pollutedThe day is here. Government entities have once again given the green light for the toxic injection well located on Citron Dr., Romulus, MI. to move forward. Numerous issues and concerns flood the minds of those who are interested in the environment in which our residents live.

Although the contamination of the water table is the most imminent threat to public health that also means your family’s vegetable garden could suffer too!

While we cannot predict the impact of future geological events and other unforeseen incidents that could jeopardize community safety and health related to the injection well, citizens can be proactive and take charge of the things that are in their control.

First and foremost, the City of Romulus water quality tests and reports often have good results. They are also not very timely. Should contaminant levels change to an unacceptable level for your family’s standards, you would find out after the fact. The same water that flows from our taps is the same water that flows from your garden spigot. Your plants will take in the same contaminants as you when you water them. Some things that you can do for personal water consumption include:

  • Purchase a water filtration system. The Berkey Water filter is well known for filtering most contaminants. It is a stand alone unit and can also provide safe drinking water in the event of a disaster or emergency. http://www.bigberkeywaterfilters.com/
  • Build raised garden beds that do not use current contaminated soil and allow for adaptation in the event there is a geological event that effects the water table. http://www.teachmesfg.com is a good place to get local information.
  • Install Rain Barrels to catch rainwater that sheds from your roof during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. http://www.mirainbarrel.com

Although not all hope is lost, things definitely look bleak and the well seems like it is here to stay. The last twenty years have been a long enduring fight that is not yet over. But friends, it is most assuredly time to take necessary precautions to protect your family’s health.

 

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

'LE- Rain Barrel Workshop' photo (c) 2011, vastateparksstaff - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Summertime is fast approaching. This means all your hard work in the garden and flower beds will begin rewarding you with beautiful blooms and bountiful harvests. That is of course, if you provide your plants, seedlings, and vegetables with plenty of water. Relying on the sky to water your lawn or gardens in a timely fashion is not wise. Predicting rain is a daunting task even for your most reliable weatherman! If you think of the drought like conditions of 2012 this season may be one of hedging your bets, and preparing for the worst. Or in the case of rain, the absent!

Watering your plants, lawn, and flowers is important. Doing so from your garden hose can also be expensive. City water is sanitized in order to be deemed “safe” for consumption, but that also comes with a bit of a cost. Chlorine, Fluoride, and other additives used to sanitize the water can be harmful for your plants, and actually inhibit growth. Alternatively, rainwater is “soft-water” and contains beneficial minerals, nitrogen, and other food for your plants that cannot be replicated through the sanitation process. While rain water may have inherent problems of its own, the nutrients are soluble and readily available to plants. Ever seen the growth difference after a good rain? It is significant! City water is abundantly available and rainwater is sporadically available. One costs money for dispersion and disposal, while the other is free. [1] Every time you turn on your garden spigot, you pay for disposal of your water, even if it does not enter your city drains.

Consider a few facts for a moment. The EPA estimates that 26 billion gallons of water are consumed daily in the United States. The EPA also estimates the typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons above and beyond rainwater each year. Add in a typical garden plot at 10’ x 20’ and a few flower beds, and things can get pricey.

It is estimated that Romulus receives approximately 32.4 inches of rain per year. With a majority of that coming during the growing season, a typical 900sq ft. roof sheds 10,000 gallons of rainwater. That is exactly the amount of water most lawns require, yet most of it finds its way into the sewage system and creates runoff, which is not good for our treatment facilities or environment.[2] Diverting this precious resource seems logical and reduces the strain on municipal facilities while also helping the environment.[3]

This year, the Romulus Downtown Development Authority, Community Garden, and Maxi-Container (A Romulus Business), have partnered together to bring the citizens of our community its first rain barrel workshop. The workshop is provided to those who want to watch free of charge but registration is still necessary. If you wish to take home a rain barrel, you may do so at the low-cost of $50.00. Registration can be completed prior to the June 15th workshop date at http://www.mirainbarrel.com/signup. Be sure to select the Romulus Workshop. The workshop will be held outside in the community garden located next to the Romulus Senior Center, 36525 Bibbins, Romulus, MI 48174.

 


[3] Storm water runoff also contributes to excess sewage, which eventually ends up in the Great Lakes, Detroit River, and other local waterways. These waterways are also the drinking water source for over 42 million people.

compost

This is free and you can make it at home!

Project Grow of Ann Arbor, MI is hosting an excellent series of composting classes. This coming April 6th, 2013 between 10:00am and 12:00pm, the first class will take place.

From the websites description: This workshop is the first of two on composting and will cover different methods of hot and cold composting that are applicable in a community garden plot, backyard garden, and even in your kitchen! Master Composters Joet Reoma and Jesse Raudenbush will lead the class as well as a tour of Project Grow’s Composting Education Center at Leslie Science Center. Come dressed for the weather. No fee, but pre-registration is required.

