Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Ginsberg Workdays of the Summer

Last week, we had our first workdays of the season at Cultivating Community's demonstration garden at the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning.

The Ginsberg Garden, as we like to call it, is located in front of the Center on the corner of Hill St. and East University Ave. This garden is about six years old now, but every year brings new surprises. At our most recent workday, we discovered a number of "volunteers," which is a gardening term for plants that show up unexpectedly in the garden from seeds dropped by birds, inadvertantly mixed into compost, or fallen from last year's plants.

Among our volunteer plants were dill, tomatoes, kale, borage, and calendula. We chose to pull out many of them simply because there would not be room left in the garden for anything else if we let them grow, but we let a few of these "freebies" stay for the season.

We also pulled out several rows of rye grass, which served as a cover crop for the winter. Cover crops refer to any plants (typically grasses or legumes) that are planted during the off-season to protect or add nutrients to garden soil. Cover crops prevent erosion by keeping soil covered through winter's harsh winds. They have other benefits, too: they suppress weeds, reduce insect pests and diseases, and can add valuable nutrients back to the land. Legumes are excellent as cover crops because they fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, increasing soil fertility. Cover crops removed in the spring can be composted with other organic matter and reapplied to the garden as compost later in the season. Cover crops that are not removed but rather plowed directly back into the soil, called "green manure," also add valuable organic matter to the soil.

Once all the unwanted plants were removed and tossed into the compost pile, we added a layer of finished compost to each row of the garden. The photo below shows the end result- a garden ready for spring planting. Thank you to all the volunteers who came out on a blustery Wednesday and a beautiful Friday to get the job done!

Join us this week for more weeding, turning compost, transplanting seedlings, and more!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Look at what we've grown!

This past semester we've been spending a lot of time at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens doing some planting for the plant sale. The volunteers have been a huge help with planting, trasplanting and giving input throughout the process. We've grown many types of plants from the traditional tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, & hundred of hot peppers, to novelty plants such as cheddar cauliflower, totem endive, pac choi, and my personal favorite, the Dill's atlantic giant pumpkin!

We started most of the seeds using the "common pot" method, meaning we planted all of the seeds we wanted in a 5" common pot. Then once the seeds sprouted, and the plants became larger, we transplanted them into four packs. (see the photo below of some of our cabbages and broccoli in four packs). Some of the plants even outgrew the four packs and were transplanted into larger, 3.5" compostable pots.

Plants that don't like their roots to be disturbed, such as the greens mixes, were planted directly into their four pack cells to avoid them being unhappy about being transplanted from common pots into four packs.

Some of the plants that grow larger very quickly, (i.e. the pumpkin, cucumber, melon, and watermelon), were directly sown into larger pots. These plants had excellent germination rates, and were immediatly happy with the large space available to them. For all of the plants, we used an organic soil mixture, and watered them frequently. Additionally, an organic fish fertlizer was used to give the plants a little boost before the sale.
It was a lot of work transplanting the over 3,000 plants that sprouted, but we also found some time for fun! One of the many laughs we had was over how many hungarian hot wax peppers we got, 435 to be exact. In fact, we still have some if anyone has a passion or use for hot peppers, we'd be happy to give you some!
Special thanks to all of our volunteers for helping to make the plant sale a huge succes, and also to Adrienne for giving us advice and keeping us on track!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Field Trip to Detroit!

A few weeks ago the Cultivating Community went on a field trip to Detroit. We started off the morning at Earthworks Urban Farm. Our first task was shoveling mountains of broccoli into wheel barrows and transporting them to compost piles, it was quite fun (I love broccoli). We alternated carrying loads of broccoli with loads of leaves in order to ensure that the compost had a good mix of components. Some members then began planting green onions, while another member threw compost at a large upright screen with a shovel. The compost that fell through the screen was ready for use, while the compost that bounced back was returned to the pile for more decomposition. It was an interesting technique for determining whether or not the compost is ready to be used. Finally we wrapped up our time at the farm by weeding out the rows and rows of garlic (as seen above!). The group had a great time, and afterwards went to Eastern Market, and a spaghetti dinner at the Catherine Ferguson Academy (an all girl's school with a farm).

Special thanks to our participants: Rachel Lu, Lenora, Alicia, Will, Patrick, Danielle and Maya who volunteered at Earthworks!