Shop Keweenaw Co-op, Save A Bag, Raise Money for the Garden! A successful campaign!

Keweenaw Co-op General Manager, Curt Webb, presents the Ryan Street
Community Garden with a generous donation from the Co-op's Bring-A-Bag Fund.

Thank you to the Keweenaw Co-op and all those shoppers who brought their own grocery bags during the months of April through October! The Co-op's Bring-A-Bag Campaign is one of the ways they contribute to the welfare of the community and promote environmental business practices.

The Keweenaw Co-op is a community-owned cooperative grocery store in Hancock, Michigan offering goods and services that appeal to consumers who have a meaningful sense of environmental and social responsibility and incorporate those values into their buying decisions.

Art & Fertility

Local artist and community gardener, Joyce Koskenmaki, works on the garden wall mosaic/mural along Road Street. She is using found objects ("treasures") that we unearthed as we developed the site, together with locally collected beach stones and bits of broken glass and tile. The wall mosaic/mural is part of our effort to celebrate "art in the garden".

Here we go again...picking bio-bag pieces out of the compost so kindly donated by the City of Hancock (Thanks DPW!). We use this nutrient-rich compost generated from decomposed yard trimmings as our growing medium in the raised beds.

Here we are slashing down our "green manure" crop of Buckwheat we planted earlier this summer. We're topping off the bed with some compost and then we will cover it with a 4-6 inch layer of straw mulch. In a couple weeks it will be ready for a fall plant of garlic. One of our volunteers was caught on camera stepping in the raised bed...uh oh! (A major benefit of having raised beds/designated paths is that is keeps foot traffic out of the growing area so the soil doesn't get compacted.)

What a difference a little compost makes!

Here's one of our newly constructed, partially filled, raised beds we planted with a cover crop of Buckwheat. Notice how the Buckwheat's growth is an obvious indicator of soil health. The end of the bed in the foreground was filled with soil excavated from building the retaining walls only, whereas the far end of the bed has a layer of compost on top (we ran out half way through).

Here come the zucchini!

Viki Weglarz wielding one of the season's first zucchini.

Vegetable Casserole
(submitted by Susan Burack)
  • 2 # approx Swiss Chard, or collards, spinach, combo of greens
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 3 or more cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 small zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 1 c basil, chopped
  • 1/2 c parsley,chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6-8 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 c Swiss (or other) cheese, grated
  • 3/4 c Parmesan (or other) cheese, grated
  1. Steam greens in an inch of salted water until wilted, drain and chop.
  2. Combine butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, zucchini, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper and cook until barely tender, stirring.
  3. Combine greens, veg mixture, cheese and eggs mixture
  4. Bake in greased pan for 25 - 30 min at 375ºF

Fruits of Our Labor!

A day's pay for helping Grandpa thin his carrots!

Back to Building Beds!

Thanks to a generous discount and donation provided by Superior Block we were able to purchase the needed materials to build the remaining two raised beds. (See our article about why we choose Superior Block Gardenstone in the October 2010 post.) Here we are on a beautiful summer morning breaking ground. Not bad attendance for 7am!

Later in the day, after a lot of shoveling and gravel hauling, we start the critical job of laying the base course.

The finished bed partially filled with the last of our compost (time for another pile!). We still need to custom cut the cap stones on the curved ends.

To protect the soil we covered it with a layer of straw mulch and seeded it with a summer cover crop of Buckwheat (shown below with seedlings just starting to peek through the straw). Buckwheat makes nice bee forage—if only for a little while—at the peak of flowering we'll scythe it down and mulch over it allowing the roots and tops to decompose in place and increase the soil's organic matter and nutrient content (we call this a green manure crop). Perhaps we'll plant a community crop of garlic in this bed in the fall.

Our Garden Is Smoke-Free

New signs for the garden compliments of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.

RSCG Makes International Headlines (well, almost)...

Leena Vanni striking a pose in front of our new garden shed.
Our very own Leena Vanni, visiting reporter from Finland, authored an article on the Ryan Street Community Garden in the latest issue of the Finnish American Reporter (Vol. 25 - No. 6). Leena is one of our first-time gardeners and brings great enthusiasm and energy to the community garden project. Thanks Leena! The article was reprinted and reformatted for online viewing by Keweenaw Now. Read the article >

Waiting for Water...

