Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Master Gardener Insider Scoop!

Have you ever wondered how MG's seem to know everything? Well, if you know this MG, you know that is not the case (haa), but here is a list of completely free online resources that are MG approved to help you answer your own questions or just impress people at parties:

OSU Plant Facts Plants Dictionary

Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder

University of Connecticut Plant Database

USDA Plants Database

University of Illinois – UI Plants

Lady Bird Johnson Native Plant Database

Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Plant Native

Grow Native – Missouri Department of Conservation/Missouri Department of Agriculture

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Good, the bad and the beauty in Community Gardening

Wow, I want to give a shout out to Amy P, my co-blogger and give her praise for her other blog, http://sycamorehillscommunitygarden.blogspot.com/. I asked her about it the other day and she said, "I wanted to make the blog so that people would know how to start a garden and learn about the entire process. I want for the process to be transparent." On her blog it also says, "My goal with the blog: to show the good, the bad, and the beautiful about my experience with starting and participating in a community garden." I think the blog (along with this one of course!) are invaluable. I love the brochure!
When you are creating a community garden....It is OH SO MUCH MORE THAN GARDENING! I have never seen community gardening as primarily growing plants and flowers. It is about planning and working within a group of other people. I believe it is a microcosm of our family life, community and world. There have been times that I have said, "I hate community gardening." The same issues that are a part of our larger society play out in the garden too: Not knowing how to be part of a team, controlling others, perfectionism, lack of delegation, not knowing how to trust others, sexism, racism, classism...all of the ism's, fear of failure, over committing....the list goes on. I have considered not having it be a part of my life a few times over the years, but something always brings me back. Connection with people in my neighborhood. Working with a raw piece of urban land. Planning a project from nothing and watching it grow...with our without me or all of us, community gardens once sustainable have a life of their own. They become what we all put into them and there are moments that have been powerful, trans formative and insightful...not only about myself, but nature, people in groups, our city and how we all connect. It has truly been beautiful. You can't get there without planning, amending the soil, writing grants, making a plan for water...creating a sustainable foundation for the garden to flourish into something magical.
Amy is very organized and that is something I truly admire about her. Her blog addresses the planning, community resources, her feelings about not getting a grant and all of the steps to make your garden sustainable. These aspects are often over looked and many gardens die, due to lack of sustainability.
Community Gardening is not simple. It requires a great deal of planning, but even more than that, it requires that you trust others and become part of a larger whole.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Job Opportunities!

Passed onto us from Eric at Shepherd's Corners.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

City cuts yard waste program...now what?

These are photos of compost bins, showing the immense amount of choices you have when building your bin...but wait a minute, why are there photos of compost bins? Well....

The city recently announced that they would no longer be picking up yard waste. Many residents are now frustrated and looking for solutions---and some it appears don't even know, as I have seen many bags sitting for days on the curb. Here is a link to a recent Dispatch article:


No worries! Here is a simple and cheap compost bin to take your unwanted yard waste and turn it into rich compost.


This is the same bin that Amy Youngs and myself are featuring tomorrow on 10tv with Anietra Hamper. There are many other options ranging from free to hundreds of dollars, to fit any budget or need, check out the "instructables" site and you could have any shape or size!


You can compost all types of materials and there are some great sites that give you step by step instructions and also addresses Why? So why should you compost you ask? It is easy, you take something that would fill up our trash bins and create something you can use to grow produce, flowers and herbs. You can save hundreds of dollars on buying compost. It is the smart thing to do and what all of the cool people do with their yard waste....


Finally, you don't have to just compost with yard waste. I have a compost bin that the previous tenants gifted me (thanks to Meredith Joy and Mike Reed!) and I compost all vegetable, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags..anything but animal products. I also belong to the University Area Community Gardening Collective...so we have plenty of room for members to compost. You could also start a collective area in your neighborhood, with permission, to compost. One of our members of the Hudson and 4th Community Garden, Amy Youngs created a series of worm composting bin bags, a table and yes, even a composting couch. (she is an artist and all around brilliant person) See her own worm bin bag:


Here is a link to her composting art:


So,you have a few options: Pay for a service $49.50 every 6 months, load up and drive your yard waste to the outer areas of Columbus, throw it all away or burn it---both TERRIBLE ideas for the environment or...COMPOST and do it easily.

So, what are you going to do?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Panther Community Garden

I would like to direct your attention to an exciting new school and community garden here in Columbus. Here is the description from their blog:

"The Charles School at Ohio Dominican is proud to be installing a community garden, The Panther Garden, with generous assistance from the Toyota TAPESTRY through the National Science Teacher’s Association. Our garden is being used to support the biological science curriculum with our 10th grade students.

While we haven’t broken ground yet, we are designing our garden, beginning seeds indoors, and researching (which will later be posted to this blog).

Our garden is located at 1270 Brentnell Ave."

