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January 2014
In This Issue
2014 Registration is Ready!
Advance Order for the Plant Sale
Update on Airport and Platt Sites
Organic Gardening Certificate
Winter Potluck January 26th
Seed Swap Saturday February 15th
Upcoming Winter Classes
Gardener Survey Results
Where Do You Get Your Seeds?
Leslie Science and Nature Center Visioning

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2014 Registration Is Ready!


Although it feels like the 2013 season just ended, registration for 2014 is up and available on our website.  Returning gardeners should have already received an e-mail reminder on January 1st. 


Please remember that we ask returning gardeners to register by February 1st. We have a list of eager new gardeners waiting to take available plots and would like to assign them sooner rather than later. If you know you will not be returning to your plot, please let us know ASAP by sending an e-mail to info@projectgrowgardens.org


Here is hoping that 2014 will be another great gardening year for everyone! 


Place Your Advance Orders Now for the Plant Sale

A new year brings new planning for Project Grow's annual spring heirloom plant sale!  We kept close track of what did and did not sell last year and made a number of updates to what we are offering.  There are 18 new varieties this year!  The sale specializes in offering unusual heirloom tomatoes (76 varieties), peppers (25 varieties) and basil (5 varieties).

Some gardeners find that their favorite choices have already sold out by the time they can make it to the sale. To help address this problem, for the past three years Project Grow has accepted advance orders for plants that are picked up a week ahead of the sale. This option has become very popular - last year more than half of our total sales were advance orders! The pick-up dates are a week before the sale on Saturday May 3rd and Sunday May 4th between from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1518 Shadford Rd.

To read all about the plants offered, click on the online catalog.  Besides the new varieties, we revised the section describing the types of tomatoes and also added suggestions for people unfamiliar with heirloom tomatoes.  For all the details on how to place an advance order, please click here. 
Update on the Airport and Platt Sites 
Garden plots at our Airport site will be available again this year at half price. Many of the gardeners had successful gardens there last year, but gardening at Airport can be a challenge. Last year, after a rainstorm of several inches, there was standing water in parts of some gardens for almost week. Also, the mosquitoes are usually pretty bad in mid-summer. In addition, because plots hadn't been used the previous years, weeds were a problem.
The Airport garden last spring

In 2014, we won't be able to do anything about the possibility of flooding. We are adding tree swallow and bat boxes to attract insect predators. Using insect repellent and gardening when there is a stiff breeze will still be a good idea, though. Also, there will be some garden plots available that were gardened in 2013 and the weeds should be much less of a problem in those. Nevertheless, Airport is probably not a good site for novice gardeners, who might want to consider one of our other sites instead.

The Platt garden site will be open in 2014 at the same location as last year. We may try no-till gardening in part of Platt. No-till means gardeners can garden as long as they like in the fall and start earlier in the spring, as well as grow perennials like garlic. This is not the same as perennial because any fencing would have to be removed.  We will be sending an email to 2013 gardeners asking for their input on this.
Organic Gardening Certificate

Project Grow Community Gardens, in partnership with the Washtenaw Community College, offers an Organic Gardener Certification Program during WCC's Winter Term. This program gives home gardeners and professional landscapers the knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain lawns, vegetable gardens and ornamental gardens organically. Classes can be taken individually or as a series leading to the certificate. Individuals who complete the required 8 classes, a final exam and a 20-hour volunteer component receive a certificate in Organic Gardening. Students have a year and a half to complete their volunteer hours.

Required Courses:

Organic Gardening: An Introduction
Organic Gardening: Soils, Compost and Organic Fertilizer
Organic Gardening: Organic Vegetable Gardening
Organic Gardening: Organic Fruit Growing Made Easy
Organic Gardening: Landscaping with Native Plants
Organic Gardening: Organic Pest and Disease Management
Organic Gardening: Organic Weed Control
Organic Gardening: Organic Lawn Care

Organic Gardener Certificate students must buy a course pack and two additional texts.  All of these are available at the WCC Bookstore. A separate course pack is recommended for non-certificate students.

Learn more and register!  Please be aware of some errors on the WCC website:

  • The link takes you to all gardening classes.  The classes for the Organic Gardening Certificate are the eight classes beginning with "Organic Gardening:"
  • Introduction to Organic Gardening meets once, not twice and Easy Organic Fruit Growing meets three times, not four.  

For registration questions, please call WCC's Economic and Community Development help desk 

at (734) 677-5060.

Winter Potluck January 26th
Project Grow will be holding a Winter Potluck for all our members and friends on Sunday, January 26th from 5:30-8 pm.  We have been holding these potlucks for the past five years and they are always well attended and a big success.  Around 25 people attended last year's potluck, so please come! 

