Monday, June 24, 2013

It was a great pleasure to introduce Mike Kiessel at the Master Gardener College event held Saturday 6/22/13 at Michigan State University!  Mike proved once again that if you have any questions on saving vegetable seeds, he's the guy to ask.  We're fortunate to have him as a contributor to this blog.  And why not save seeds?  It's fun, saves money, and helps preserve some of the wonderful heirloom vegetable varieties that are getting hard to find.  More of these treasures disappear every year.  And it allows the seed saver to select for preferred plant characteristics and for strains that get better adapted to local soil and microclimate conditions every year.
Mike Davis

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Here are two updates for the price of one: a quick summary of this year's somewhat perplexing but ultimately successful hardening off of plants started indoors (click on METHODS & MATERIALS above); and a status report (below) on the delayed but promising beginning of our new Master Gardener-SEEDS partnership garden at the Historic Barns Park just outside Traverse City.  Startup is now just barely underway following completion of a geothermal project intended for temperature control in the classic barns that once supported a 50+ acre agricultural production area at the Traverse City State Hospital.


by Mike Davis

We're starting our new garden with a very small group of Master Gardener Volunteers, with the support and counsel of the great folks from SEEDS, particularly Christina Carson.  See:  As we grow, we hope to provide education and the inspiration to generate perspiration to a much wider cross-section of our community: those who could live better through gardening.  In order to do that, first we need to gain the confidence of our community by demonstrating that we know what we're doing.  We'll try.  And we'll offer samples of whatever fresh, clean, safe(!) edibles we have ready to harvest to visitors as they stop by.  "What are those silly people doing with their tiny garden on a big, potentially productive piece of land?"  We hope we'll be showing those visitors what they might do if they have only a patch of grass on a sandy residential lot to start with, and not enough money to risk on rototillers or even plants from the garden center.  And those who live in neighborhoods where ornamental landscaping is a competitive sport, and whose neighbors frown on cabbages.  And those who live on shady lots without the "full sun" the garden writers say we must have.  And those who grew up not "liking" vegetables because....

Over the last week, we've begun learning more about our future garden site including available resources, by looking carefully at our soil test results, and by laying out the first of our future growing beds.  The soil sample we had tested was taken before the excavation and subsequent regrading following geothermal unit installation.  We'll plan to do another next spring.  The test results were promising, showing relatively high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus but low levels of potassium.  Recommended macronutrient applications were 1/4 lb of nitrogen and 1/2 lb of potassium per 100 square feet.  Since, including our planned buried pots, our total planting area is about 350 square feet, we'll spread most of a 50-lb bag of kelp meal (about 4% potassium) over our beds and pots.  We're still debating what source(s) of nitrogen to use, possibly blood meal, which should also be at least a little discouraging to foraging rabbits and deer.  The soil pH is 7.1, just a bit in the high side; the cation exchange capacity (CEC) is 7 meq/100 g (not as low as we feared); and the organic matter content is 2.8%, low, but respectable for our sandy soil.  We'll easily raise the organic content to a reasonable level by adding a cubic yard (almost an inch) of top-quality compost before we begin planting.  Micronutrient levels were all in a "normal" range.  It was a relief to find that the lead level, 31 ppm, was quite low.

One problem: see that freshly disturbed soil in the foreground of this photo?

Think concrete.  Well, not quite, but the structure of the soil has been significantly broken down from compaction by repeated passes of heavy grading equipment following the recent excavations.  Clearly it will take a while for that structure to be rebuilt.  Again, compost to the rescue, along with liberal use of our broadforks.

During the next couple weeks we’ll loosen the soil with digging forks and broadforks, outline our beds with cedar frames, apply our soil amendments, and, just maybe, get a few plants started.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

School Garden Week 2013

             During the week of June 2, 2013 schools in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Benzie, and Antrim Counties celebrated an inaugural School Garden Week, increasing community attention to the diversity of school-based gardening projects in the Grand Traverse, Michigan, region.  During June 2-6, members of the community visited schools for “Garden Tour Days” to learn more about these projects, participate in fun garden activities, and meet the staff who help to run these programs.
Michele Worden, one of two newly hired Farm to School Educators working with the Michigan Land Use Institute, expressed the hope that teachers and parents other school gardens and gain inspiration to take back to their own school communities. Each school hosted its own unique day throughout the with support from the Farm to School and FoodCorps Team based out of the Michigan Land Use Institute. Pam Bardenhagen, another Farm to School Educator in Leelanau County, Mary Brower with ISLAND in Antrim County, as well as Kirsten Gerbatsch and Daniel Marbury of FoodCorps, and several teachers and Master Gardener volunteers gave tours and spoke with visitors.  
Suttons Bay Schools, Northport Public School, Leland Public School, and Leelanau Children’s Center in Leelanau County at both the Northport and Leland locations; Platte River Elementary in partnership with Grow Benzie in Benzie County; Central Lake Public School in partnership with ISLAND and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Antrim County; and Interlochen Elementary School, Traverse Heights Elementary School, Central Grade School, The Greenspire School, and the Children’s Garden at the Traverse Area District Library in Grand Traverse County all participated. Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of all participants, school garden programs significantly expanded and flourished during the year; the outlook for 2014 is more promising than ever!