Monday, August 31, 2009
Over at the Botanical Gardens "secret" garden site, we are harvesting the quinoa we started from seed in May. No one on the Cultivating Community team has experience with harvesting quinoa so we delved the internet for answers. When the quinoa plant leaves are dried and the plant itself looks dead the quinoa should be ready. The seeds are mature when you can no longer make an indent on the kernels with your fingernail.
The quinoa stalk in the above photo is ready to harvest. In fact, we were late on collecting the seed because many of them started to germinate while on the plant!
We collected the seed by rubbing up the stalk and angling the seed head into a bowl we used to store the quinoa. The collection process left us with a bowl full of quinoa seed and the dried "chaff". We used a technique called wind winnowing to remove some of the "chaff" from the quinoa. Wind winnowing is a simple method of grain processing that has been used for thousands of years.
Many cultures developed simple contraptions to accomplish winnowing. We are substantially lower tech at this garden plot, so we simply would wait for a light breeze and take handfuls of the mixture and drop it back into the bowl. The wind would blow away the unwanted plant parts because they were so light while the seeds fell right back into the container. We also did this for amaranth seed. A photo of those plants can be seen below.
Both of these grains have their roots in the Andean region of South America. The Incans cultivated these plants to fuel their empire. After the Conquest several indigenous groups kept the strains alive despite Spanish government prohibitions. The Rodale Institute considers them "supergrains" because of their high protein, fiber, and iron content. Quinoa contains all twenty essential amino acids for human nutrition. North Americans grew Amaranth for years, mainly for its asethetic appeal, but now it is gaining popularity as a food crop. There are detailed Wikipedia articles on both plants if you want to know more about these wonder foods.
Hope everyone is ready for school to begin! Be sure to check out the Cultivating Community table at Festifall and at Northfest!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
The tour reception was held at Catherine Fergueson Academy, where the tour organizers, local chefs, and volunteers provided a taste of Detroit's harvest with small samplings of various dishes made from Detroit grown produce. After the meal we explored Catherine Fergueson's fields, which were filled with vegetables, fruit trees, bee hives, goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, and a horse!
Overall I really enjoyed the tour and it was exciting to see all the dynamic things that are happening in this post-industrial city. The blending of urban and rural elements within the city helps to establish a greater ecological balance because Detroit is not currently experiencing pressures to develop land, but instead has vacant land that can be farmed which produces a harvest that is every more closely approaching food self-sufficiency.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
There are other home remedies for pests on plants. Here is a link to one of the pages we found that has different spray recipes and other techniques for eliminating pesky insects.
We made sure to spray both the tops and undersides of the leaves to make all the leaf parts undesirable for the aphids.
The tomato spray had a strong offensive odor, but I took great joy in applying it knowing that I was not using synthetic pesticides. I felt free to spray as much as I wanted without fear of poisoning myself or the garden.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This past Monday the other interns and I hosted a fieldtrip to Rowe’s Produce Farm (http://www.rowesproducefarm.com/) in Ypsilanti. The farm is a u-pick with fresh and ripe strawberries as well as sugar snap peas. We arrived around five in the afternoon and the sun was still baking the fields. The strawberries were warm and sweet. Also the water they contained was a welcome respite from the heat. The farm is all u-pick so the choicest berries are up for the picking while they are in season. U-pick farms are private operations that plant and care for the plants, but leave the activity of harvesting to the public, who then purchase what they pick.
We helped the Habitat for Humanity cluster in Ypsilanti with weeding their raised beds, but more work needs to be done to ready the beds for planting. The cluster is a very quaint neighborhood of young families. If you want to assist with the community establishing a beautiful and bountiful garden contact Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley through the email: firstname.lastname@example.org and specify your interest in setting up garden spaces.
The plants in the secret garden have grown tremendously in the past few days. The corn towers over all the other crops and the tassels are now visible.
The polyculture bed’s radishes were picked, topped, and washed. By clearing out the radishes, sunlight can now reach tiny seedlings of the other plants. I will need to thin in the next few weeks and I have the agonizing decision to choose which vegetables will grow to full size and those that will not. I cannot wait until the seedlings grow larger and observe how much this method yields.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Another goal is to demonstrate that gardening practices can be adapted to people’s personal needs. An example of this is the enabling table, which is a raised bed that is elevated to a height for a seated gardener to plant, weed, and harvest. One of my favorite features is the “rabbit” bed. It shows that gardens do not have to be rectangular rows and as such are more pleasing to behold. In addition, the bed maximizes edge in a small compact space thereby making it easy to reach all parts of the bed. The plants needing more frequent attention are placed near the edges of the bed while less needy plants are more in the center. This makes weeding and general upkeep more manageable and decreases the likelihood of work strain.
The "Rabbit" Garden
The primary caretaker of the garden is Project Grow volunteer Dan Marcus. We joyfully help Dan make the garden beautiful and healthy. He has been taking many of the unwanted plants from the Botanical Garden plant sale and placing them in the display garden. Most of them are flowers that should blossom in the coming weeks, adding some more color while attracting a swarm of pollinators.