I am so happy to see this garden come to fruition. Ed Ingman is the visionary, grant writer and implementer of this garden, and he is an amazing person and teacher. Congrats to TCS and Ed! What a feather in Columbus' cap!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obamas plant organic kitchen garden at White House

Want to know where the presidential produce comes from?

Washington's Bancroft Elementary School students help first lady Michelle Obama break ground on the garden.

Take a walk past the White House. The answer may be planted right in front of you.
First lady Michelle Obama helped break ground on a new White House organic "kitchen garden" Friday. It will be the first working garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a so-called "victory garden" at the height of World War II.
This time, however, the enemy is obesity. The first family is hoping to send a clear message to a fast food-driven nation that often seems to be losing the battle of the bulge.
"We're just hoping that a lot of families look at us and say this is something that they can do and talk to their own kids about and think a little bit critically about the food choices that they make," said Marian Robinson, the president's mother-in-law. Watch Michelle Obama tell students about the garden »
The first lady told a group of Washington schoolchildren on hand for the occasion that first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama were usually more willing to try fresh fruits and vegetables because fresh produce generally tastes better.
"What I found with my kids [is that] if they were involved in planting it and picking it, they were much more curious about giving it a try," she added.
"I've been able to have my kids eat so many different things that they would have never touched if we had bought it at a store because they either met the farmers that grew it, or they saw how it was grown," she said.
"They were curious about it and ... usually they liked it."
The idea of a presidential kitchen garden, used year-round with different seasonal crops, has been strongly promoted by advocates for organic and locally grown food. They argue that the White House garden may help set a positive example for families short on time and money, who are often tempted by cheaper, highly processed food.
The presidential garden will be used, among other things, for growing such staples as butterhead and red leaf lettuce, spinach, broccoli, onions, carrots and peas.
It will also include a range of herbs, including sage, oregano and rosemary.
The garden is one of several additions to the White House South Lawn. A swing set for the first daughters was recently installed near the Oval Office.

ScottsMiracle-Gro and Local Students Bring GroGood Garden to Los Angeles

Local school garden is first in nationwide campaign

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif., March 19 /
A group of public and private organizations teamed up with students at the Roy Romer Middle School in North Hollywood, Calif. yesterday to plant an edible garden that will create a harvest to share with local organizations to help feed the hungry.
The garden was designed to be planted and cared for by students, including many with special needs. The garden includes vegetables and herbs as well as special features to accommodate the students' needs such as raised beds. The project was coordinated by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, along with its partners Keep America Beautiful, the Garden Writers Association of America, Plant a Row for the Hungry, the National Gardening Association, the Franklin Park Conservatory, the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Plant a Row for the Hungry and Feeding America announced that they have joined forces in an effort to provide fresh produce to the hungry this summer and to ask Americans to take the GroGood pledge: Grow a garden for the greater good. To launch the GroGood pledge campaign, ScottsMiracle-Gro will donate 1 million pounds of produce and call on Americans to help double that donation by pledging to grow and donate an additional 1 million pounds of fresh produce to help feed those at risk for hunger.
Led by Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, students at the event pledged to "grow a garden for the greater good" as part of this nationwide effort to encourage communities to grow and share fresh produce with those in need. Through the new GroGood campaign, produce from the garden will be donated to local food agencies, helping provide the hungry in Los Angeles with healthy, fresh-grown fruits and vegetables.
"This garden will be a great boost to our students' educational experience," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "The Roy Romer school garden will give students hands-on opportunities to learn from nature, grow their own food and give back to the Los Angeles community."
Nearly 7 percent of Los Angeles County, or 740,000 households, is at risk of hunger. As more people struggle to feed their families, local service organizations are faced with a growing need for food donations. In fact, requests climbed an estimated 41 percent last year, according to a regional food agency.
Los Angeles is the first of five GroGood gardens ScottsMiracle-Gro and its partners will create across the country this spring to encourage neighborhood participation in food gardening and the GroGood campaign. In addition to the Los Angeles garden, other community edible gardens are planned for Miami, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
"Edible gardening has become a way of life in America in light of today's economic needs and societal desires for greater sustainability," said Su Lok, director of corporate and community partnerships for ScottsMiracle-Gro. "As more people look to grow their own produce this spring, we hope they will share a portion of their harvest with those in need in their community."
For more information on GroGood, food gardening and how to locate a local food agency that accepts fresh produce, please visit: www.scotts.com/grogood.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Volunteer for one of the Worksites and then come out the next day to Celebrate at Goodale Park. For more info check out : www.picturethis09.org.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"The People's Garden" breaking ground in D.C.

Last week, Secretary Vilsack offered a small and symbolic, yet potentially important, first initiative. He put on a hard hat, took a jackhammer in hand, and broke through the pavement on a small patch of land adjacent to the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture, in Washington, D.C., and announced the creation of the first USDA “People’s Garden.”

