by Kirsten Gerbatsch
Hydro-Stacker Hydroponic Unit

At Interlochen Elementary School we currently have an indoor hydroponic garden system in the library.  There are 5 Hydro-Stackers (patented vertical hydroponic units) along the windowsill.  These host a bounty of greens and herbs such as kale, rainbow chard, parsley, basil, and cilantro.  The second and third grade classes started the seeds in the fall and transplanted in December.  With the fluorescent grow-lights overhead, the indoor garden is a year-round space for learning about plant science and growing fresh greens and herbs!

At Traverse Heights Elementary School there are 17 raised beds and two small elevated beds on the school property.  This large school garden endeavor could not be possible without the amazing support from community volunteers, Master Gardeners, and teachers.  Last spring, students and teachers planted everything from basil to pumpkins, and a group of volunteers led a summer gardening program for students and their parents.  This spring we plan to continue growing all kind of herbs and edible flowers, peas, carrots, beets, and greens just to start. We hope to continue a summer program around the school garden this year, too.

"Sensory Garden" at Suttons Bay Elementary School
Behind Suttons Bay Elementary School there is a small school garden with five raised beds, which was revitalized last spring with the help of Suttons Bay high school students as part of a community service project.  The raised beds were planted with tomatoes, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, carrots, and brassicas (such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) last spring.  The bed most beloved by all age levels is the “Sensory Garden” with a variety of annual and perennial herbs that allow children to smell, touch, and taste an interesting array of plants and flowers.
Northport School Garden, Spring 2012
At Northport Public School, elementary school teachers, science teachers, and volunteers have made their school garden really come to life.  Only in its second season, this garden of nine total raised beds has been used for all kinds of hands-on science lessons.  The garden vegetables are also harvested and used for school lunch!  We planted garlic cloves this past October and are excited to harvest garlic this summer. Contact:

Northport School Garden, Early Summer

Platte River Elementary School is home to a large hoop house, which allows students to grow vegetables even in the middle of winter. The 24’ x 24’ plastic covered wooden frame is on a sliding track that allows for double the planting space. So far this school year, students have planted and harvested spinach, pea shoots, and kale. We are looking forward to harvesting beets, carrots, Swiss rainbow chard, and garlic before the end of the school year in June.
In mid-March, the third grade classes started seeds for tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers. We started these seeds slightly earlier than other gardeners would because we know that it will be warmer in the hoop house environment earlier in the season.  Contact:

Leelanau Children's Center Garden

Every year since 2008, the Leelanau Children’s Center in Leland has added new raised growing beds used for many types of vegetables and kitchen herbs.  These are located directly in front of the building so they’re immediately obvious to parents and passers-by.  An important aspect of the garden design is the division of part of the garden into 16 individual raised beds, each only 18 x 18 inches.  Labeling these with photos of individual children helps instill a sense  of “ownership” and pride in their small gardens.

Last month I was privileged to give a talk on composting to a fabulous group of teachers and students at Woodland School, southeast of Traverse City. The children, grades 3-5, were simply the best audience I ever had for a presentation; their questions and degree of knowledge reflected great excitement about supporting their school garden program with high-quality compost produced both with and without the aid of the the gardener's friend: the redworm, alias Eisenia foetida. Unfortunately, their garden was under a hefty blanket of snow, so I didn't get to see it, but I'll be heading out that way soon for a tour.

By Mike Davis

From Suttons Bay, Michigan, head northwest for a couple miles on Route 204, then another half mile north on Horn Road.  On your right, you'll see the Leelanau Community Garden, consisting of 41 growing beds, two storage sheds, two sets of compost bins (one made of straw), and an irrigation system that decided it was beyond usefulness.  Thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated Master Gardener Volunteers, especially Kathy Lewis, Leelanau County's Master Gardener of the Year for 2014, the garden produced nearly 900 pounds of high-quality fresh produce, most of which was delivered to the Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Pantry located at Suttons Bay Middle School.

Until 2014, the Garden was a joint project of the Michigan State University, Leelanau County, Michigan, and the Leelanau County Probate Court; however, the Court recently terminated its support.  For their generous donation of the use of the land over those years, we're extremely grateful to long-time Leelanau County residents Dean and Cindy Robb.


On Saturday morning, May 4, I was one of five enthusiastic Master Gardener Volunteers who joined Coordinator Pam Bardenhagen for the year’s first “work bee” at the Leelanau Community Garden. It was great to get our hands in the soil! We got a good start on the necessary “spring cleanup” and planted Sugar Snap peas, Ailsa Craig and Ringmaster onions, and two beds of Precoce D'Argenteuil asparagus in place.  We’re very grateful to Master Gardeners Randy and Valerie Trumbull for their donation of the lovely asparagus roots!
Asparagus Roots in 8-Inch Trenches

The very limited water supply at the garden continues to limit our plant choices and will likely reduce harvests to some extent this year as in the past, but with lots of straw mulch and compost to hold moisture in the soil, we still anticipate sizable donations to the local food pantry in Suttons Bay.

Located southeast of Traverse City at Christ Church, near the corner of Three-Mile and Garfield Roads, is Our Neighbors’ Garden, an ambitious effort that yielded over 4000 pounds of fresh produce in 2012, more than triple its 2011 total in spite of the extreme summer conditions.  Most of that bounty was donated to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan.  Recent developments include include a new fence to keep the critters at bay.
Our Neighbors' Garden

1 comment:

  1. Kirsten, you have been such a great addition to our gardening community. Your vitality and knowledge are visibly reflected in the beautiful community gardens. We were really lucky you chose to come to this region and I hope you stay a long time!