(From left) Joe, Bob, and Ken of the Hancock Department of Public Works.

Ideally, the water system is something you want to have in place before you plant the garden, but things don't always work out as planned. Thankfully it's been a relatively wet (and late) Spring and our mulched beds are holding moisture nicely. Part of the City of Hancock's commitment to the community garden project is to provide water to the garden at no charge. Shown above are some of the good folks from the Department of Public Works hooking up a supply line for the garden off the existing water hydrant. Our sustainable water use strategy at the garden is to first conserve water, then to collect and use rainwater from on-site sources, and as a last option use the City supplied well water.

Asparagus - Our first perennial planted!

Although we weren't quite ready to plant asparagus this year, we couldn't resist the temptation when we were offered 45 asparagus crowns free, a surplus from this year's Conservation District Spring Tree Sale (thank you!). Here we are placing crowns in a prepared trench which will be incrementally filled with soil throughout the Spring as the first spears grow. We were pleasantly surprised to find such deep, rich-looking soil in the area we designated for our perennial garden.

First Garden Season Opens!

It's May 7th and it feels like it might (finally) be Spring. Today was garden orientation when our gardeners are turned loose to take over the garden for its first season. Here we are discussing our compost system and the importance of cycling nutrients to maintain soil fertility.

Viki and Leena plant mustard and cress, the first seeds sown of the season. Thanks to the Keweenaw Co-op for donating the seeds. The straw mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, discourage growth of unwanted plants ("weeds"), moderate soil temperature, create habitat for earthworms, and provide organic matter for the soil.

The Crowning Glory of the Garden — Our Garden Shed

"Shed" is hardly the right word for this regal timber-frame structure by Mark Salo of Salo Contracting. It's truly a celebration of wood!

Mark Salo (on roof) and his crew (from left) John Crooks and Mark Hill

Mark, an experienced forester and timber-frame builder, generously donated his time to custom design and build us a structure to store our garden tools and supplies. Of course, we didn't want just any old shed...we wanted our shed to be made from local materials and to have integrity and character. We came to the right man! Check out the beautiful forked cherry post on the front right corner.

Timber framing is the most sophisticated form of post and beam construction, one of the oldest building methods in known history. Notice the beautiful and meticulously crafted joints (no nails folks!).

Always on the lookout for used/reusable materials, we were able to salvage this metal roofing from the waste-stream of another project and give it a second life. (Thanks Keren and Joe!)

Our gardeners checking out the finished shed...

To learn more about Salo Contracting's timber-frame services contact Mark Salo at (906)281-5661 or salocontracting[at] Make sure and let Mark know you saw him here. Thank You Mark!!!

Weed Block & Woodchips

We want paths that are durable (for high-traffic), low-maintenance, water permeable, and economical. Always looking for locally available materials, we decided to go with woodchips, a resource that is available in plenty each spring as a byproduct of the tree pruning the local power company performs around the power lines. Big thanks to UPPCO and Asplundh for the primo chips and the free delivery.

After some belly-aching about using a petroleum-based product, we decided to go with a commercial-grade weed barrier made from recycled plastic bottles. It took some searching online to find one made from recycled materials but we did and we were able to order it through our local hardware store (Risto's Hardware) for cheaper than we could buy it online. 


Being careful to lay the weed barrier with adequate overlap at the seams and around the edges we secured it in place using landscaping staples. Then the woodchips are piled on, and on, and on in a 4-6 inch layer.

Spring has Sprung!

It's April 8th and we're back at it! There's lots to do before our first growing season. Notice our newest and cutest addition in the foreground—the little circle bed. Our dedicated garden crew in the background work to top-off the raised beds with what's left of the compost pile.

Thanks to Susan Fawcett of Earthwork Music who stopped by and helped us get our sluggish gardening muscles back in tune.

Winter Slumber

The garden beds all tucked in under a fresh blanket of snow.

Much can be learned about an existing or proposed garden site by observing it during the Winter. Where does the snow accumulate the most? the least? Where are the wind corridors? Where does the snow melt first? last? What animal tracks are present? Good garden design requires observing the site in all seasons.