Raised Beds (the big decision)

Deciding whether or not to build raised beds and how to build them required more discussion and research than we anticipated. Longevity, ecological impact, cost, whether or not the materials were produced locally, whether or not they could be disassembled and reused, aesthetics, ease of installation...these are just some of the criteria we considered. Because of our site (sand and gravel fill over demolition debris) we came to the conclusion that our best option was to build the garden from the surface up.

We choose a locally produced retaining wall product called Gardenstone from Superior Block in Houghton. Here they are delivering our block and gravel with their nifty remote control crane.

Pictured in the foreground is a grey Gardenstone block (they are available in three other colors for additional cost). The underside of the block is facing up so you see the lip along the back that interlocks one course of block to the next. Each course sets back the dimension of this lip (3/4 inch) from the course below it so your bed area slightly shrinks as you build up. The palette to the right contains the caps for the final course of the wall which will be attached with adhesive to solidify the wall.

Here we are calculating the arc dimension and marking guidelines in preparation for digging the trench for the wall. In order to make an arc we had to knock off the ears on the back of each block. We discovered the tightest diameter circle the block can make without cutting is 6-feet, slightly over the maximum width you want to make a raised bed and still be able to comfortably reach the middle (5-feet is recommended). The final height of our beds will be about 16-inches, but Gardenstone is approved for wall heights up to 20-inches.

  With the beds all laid out, we brought in the muscle! The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPDHD) helped organize and sponsor a Make a Difference Day (Oct 23: the nation's largest day of service) event at the garden for a group of AmeriCorps workers. The photo above shows us digging the trench that will eventually be filled with gravel.

The blocks are set on grade (south facing slope) in the gravel trench and leveled from side to side. We used sheets of cardboard (bike boxes supplied by Downwind Sports in Houghton) as our weed barrier on the bottom of the bed.

Even more AmeriCorps workers showed up at this point and we power shoveled the compost into the bed. These folks work hard! Thank You AmeriCorps!

The day wouldn't be complete without a little celebratory hula hooping to christen the new bed. Go Keren! Go Viki!

The project continues...
Building the third raised bed took a lot more time with only 2-3 of us on task. Fortunately a Community Service Work crew stopped by for a bit (thanks to the Hancock Department of Public Works) and helped us move soil into the bed. Thanks guys!

A rockin' project!

All the stone and concrete rip-rap we've unearthed on-site will be used to build a dry stack fieldstone retaining wall between the main garden area and the upper terrace.

Keren and Don haul and sort rock by size in preparation for building the wall.

Viki cuts a trench at the base of the berm in preparation for the foundation.

Concrete rip-rap set in gravel is used as the foundation for the wall.

Keren and Heather building one of the final courses of rock and filling the voids with gravel. Notice the old blue jeans used as weed barrier on the berm.

Moving mountains...

The foreground shows a pile of city compost as we received it, littered with biodegradable plastic yard waste collection bags—in the background is a pile that has been hand sifted. It took 17 labor hours to hand sift one pile (one dump truck load) and we removed 10 garbage bags full of plastic pieces.


Our dedicated volunteers (from left: Susan, Noah, Viki, and Sarah) hand sifting the compost and piling it so it's ready for filling the raised garden beds.

Community Service

Finlandia University UNS100 students posing on top of a pile of compost that they helped sift as part of their community service project. Thanks to the FU crew and Leroy from the City for all your help.

Our garden team grows...

The tedious task of finish grading the site by hand was considerably more fun and faster with our three new volunteers and gardeners. Thanks Rachael, Ryan, and Anne!

Our first harvest!

Hancock resident, Angela Manchester, harvests choke cherries (from one of the existing trees on-site) to make jelly and cordial.

A little help...

A big thank you to the crew from the Department of Public Works who helped pull stumps, move rocks, even out the site...

...and deliver compost (decomposed leaves and yard trimmings collected by the City).

Curt Hahka, Director of Facilities for Finlandia University, helps remove biodegradable plastic collection bags from the compost pile. Thanks for all your help Curt we couldn't do it without you!

A sign for the garden

With so many people asking about the garden project we thought we should get some kind of sign up on the site. Thanks to Rick Loduha of Finlandia University International School of Art & Design for helping us rejuvenate this old Suomi College Nursing Center sign.

Starting site preparation...

Volunteers start the work of clearing the site and removing rocks and debris from the main garden area.

Branches and slash are laid on the ground along the slope contour and held in place by stakes. A strategy to retain moisture in the soil and prevent erosion of leaf litter and soil.

Hancock's 1st Community Garden!

The corner of Ryan Street & Road Street in May 2010 before the garden project started

Finlandia University and the City of Hancock are collaborating to create Hancock's first community garden—part of the "strategic and creative long-term exchange of resources" between the University and community. Finlandia will host the garden on campus, the City will provide soil and water, and the Ryan Street Community Garden members and volunteers will govern and maintain the site. The plan is to have the first phase of the garden operational for the 2011 growing season.