Resource Program (The Greening of Detroit) to weigh my harvested produce.  When I signed up for this initiative I did so because of last year’s success.  But with the way things had started this year I was having some regrets and doubts very early on.

Every day I worked out in the garden, I thought of myself as a “sodbuster”, in the traditional sense.  On the rainy days I got soaked to the bone!  On the hot days I sweated like a pig!  Either way I looked like someone had thrown buckets of water on me.  One day my mother said, “Arthur, what have you been doing…you’re BLACK”!  I had to laugh for maybe my mom didn’t know that black folks tanned.  But there I was with a farmer’s tan…neck, shoulders, arms and the bottom half of my legs (I usually wore shorts when working in the garden).  My long hours working in the garden, in the sun, evoked memories and images in my mind of cotton fields and cabbage patches worked by sharecroppers back in the day.  The things I read about in history books or works of fiction were what I was living presently…day in and day out.

Lest you think that I am being overly dramatic, there is a real connection to the past here…the way we all used to live.  Being a post-war baby…a baby boomer…I can recall the days when everybody had a garden in his or her yard.  You lived off of your efforts to grow things.  If you grew tomatoes…you canned them!   If you grew beans…you pickled them!  If you had fruit trees…you made jams or pies!  We had cabbage plants, carrots, peas, cucumbers; you name it…you grew things because you had to…everybody lived off of the land.  Black, White, Asian…Martian or Venutian…you worked your garden because it was in your DNA.  History compelled you to do so.  And now 50 some odd years later, I was carrying on the tradition.  I never thought about it…never thought I would…but I was out there.  Watering plants by hand, not with a hose hooked to a faucet, to save money and resources.  Pulling and hoeing weeds…gardening organically, without the use of pesticides.  Fighting off the varmints…squirrels, birds and rabbits, fending off the damage they could and would do on a daily basis.  There were a lot of moments where I thought, “How did they handle all of these negative factors…the rain, the heat, weeds, the insects, the varmints?”  How did they survive these daily, weekly or season-long challenges?  How did they do it?  They would Deal With It…that’s all they could do…deal with it.  And so did I!

Around the beginning of July, several of the plants started to show signs of bearing fruit and I harvested my first vegetable from the garden.  It was Romaine Lettuce.  We had it as part of our Fourth of July celebratory meal.  Not too long after that, my onions were ready.  I was kind of surprised that the onions were ready so soon, but I guess because of the extreme heat we had in June, a lot of vegetables matured at an accelerated pace.  We had a big storm around July 11th and several of my tomato plants were knocked over.  The bush beans were flooded and potted plants were blown away.  But you know what I did, don’t you?

Around July 14th things started to come around.  The beans came back from the storm damage and though it looked some of the plants growth (cucumbers, zucchini and squash) was stunted due to the excessive heat, there were signs that things would be okay.  On July 19th I harvested my first batch of bush beans and the garden took off from there.  Before the end of the month I was picking beans, cucumbers, lettuces and tomatoes and at the beginning of the month of August, I was adding all types peppers and squash to the list.

I kept planting beans throughout the summer and ultimately those efforts paid off.  Before that garden was done, I had planted four successions of Contender and Provider bush beans along with Cherokee Yellow Wax Beans.  My pole beans were a victim of the summer heat as they flowered quickly and then just died without producing anything.  But everything else just flourished.  It seemed that every day it didn’t rain I was picking stuff from the garden.  My “yard of plenty” was giving me plenty to share with family, friends and neighbors.  Some of the biggest tomatoes I have ever grown.  The fleshiest and tastiest beans, the sweetest cucumbers and peppers that were both hot and sweet.  Even my first year test of growing tomatillos was showing signs of success.  Since I was weighing everything I harvested, I was surprised to see at the end of the month that I had harvested 60 pounds of produce.  WOW!

