They Make It Easy!

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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 keepgrowingdetroit@gmail.com.

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All Good (?) Things Come To An End!

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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 

Broccoli

 

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 www.detroitagriculture.net.  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!

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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 www.detroitagriculture.net.

News From The Greening of Detroit

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2011 GARDEN RESOURCE PROGRAM SEED DISTRIBUTIONS Spring is here! It’s seed distribution time for participants of the Garden Resource Program.    

  • Cluster 5: Thursday, March 17th,6-8 pm, American Indian Health and Family Services, 4880 Lawndale
  • Cluster 9: Saturday, March 19th, 10-12 pm, Adams Butzel Recreation Center, 10500 Lyndon
  • Cluster 4: Sunday, March 20th, 1-3 pm, Catherine Ferguson Academy, 2750 Selden
  • Cluster 1: Monday, March 21st, 5-7 pm, Davison Elementary School, 2800 E. Davison
  • Cluster 8: Monday, March 21st, 6-8 pm, Leland Baptist Church, 22420 Fenkell St.
  • Cluster 3: Tuesday, March 22nd, 6-8 pm, Georgia Street Community Center, 8902 Vinton at Georgia St.
  • Highland Park Cluster: Tuesday, March 22nd, 6-8pm, Focus Hope, 1355 Oakman
  • Cluster 10: Wednesday, March 23rd, 6-8pm, Gesu Church, 17180 Oak Dr.

Please feel free to attend the cluster seed distribution which is closest or most convenient for you. If you have not yet sent in your application, please feel free to bring it with you to the event rather than sending it in. If you miss the seed distributions, you will need to wait to pick up seeds at the cold crop distribution. 

Please contact Lindsay Turpin at 313-285-1249 or lindsay_detroitagriculture@yahoo.com for more information.  

Volunteer with the Garden Resource Program!  

Looking to get involved? We still need a few more volunteers to help out at the seed distributions.  If you can join us to help gardeners pick out seeds and make things run smooth at the distributions,  please contact Tee at 313-237-8733 ext.241 or Tepfirah.Rushdan@greeningofdetroit.com.  

SAVE THE DATE – CLUSTER  ADDITIONAL RESOURCE MEETINGS   
2011 GARDEN RESOURCE PROGRAM CLUSTER ADDITIONAL RESOURCE MEETINGS Please mark your calendar and join us at your Cluster’s Additional Resource Meeting in April. At this meeting, you’ll meet fellow cluster gardeners and learn about the great resources and opportunities available to participants in the Garden Resource Program.  

  • CLUSTER 1: Monday, April 11th, 5-7PM at Davison Elementary School, 2800 E. Davison
  • CLUSTER 3: Thursday, April 7th, 6-8PM at Genesis Lutheran Church, 7200 Mack at E. Grand Blvd
  • CLUSTER 4: Sunday, April 10th, 1-3PM at Catherine Ferguson Academy, 2750 Selden, north of MLK Blvd at Lawton
  • CLUSTER 5: Wednesday, April 6th, 5-7PM at American Indian Health and Family Services, 4880 Lawndale, south of Michigan Ave.
  • CLUSTER 8: Monday, April 4th, 6-8PM at Leland Baptist Church, 22420 Fenkell, west of Lahser
  • CLUSTER 9: Saturday, April 9th, 1-3PM at Adams Butzel Recreation Center, 10500 Lyndon, west of Wyoming
  • CLUSTER 10: Wednesday, April 6th, 6-8PM at Gesu Church, 17180 Oak Dr. at McNichols 
  • CLUSTER HIGHLAND PARK (HP): Monday, April 4th, 5-7PM at Focus Hope, 1355 Oakman, east of Linwood

Please contact Lindsay Turpin at 313-285-1249 or lindsay_detroitagriculture@yahoo.com for more information.  

JOB POSTING – THE GREENING OF DETROIT   
YOUTH GARDENING & NUTRITION EDUCATION COORDINATOR The Greening of Detroit is seeking a full-time Youth Gardening and Nutrition Education Program Coordinator to support school and community gardens working with youth, primarily in grades k-8. Support includes assisting with distribution of garden resources, garden design and planning, school/community outreach and engagement, and curriculum development and implementation. The Youth Gardening and Nutrition Education Program Coordinator works in our Urban Agriculture and Education Team and reports to the Director of Urban Agriculture and Openspace.For a full job description or more information, please contact Ashley Atkinson at ashley@greeningofdetroit.com or 313-237-8736 (email preferred if you have access)

