Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hoop house build!

On Sunday November 2oth, we built a small hoop house in the yard of the Ginsberg Center! It was a fun workday and it only took us about two hours to build.

All photos on this post by: Nate Ayers

A few days later, the wind and rain took a toll on the hoop house, so we had to temporarily remove the plastic. We will be having a workday after Thanksgiving break to re-fit the plastic with the correct pvc clamps, so our hoop will be sturdy and snow-proof all winter long!

Hoop houses are like green houses, but made out of clear plastic and pvc or metal piping. They are cheaper and easier to move than traditional glass greenhouses, but still use the sun's energy to create a warm, humid environment. Hoop houses are great for places like Michigan, because they lengthen the growing season; we are hoping to grow lettuce, spinach, and other veggies all winter long! We put two of our rain barrels in the hoop house which will act as thermal reservoirs: heating up on sunny days and keeping the heat in the house through the chilly nights.

A huge thanks to the volunteers who came out, the Ginsberg Center for their cooperation, and especially to the hard work of Lauren for organizing the project and gathering the materials!!

Also a gigantic thanks to Nate Ayers, a local permaculturalist, who provided the hoops and helped us build the hoop house!! Check out Nate's company: Chiwara Permaculture. Nate also provided all of the photos for this post.

Step 1: Build wooden frame, dig holes for hoop bases

Step 2: bury the pvc hoop bases, attach hoops, cut the plastic

Step 3: secure hoops with a cross-beam

Step 4: stretch plastic over hoops

Step 5: secure plastic and install nifty plastic zipper-door

Step 6: Celebrate!

Next steps: we will ready the soil for planting, add compost to the soil from our compost bins, plant seeds, figure out a rain barrel watering system, and experiment with different vegetables.

Now that we have a hoop house, we will have outdoor garden work to do all winter long! If you are interested in helping out with the hoop house or participating in our indoor winter workdays and workshops please email us at

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ginsberg Garden Time Lapse Video!

Watch the garden grow!

Throughout the season, I took photos of the garden from the porch of the Ginsberg Center. The video starts on May 11 and ends on November 21.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cultivating Community Summer and Fall 2011

Now that Mother Nature is settling in for winter hibernation in Michigan, we have some time to enjoy the harvest, eat lots of food, cuddle by fireplaces, and look back on the season.

Here is a taste of how we worked to cultivate community this past summer and fall:

Ginsberg Garden Workdays, thanks to everyone who volunteered!!!

Harvesting potatoes, planting garlic, cleaning up the garden, jumping on the compost to compress it

Giant cabbage

Yum! Kale (top right) was our winning producer this summer!


We were able to share our harvests with others in the Ann Arbor community by donating produce to Food Gatherers, which is an organization that rescues food, cooks meals, and provides tons (literally tons) of food to those in need.

Focused Hands Garden, Detroit!

During the summer, we ran a weekly gardening activity for kids, where they learned how to care for their garden and how to make snacks from the food grown in the garden.

Detroit Urban Ag Tour!

Catherine Ferguson Academy, a school for teenage mothers, has a farm and a horse in the middle of the city.

Green Things Farm!

We helped harvest onions at Green Things Farm which is part of the Tilian Farm Development Center, a farmer-incubator program close to Ann Arbor.

Pickling Workshop!
Using cucumbers, dill, jalapeƱos, onions, and spices from the garden!

Late Summer Blueberry Picking!

Fall Raspberry Picking!

Almost-Halloween Apple Picking!

Pepper Preservation Workshop!

To preserve our bounty of jalapeƱos, we tied them up to dry.

Sunseed Farm Volunteer Day!

We helped harvest winter-storage crops, beets, carrots, and rutabagas, at the beautiful Sunseed farm.

We are thankful for all of the food and fun times we enjoyed with Cultivating Community this season, and look forward to an equally awesome winter!
Our giant pumpkin jack-o-lantern says, "Happy fall!"

We think that the giant pumpkin was actually a hybrid giant pumpkin X winter squash due to its curvy shape and stripes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bountiful Balconies

How to grow food on your porch or balcony 'student-style'

By: Jessica Ruff

This is specific to Ann Arbor, but similar resources exist in other towns!

First of all... why grow food as a student?
1. Fun
2. Cheap
3. Fresh nutritious food
4. At your convenience
5. Impress your neighbors and friends
6. Reduce your carbon footprint by loving your plants, reusing materials, and reducing transportation to buy food at the grocery store!

Planting Schedule
Fall Semester
Start seeds and plants during first few weeks!
Fall crops: spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, collards, turnips, mustard, herbs (i.e. basil, oregano, rosemary)
Harvest in early October through the fall!

Winter Semester
Start seeds indoors in March and April, plant spring crops outdoors in April
Spring Term
Plant summer crops outdoors: after the last frost, usually around Mothers Day
Harvest throughout Spring and Summer!

Summer Term
Harvest and eat your delicious fruits and veggies!

What you need:
1. Containers
2. Soil
3. Plants or Seeds
4. Sun
5. Water


1. Find FREE containers (in your recycling bin)
Milk jugs, orange juice cartons, large yogurt tubs, cardboard boxes, coffee cans, two-liters, plastic storage tubs, old shoes, Styrofoam coolers, milk crates, egg cartons (for seed starting).

Punch holes in bottom of container for drainage

2. Fill container with potting soil or compost

Compost is FREE!
1. Make it yourself:
2. Ann Arbor residents can pick it up for free from:
4150 Platt Road, 48108 734.794.6380
3. Buy potting soil close to campus at:
210 S. Ashley Street (734) 662 8122

3. Plant your plants!

Where to get plants in Ann Arbor:

1. Spring Plant Sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens
2. Ann Arbor Farmers Market
315 Detroit Street, open every Saturday and Wednesday
3. Detroit's Eastern Market
Eastern Market has the best value!

Starting your own seeds is another cheap and fun alternative!
Seeds can be started indoors or outdoors in March, April, and May!
Link to seed-starting instructions

4. Water your plants every day or every other day! Keep watered during periods of extremely high temperatures!

5. Place plant on a
sunny balcony, porch, windowsill, or yard and let Mother Nature do the trick!


6. Harvest yummy herbs and veggies!

Tomato in a box!

I did an experiment to see if I could grow a tomato plant in a cardboard box. It works!

Here's what I did:

1. Found a cardboard box (poked drainage holes in bottom)
2. Lined it with a garbage bag (poked drainage holes in bottom)
3. Threw in some kitchen compost scraps (apple cores, ends of veggies, egg shells, etc.)
4. Made a cardboard barrier (with holes)
5. Filled up with potting soil
6. Planted a tomato!

So far my tomato-in-a-box is growing great and I will harvest some tomatoes from it soon!

*My tomato is eating up the extra nutrition of the compost; but, for a simpler project try filling the box with just potting soil!!

More fun container ideas:

More links about container gardening:

Container Gardening Info
Container Gardening Instructions
Growing Fall Vegetables
General Vegetable Growing
Lettuce Growing Tips
If you have any questions or comments.... stop by at a Ginsberg Garden Workday! Or feel free to email me at!

Happy Planting and Go Blue!