Meeting: Sunday, May 17

Does anyone else think our garden is a great place for robots?  Painting by Carl Oxley III

Does anyone else think our garden is a great place for robots? Painting by Carl Oxley III

I am proposing a meeting for 4pm, Sunday, May 17th at my house (11592 Saint Aubin).

We have several obstacles to clear, work to do, and problem solving to do together. Here is a tentative agenda–if you cannot make the meeting , please email me with your thoughts on the topic!

– getting water to the site (going to the neighbors with
rain barrels)
– designating a planting day (!), organize to advertise the planting day
– another workday (to put in perennial fruit, kids
garden, flowers, transfer compost)
choosing a consistent weekly workday for the neighborhood (what day works for everyone? weekday, weekend?)
– mural (Carl Oxley III is interested in maybe helping us do a mural)
– registering folks for individual plots (Helen, Pascalle, Tom, anyone
else, Bueller?)
– making a calendar or workdays, etc–volunteering to advertise our
calendar in Hamtramck
– mowing!
– We have been promised funding for fencing from the Housing Commission.  When we will get it is the question.

Also, just for anyone who hasn’t heard, our lead test came back pretty clean! It was just over 200 parts per million, which means
we can do in ground beds, but we need to wash our hands and vegetables well after working and harvesting in the garden.

248 860 6617
11592 Saint Aubin St


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Spring Work Day: Thanks for the Helping Hand!

Thanks to everyone who made our Cluster One Spring Work Day a crazy success!  Over 30 people showed up , over half of them from the surrounding neighborhoods.  The rest were friendly fellow gardeners from Detroit and Allen Park.  Thanks especially to Lindsay Turpin and Kido for working so hard to coordinate everything.

We broke and turnedover 650 square feet of sod in about two hours!

For anyone who wants to break their blisters back in, there is a childrens garden and a strawberry patch to put in as well!

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Heirloom Tomatoes!

Well, DTE is going to have to wait it out a few extra weeks this month for their payment this month, thanks to a friend’s heirloom tomato catalogue. I ordered $80 worth of  plants.  (Check out the link above–Uhlianuk’s Heirloom Tomato Farm in North Branch, MI).  That’s 14 fabulously weird, delicious tasting varieties of tomato–some of them very rare , even endangered.  At the bottom of this post there is a list of the varieties I am getting Monday.

What is an heirloom tomato?  An heirloom tomato is an open-pollinated (pollinated by natural mechanisms such as birds, bees, wind, etc)  non-hybrid cultivar (a cultivated variety).  Some people consider the cut off year for ‘new’ heirloom varieties to be 1951 (the year hybrids came into wide spread use).

In a strict sense, heirloom vegetable varieties are passed down within individual families, communities or tribal groups for generations.  Since they are ‘breed true’, they will be the same (or nearly so), year after year, from seed.  For example, “Deppe’s Pink Firefly”, an iridescent pink tomato passed down through the Deppe family in Glasgow, Kentucky.  Or “Missouri Pink Love Apple”, grown since the civil War by the Barnes family .

Why do heirloom varieties matter?

This question is part a much larger question: Why is biodiversity important? Biodiversity is the variety of life forms (and their gene pools) within a given ecosystem.  When there is genetic variety among one species of plant, say–garden tomatoes–and the tomatoes share space with other species (beans, potatoes, corn and squash), they will be healthier.  Varieties can cross breed and make new, stronger plants.  If a drought occurs and there is a drought-resistant variety of tomato, more will survive.  If one tomato is resistant to tomato mosaic virus, it will survive a blight, and support the small ecosystem in which it is a part.  This is called polyculture.

Monoculture is the opposite. Commercial farming the world over uses monoculture methods–thousands of acres can have only one variety of one specie of plant!  Until recently (the 1950’s), over 2,000 varieties of corn were grown in Mexico–some of them prehistoric!  When monoculture hybrids were introduced, many of the cultivars died out forever.  Now there are three or four varieties of corn grown in most of Mexico.

Monoculture farming is extremely dangerous–for the ecosystem, and in the short term for our food supply.  It takes up space where hundreds or thousands of small farm, heirloom varieties may have grow, and they disappear.  Entire crops can be wiped out globally from one plant disease, starving millions of people and causing mass migrations.  Two examples come to mind:

184o’s:  Two potato blights travel by trade to Ireland, where, because of fuedal conditions and British colonialism, only two varieties of potato are the staple crop for millions of farmers and laborers.  The blight kills over one million in famine and drives one million more to emigrate to the U.S.