DETROIT URBAN GARDEN EDUCATION SERIES  
Saturday, March 19th, Berry Beautiful: Growing Grapes and other Small Fruits, Catherine Ferguson Academy, 2750 Selden north of Martin Luther King east of I-96, 1-3PM Gorgeous grapes, rockin’ raspberries, bodacious blackberries – small fruits are tasty, highly nutritious and can be some of the easiest fruit to grow.  Learn from MSUE fruit specialist Bob Tritten who will share his skills on how to grow, prune and care for of these delicious delights.Upcoming classes:Thursday, March 31st, Growtown Before Motown: The History of Urban Agriculture in Detroit, Genesis Lutheran Church, 7200 Mack Ave at the corner of East Grand Blvd., 6-8PM Thursday, April 7th, Herbalicious!: Dividing and Propagating Perennial Herbs, Plum Street Market Garden, 2202 Third off of Plum St. between Third and Grand River, 6-8PM

CHICKENS!  
Backyard Chicken Farmer Program at the Georgia Street Community Collective   (organized by community members Mark Covington & Deborah James) Backyard Chickens: Starting your own coop. Ever thought about raising your own backyard chickens? It really does not take much space or time. There are a variety of reasons to keep chickens in urban environments. This class will be a hands-on experience. Allowing participants (ages 8 and older, minor’s must be accompanied by an adult.) to start their own backyard chicken coops this summer. We will meet once a month on Saturday’s from 1- 4pm starting in March-September. Those that attend this class will have the opportunity to order chicks that are sexed in small quantities, without worrying about minimums and shipping costs. For further information or to sign up for the class, contact Deborah James (313) 627-3482 or Mark Covington (313) 452-0684

FEAST DETROIT! YOUTH-LED COMMUNITY DINNERS  
YOU’RE INVITED TO FEAST WITH US!The FEAST program is kicking off their 2011 events with a FEAST dinner on March 26th, 5-7PM at Warren Conner Development Corporation, located at 11148 Harper Ave.  The FEAST crew would like to invite young people between the ages of 14-21 to join us for a delicious meal and inspiring conversation. All guests must RSVP to Eitan Sussman at 313.237.8733 ext. 236 or eitan.greeningofdetroit@gmail.com. Please contact Eitan Sussman for more information.FEAST is a program that works with youth to plan, organize, promote, and cook communal FEAST dinners for youth and adults across the city in 2011. We’ll look forward to sharing more exciting news and events from FEAST this season.

 
 
 
   

 

Urban Gardening Resource: Urban Farm Magazine

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I was recently introduced to the URBAN FARM MAGAZINE.  I found it to be an excellent resource for anybody that has the desire to start a family or community garden.  It is published bimonthly by BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie, Inc.  The subscription rate for 6 issues (one year) is $19.97, two years is $29.97.   Canadian and foreign, add $6.00 extra per year payable in U.S. funds.  You should allow 6 – 8 weeks for new subscriptions to begin.

The March/April issue of Urban Farms has several articles that should be of interest to the garden beginner as well as the more experienced gardener/urban farmer.  Beginning with a impressive and informative article on urban farming in Detroit “Motown To Growtown: Greening Detroit”.  It focuses on several organizations that are working very hard to turn the city around through gardening/farming (more on that below).  Other meaningful articles are:

  • Secrets to Community Garden Success
  • Start Your Seeds Today
  • Pollinators in Peril: Keep Bees in the City
  • Guerrilla Gardening: Neighborhood Clean-Up
  • Make Maple Syrup (and Recipes) From City Trees 
  • Sustainability: Coming to a City Near You

You can read these articles online at www.urbanfarmonline.com.  If you are at all interested in the green movement, I would definitely encourage you to pick the magazine up and include it in your library on a regular basis.

MOTOWN TO GROWTOWN: GREENING DETROIT

This is a great article because it highlights several groups that are focused on Detroit’s urban farming initiative.  Detroit may be the first city in the nation to feed its residents primarily from urban gardens.   A study by Michigan State University indicates that a combination of urban farms, storage facilities and hoop houses — greenhouses used to extend the growing season — could supply local residents with more than 75% of their vegetables and 40% of their fruits.  With numbers like that it is easy to understand how important it is for anybody that is interested in turning the city around be aware of the groups that are now working at the front line in the ongoing effort to improve the image of the city and the lifestyles of its residents.  If you are interested in volunteering  or making a donation, a list of a few of the organizations (courtesy of the magazine) and their contact information is provided below:

 One resource not identified by the article is THE GARDEN RESOURCE PROGRAM COLLABORATIVE.  Visit www.detroitagriculture.org to learn more.

Another story about Detroit’s renaissance can be found in the archives of Urban Farm magaine.   Go to urbanfarmonline.com and look for the article  “Deep Impact” in the Summer 2010 issue.

For more information regarding how to start a community garden program of your own go to http://projectsweettomato.com or contact Arthur Littsey/Nine Below Zero at (313) 369-1710 or by email littsey.arthur@sbcglobal.net