Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This past Monday the other interns and I hosted a fieldtrip to Rowe’s Produce Farm ( 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.

Rowe’s farm has an email list that they use to notify their patrons about the picking conditions of their various crops. They call it “the” list and you can join it by emailing them at: The season for strawberries ends around the beginning of July so head out there soon for some fresh berries and peas!

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: 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.

An uninvited volunteer helped himself to our Ritz crackers at our Ginsberg workday last Friday...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The display garden

The second garden that the other interns and I have been nurturing is the Display Garden. As the name suggests this garden is open for public viewing near many of the other garden collections. Several features of the garden make it out of the ordinary. All of the beds are raised and done so with reused/reclaimed materials like cinder blocks, bricks, and wood. Also it showcases using vertical growing space through trellising.

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.

Enabling table

The "Rabbit" Garden

Old bed springs used as trellises

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: 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 ( 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 ( and lend a hand ( 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: (
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

The secret garden revealed!

In addition to managing the Ginsberg Garden site, the other interns and I have been gardening at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. We work at two gardens each with their own unique charms. One of them is between greenhouses one and two. We call it the secret garden because of its secluded location. There is one main bed with four raised beds. We had first arrived at the secret garden at the beginning of May and cleared the beds of the cover crop from the previous season. Also we composted several dried out sunflower stalks. These sunflowers seeded almost every corner of the garden so now we have many, many sunflower seedlings. We tilled with rakes, planted and now the garden is buzzing with:


Along with all these new additions we also are nurturing several volunteer plants and perennials. One of the raised beds has almost been completely colonized by strawberries that recently have started to bear fruit.
The strawberries take up most of the bed space, but one of the corners has a teepee with cucumber seedlings planted along its base. The other raised beds in the garden are showcasing different small scale gardening techniques.
The bed pictured above is our companion planting bed. Companion planting is placing different plants in close proxmity to one another because it is believed that they aid in nutrient uptake, pest reduction, weed reduction, attract pollinators, etc. We learned of the pairings we did through the book Roses Love Garlic by Louise Riotte. There is little to no scientific evidence in support of companion planting, however, many gardeners, and farmers believe it works.

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 ( 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.