Wednesday, May 27, 2009

MG on TV

Franklin County Master Gardeners are in the news!
Check out Peggy Murphy, Michael Leach, Rita Burns, and Linda Readey, in gardening action at Holton Recreation Center on the Hilltop!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More people getting their hands dirty...

There is a nice article in the Home and Garden section of the Dispatch today:

The area, already home to more than 150, is seeing at least 20 new such gardens this summer, said Bill Dawson, coordinator of the Franklin Park Conservatory's Growing to Green program.

"It's just taken off this year, with the White House garden, with the economy, the 'green' movement," said Dawson, who is active in the American Community Gardening Association, which is based at the conservatory.

Trisha Dehnbostel, who oversees 12 gardens in the University District, thinks greater Columbus might have as many as 50 new gardens this summer. Her organization, Local Matters, encourages Ohio-grown produce and is trying to build a comprehensive list of area gardens for next spring.

"The movement is changing," Dehnbostel said. "Now, so many people are doing it to produce food or to give back to food pantries because of our economy. And so many churches and social-service agencies are getting involved; it's not just communities." READ MORE..

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Huge greenhouse may be farming's future

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- On a coastal plain not far from a Navy base and an outlet mall, the future of California farming is taking shape.
Rising out of verdant acres of strawberries and artichokes are two mammoth, high-tech greenhouses.
Climate change is a serious threat to California's $36 billion agricultural economy. The farming company behind this $50 million complex sees it as insurance against perpetual drought, volatile fuel prices and resilient pests.
The facility generates its own renewable power. It hoards rainwater. It hosts its own bumblebees for pollination. And it requires a fraction of the chemicals used in neighboring fields to coax plants to produce like champions.
This fledgling movement to grow food in closed, sustainable environments could become as revolutionary to farming in the 21st century as California's development of massive farms was in the 20th, agriculture experts say.
"We are doing all of this not only because it will be good for our business but because it will be good for everyone else," said Casey Houweling, president of Houweling Nurseries, the Canadian farming company that is cultivating tomatoes at the facility, which will be fully operational in June.
The son of a Dutch immigrant farmer, the 51-year-old Houweling has helped build his family's agricultural business into one of the largest greenhouse-based growers in North America. But the California facility is no ordinary hothouse.
On a recent afternoon, he was eager to show visitors clusters of plump, sweet tomatoes hanging overhead from vines that reach high into the rafters. This arrangement allows the farm's 450 permanent employees to climb ladders to pick the fruit instead of stooping. The plants, which are fed individually through tubing, produce 20 times more fruit per acre than conventional field production.
Virtually nothing is wasted here. Workers have dug a 4-acre pond to store rainwater and runoff. This water, along with condensation, is collected, filtered and recirculated back to each of the 20-acre greenhouses. That has cut water use to less than one-fifth of that in conventional field cultivation. Fertilizer use has been halved. There are no herbicides and almost no pesticides, and there is no dust.
Five acres of photovoltaic solar cells supply much of the electricity to run pumps and climate controls. Thermal systems collect solar heat and warehouse refrigeration exhaust to warm the greenhouses on cool evenings. The two systems generate 2.1 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,500 homes.
"We believe this is the first greenhouse in the world that is energy neutral," Houweling said.
Houweling envisions a day when greenhouses dot California's lush coastal plains, taking advantage of the abundant sunlight to grow thirsty crops such as lettuce and strawberries, using renewable energy to reduce their burden on the environment.
Until recently, that was a pipe dream. The cost of heating and cooling these structures was prohibitive for all but the most high-value specialty produce. The U.S. grows less than $1 billion worth of greenhouse fruits and vegetables annually.
But the rising expense of traditional farming is narrowing the cost gap. California farmers are coping with years of drought and fighting water wars with cities. They're also grappling with land degradation, an unstable migrant workforce and rising shipping costs.
"We are closer to parity than we have ever been," said Gene Giacomelli, a professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Still, a shift to more greenhouse farming will be slow.
"Houweling is doing the demonstration," Giacomelli said. "He is going to have to prove to himself and his banker that this is the way to go."