Our friend and fellow gardener, Alice Telesnitsky, has again kindly offered to host the potluck at her house at 912 Pauline Blvd, Ann Arbor.

You can get a map and RSVP by following this link to the invitation.

Please bring a dish to share (store-bought is fine if you're busy!)

Seed Swap - Saturday February 15th @ Downtown Home and Garden
Did you save more seeds than you could ever use? Did you perhaps go a bit mad at the end-of-year seed sales? Then the Seed Swap is for you! Why not see what you can exchange your extras for with other gardeners! Bring your loot and your bargaining skills and see how many different varieties you can acquire. Who knows, perhaps you'll find seeds for that delicious corn variety you couldn't buy enough of at the farmer's market! Come on out Saturday, February 15th, from 10-11:30 a.m., at Downtown Home and Garden, 210 South Ashley in Ann Arbor.
2013 Seed Swap
Gardeners braving the cold at the 2013 Seed Swap
This event is open to the public, so you don't need to be a Project Grow gardener to attend. Our hosts do ask that seed swappers find street parking rather than taking spots in their parking lot that could be used by their customers.

Be sure to come and take care of all your 2014 seed needs - anything you can't find will certainly be for sale at Downtown Home and Garden!

Upcoming Project Grow Classes


Exploring Bees!

Interested in bees?  Ever dreamed about eating honey that came from your hives?  Dream no longer!  Meghan Milbrath, local beekeeper and Project Grow instructor, will be conducting a series of 10 classes on honey bee biology and management over the course of the 2014 season at the Discovery Garden at Leslie Science and Nature Center.  The series will discuss all facets of beekeeping, from the equipment needed to splitting hives and managing pests to collecting honey.  Gain hands-on experience in beekeeping techniques or simply observe the inner workings of the hives.  All levels of expertise and interest are welcome and each class will be open to all of your beekeeping questions.


A special introductory class, to help individuals decide whether beekeeping is for them, will be held on January 25th.  Specifics on this special class follow:


Introduction to Beekeeping

Date and TIme:  Saturday, January 25, 2014, from 10am to 12noon

Place:  Leslie House, Leslie Science & Nature Center, 1831 Traver Rd., Ann Arbor, MI

In this class, we will examine what it takes to be a beekeeper.  We will go over the time, cost and equipment needed to successfully manage your own hive of bees.  Open to all levels, but geared to those thinking about starting their own hives or interested in seeing what beekeeping entails.  The class is free and will serve to introduce you to the season-long course that follows.


Course on Beekeeping     

The season-long course of 10 classes is being offered to interested students as a package for the price of $80, with drop-in opportunities for individual sessions at the rate of $10.00 each.  Topics for each monthly class are briefly listed below, with more detailed descriptions of each on our ­website here.  The series will begin on February 15, 2014.  Registration and payment for the full series can be done here.


Monthly Class Topics of the Course

            February 15:           Equipment Options for Keeping Bees

            March 22:                Specialty Tools and Assembling Your Equipment

            April 12:                   Bee Biology/Checking Over-wintered Hives

            May 17:                     Splitting Hives and Swarm Prevention

            June 7:                      Supering and Honey Production

            June 21:                    Hive Inspection and Pest Identification

            July 29:                     Varroa Mite Monitoring

            August 23:               Honey Extraction

            September 27:       Managing Hives in the Fall

            October 11:             Preparing Your Hives for Winter


Adventures in Home Orcharding!

Date and Time:  Saturday, February  8, from 10am to 12noon

Place:  Leslie House, Leslie Science & Nature Center, 1831 Traver Rd., Ann Arbor. MI

Come share the adventure of starting and maintaining a back yard or front yard home orchard.  Topics to be covered will include:  an introduction to the wide variety of fruit trees that can be grown successfully in Michigan; considerations in selecting among the varieties available; choosing a site; preparing and planting a young tree; fruit tree forms and how to train young trees; and their annual care, including pruning and organic pest management.  Instructor:  Royer Held, gardening expert and long-time friend of Project Grow.


Even for the free classes, please register on our website so we know how many people to expect.


Gardener Survey Results

We sent a survey to all 2013 gardeners in late October and almost 1/3 of them responded. Because of the large number of responses, (the text responses alone amount to more than 16 pages) we decided to put the results in the newsletter over a period of months. In this issue we present summaries of the results plus two important topics raised in the survey:  additional website information for individual sites and the basis for fees charged by Project Grow.


Numerical Responses to the Survey


Was your gardening experience this year satisfactory?

Yes 88% No 12%


Are you planning on gardening with Project Grow again next year?

Yes 79%, No 21%


In what areas could Project Grow improve?