Both Jesse and Joet are knowledgeable and excellent teachers. The class is FREE. You can learn alot, come check it out. The second in the series will be about Worm Composting. More on that later!

Location: Leslie Compost Education Center – MAP

Signup: Registration Page – HERE

Hope to see you there.

'Farm near Hesston Steam Engine Museum' photo (c) 2011, Kevin Dooley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/From Wikipedia:
A system is self-sustaining (or self-sufficient) if it can maintain itself by independent effort. The system self-sustainability is:

  1. the degree at which the system can sustain itself without external support
  2. the fraction of time in which the system is self-sustaining

Lets think about a couple things. We do not often see, or experience the processes that produce our food. Whether you are vegetarian, omnivorous, or you manage to live on candy alone, it is all coming from somewhere.
The idea that various components of an economy are labeled “systems” suggest that there is much involved in the end result. That means that there is never just one middleman between you and the farms that produce our food. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of entities putting their hands in the proverbial pie.

example: Farm system → Processing system → Delivery system → Retail system → YOU

This is only a snapshot of what occurs in the food delivery system at large. Each component, from farm to you involves many macro and micro interactions that impact and influence it physically and financially millions of times.

According to Wikipedia’s definition of self-sustaining (or self sufficient), how would you rate yourself and your dependence on all of the systems that play a role in producing the food on your table and in your cupboards?

Lets reverse roles okay?

example: YOU → Backyard system → YOU

Of course, it isn’t just that easy. But for sake of demonstration we see how complicated things become when we subcontract out the provision of our daily sustenance. Interestingly, one of the biggest contributors to the success of both systems is guess who? That’s right, the Honeybee!
This magnificent animal is responsible for pollinating 1 of every 3 bites of food you take on daily basis. That’s an awful lot of bites! Even if you don’t chew 32 times, it was impacted in some way by the Honeybee. 

Without the Honeybee, both of these systems fail. Which one of these systems do you believe is threatening the Honeybee?

This post is cross-posted from our beekeeping blog at bees4romulus.blogspot.com

If you are a hobbyist, or have any kind of zeal for what it is you plan to do next, you might find that you can get in over your head fast! This is especially true with gardening projects. After spending some time preparing my own garden beds, arranging new community gardens at an elementary, municipal site, and various other customers, I sure was overwhelmed. With the expansion of just a few beds, more compost, and other additions to the garden, we spent a couple grand easy.

This year, I will not be doing that again. It has been useful spending the last two years locating materials and developing a local economy for things to build more beds, add compost, or even trade plants and seeds. This year, our new garden beds will be out of old pallets.

pallets

Free and ready to go!

Things that have helped us greatly:

  1. Check industrial complexes/subdivisions for old pallets being thrown out. Be sure to check ahead, some places re-sell them, and stealing is not good. Explaining to a police officer that it is for your garden just isn’t going to work!
  2. Check Craigslist or FreeCycle for used, free, and low-cost materials. You would be surprised what people throw out. There is also the casual cruise around the neighborhood on garbage night. No shame in my game baby!
  3. Ask your friends and neighbors for leftover building supplies, and don’t forget to check the reject bins at home improvement stores.

What are you doing this year to save money on your gardening project?

Did you plant yet?

April 15, 2012 — 2 Comments

We sure have had some interesting weather. With a streak of 80 degree days inUnder the Dome March, we have been on the downside of a cold streak. Hopefully, not too many people got caught off guard by the strange weather. It was way too easy to get caught in the fever and get out and plant seeds and flowers.

If you did get bit by the mean old frost bite, or you have not planted yet, do not fret. It is not too early for plants in the Brassica family. That means you can start direct sowing or transplanting seedlings into your Square Foot Garden. broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are all great cool weather crops that can tolerate the cool spring Planting and Wateringweather. You can also plant your onions, spinach, and lettuces. Do not forget, you can also cover your Square Foot Gardens much easier than a traditional row garden, install a hoop house or use row covers to protect your young plants when the spring weather does what it does (especially in Michigan) and drops low enough to wreck a whole crop.

Although there has been a slight chill in the air, the weather has been great for hardening off seedlings, prepping the beds for planting, and moving our homegrown seedlings to their spring time Naomi and Papahomes.

Nothing says pays off more than a spring fresh salad from your early greens harvested just as summer starts heating up!

Here they are, the photos from our class at the Romulus Public Library that took place on March 19th, 2012. We had about 31 students for the evening. We laughed, we cried, we talked about Square Foot Gardening! Best of all, we discussed some of the main advantages of Square Foot Gardening when compared to traditional row gardens. If you prefer, you can see these photos in our Facebook photo album.