Bexley market co-op survives on bumper crop of creativity

FRED SQUILLANTE Dispatch photos
Store manager Annerose Schaffrin shows off some of the fresh greens at the Bexley Natural Market. The co-op is trying various activities to raise money to replace its produce cooler, including selling sponsorships of vegetables and fruit.

The Bexley market is similar to many independent natural-foods stores: the complex scent of spices, bottles of natural remedies, organic food and oddities such as ostrich meat.

By Elizabeth Gibson in the COLUMBUS DISPATCH

The Bexley Natural Market is one of central Ohio's last co-op grocery stores. Launched in 1976 by a group of women who wanted pesticide-free vegetables, today it is owned by 200 dues-paying members.

Acart approached the produce cooler.

Sally Lorrimer swept toward it and threw an arm around the shoulders of her customer and friend Jan Tague.

"Jan, could you tell us what your favorite vegetable is?" she asked, waiting until Tague chose spinach. "You're in luck. Spinach hasn't been taken yet."

If Tague donated $50 to help buy a new produce refrigerator, the store not only would put her name on a plaque above the spinach, Tague also would receive a glossy photo of her favorite greens in their new home.

It's kind of like those groups that ask people to sponsor a child in Africa and send a photo of the smiling child in return, Lorrimer said. Only instead, she's sending postcards on behalf of berries and carrots so that the Bexley Natural Market can retire a 15-year-old fridge making "strange, moody noises."

Members said the market's co-op business model uses creativity to try to hold its own against national organic specialty chains such as Whole Foods Market.

But the 33-year-old shop at 508 N. Cassady Ave. in northern Bexley is one of central Ohio's last co-op grocery stores, members said. It is owned by 200 dues-paying members who throw a potluck once a year to elect a board.

At the potluck this month, members discussed how to raise $1,500 for the new cooler, store manager Annerose Schaffrin said.

It's the sort of teamwork that launched the business in a living room in 1976, said Martha Markstein, a founding member. A group of women decided they wanted pesticide-free food, and eventually they opened a storefront.

One woman hunted down distributors; another kept the books. Some volunteered their husbands for repairs or tried their hand at the cash register.

"We were exhilarated because we had this new thing, and we couldn't stop talking about it," Markstein said. "We were accused of being hippies, but the only way we were hippie was we were involved in natural foods."

At age 81, she still volunteers in the store every day. It is open to anyone, but members get a discount based on how much they volunteer.

Schaffrin also started out as a volunteer after she moved to the U.S. from Germany 19 years ago.

"I saw this little store on the corner on the way from the airport. I was so relieved," she said. "I knew those big stores in the U.S., and I had hoped I wouldn't have to buy in such an anonymous place."

Her first time at the store, the staff took lids off all the spices because she didn't know their English names. Now, roles have reversed, and customers with names of exotic foods scribbled on scraps of paper come to Schaffrin to track down products.

If only, customers said, the grumbling refrigerator matched her efficiency.

Your chance to mentor and get help with your garden!

Here is your chance to get some help with harvesting, weeding and other late summer maintenance and teach students about community at the same time.
We are looking for 18 sites for this day of service.
Sign up your garden project today by contacting Leslie Wilson below:

WHO: Hastings Middle School 7th Graders – Upper Arlington City Schools, who want to help build the community by serving the community. WHAT: We have 18 groups of kids, with around 13 kids per group, to place out in the greater Columbus area to help give back to the community. The student to adult ratio will be 13 to 1, we are able to add additional adults if needed.

