Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Please click on our METHODS & MATERIALS page above for a new article on vegetable seed saving with some recommended heirloom varieties.  The article is an expanded version, with many new photos, of a handout Mike Kiessel and I passed out in conjunction with our talk (well, mainly Mike K's talk) during the Master Gardener College event at Michigan State University this past spring.  Our area is indeed fortunate to have Mike available to advise on this increasingly important subject, and it's a privilege to work with him and learn about his many contributions to preserving and adapting heirloom vegetable varieties to the local climate and soil conditions of Northwest Lower Michigan.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


A contrast in gardening:
Perhaps more so in our Northwest Lower Michigan area than in most, there's often a fine line between "farming" and "gardening."  To see these two in contrast and as they relate, why not stop by at the Traverse City/Garfield Township Historic Barns Park? Check out the half-acre "farm" production garden run by our outstanding local nonprofit organization SEEDS and its neighbor about 1/20 of that size: our backyard-size Master Gardener-SEEDS partnership demonstration garden next door.  Points of contact for the two, respectively: Christina Carson,; and Mike Davis, Both gardens are listed in the new MG VMS site among projects for which Master Gardener Volunteers are needed; if you're a Michigan Master Gardener, please consider becoming one of our volunteers. If you're not a Master Gardener but would like to be, or if you're just interested in learning more about food gardening Northwest Lower Michigan, please click on EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES above for details.

Historic Barns in Background

SEEDS Farm/Garden in Background
Latest progress:
Our diminutive MG-SEEDS garden is finally beginning to look like a garden, albeit as we would prefer to have seen it about two months ago--and still not exactly pretty.  The weeds are now mostly under control.  As you can see, we’re using straw…and more straw.  First, we chopped down the worst of the lamb's quarter, spotted knapweed, and their invasive friends, and covered most of the interior area and pathways with plain brown cardboard.  We're holding that down temporarily with whatever is available including slabs of partly decomposed straw intended for use on the growing beds a little later.  The pathways around growing beds are getting nice layers of new straw to make kneeling as comfortable as possible.  We laid a 3-foot strip of heavy black landscape fabric around the entire perimeter, fastened that to the hard ground with 80D (8-inch) spiral-shank nails and fender washers, and covered that with more straw.  We'll leave the cardboard in place to become part of the soil between beds but will remove the landscape fabric for reuse elsewhere next spring.  All that straw will eventually end up in the compost bins that are made of…guess what…straw.

All eleven growing beds have now been planted as follows:

DATE  BED#              VARIETIES
6/29       1                    Unknown bush bean plants
7/4         1                    Provider bush beans
7/15       3                    Sienna peas
   "          4                    Lutz Green Leaf, Detroit Dark Red, & Red Ace beets
7/17       5, 10, 11        Golden Acre cabbage plants (30 total)
7/20       5                    Green Forest Romaine & Simpson’s Curled lettuce, Summer Cross daikon radishes
   "          6                    Royalty Purple Pod bush beans
   "          7                    Sunflower mix
   "          8                    Purple Top White Globe turnips, Chioggia beets
   "          9                    Dunja Zucchini, Sunburst Patty Pan squash
   "          -                     2 buried pots of chives (divided)
7/27       2                    Rainbow, Bolero, & Nelson carrots

Germination has been a bit spotty so far, limited initially by the hot, dry weather and by continuing problems in getting sufficient water to the site; however, most of the vegetable varieties seem to hold promise of worthwhile autumn harvests.  The first of the beans are beginning to bloom, and even the carrots are showing signs of life.  For a first try at mid-summer on a difficult site, we'll take it!