This class was our Square Foot Gardening Class 101: Introduction:

What is Square Foot Gardening? It is a uniquely simplified system of gardening which eliminates 80% of the space, work, weeds, watering, and waste of traditional row gardening. Square Foot Gardening also provides you with 100% of the harvest and joy of gardening. This class is for beginning, the tried but failed, and the afraid-to-start gardeners. This class will provide you with an introduction to the fundamentals of Square Foot Gardening. That includes, building, planting, and maintaining your new raised garden beds and introduces you to a natural and organic gardening method that won’t break your back, or the bank!


Part 2

Part 3

The long awaited, and quaint, series of videos I promised a few days ago. Here you will see me, in my very first YouTube video ever, teaching my wife, and inattentive toddler, how to store, plant, and transfer seedling the Square Foot Gardening way.

Seeds waiting to sproutOne of my first attempts at starting my vegetable plants from seeds was a miserable failure. Although some of them were salvageable, those mini-greenhouses you get from the big box stores are not as simple as the cartons make you think.

When seedlings germinate, the first thing they do to reach for the sky. Or in other words, they seek out light. If they are not within reach of a viable light source, especially indoors, they will spend all of the nutrients in the seed leaves (their reserve food) and spiral toward the sun. The unfortunate side effect of this dilemma is that they basically become sprouts for you to toss on your salad. When they reach for the sun indoors, they are not likely to find it. Outdoors, the sun’s rays are powerful enough to saturate the sproutling with all of its needs.This result is called “leggy seedlings”.

  1. How do you prevent leggy seedlings?
  2. Germinate them in a humidity dome, mini-greenhouse, or even a plastic container leftover from the grocery store.
  3. Make sure they have plenty of drainage and a sterile soil solution.
  4. Keep an eye on your seeds daily, especially if you are using a heat source on the bottom. (Heat sources speed germination up, I love it!)
  5. When the seeds sprout, move them to a light source. Make sure the light source is 1-2 inches above the seedling. Using heat lamps are okay if you have the right wattage bulb. But check on the soil frequently because it will dry out. If you leave them in the dome for a short time, make sure the light source is 2-4 inches above the dome.
  6. Depending on the size of the planter and the medium you chose for germination, you may want to transplant your sproutling to a cozier setting. Don’t worry, you can tug on the little seed leaves and use a pencil to prod the plant from underneath and cause minimal shock to the roots. If the tap-root is too long for its new home, snip half of it off. It will live!

Now that you know how to avoid the problem, what do you do if it is too late for your little guys? Well, you can do a few things to attempt salvaging them:

  1. Place them near a fan with a breeze. This will simulate wind, help them to stop growing up, and hopefully grow out. This will also strengthen the stem and the roots. Remember, you should do this with all sproutlings/seedlings, not just leggy ones.
  2. Re-pot them into a bigger pot and more planting medium. When you do this, bury as much of the leggy stem as you can. This will give it strength, prevent falling over, and it will develop more roots  to suck up more nutrients.
  3. Throw them away or toss them into your salad. Yup, toss them bad boys in their, add some ranch, and enjoy!

There you have it. A crash course in preventing and fixing leggy seedlings. We like to call them sproutlings, they aren’t really seedlings until they get some seniority under their belts.

Stay tuned, in a few days, I will show you a quaint little homemade video of how to transplant seedlings before they get their “true leaves.” I like to call it “Grounding your seedlings.”

Happy Gardening!

A day in your row-garden can lead to an evening with ibuprofen. Bending, kneeling, back wrenching, and weeding, all in the vein hope of it being worth it!? A day battling weeds and thinning seedlings would be enough to deter any novice or would be gardener forever right?

I would hope not. Maybe if you gave it another shot, with a more efficient method, things would work out differently? Thank goodness there really is another way. Mel Bartholemew has written a book called “All New Square Foot Gardening“. In his book you can learn most of everything you need to get started with your own garden. We’re talking 80% reduction in work, weeds, watering, space, and waste.

If you are curious about Mel’s method and want to give gardening the old college try once more, let me invite you to a Teach Me Square Foot Gardening class. If you are in Wayne County, Michigan, or nearby, we have several opportunities for you to get acquainted with M'Square Foot Gardening' photo (c) 2009, Don LaVange - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/el’s methods and his book.

The next class is coming soon,

Monday, March 19th, 2012 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Romulus Public Library, 11121 Wayne Rd., Romulus, MI 48111. Register at the Library or call 734-942-7589. COST: FREE

Hope to see you there! Contact us if you have questions or trouble registering!