WHERE: Community Gardens in the Columbus Area – Multiple locations needed

WHEN: Friday, September 4th from 10 am to 2 pm. ***Beginning and ending times are flexible***

WHY: Hastings Middle School is creating a day of service for their students. Our goal is to help build community by serving the community. Our hope is that our 7th grade students will be able to help plant a garden, harvest a garden or begin putting the garden to bed for the winter. • Some groups may be interested in donating items; please provide a wish list

HOW: Students will be bussed to the various sites, if you need students to bring tools, please provide a list. Contact information: please feel free to contact:
Leslie Wilson at or 487-5100 ext. 316 with questions.

You could also cc me on any communications with this group to keep me in the loop at
Thank you,
Bill Dawson

Friday, May 15, 2009

Urban Farmers Market this Saturday

This Saturday, May 16th, an Urban Farmer’s Market will be held from 9am-1pm at 1934 N. 4th St, at the corner of 18th Avenue and North 4th Street. The purpose of the market is to raise awareness about the ease with which we can all grow our own food. In this vein, locally grown plant starts will be for sale for 50 cents apiece, as well as some early season greens and flowers grown right here in the University Area. Additionally, demonstrations will take place throughout the time of the market to showcase the ease with which everyone can grow their own food in containers, and a couple of cooking demonstrations to learn just what can be done with all of this great fresh produce. Local Matters, Trisha Dehnbostel, looks to the market as a means of empowering the community. “What really sets our Urban Farmer’s Market apart is the educational aspect,” explained Dehnbostel. “We’re not just selling food. Our cooking and gardening workshops are giving people the skills they need to take charge of their own healthy eating and wellness.The market will also feature the "Veggie Van", Local Matter's mobile farmers market. Three other markets will take place during the summer on July 25, August 22, and September 26, and will offer more demonstrations and wonderful, fresh produce grown within the 3 square miles of the University Area.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Syracuse's community gardens are tainted with lead and arsenic

Syracuse, NY -- A dedicated band of gardeners have been tilling Syracuse's soil as a way of building community and providing fresh fruits and vegetables to their families. But the plots they have been eating from and others they have been working to develop are contaminated with toxic metals.

In at least some cases, Syracuse city workers were likely the ones who laid down the polluted dirt.

A recent study of six local community gardens by scientists at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry showed that all but one of the plots contained elevated levels of lead, according to preliminary results. Samples from one garden in development -- the Isabella Street Community Garden -- exceeded health standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The normal level of lead in soil is between 40 and 50 parts per million. The Syracuse gardens have lead levels that range from 46 to 820 parts per million.

Moreover, arsenic levels in all of the plots except for one were off the charts, said ESF professor Venera Jouraeva, who led the study.

Jouraeva said the results need to be confirmed through additional tests. She said more information should be available next week.

The EPA generally warns against planting in soil with arsenic readings above 0.4 parts per million. Measures in all of the Syracuse community gardens except for the Avery Avenue garden landed between 8 and 17 parts per million.

"Avery was the only one suitable for gardening," Jouraeva said.

Why be concerned?

Lead: Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage in infants and toddlers and lead to reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and problems in school. Pregnant women can pass lead onto their fetuses. Lead in the soil is especially a problem for growing root vegetables and leafy greens. You can also pick up lead by inhaling contaminated dirt.

Arsenic: You can die by ingesting very high levels of arsenic. Exposure to lower levels can cause vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm and damage to blood vessels. Ingesting arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancers of the liver, bladder and lungs, studies show.

The news has unsettled local gardeners. While most of the plots tested are gardens just now being developed, sites such as the West Newell Street garden have fed people for a decade.

"The people who have gone out of their way to supplement their diet with healthy food, now they're faced with food that's contaminated," said Jessi Lyons, an ESF student and member of Syracuse Grows, a local group dedicated to promoting and supporting community gardens.

Jouraeva and the gardeners say people can still plant foods in the contaminated plots if they take precautions. Most of the sites need only minor adjustments, such as bringing in new top soil and planting crops in raised beds.

