Thursday, July 29, 2010

What our pumpkin is aspiring to become...

These pumpkins are huge! These are Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkins. They are around 1700 pounds, amazing! In fact this variety produces the largest pumpkins in the world. The world record for the largest pumpkin is 1725 lbs (as of 2009). These giants are huge, and quite a culture surrounding them.

My personal favorite thing in the garden this year is our Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin, affectionately named Henry. Henry is not quite as large as the photos above, but he is perhaps getting close...he's 2-3ft in diameter, and he has to be at least 50 lbs, it's only July. My dream for growing a giant pumpkin began as a small child, I used to grow patches of pumpkins, and this year as an intern with the Cultivating Community, I decided to continue the tradition. The pumpkin seeds were started in late March, and were grown inside until being transplanted outside halfway through May. The pumpkin plant took some time to adjust to conditions in the outdoors, but soon enough Henry was ready to grow. And grow he did!

Henry grew many vines, and many baby pumpkins took shape. It gave me great pain, but I sacrificed all but one of those baby pumpkins, leaving just Henry to be the only child of the pumpkin plant. The reasoning behind killing all the pumpkin babies was so that all the nutrients that the plant creates/uses can be focused solely on growing one pumpkin, Henry. Doing this is rumored to lead to larger pumpkins.

So far Henry has fared well in this growing season. After doing some research I am going to try some more tactics to help henry grow even more. I have read that pumpkins in late July need potassium, so I am either going to make a baked banana peel organic fertilizer or simply place some banana peels around the stem base to decay in the sun. Also, I have read that pumpkins require shade from the sun so they don't crack, I am going to look into some sort of covering for Henry to protect his skin!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Second trip to Focus: HOPE in Detroit

Today the CC ventured back into Detroit for a second visit to the Focus: HOPE garden. Unfortunately I have no pictures from the event, but it was a very busy and very fun day! When we first got there we set to work putting in some compost bins for the garden. We set up two circular bins, along the back fence; we secured them using zip-ties. Then we prepared for the kids and walked down to the park to meet them. We received a late notice that there could be up to 35 kids in the program, so we weren’t sure what to expect, luckily for us there were only about 20 kids and 15 summer-in-the-city volunteers.
We introduced ourselves and then walked to the park. First we started weeding the plants and picking out all of the tomatoes that had an end rot problem. These we put in a pile to later add to the compost bins. Then we talked about what plants eat, some of the kids knew all about photosynthesis which was great! We then introduced kelp meal as an organic fertilizer and asked the kids if they’d eaten seaweed before… many hadn’t. Then we told them that seaweed is in chocolate milk! They were all surprised! We also offered them so real seaweed; some people loved it, while other people seemed a bit repulsed by it. Then we gave some organic kelp meal fertilizer to the plants in the garden, this should help make the plants more drought resistant and cold tolerant, it will also provide stabilization and nutrients to the soil.
Next we learned about compost and filled the compost bins full with different things: the rotten tomatoes, lots of weeds, tree leaves and branches… etc. After the kids learned about composting, what you can and can’t put in a compost bin, we then gave the kids their own containers to collect twigs, leaves and veggie scraps on their own. The kids decorated their containers with paint, stickers, and glitter. Everyone seemed to have a great time! The kids were excited to go home and search for compostable things in their own yard to fill up their buckets for the Focus: HOPE garden.
All in all it was a great day; things went more smoothly than last week. I’m looking forward to next week’s visit.

Photo Montage: Beauty and Bounty

Hi Everyone!

Here's a photo montage of what's been happening with the Cultivating Community! 

1.) A smoothie potluck. We're slightly curious about why everyone isn't jumping on this bandwagon we've started. We provided the blender, ice, and yogurt. Volunteers all brought a favorite fruit or veggie. The concept allows for trying many different combinations of ingredients, and sampling tons of concoctions. Here's the worksheet we discussed at the potluck: 

First, we made a berry medley blend, with raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, ice, and vanilla yogurt.

Cheers! Laura and Kathleen celebrate the success of our first smoothie attempt!

Bananas help to thicken and sweeten smoothies. 