September was even better!  This time last year I was fighting a losing battle with the squirrels that lived in the trees around my yard.  I was talking to a friend about the garden and pest control when he asked me how much had I lost to the squirrels this year.  I thought about it for a minute and said that I had lost between 1 to 2% of this year’s yield up to then.  It sounded so insignificant when compared to last year when I spent hours every day chasing the varmints from my yard and was unable to stop them from feeding two or three times a day.  His remark was to SHUT THE F**K UP!  I wasn’t just getting by…I was getting over!  And he was right.  September was even better than August when it came time for me to audit what I harvested for the month.  On September 15 I had harvested a total of 117.66 pounds (August/September combined) and the final tally for the month showed that I had harvested 166.84 pounds.  I had harvested over 100 pounds during the month of September.  The breakdown was:



  • Leaf/Greens            10.6 lbs.
  • Cabbage/Broccoli            8.4 lbs.
  • Beans              16.4 lbs.
  • Squash/Zucchini/Cucumbers            20.06 lbs.
  • Tomatoes            82.09 lbs.
  • Tomatillos            7.13 lbs.
  • Peppers            12.55 lbs.
  • Onions            9.0 lbs
  • Herbs              1.0 lbs


Total                           166.84 lbs.


For October, though the numbers are incomplete, to date I have harvested 63.31 pounds of produce.  I have harvested everything I can but still have quite a few tomatoes and tomatillos on the vine, along with broccoli, which has several shoots on each remaining plant.  So by my count I am well over 200 pounds and I just might, if I don’t get hit by a hard frost before the end of next week, reach 250 pounds.

So in spite of all my worrying…hand wringing…cries of despair, I have had a truly remarkable year.  What an effort…what a great yield!  I learned a lot form gardening this year but the most important lesson I learned was…no matter what comes up…meet it head on…and just Deal With It.  You may be real surprised as to way things turn out!



Ode To The End Of Summer



Summer, adieu

Adieu gregarious season

Goodby, ‘revoir, farewell

Now day, comes late; now chiller blows the breeze on

Forsaken beach and boarded-up hotel

Now wild geese fly together in thin lines

And Tourist Homes take down their lettered signs


It fades—this green this lavish interval

This time of flowers and fruits,

Of melon ripe along the orchard wall,

Of sun and sails and wrinkled linen suits;

Time when the world seems rather plus than minus

And pollen tickles the allergic sinus


Now fugitives to farm and shore and highland

Cancel their brief escape.

The Ferris wheel is quiet at Coney Island

And quaintness trades no longer on the Cape;

While meek-eyed parents hasten down the ramps

To greet their offspring, terrible from camps.


Turn up the steam.  The year is growing older.

The maple boughs are red.

Summer, farewell.  Farewell the sunburnt shoulder

Farewell the peasant kerchief on the head,

Farewell the thunderstorm, complete with lightning,

And the white shoe that ever needth whitening


Farewell, vacation friendships, sweet but tenuous

Ditto to slacks and shorts,

Farewell, O strange compulsion to be strenuous

Which sends us forth to death on tennis courts. 

Farewell, Mosquito, horror of our nights;

Clambakes, iced tea, and transatlantic flights.


The zinnia withers, mortal as the tulip

Now from the dripping glass

I’ll sip no more the amateur mint julep

Nor dine al fresco on the alien grass;

Nor scale the height nor breast the truculent billow

Nor lay my head on any weekend pillow.


Unstintingly I yield myself to Autumn

And Equinoctial sloth.

I hide my swim suit in the bureau’s bottom

Nor fear the fury of the after-moth

Forswearing porch and pool and beetled garden,

My heart shall rest, my arteries shall harden.


Welcome, kind Fall, and every month with ‘r’ in

Whereto my mind is bent.

Come, sedentary season that I star in,

O fire-lit Winter of my deep content!

Amid the snow, the sleet, the blizzard’s raw gust

I shall be cozier than I was in August.


Safe from the picnic sleeps the unlittered dell,

The last Good Humor sounds its final bell

And all is silence.

Summer, farewell, farewell.


By Phyllis McGinley


Lastly, a special thanks to all of the people of the Garden Resource Program.  Lindsay, Kido, Carmen, Tepfirah, Eitan and all of the rest…thank you for your kind and generous support.  See Y’all Next Year!


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