High levels of lead at the Isabella Street garden require more extreme mitigation, but that, too, is under way.

"I think that contaminants in the soil when gardening can always be a concern," said Inga Back, program coordinator for the Onondaga County Health Department's Lead Poisoning Control Program. "But if you put a liner down and the plants don't have access to the soil underneath, and you put clean soil in, it should be fine."

The findings worry Mable Wilson, founder of the West Newell Street Community Garden.

"We've been eating here for 10 years," she said.

Many of the community gardens sit on the city's North and South sides, where grocery stores are scarce, buses are infrequent and most residents can't afford to buy organic produce. Community members say they started growing food as a safe and affordable alternative. The gardens have also helped bring people together and develop a stronger sense of community.

Gardeners from West Newell Street had planned to donate some of their harvest to the food pantry at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. But that can't happen now that lead and arsenic has been uncovered in the soil.

"We can't give the food pantry the food," Wilson said. "We're taking a chance on ourselves."

Back said people shouldn't worry if they ate in the past from gardens with high readings. Lead stays in the body only a short time, she said, so "if you had an exposure five years ago and that's it ... it would be gone from your blood."

Still, all children ages 1 and 2 should be tested for lead, Back said.

In fact, it's a state requirement. Children facing ongoing lead risks should be tested until age 6.

Wilson said her grandchildren are periodically tested for lead because years ago, as toddlers, they lived in an apartment building where they were exposed to lead. The family moved before Wilson started gardening, but the grandchildren have eaten from the West Newell Street garden in the years since.

"They have no lead in their systems," Wilson said.

Jouraeva said it's common for urban soil to be contaminated, and other parts of the city test even higher.

The lead in the gardens likely came from several sources, researchers said.

Most of the plots once contained homes, so chips of paint with lead easily could have entered the ground and contaminated it, scientists said.

A third possible source is the city of Syracuse itself. Syracuse Parks Commissioner Pat Driscoll said workers truck in topsoil to re-grade sites, such as the community gardens, where homes have been demolished. The topsoil is typically of a low quality because it's considered a temporary solution, Driscoll said.

"That could certainly be the cause of it," Driscoll said. "The soil that is used may have particles of lead in it."

The topsoil comes from yard waste and debris that city workers collect, Driscoll said. Because it's makeup is unknown, it should not be used to grow food, he said.

"Planting a garden, whether it's fruits and vegetables or flowers, is certainly a lot different than putting in topsoil to fill a hole," Driscoll said. "If there are going to be fruits and vegetables, you want the greatest quality soil. The topsoil that's put in is definitely a Band-Aid, not a solution."

"That makes me angry," Wilson said. "We're doing a lot of work for nothing if they are bringing in soil with lead."

Lead in soil can make people sick if they inhale dirt while digging, swallow dust that clings to their hands or eat foods grown in polluted ground. Root vegetables and leafy greens are most susceptible.

Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage in infants and toddlers. Symptoms include reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and problems in school. Children exposed to lead face high risk of brain damage and developmental disabilities. Pregnant women can pass lead to their fetuses.

"There's really no safe level of lead in our bodies," Back said.

Arsenic can be even more harmful. Ingesting very high levels of arsenic can result in death, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Exposure to lower levels can cause vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm and damage to blood vessels. Several studies have shown that ingesting arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancers of the liver, bladder and lungs.

Jouraeva suspects the arsenic made its way into the soil from pressure-treated wood and pesticides used on the properties.

The Avery Avenue garden is much cleaner because it always was an empty lot and never had a house on it, Jouraeva said.

Community members are trying to figure out what they can do to keep gardening and keep themselves and their children safe. Each garden is taking a slightly different remediation approach, Wilson said.

Most have installed raised planting beds and shipped in new soil to prevent their crops from taking root in the polluted soil.

At the Isabella Street Community Garden, workers laid down bed liners and brought in wood chips to cover the ground around the plant beds.

