Cycle those nutrients!

All year we've been withdrawing from our soil nutrient bank when we harvest and eat the tasty vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that we grew. Now it's time to make a deposit so we don't go broke next year! Adding a well composted layer of horse manure (free of antibiotics and steroids) to our garden beds in the Fall is one of the ways we do this at the Ryan Street Community Garden. Then we top things off with a nice thick layer of straw to protect the soil through the winter. A perfect activity for a cool October day.

Our new entry kiosk!

Our entryway project is moving along. Today we put up the new entry kiosk. Another beautiful design by artists/designers Dave Sarazin and Rick Loduha, part of our 2012 MCACA mini-grant project to bring art to the garden. The kiosk design includes two bulletin boards, a bench, and bike rack.

Unloading the kiosk...
Artists/Designers Dave Sarazin & Rick Loduha stand next to the arch and kiosk they created, part of our 2012 MCACA mini-grant project to bring art to the garden.
Our bench testing crew is eager to get started.
Look at those beauties!

Our 4-H Lucky Charms!

Today the "Lucky Charms" 4-H club showed us what the four Hs in 4-H stand for—Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. They put all four Hs to work today at the Ryan Street Community Garden as part of their community service pledge. Thanks for all your hard work!

Washing their freshly harvested carrots!
Preparing the planting holes for our Rosa rugosa bushes.

Erecting the Arch!

Last post we visited Dave and Rick in their shop for a sneak peek of the arch in construction. Today we get to see the arch going up...

Rick and Dave assemble the arch components and prepare to erect the arch.

LJJ Construction generously donated the concrete and labor for the arch foundation.

The arch is up!
Next step is to construct our information kiosk next to the arch and start building the flower/herb bed along the sidewalk.

Garden Entry Arch Coming Soon...

Thanks to the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), the Ryan Street Community Garden was awarded a 2012 mini-grant to bring art to the garden. Part of our grant project includes the design and construction of a sculptural entry arch.

Ryan Street Community Gardeners get a sneak peek at the garden arch in construction.
We employed artist/designers Rick Loduha and Dave Sarazin to design and build the arch. The arch is made primarily from salvaged materials that have been creatively repurposed. We can't wait to see it at the garden! Thanks for your great work Rick and Dave!

Artist/Designers Rick Loduha (left) and Dave Sarazin (right) talk about their design process with the gardeners.

A new crop of kids!

This season in the garden has been extra fun with our new crop of kids. Here are a few of our young sprouts...
Enjoying a healthy snack on rock island in the sea of clover.

Taste-testing chive blossoms. Flowers you can eat!

Trying to behave with the watering hose...who can resist a little fun?

Spring projects...

Starting to sheet-mulch the upper tier of the garden in preparation for our perennial crops. Sheet-mulching is a method for improving soil, also commonly referred to as sheet-composting or the lasagna method, that involves laying down a "sheet" material such as cardboard and covering it with layers of seed-free organic material. We are fortunate to have access to a plentiful supply of aged horse manure (thank you to Beth and her friend!) and semi-composted leaves so that's what we used, plus we topped it off with a layer of straw mulch. For more information on how, why, and when to sheet-mulch see Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik, or do an internet search.

Unloading a trailer full of horse manure to be used in our sheet-mulch beds. It's handy to have a place to unload materials uphill from our work area so we can work with gravity, if only this trailer had a dump mechanism!

A clever idea one of our gardeners found for marking your rows. That's Popeye on the spoon—we all know what he likes to eat!

School Food Tour Visits RSCG!

Sara Salo of The School Food Tour stopped by the garden today to talk about her 5,000+ mile self-supported bicycle tour promoting healthy eating and cycling for both transportation and recreation. Sara ended her long tour last Friday (May 11) in Houghton and has been visiting schools and community gardens in the area to share her story and learn more about our local food network in the Keweenaw. Thanks for stopping by Sara! Learn more about Sara's work at

Our first garden work day of the 2012 season...

Gardener and artist Joyce Koskenmaki adds a little color to the garden with her hand painted sticks used as plot dividers in the raised beds.

Many hands make light work! (Background) Spreading a fresh layer of woodchips in the paths. (Foreground) Preparing to sheet mulch the perennial garden area.

The starting line-up...

One of the ways we extend our growing season is by starting plants indoors in late winter/early spring. The warm indoor climate tricks the seeds into germinating and growing weeks earlier than they would if you planted them outdoors. This step is especially important for gardens with a short growing season if you want to grow plants like tomatoes and peppers that take a long time to reach maturity.

But there are many other benefits to starting your own plants. Most importantly you are in charge of selecting the varieties you grow which allows you to choose plants that are best suited for your climate, garden conditions, and culinary preferences. Choosing open-pollinated varieties gives you the option of saving your own seed so that you are no longer dependent on someone else from somewhere else to sell you seed. With a little love and care, your plant starts will be much better quality than anything you can buy from a commercial nursery.

When to start your plants depends on your garden's last frost date. Cold-hardy plants and plants that require a long time to reach maturity are started earlier. For our sunny Hancock garden site, this process starts in late February/early March. Here's a look at the starting line-up...

Spinach starts hardening-off in an unheated garden shed before transplanting to the garden. These plants were started on 3/2/12 potted-up into bigger containers on 3/20/12, and moved here to harden-off on 4/7/12. They will be transplanted to the garden after about a week of hardening-off and covered with protective row cover as needed.

Leek and onion starts hardening-off in an unheated garden shed before transplanting to the garden. These plants were started on 3/2/12, and set to harden-off on 4/7/12, they are not potted-up. 

These young broccoli and cabbage starts were potted-up this very morning on 4/11/12. They were started on 3/20/12. They will remain indoors for a couple more weeks before hardening-off and will be transplanted to the garden in early May.

Broccoli micro-greens, a tasty byproduct of starting your own plants. When you pot-up plants you select the biggest, strongest seedlings—the rest can be eaten!

Celery babies just about ready to pot-up to individual containers. These plants were started on 3/2/12. They will be transplanted to the garden mid to late May.

These young basil plants don't even have true leaves yet. They were planted on 3/29/2012. They have a ways to go before potting-up. They won't be planted in the garden until all danger of frost has past.

Like the basil above, these peppers don't even have their true leaves yet. Peppers, like basil, are a warm weather plant and will not be transplanted to the garden until all danger of frost has past. These were planted on 3/29/2012, a little later than usual.

The Ides of March

Sunrise at the garden. Promise of an early spring?

Thank You Hancock Canal Run!

A BIG thank you to the Hancock Canal Run and the participating runners and walkers for supporting the Ryan Street Community Garden. The Canal Run has been a long standing tradition in our community for 36 years. The race has now grown to a size that allows them to give back to our community. Last year was their largest race ever with 551 participants. This year's Run/Walk will take place on Saturday, July 21st. Visit their website to find out more about this great community event.