Green smoothies have been on the radar of health nuts everywhere, so we had to see what the hype was all about. I like the idea as much as the next nature-lover garden girl, but based on our attempt, the green smoothie is best in theory. Laura, Kathleen, and Laurie bravely sampled a blend of kale, cabbage, spicy salad greens, carrots, and banana. 

2.) Amanda, Jen, and Sangum joined us for a field trip to the Makielski U-Pick Berry Farm in Ypsilanti. There were acres of blackberry and raspberry bushes heavy with fruit for us to pick! 

3.) Signage! The Ginsberg garden has a new look! 

Andrea designed this sign for us, and it is now hanging beautifully in front of the garden. It's catching the eye of many passersby on Hill St. More and more students and community members are stopping to compliment and ask about our garden! 

We also installed podiums featuring a description of the Cultivating Community, an explanation of the purpose the garden serves, and gardening tips! This added interpretation indicates that the Ginsberg garden is a place for learning and exploring, not just a pretty thing to look at from afar! 

4.) Natural tie-dying. 

We used this yellow flower, Coreopsis, to tie-dye silk scarves and bandanas! The flowers dyed the silk a pretty golden color (it could almost pass for maize!).

5.) Growth.
Cherry tomatoes

Swiss chard



Hot peppers and raspberries

Will write again soon,


From the Garden to Your Plate: July Newsletter Link

Hi there!

My personal undertaking at the Cultivating Community this summer was to create a monthly newsletter and host seasonal cooking demonstrations with fresh food from the garden. My goal was to demonstrate the link between gardening and eating, and bridge the gap between rounding up the harvest and putting it on the table to eat, share, and enjoy. Here is the link to the first ever Cultivating Community newsletter:

The cherry pie lollipops we indulged on at the July cooking demonstration, made from fresh local cherries. 

In August's edition (to be released the 2nd week of the month), look forward to heirloom recipes, suggestions for sprucing up staple college meals, a list of local food references, and a few other cool things that are in the works :).

Stop by the garden tonight (5-7). Laugh, snack, splash in the mud. We'll see you there, and we'll have a great time!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gourmet Garden!

A few weeks ago Sara hosted the Cultivating Community’s very first “From your garden to your plate” workshop. The event was an amazing success, we made creamy swiss chard pasta, and learned all about eating locally and organically from the garden and around town. It seems as if recognition of the event’s success has not happened on the blog.

So here are some photos of the lovely event.

First we harvested: garlic, herbs, swiss chard, tomatoes, and peppers for the delicious dinner. Then we cooked up some pasta and chopped the veggies. We sautéed them in a pan with olive oil and added some sour cream, and other ingredients, then walah! The pasta was complete! It was very yummy too! To drink, we had rosemary oregano sun tea, freshly made with herbs from the garden. And for dessert we had adorable mini cherry pies! They were so cute!

The whole event was filmed by a film crew from the Big Ten Network for a segment they are dong on the Cultivating Community. Sara made her debut in her celebrity top chef career!

Soon to come: a link to the wonderful handouts and recipes from the workshop!

Garden Update!

Looking around the garden, things have gotten out of control, huge! The pumpkins and squash have literally taken over the garden! It is hard to walk between the new space and the old space because there are so many vines in the way… if only we would have known an expansion project would take place, and we could have planned for it. Overall the garden is lush and alive. We harvested about 10-15 garlic plants at the last workday, and we hung them up in the shed, just like how we learned to do so from Agrarian Adventure. Now our shed will probably smell like garlic for the next year or two.

I know I am always raving about the pumpkin and how large it is getting, but seriously, it is so big, and it is only July. The monster probably weighs at least 30lbs, and is 2ft in diameter now. I am just worried that someone will take it… does anyone have suggestions for hiding it?

Also in the garden is our first full sized tomato that has turned to a nice full red color. I can’t wait for the rest of the tomatoes to ripen as well. The basil is finally thriving in its new home in the expansion area, can’t wait to make some homemade pesto.

A passerby recommended spraying the pepper flowers with Epsom salts in order to have a higher yield, I have heard of this before, perhaps we will try to spray some of the pepper plants this week or next, to see if this actually works.

Something ate our red express cabbage! We are going to try to make something to hold the gate closed to keep the animals out. Stay tuned for more updates!