Wilson said that the West Newell Street Garden will be off-limits to children under 6, and children under the age of 2 won't be fed the food grown there.

That saddens Wilson, she said, but she'd rather be safe than sorry.

"It feels like environmental discrimination," Wilson said. "This is our community. You are tearing it down. At least put down good soil."

by Delen Goldberg / The Post-Standard
Friday May 08, 2009, 6:18 AM

Sunday, May 10, 2009

3 Beautiful Gardens From the Columbus Dispatch

Holden Arboretum
Holden, in Kirtland, is one of my favorites. Twenty miles of winding paths and trails take visitors past more than two dozen little lakes and ponds and alongside scenic Pierson Creek.
Holden covers more than 3,600 acres, with natural areas making up most of the arboretum. During my most recent visit, though, I couldn't bring myself to leave the beautiful cultivated areas, which include major collections of magnolias, lilacs and viburnums.
The arboretum's Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden is a spectacular sight this time of year. It encompasses 25 acres of spring-blooming rhododendrons, azaleas and similar plants, all shaded by a canopy of oaks, beeches and maples.
The formal Lantern Court Garden, also covering 25 acres, features perennial borders, rose and wildflower gardens, a rock garden and a large collection of hostas.
Just outside the visitors center is a lovely butterfly garden, which really comes into its own later in the summer.
Call 440-946-4400 or visit

Dawes Arboretum
I'm a sucker for the soft-edged symmetry of a formal Japanese garden.
Dawes, near Newark, has one of the best in the region. The garden was designed in 1963 by landscape architect and professor Makoto Nakamura of the University of Kyoto in Japan.
Today it offers a relaxing melange of flowing water, artistically placed rocks and sand, and beautiful trees and shrubs. And you needn't be into Zen to enjoy the serenity of the view from the meditation house.
Dawes also offers many other botanical attractions, including one of the northern-most cypress swamps on the continent, an azalea glen, and a comprehensive collection of buckeye, beech and ginkgo tree varieties.
Eight miles of walking trails loop through the arboretum. Yet visitors needn't even walk (although they probably should if they can): Dawes also features a 4-mile auto-tour trail that takes drivers through deep woods and lush lawns and along many of the most interesting individual gardens.
Weekend visitors can also tour the Daweswood House Museum, once home to the family who founded the arboretum.
Call 1-800-44-DAWES or visit

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens
The manor house of Goodyear tire baron F.A. Seiberling is the central focus of this Akron attraction.
Stan Hywet (pronounced HEE-wit) is Old English for "stone quarry." And the 65-room mansion was built between 1912 and 1915 from stone quarried on the site.
Tours reveal magnificent stained- and leaded-glass windows -- more than 21,000 panes in all; intricate tile and plaster ornamentation; and interior woodwork that might be called a kind of carpenter's arboretum, with boards of American oak, chestnut, black walnut, sandalwood, teak and rosewood.
Although the estate today covers just 70 the original 3,000 acres, the remaining gardens still offer a colorful and soothing bounty.
A 550-foot allee, or walkway, lined with more than 100 gray birch trees, ends at a breathtaking view of the Cuyahoga Valley.
The stone quarry has been turned into the Lagoon, several ponds connected by waterways and surrounded by a naturalistic garden.
Visitors can also tour the Gothic-style Corbin Conservatory greenhouse.
Unfortunately, Stan Hywet's cozy Japanese garden and formal West Terrace are both closed for renovations. They are to reopen in 2010.
Call 1-888-836-5533 or visit

Friday, May 8, 2009

Community gardener extraordinaire Bill Dawson

Community gardener extraordinaire Bill Dawson thinks you'll be amazed at how much you can save by planting your own vegetable garden:

Edible Gardening Cost Savings Statistics
• Growing your own veggies saves you money
• $100 spent on vegetable gardening = $1,000 to $1,700 worth of produce
• Planting a 20x30 foot garden saves you $600 a year in fresh produce
• 50 of seeds and fertilizer = $1,250 worth of groceries
• $1.95 worth of seeds grows more than 300 pounds
• A vegetable garden has a $0.25 cents per dollar cost-savings ratio
Plant Specific Statistics
• One cucumber plant yields 15-20 cucumbers
• Cherokee purple tomato produces 12 pounds
• A single bell pepper plant yields 6-8 peppers
• Tomatoes, bush beans, pole beans, summer squash and zucchini are the easiest to growShow

Airtimes:'FOX & Friends First' at 6 a.m. ET'FOX & Friends' at 7 a.m. ET
E-mail the Show:
'FOX & Friends' Bios
Good Eating Archive

Monday, May 4, 2009

Springtail Sorrow

I have a tidbit of news that might be of use to your master gardeners who are manning the hotline. Yesterday at our local community garden in Grandview, I noticed massive numbers of the garden springtail all over most seedling veg crops and all over the soil, both in plots with straw mulch and without. There were many on spinach, swiss chard, basil, ground cherry, eggplant, pepper, kale, and lettuce. Not many on tomato or onion.

I met this pest for the first time in 2005 and have tried searching for info on it, but not a lot is known about it.

To the naked eye, it looks very much like an aphid in size and shape, but it jumps when disturbed.

It has chewing mouthparts and chews on seedlings. It has caused serious problems on sugarbeet in Michigan over the past few years. In Ohio a year or two ago I heard from on commercial cabbage farmer who lost a field to it. I think it usually disappears as suddenly as it appears, but I do not know how long we can expect it to be around.

It is not listed on any insecticide labels but we think that any broad spectrum product would kill it. I did a small unreplicated trial yesterday to see how pyrethrins+PBO, pyrethrins+oil, spinsosad, and acetamiprid work; I will check it later today to see if there is any observable result. I am curious if you hear about it from other gardeners.

Celeste Welty, Ph.D.
Extension Entomologist
& Associate Professor of Entomology

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How to Grow Great Maters

Check out
to find about about the soil, mulch, fertilizer and water needs of TASTY maters.

Ambitious or insane?

Do you have the farming bug? I am meeting more people who garden who are thinking about moving on to farming, hopefully allowing them an income stream from something they love. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association has a wonderful series of farm tours this summer and fall that I hope all Columbus Community Gardeners will at least look into. They cover vegetables, grains, livestock, alternative energy and building and more. See for details. Also farmers are looking for apprentices right now, a great way to feel the pain up close and personal before diving in solo.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Urban Farmers' Market-- May 16th

The Urban Farmers’ Market will be on MAY 16th, from 9am - 1pm.


It’s not just any farmers’ was started by community gardeners!! At this market, you can:

  • LEARN from gardening and cooking demos

  • CHOOSE from fresh foods grown in your neighborhood

  • GET YOUR GARDEN STARTED with tomato, pepper, squash and flower plants (proceeds support our gardens--and plants are just $.50 each!!)

These folks will also have their stuff available at the UFM:

  • Dandelion Deeds--handmade clothes, kitchen and garden gear
  • Tim Elkins--locally roasted coffee
  • HoneyRun Farms--spring greens, soap and honey
  • The Greener Grocer Veggie Van--fresh produce supporting ohio farmers

Finally, the market will coincide with a Block Party that includes games, raffles and community services info, happening from 9 am to 4pm on the same spot.

FIND THE MARKET @ the corner of North 4th street and 18th.,-82.998576&spn=0.004224,0.009012&z=16&iwloc=A

Stay posted for news of our other three markets, on July 25th, August 22nd and September 26th.

Guerrilla Gardening

Our garden is featured in this great article in the spiffy 614 magazine.

Inspired? Want to join a garden in the University Area?
Call 614-204-2918. We’ll hook you up with a plot and good people.

For more info on this and other University Area Enrichment Association community projects, see