Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New space in the Ginsberg Garden

The Ginsberg garden expansion project is nearly complete. It took numerous workdays and the help of many volunteers, but finally we have the new area fenced in, and the soil turned. The fencing was probably the most difficult part. The fencing was reused from leftover materials, to try to save money and resources. Consequently the fence was bent and ornery to work with. However we managed. The fence looks great! We turned the soil the old fashioned way… with shovels. We turned the entire area 3-4 times, and the clumps of grass finally broke up enough to plant something. Also a delivery of compost from U of M grounds services on Friday was spread throughout the new garden. As the sun set on the garden, volunteers planted hills of pumpkins in the new area of the garden. Hopefully the pumpkins will be fruitful and people will be able to take home a pumpkin in the fall. Pumpkin carving party anyone!?

Looking around the garden, many great things are happening. The tomatoes are growing uncontrollably; we finally procured some tomato cages and had to carefully cage in the large plants. Also, the hot peppers are beginning to arrive, if you look closely in the garden you will see many peppers hanging from the plants. As soon as they turn red they will be perfect for eating. Curiosity over the elephant garlic took over us, and we had to harvest one or two of them, just to see what it looks like. The garlic cloves were huge, larger than a softball! They were also pretty tasty too; I took a piece of one home and added it to a veggie rice dish, delicious!

Overall, I just can’t wait for those tomatoes to be ready! Yum! J

Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

Oops! I almost forgot to provide an update and post pictures of our jam making workshop! No one at the workshop had experience making jam, so we all learned a little something along the way. The jam turned out just slightly chunky, but it's sweet and fresh and homemade with love, so it's the best jam ever to hit a piece of toast. 

Tender Loving Care

We decided to show the Ginsberg Garden a little love last week. Here’s a peek at the garden’s improvements:

Last Monday, at our very productive meeting, we all made silverware wind chimes to display in the Ginsberg Garden. Everyone had fun making these simple and crafty decorations, which visibly combine themes of food, gardening, and creativity!

Holy cats, the garden is growing! By 225 sq. ft! We began the expansion of the garden last Tuesday by moving and turning the compost (a stinky job!).

Last Wednesday, we dug up fencing, put in posts, and reused the old fencing to create new barriers for the expansion. Initially, we thought that the bushes along the outside of the expansion would serve as a natural fence for the new space in the garden. This conveniently placed shrubbery thrilled us, as it reduced the intensity of our labor and the amount of new materials we needed to complete the project. However, while turning the soil on Wednesday afternoon, we spotted a very cute, but very destructive little creature near our beloved tomatoes. A groundhog. Or a woodchuck. Something fuzzy and fat and feeling snacky. On Friday, after the little rascal destroyed an alarming number of leafy greens, we decided to install additional fencing first thing on Monday morning.

And now it’s Monday night, and the labor-intensive part of the expansion is complete! Later this week we’ll be painting and installing pretty signs and planting more veggies!

In addition to the tomatoes and pumpkins, hot peppers, kohlrabi, and red cabbage, are now making their big debut. We also harvested some of the elephant garlic, and were shocked by its size! After uprooting the giant bulbs, the entire garden smelled heavily of garlic for the remainder of the day. 

And lastly, a flower to brighten your day :)

Happy gardening!

Monday, June 21, 2010

What’s growing on at the Ginsberg Garden!?

A quick look around the Ginsberg garden will reveal the wonders of bat guano for all. The bat guano has transformed our garden from a slowly creeping garden, to a garden booming with growth! I can see why people fought wars over this stuff! Take a look for yourself…

Here is a picture of some of our tomatoes, who’s ever heard of tomatoes this early in the season!?

And here is a picture of the giant pumpkin. Right now it is small, however don’t be fooled, this guy will turn into a behemoth pumpkin that will most likely take over the entire garden…

Lesson from the organic fertilizer workshop: bat guano is awesome!

Saturday in Detroit!

Volunteers woke up with the roosters on Saturday morning, and left the reader center in the MBGNA van toward Detroit. On the way we discussed Detroit, and what the day might hold. After a quick 45 minute drive, we arrived at the Central Detroit Christian garden, a cute garden set up in a vacant lot in a quaint neighborhood in Detroit. The garden was located right around the corner from the Peaches &Greens produce store, a store that sells produce to local neighborhoods. The garden we worked at had a cute sign, and about 20 raised gardening beds. The beds needed prep work for the upcoming children’s day camp. In the day camp, local children will be able to plant their own vegetable plants and tend to them. When it comes time to harvest them, children will be able to take home the fruits of their labor to their families.

Upon arrival the raised beds were in need of some tender loving care. After first speaking with some people from CDC, the seven in of us joined in on the work. First, we weeded out the beds that had been overgrown with weeds and pretty flowers. It was sad to pull out the flowers but we had to make way for the vegetables. In the beds one volunteer found some remnants from last years garden, some baby carrots! I even found a radish!

After weeding the beds we used wheelbarrows to bring fresh soil and peat to the beds. The soil looks great and will be perfect for the veggie transplants that the CDC will put in. After filling the beds, our work was almost done! Using mulch donated by home depot, we mulched around the edges on the raised beds to prevent weeds from growing in the aisles.

We took a break for lunch, yummy sandwiches, homemade cookies, and fresh mulberries from the tree. After lunch we did some picking up, and said good bye to the garden! Overall it was a great day and we accomplished quite a bit!