1950’s: The Gros Michel banana is declared no longer fit for farming because of the global spread of “Panama Disease”.  Bananas are grown on vast monoculture plantations (run by American and European corporations) in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.  If you were living in the US in the late 1920’s, you would notice the small, dark banana with a hard fibrous peel disappearing from the shelves.  A larger, bright yellow banana with blander flavor would begin to appear.  They are the Cavendish banana. They are more expensive for a few years–their soft peels make for costly shipping.  But, not to worry, the labor of impoverished peasants in South America and global market forces will drive the cost down.

2008:  Panama disease is back! It is spreading globally, and soon we may not see big, bright yellow fruits that we think of when we think ‘banana’.  The Cavendish is still grown on massive monoculture plantations, still worked by peasants for American companies.  In parts of Africa, over 40% of a family’s daily calories may come bananas–monoculture farming endangers the lives of all these people.

So, biodiversity, the preservation of heirlooms and good farming practices are neccessary to sustainability on a fundamental level. Hopefully this summer, we will come to apreciate weird, lumpy varieties of several kinds of vegetables.

Here are the varieties I got (a few of them are not strictly heirloom).  Click to see a picture! :

Ananas Noire (Black Pineapple) These Belgian tomatoes are yellow, green and purple.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green Green beefsteak with sweet flavor.  Neon green and pink meat.  Yellow blush when ripe.  Indeterminate.

Black Krim Reddish brown with green shoulders, this Ukranian variety has greenish flesh.  Matures super early.  Indeterminate.

Box Car Willie Reddish orange, old fashioned flavor.  Great for canning, freezing and cooking.  Crack free, disease resistant.  Indeterminate.

Cherokee Purple Big, dusky purple fruit with pink interiors.  Pre-1890 Tennesee heirloom.  Drought tolerant, crack resistant.  Indeterminate. 

Green Sausage Sausage shaped, neon green and yellow fruits.  Sweet paste tomato.  Short bushy plants.  Determinate.

Japanese Black Trifele Black and maroon pear shaped tomato.  Resistant to cracking.  A non-heirloom variety from the Soviet Union. Great for canning. Indeterminate.

Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom Creamy yellow beefsteaks.  Originally from Manchester, TN.  Heavy yields.  Indeterminate.

Marvel Striped Origins in the Zapotec people of mexico.  Large pleated fruits with orange, red and yellow stripes.  Indeterminate.

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge Tangerine orange with true purple shoulders.Produces more purple as the season lengthens.  Indeterminate.

Red Star Cherry tomato–ruffled with six deep pleats.  When you slice it it looks like a star! Thin skinned, long keeper–good dried.  Indeterminate.

Red Zebra Fire engine red with gold stripes.  3″ fruits.  Indeterminate.

Snowberry Super sweet cherry tomato.  Creamy yellow.  Indeterminate.

Tonadose des Conores Endangered French heirloom cherry tomato.  Bright red with orange flesh.  High yields of tiny fruits.  Indeterminate.

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Garden Resource Program: Cluster 1

At the Garden Resource Program meeting last night, Cluster 1 gardeners had the chance to meet, greet and learn about the resources available to them.  Several Hamtramck (and Detroit fringe)  gardeners turned up!  Fina (who lives with Graham on Saint Aubin), Troan (sp? sorry!) of Rachel Hewitt & co, Jeremy aaaaaaand I  cringe because there is one more really nice guy that I can’t remember the name of.  Email me!

So, there is this wonderful news that there are  four or five new gardens popping up in and around the Ham, and all these new comers and old timers are coming together to meet.  And of course we are all happy to help one another, and get advice on gardening.  But, alas–we don’t have a tool bank!  Cluster 1 has to borrow from Cluster 3!  I propose we work together as a group to build our own tool bank, and seek out a storage place–secure, safe, and a with a contactable guardian–to meet our own needs.

Using a Blog to Organize?

I am offering up this blog as a little hub for our activities.  People could use it to give ideas, suggest locations for a  tool bank, request help at their garden (for example, if Katrina needs help picking up garbage at her lot, she could make a post asking for extra hands), report on their successes, and more.  I will soon change the domain name to reflect the cluster-one-ness of it’s information.  I will make anyone who is interested in posting on it a moderator.

My email address is, and my phone number is 248.860.6617.

It was great to meet all of you–I can’t wait to see you again at the collective work day (April 5, 6-8pm)!  If you think a blog would be useful or helpful for organizing ourselves (and helping other gardeners get started in the GRP) please contact me.

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April 11th: Calling all Community Gardeners!

Calling all community gardeners!  If:

  • you are interested in registering for a garden plot
  • you are a kid or adult who wants to learn to garden
  • you have questions  or concern about the usage of the lot on Saint Aubin Street
  • you want to be invloved in making a beautiful community space…

Please attend the community meeting at 1pm, Saturday, April 11th.  It will be held at the Community Center on Caniff (accross from the Library).