“President Obama has expressed his commitment to responsible stewardship of our land, water, and other natural resources.” Vilsack announced in a press statement. “And one way of restoring the land to its natural condition is what we are doing here today—‘breaking pavement for the People’s Garden.” ....read more by clicking on the title

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gardens save money

What’s a home garden worth? With the global economy spiraling downward and Mother Nature preparing to reach upward, it’s a good question to ask and a good time to ask it. There isn’t one right answer, of course, but I’ll give you mine: $2149.15. Last year, my wife Jacqueline suggested to me that we calculate the total value of the produce coming out of our garden over the course of the growing season. Initially, the thought of doing that was about as appealing to me as a recreational root canal. I remember replying something like: “OK, so let me get this right: in addition to raising three busy boys, managing two careers, volunteering in a school garden, and growing most of our own produce, you’re proposing that we weigh every item that comes out of our garden, write it down in a log book, and spend a few leisurely evenings doing math?” Jacqueline, an economics major in college and a native French speaker, answered with a simple "oui" and so the project began. There was a lot of work involved, mostly for Jacqueline, but as with gardening itself, it was work with a purpose. It didn’t take long for our log book to start filling up with dates and figures. Although we started eating our first garden salads in late April, we only began recording our harvests as of May 10th, starting first with greens and asparagus. Our last weighable harvest was two weeks ago in the form of a final cutting of Belgian endives forced from roots in our basement. By the time we had finished weighing it all, we had grown 834 pounds and over six months worth of organic food (we’re still eating our own winter squash, onions, garlic, and frozen items like strawberries, green beans, and pesto cubes). Once we had the weights of the 35 main crops we grew, we then calculated what it would have cost us to buy the same items using three different sets of prices: conventional grocery store, farmers’ market and organic grocery store (Whole Foods, in our case). The total value came to $2196.50, $2431.15, and $2548.93 respectively. For the other economics majors and number crunchers among you, you can see our crunchy, raw data here. There are things we didn’t include like the wild dandelion greens which we reaped but did not sow, the six or so carving pumpkins which we ultimately fed to our compost pile, and the countless snacks of strawberries, beans, peas, and tomatoes that never made it as far as our kitchen scale. There were also things we forgot to weigh like several pounds of grapes which turned into about 12 jars of jam. As with any growing season, there were hits and misses. The heaviest and most valuable crop was our tomatoes (158 lb/72 kg for a total value of $524). In terms of misses, our apple tree decided to take the year off and very few of our onions started from seed made it requiring me to buy some onion plants. On the cost side, we had $130 for seeds and supplies, $12 for a soil test, and exceptional costs of $100 for some locally-made organic compost we bought for our “This Lawn is Your Lawn” frontyard garden (normally, we meet most of our soil fertility needs through our own composting). I don't have a scientific calculation for water costs, but we don't need to water much and, when we do, water is relatively cheap in Maine. Also, I mulch my beds pretty heavily to keep moisture in and weeds down. Let's say $40 in water. So, if we consider that our out-of-pocket costs were $282 and the total value generated was $2431, that means we had a return on investment of 862%. The cost of our labor is not included because we enjoy gardening and the physical work involved. If I am to include my labor costs, I feel I should also include the gym membership fees, country club dues, or doctors’ bills I didn’t have.If you really want to play around with the data, you can calculate how much a home garden like ours produces on a per acre basis. If you use the $2400 figure and consider that our garden is roughly 1/25th of an acre, it means that home gardens like ours can gross $60,000/acre. You can also calculate it on a square foot basis which in our case works out to be roughly $1.50/ft2. That would mean that a smaller garden of say 400ft2 would produce $600 of produce. Keep in mind that these are averages and that certain crops are more profitable and space efficient than others. A small garden planted primarily with salad greens and trellised tomatoes, for example, is going to produce more economic value per square foot more than one planted with potatoes and squash. We plant a bit of everything because that’s the way we like to garden and eat. Clearly, this data is just for one family (of five), one yard (.3 acre), one garden (roughly 1600 square feet), and one climate (Maine, zone 5b/6), but it gives you some sense of what’s possible. If you consider that there are about 90 million households in the US that have some sort of yard, factor in the thousands of new community and school gardens we could be planting, this really could add up. Our savings allowed us to do different things including investing in some weatherization work for our house last fall that is making us a greener household in another way. Some might ask what this would mean for farmers to have more people growing their own food. The local farmers I know welcome it because they correctly believe that the more people discover what fresh, real food tastes like, the more they'll want to taste. In our case, part of our savings helped us to buy better quality, sustainably-raised meat from a local CSA farmer. The economics of home gardening may not be enough to convince President Obama or UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to plant new gardens at the White House or 10 Downing Street, but the healthy savings their citizens could be making and then reinvesting in their local economies could.
In the end, it might come down to the language we use. Instead of saying "Honey, I'm going out to the garden to turn the compost pile", perhaps we should say "Honey, I'm going outside to do a 'green job' and work on our 'organic stimulus package.'” I bet that would get the attention of a few economists, not mention a few psychologists!
Happy, healthy March,

Roger Doiron