Strawberry Picking!

Yesterday we went to Rowe’s Strawberry Patch in Ypsilanti! It was a very fun field trip, and the weather worked out for us. It looked as if it would rain all day, but thankfully we had blue skies and stayed dry. The strawberries were being harvested in full force, there were 13 of us in all, and the patch was packed with numerous other patrons as well. The vines were ripe with tons of berries and picking them was very enjoyable. We all ate quite a few berries while we were out picking; the berries were delicious! We joked that Rowe’s should weigh us before and after and charge us accordingly. Everyone had a great time, and brought home some berries, destined to be made into shortcake, jam, and even dipped in chocolate. On Friday we are hosting a workshop on making strawberry rhubarb jam, using rhubarb from the garden, and strawberries from Rowe’s, Yum! In the words of the Rowe’s employee, Have a Very Berry Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fertilizers and Strawberry Fields

Hi fellow gardeners and other gracious followers of this blog!

My name is Sara, and I’m the newest intern at the Cultivating Community. In my first week here, we’ve been happy, busy little bees. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Last Wednesday, we used organic fertilizer to give the Ginsberg Garden a boost. We used a combination of kelp meal and bat guano to encourage our veggies to grow, grow, grow! Kelp meal is brown seaweed harvested from cold sea waters. It acts as a mild fertilizer, improving the overall health of plants and helping them to become heartier and less affected by extreme temperatures. Bat guano, on the other hand, is far from mild. It is extraordinarily high in phosphorus, making it a very effective aid in root and flower development. Its nutrients also improve the texture of soil, kill fungus, and help to activate compost piles. It can be used to clean up toxic spills (useful?!), and is so valuable that the War of the Pacific (1879-1893) was actually fought over the taxation of bat guano. Not too many species can say that their poop started a war! Although bat guano is organic, there are components in the fertilizer that make it dangerous to inhale, hence the fashionable face masks and goggles we wore as we fertilized. On Friday, at our first lunchtime workday in the Ginsberg Garden, many of the plants showed remarkable growth!

Tonight we’re taking a field trip to Rowe’s Produce in Ypsilanti to pick fresh strawberries! Most of the yummy little gems will be used for our jam making workshop on Friday afternoon. An update on those and many other exciting adventures is soon to come!

Happy gardening!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Future Ginsberg Expansion site

Great news everyone! Pending approval from Miss Dig, we will soon begin expanding the Ginsberg Garden, the area shown in the above picture will be the site of our garden expansion! Hopefully in the coming weeks we will be able to break ground in this area, and add roughly 150 square feet to our garden. No plans for this space have been finalized and we are relying on CC volunteers to come forward with their input for the space. Stay tuned for updates, and for our groundbreaking workday.

The rain barrels are in!

These are rain barrels! As of last Friday they were installed at the Ginsberg Center garden for the season. Rain from the roof is collected in the gutters and directed into the barrels, there are four barrels; each barrel is connected by a hose, which allows the water levels to adjust themselves. If more than four barrels worth of water is collected, a large hose drains the excess out into the storm drain, thus preventing flooding. The barrels are placed on large flats, which give the barrels elevation and thus some water pressure. This pressure allows us to run an underground hose into our garden. Additionally the water collected can be used through spigots in the side of the barrels. The water collected in the barrels will be used to water the garden.

Rain barrels are easy to set up, and can be made out of recycled materials, (old barrels, and hoses). Not only do rain barrels help you create a sustainable way to water your garden, they also will save you money on your utility bill. The water collected in the barrels has also been sitting in the sun during the day and has been heated up a bit. Plants love to be showered with warm water, (cold water gives plants a shock).

The environmental benefits for using rain barrels are enormous, they help protect against erosion, and they also help prevent runoff pollution. Overall i can't seem to think of why someone wouldn't want a rain barrel?

This summer it would be great to get some Cultivating Community artists to paint the barrels to make them look a bit snazzier....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The peonies are in bloom!

The peonies are in bloom! In case you haven’t heard, Nichols Arboretum is home to the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America. There are over 270 different varieties to see. Stop by the Arb (Washington Heights entrance) this week or next to catch a glimpse of the blooming peonies and wander through the garden. Tour cards are available so you can choose various tours such as the Scented peony tour or the Famous ladies tour, which showcase different types of peonies. The garden is absolutely stunning, so don’t forget a camera! (there is also a photo contest, more details are available at mbgna.umich.edu) See the photos below for a preview of what you will see on your visit.

Cold Frames are in

Last week we finished the installation of our two cold frames! They are finally done and in the ground. It was a lot of work, (the project began in late fall of last year), but they are looking great in their new home at the Ginsberg garden. If you don’t know what cold frames are, allow me to explain. Cold frames are used for extending the growing season of plants. Things planted inside the cold frames are protected from the wind and insulated from the frosty cold, thereby allowing the plants to live longer into the fall and winter. Cold frames take shape in many forms, some are made out of cinder blocks or straw bales, but our cold frames are large wooden boxes. Large windows are hinged to the top of our cold frames to allow the light to pass through. The boxes are placed 10” into the ground, to provide insulation for plants late into the season.
The cold frames are painted bright yellow on the outside, and black on the inside to attract the sunlight. They will be used to extend the growing season past the frosty fall and hopefully into the winter. The idea is to have a later harvest toward the end of first semester, and also to experiment with growing other things in second semester.