Our first Trip to the Focus: HOPE garden

Today we officially began our partnership with Focus: HOPE. We started out summer workshop series in Detroit. We first started off with introductions, and some chocolate milk, then we walked over to the garden to do some plant identifying. We gave the kids journals & magnifying glasses, and worked with the kids, helping them to find some cool plants to draw or write down the names of. Then we started to do some weeding. We were able to get four of the beds weeded, leaving some more weeding for other groups later in the week. The boys fought to pick the largest weeds out of the garden. Everyone was intrigued by the idea of eating leaves, as we dared the kids to eat some herb leaves, like mint, basil, thyme, etc. All too soon, the time with the kids was over. The CC volunteers stayed on to pick up some trash, tidy things up and finish up a few projects. Next time we go, we will find an easier route to get there, and will hopefully have more time to spend with the campers! We will also hopefully be able to give a small presentation on organic fertilizers and make a compost pile for the garden.

Volunteering with Agrarian Adventure

Last Wednesday Cultivating Community members packed up and headed over to Tappan Middle school to help out their school gardening program called Agrarian Adventure. We were led on a wonderful tour of the space, which is quite large. The garden was much bigger than ours; it had tomatoes, carrots, garlic, cucumbers, and sunflowers… so many different things. The garden also had a large storage shed for storing supplies and a very tall hoop house for growing things throughout the year. After our tour we set to work harvesting the garlic. We pulled it out of the ground, brushed off the dirt, trimmed the tops off of them and tied them together in bundles of three.

All in all we harvest dozens of garlic cloves, perhaps even one hundred! The garlic was hung along the fence in the interim, and eventually we hung them in the shed… won’t need to worry about vampires hanging out in the shed…ever.

We were also able to take home some cucumbers! Yum!

Here are some more photos for your perusing pleasure:

A beautiful sunflower

The garlic hanging on the fence

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pick a berry, eat a berry…

Yesterday night members of the CC gathered at the Arb entrance for an trip that involved huge blackberries, bumble bees, honey, and raspberries. It was a peaceful evening at the Makielski farm. The sun was on the way down, temperatures were cooling and there were many berries just waiting to be picked!

The family owned patch was cute but also expansive. Winding roads led us to giant patches of berries. Intermixed among the berry fields were also squash and pumpkin patches. Everyone enjoyed picking the blackberries, but the best ones were in the middle of the bushes. I didn’t remember how thorny blackberry bushes were; I was quickly reminded of those prickly thorns as I unknowingly reached to the middle of the branches for the best looking ones.

The owner said the best raspberries will be in November! At that time they will be the size of quarters! Well I’m pretty satisfied with how large they were, and how tasty too. Tonight, I make raspberry blackberry jam.

Cropping up

On Tuesday we finished planting the Ginsberg garden expansion area. It’s finally done, and it promises to be a bountiful harvest. The new space is a bit farther behind in the growing cycle form the older part of the garden, however this will be great, it will hopefully provide for a bumper harvest at the perfect time… at the beginning of the school year.

The new space offers a variety of new things as well as some old favorites:

Flying saucer Squash (anyone seen a UFO?),

Chocolate peppers,

Basil plants galore,



Tango (OG)

Connecticut field pumpkins (the classic large deep orange pumpkins),

Old faves:

Bright Lights Swiss Chard,

Cherry Tomatoes,


Red express cabbage



Stop by and check it out!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Painting painting paints galore...

Last Tuesday members from the Cultivating Community used their artistic skills to give a little more spunk and a little more color to the Ginsberg Garden. We worked on two art projects. The first was a sign for the front of the garden. First a white coat of mural paint was applied. And then Andrea stenciled on a design. The sign says Cultivating Community, with the word community made entirely out of fruits/vegetables/garden things. The sign is now hanging in front of the garden, and attracts many gazes from people passing by.

Next we jazzed up the rain barrels. The barrels went from drab to fab in just a few minutes! We painted flowers, dots, stripes and more flowers on all the barrels with acrylic paints. These barrels add a little something extra to the eye catching garden.

Thanks to all of our artists who stopped by to lend their artistic talent. Also photos are provided courtesy of Laurie Gendron.