Food and drink will be there–if you like, bring along a snack!  Kids are especially welcome!  Call 248.860.6617 with any questions.

Here are some questions folks may have about the garden, growing things, and the empty lot:

What if I don’t know how to garden? We will learn together!  This garden will have lots of trial and error.  The Garden Resource Program has many classes that are free-$5.  These classes are posted on the Community Garden calendar and the GRP website.  There will also be experienced and intermediate gardeners working in the garden, available to help everyone!

What if I don’t have any garden tools? We will work to purchase cheap, used tools for everyone’s use.  We can borrow and share what we do have.  The GRP also has a ‘tool bank’ for collective work days.

Will it cost money? In a general sense, we need to fundraise.  To get raspberry plants and apple trees, to get inexpensive tools, to get soil improvements, etc.  To fundraise, we can go to local businesses, and perhaps sell our produce.  To register for a plot, it may cost 5.oo (or a donation).  This five dollars will go  into a collective fund (we do need to raise funds to build a fence, to paint a mural, etc).  If there is not a competition for the 15 plots, people will not be turned away for lack of fee.  Also, we will have collective plots that can be worked by anyone, and harvested by anyone who helps tend the garden this season!

Will people still be able to cross the lot or hang out there? Yes, the gates to the garden will be open from the wee hours (five or six AM) until after dark.  The entire front quarter of the garden will be grassy lawn and flower gardens–for picnics, sales or other community functions.

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Volunteer Meeting: Time to Get Our Hands Dirty

If you are interested in the community garden that is forming on Saint aubin Street (between Casmere and Commor), please come to our first meeting (or send a friend).  We will meet, discuss what we want out of our  garden and how we might run it–and of course have some free lunch!

Bring your skills, questions, concerns, ideas, art, creativity and experience (or non-experience) to the table.

All are welcome (especially kids!)

Allergy alert:  I have friendly cats, guinea pigs and house rabbits!

Please come to 11592 Saint Aubin Street (Emily’s house) at 1pm, Saturday, March 28.

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Free Seeds Have Arrived!

Chioggia Beets

"Chioggia" Beets

Free seeds have been picked up from the Detroit Agricultural Resource!  We’ve got a pretty substantial pile!  I still need to pick up purple carrots, chard, bok choy, kale and dinosaur kale, white eggplant and a few other things, like potatoes and onion sets.

If anyone knows of cheap or free apple trees, asparagus sets (“sets” are roots), raspberry bush stock or strawberry sets, please contact me!

Here is the list of our seeds and their varieties.  The * means the plant must be started indoors in the next few weeks.  Any volunteers?  Call Emily at 248.860.6617.

* = start indoors

Acorn Squash-“Tuffy’*
All Lettuce Mix
All Greens Mix

Lemon Cucumber

"Lemon" Cucumber

Beets, golden
Beets, red-“Detroit Dark”
Bell Pepper-“California Wonder”*
Bush Beans-“Provider”
Butternut Squash-“Waltham”*
Carrot-“Danvers Half Long”
Carrot-“Nantes Coreless”
Cucumber-“American Slicing”*
Cucumber-“Burpee Hybrid II”*

Easter Egg Radish

"Easter Egg" Radish

Cucumber-“Marketmore 76″*
Eggplant, Italian–“Black Beauty”*
Eggplant, Asian-“Long Purple”*
Cucumber-“Suyo Long”*
Lima bean-“Henderson (bush)”
Okra-“Clemson Spineless”*
Parsley-“Triple Curled”*
Parsnips-“Harris Model”
Pole Beans-“Kentucky Wonder”
Pumpkin-“Jack o’ Lantern”*
Pumpkin-“Prizewinner Hybrid”*
Radish-“Easter Egg”
Turnip-“Purple Top”
Watermelon-“Sugar Baby”*
Yellow Summer Squash*

Zucchini-“Round French”*


Casper Eggplant

Basil, Genovese*
Butterfly Weed*
California Poppy
Chamomile, German
Columbine-“McKana’s Giants”
Dianthus-“Arctic Fire”
Jacob’s Ladder, blue
Hollyhock-“Indian Spring”
Iceland Poppy-“Spring Pastels”
Lavender, English*

Evening Sun Sunflower

"Evening Sun" Sunflower

Lupine-“Russell’s Strain”
Nasturtium-“Jewel Mixed Colors”
Oriental Poppy-“Pizzicato Dwarf”
Sunflower-“Evening Sun”
Sunflower-“Lyng’s California Greystripe”
Yarrow-“Summer Pastels”

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