Registration 4%

Education 20%

Site Maintenance 24%

Garden Supplies 29%

Communication 13%

Newsletter 1%

Other 45% (we will be printing many of these suggestions in future issues) 


Additional Website Information

One question was devoted to asking gardeners what additional information should be included on the website about their particular garden site. About 20% of all the respondents made suggestions. We are adding these useful tips at the bottom of each site page in a section called "Gardener Comments and Suggestions". Click here and go to the bottom of the page to see Greenview gardener comments. If you have other thoughts about your site to share on the website, please send them to info@projectgrowgardens.org.


Plot Fees Too High?

There were a couple comments about finances and we wanted address those right away. One gardener said:


I have gardened with a number of other community groups in other cities and think that the flat $130 fee is too high for this site...also (there is) no free compost delivery which is commonly offered in other gardens.


Community gardening organizations in many other places are run or heavily subsidized by local government. Fifteen years ago Project Grow received about 50% of its budget from Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Today we receive no money from the city, the county, or any other level of government. The umbrella organizations in these other cities are often involved with the municipal compost system, which is why compost is free in those gardens.


Our budget is very small and we are not at all extravagant. The budget for all of Project Grow - overseeing 19 garden sites, 270 plots and almost 390 gardeners - is less than $60,000 per year. Out of that we pay for a half time employee, water, tilling, insurance (required by our landowners), a telephone line, internet access and other IT support. Our employee receives no benefits besides one paid week of vacation per year.  We have no office.   


Despite a frugal budget, plot fees provide only about 80% of our budget.  Our annual plant sale provides another 15% and the remaining 5% comes from the Organic Gardening Certification program, donations and seed sales.


FYI: Free compost is available to city residents in the spring from We Care Organics in Ann Arbor, but you have to haul it yourself. Check out the starting date and times by going to the City of Ann Arbor's compost page in 2014


Reduced Fees Available

Throughout its history, Project Grow has offered reduced fees to gardeners needing help affording a garden. This program aims to ensure that all who wish to garden with Project Grow may do so, regardless of income. For the past several years this subsidy has amounted to about $2000 per year.

Those seeking help may do so by filling out a short low income application and tell us what they would be comfortable paying. We obviously can't guarantee that all reduced fee requests will be met, but will attempt to do so. 

Where Do You Get Your Seeds?

Andrew at Greenview suggests Ann Arbor Seed Company, saying "Can't get much better than that."

Alan, one of our readers who does not garden with Project Grow, said, 
I get my seeds from E&R Seed LLC, 1356 E 200 S, Monroe, IN,46772   (260) 692-6827
They do not have a website so have to call and order but I have gotten
seeds within a week of ordering.  I get lots of seeds in each package
and all the seeds I have received have germinated without any problem.
I am very happy with them after last year when I ordered from Burpee
and half the seeds did not germinate and only received 25 seeds in
a packet from Burpee at the same price I am paying in Indiana.

Kirk gets vegetable seeds from Fedco.  "The catalog is great and includes lots of cultural information, so I refer to it all year."  If you want to buy your seeds from a local store rather than mail order, he also suggests Downtown Home and Garden.  "The selection of both vegetables and flowers is terrific"

Most of the Project Grow plant sale seeds are grown and saved by Marcella.  Many of these are available on the Marketplace on our website, but you can also get them at People's Food Co-op.

Project Grow's Seed Swap is also a great source of unusual seeds.  This year's Seed Swap is Saturday February 15th  from 10-11:30am at Downtown Home and Garden.
Leslie Science and Nature Center Visioning


We had intended this newsletter to go out on January 7th but  we lost internet access for two days because of the storm.   Despite the newsletter coming out too late to make the meeting Tuesday, you are still encouraged to fill out the survey.


Leslie Science & Nature Center has been a part of your community for almost 30 years!  We are proud to conduct high quality innovative and exciting programs for adults, children, families, and community organizations throughout Southeastern Michigan. We are also honored to serve as a hub for the community through summer camps, picnics, exploration of our hiking trails, and as an oasis for visitors looking to unwind while visiting our Birds of Prey, gardens, or animals. 


We value your input, and invite you to join us at a town meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. here at Leslie Science & Nature Center's DTE Energy Nature House, 1831 Traver Rd. in Ann Arbor, MI. At this town meeting, we are asking you to consider the question: 

"What do you hope is happening at LSNC 5 years from now?"

We will break into small groups for discussion, and look forward to hearing your insights and thoughts about our future.  What are your hopes and dreams for LSNC? This is an opportunity to contribute to our current visioning and upcoming strategic planning processes.  


If you cannot make it to the meeting, or would rather provide input a different way, I encourage you to fill out this short survey by Sunday, Jan. 12  or to reach out to me directly.


Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you here in the New Year!
Best wishes,

Susan Westhoff
Executive Director
Leslie Science & Nature Center