One organization that is doing great things in the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area is Growing Hope. Growing Hope’s mission and their current and past projects are displayed on their website: http://www.growinghope.net/. They have made big strides in providing people with the means to grow their own food and opening access for people to purchase wholesome nutritious foods from gardeners/farmers. There are many volunteer opportunities with Growing Hope. Feel free to email the volunteer coordinator Karen Spangler (Karen@growinghope.net) to find out how you can get involved. Currently they are providing forty families with three four by four raised beds and plants. The raised bed builds and installs are going on all this week. Be sure to check the Growing Hope Google calendar to see what times work for you to head to the Growing Hope center (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl) and lend a hand (http://www.growinghope.net/calendar/index.shtml). We will be helping Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley and Growing Hope tomorrow by doing raised bed repairs and general garden maintenance at a Habitat community site.
Also an aside to the bike enthusiasts: there is a great bike trail linking Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti which is called the border to border trail.
Map link: (http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/parks_recreation/forms_pubs/brochure_b2b.pdf).
It is a very peaceful ride with a large portion of it running along the bank of the Huron River. Flowering trees adorn the path making for a very fragrant journey.
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” H.G. Wells
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
This bed is using the methods outlined in Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening. A gird is placed on the bed cordonning it off into foot by foot squares which serves as a guideline for spacing. An example would be that one corn would fit in one square while sixteen beets can be in the same space. There are other aspects to the technique that we chose not to follow, such as the soil requirements. The author wants his readers to use a specially measured out soil mixture, but we simply used the soil that was preexisting in the bed.
The final bed is being used to test the idea of a polyculture bed, which I first read about on the blog Homegrown Evolution (http://www.homegrownevolution.com/2006/12/polyculture.html). Several different vegetable and herb seeds were broadcast (thrown evenly over the surface of the bed, not in rows). A thin layer of topsoil was placed over the seeds and was watered. The vegetables chosen all have differing maturation times and plant families so it serves to save space because multiple things can be grown in the same area without plants crowding out, and directly competing for nutrients.
In other news we have picked a date for the Earthworks Urban Farm fieldtrip: August 8th!! All those wanting to go... mark your calendars! Toodles.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Link to MSU student organic farm: http://www.msuorganicfarm.com/
Beds in the green house are filled with healthy kale, chard, sunflowers, tomatoes, and lettuce greens that were started at the beginning of January! The program is expanding with discussion of starting an orchard nearby the garden. Those interested in getting their hands dirty more than two days a week with us can help out at the Adventure Tuesday evenings from 5 to 7 pm at Tappan Middle School. Elissa (email: email@example.com), the program director, told me that they will be doing Tuesday evening work from now until October! Google map (or Mapquest, etc) this address to find the sweetest route that works for you to get gardening!
Tappan Middle School
2251 E Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(The garden is behind the school on the soccer field.)
Note: AA has an ongoing fundraiser, where they are selling tickets for a garden tour that happens on June 13. More details can be found here: http://agrarian.dreamhosters.com/agrarianadventure/?q=node/77
Jeremy, one of the managers of the MSU student organic farm, was at the workday yesterday and he mentioned that the Sustainable Agriculture and Education Association (http://sustainableaged.org/) is having a national conference July 15-17 in Ames, Iowa. Student farms as well as other groups/farms around the country that promote sustainable agriculture will come together to discuss their successes, failures, and how best to move forward collectively. Deadline for early registration is July 1 so if interested look into it now!
I went by Ginsberg yesterday and the potatoes, spinach and radishes are doing really well. The warm weather vegetables seem like they are still recovering from their transplanting, but these recent rains are a definite help.
Instructions are here. The egg carton is biodegradable, so you can cut apart the compartments and plant them directly in the ground.
Also, Alex says that his housemate uses toilet paper tubes cut in half (also biodegradable) to start his seeds. Try it!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Image of frost burn (not taken at Ginsberg)
Frost burn does not necessarily mean the plant is doomed. If the burned part of the plant is cut from the plant, it has a chance to recover. In our case, however, the plants were very small and completely burned. Although we transplanted these plants after the USDA frost date, that date is a guideline and not iron clad in their certainty about climatic conditions year to year. For this reason it is good to check weather forecasts to assess frost risk and take steps to protect frost intolerant plants. A common tactic would be to cover the vulnerable plants with a sheet or tarp at night to trap the heat collected by the soil during the day. If the plants are in containers simply moving them inside before the frost hits should be fine.
We are having drop in hours today from three to four this afternoon. We are going to install PVC piping underground that we are going to put the water barrel hose through so it can reach the garden while being out of the way of the U of M grounds lawn mowers. Also we are going to replace the lost plants by transplanting. I plan on making a dent on the garlic mustard patch that is on the grounds because it appears that the patch is sending seeds into the garden plots and the herb spiral. Garlic mustard is a very prolific invasive species that produces allelochemcials that harm mycorrhizal fungi which are vital for many plants to fix nitrogen into the soil thereby inhibiting other plants’ growth. When weeding garlic mustard be sure to not place the plants in the compost because it is known to seed even if uprooted and also be sure to introduce a diverse mix of native species into the newly cleared area to fill the niche that was vacated.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
In late April, we planted potatoes, spinach, onions, radishes, and carrots. They have all started to sprout especially the radishes which needed to be thinned on the workday.
The healthy cover crop of Rye grass that we pulled went straight into our compost bins. We turned the newly formed piles and watered them down to aid in the establishment of the microbial community that will break down the plant matter into humus-rich compost.