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September 2014
In This Issue
2014 Board Elections
CANCELLED - 2014 Tomato Tasting
Late Blight
Soil Improvement at Chapel Hill and Ellsworth
Problems with Tomatoes, Squash and other Summer Veggies?
After Labor Day in the Garden
Summer Potlucks
Become a Master Composter This Fall!
Upcoming and New Project Grow Classes

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Board Elections
It's time for Board nominations! Are you available to contribute to Project Grow Community Gardens by volunteering for a three-year term? The Board meets once a month to help shape the future of our community gardens. Below are instructions for the simple process for nomination and election.

First, put your name forward to be a board member. This is a "nomination." Someone else can nominate you, but it is also okay to nominate yourself. Board nominations must be in by September 15, 2014. Nominations should be sent to info@projectgrowgardens.org.

Second, nominees must write a short statement (at most one page) and send it to info@projectgrowgardens.org by September 20, 2014. The statement should tell a bit about yourself, why you want to be on the board and what you hope to accomplish. All the statements will be published in the newsletter and made available on the Project Grow website.

Third, the nominee can be present for the vote by attending the annual meeting which will be Thursday October 9th at 7pm at the Nature House, Leslie Science Center. This step is technically optional but most people running for the board want to attend.  

That's all there is to it!

This year terms are up for Dave Corsa, Joet Reoma, Marcella Trautmann and Pam Schartzmann.  Pam was confirmed by the membership just last year to fill out Nicole Premo's term, so she is running for re-election even though she has only been on the board for one year.  Dave, Jet and Marcella all intend to run for another term.  If you would like to learn more, contact info@projectgrowgardens.org.
CANCELLED - 2014 Tomato Tasting

We had planned to hold a big tomato tasting as part of the Homegrown Festival on September 6th, as we have since the Festival began.  However, we have had to cancel the tasting because we have lost so many tomato plants to late blight.  

Late blight, the root of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1800's, has practically wiped out the 200+ tomato plants whose fruits we were planning to use for tomato tasting.  We and festival organizers even looked into purchasing tomatoes from local growers for the festival, but the growers were not confident how much they would have available since they are also battling late blight.  

If you registered to volunteer at our Tasting this Saturday, we thank you for your willingness to help at the event.  Your help, obviously, will not be needed.  But we urge you to attend the festival anyway as it is a fun way to learn more about local food sources, food security and other issues important to our food supply.


Late Blight


Late blight or Phytophthora infestans is a ruthless, no-holds-barred fungal disease that chiefly affects potatoes and tomatoes (though others of the same family, Solanaceae, such as tomatillas, petunias, and nightshade, may also be infected). During periods of wet weather, where the nights are cool and the days muggy or rainy, the disease can take hold quickly through wind-blown spores that take hold on wet leaves, stems, or fruit. 


Signs that it has established itself on your plants are dark brown lesions on stems, leaves, or fruit, which are soon followed by white fungal growth, which are the spores. These lesions will enlarge quickly, killing the plant and causing the fruit, no matter what stage of development it is in, to rot. Once you have the disease, very little can be done to save the plant.


Because of the danger of infecting other gardens or even farms miles away, it is important to remove the dead or dying plants as soon as possible. Since the fungus requires living tissue to survive, killing the plants is the most effective way of stopping further spread of the disease. Recommended procedures are to cut down and bag up the plants on a dry, hot day, so UV radiation can kill spores dislodged by the process. Leave the bags in the sun for a few days, for the heat to kill the plants, and then discard them in the trash. Composting is not recommended for most home gardeners, as high temperatures needed to kill the plants and tubers are not always achieved. In casually managed compost piles, the pathogen may survive on potatoes and plant parts that are protected from the frost and yet not killed by hot composting. Come spring, particularly if compost from that pile is used, late blight can re-emerge and wreck its destruction again.


Preventing Late Blight

Preventing the occurrence of late blight in your garden is difficult, once it has established a presence in the area. However, some measures can be taken to delay its arrival.

  1. Meticulously clean out your garden this year, especially if blight is present. Follow recommended procedures for removing diseased plants. Try to harvest all of your potato tubers so they do not act as reservoirs in which the pathogens can survive winter.
  2. Plant disease-free tomato seedlings and certified seed potatoes. Plants growing from potatoes left in the ground from the previous year should be rooted out and destroyed, as they could be carriers of the blight. Tubers from the grocery store are not as carefully checked for the disease and thus should be avoided. Grow your own tomato plants, as blight does not infect seeds, even those collected from blighted fruit. Or buy from reputable growers, such as Project Grow.
  3. Practice crop rotation when planning and planting your garden. Do not grow your tomatoes and potatoes in beds where solanaceous plants had been grown previously, especially if blight was present. Popular plants of this species are eggplants, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.
  4. Pray for a hot, dry summer in 2015. Late blight requires cool, wet weather. Hot and dry will make things better.

Tomatoes infected with late blight


Soil Improvement Projects at Chapel Hill and Ellsworth

We hope to add large amounts of leaves for added organic matter to two of our newer gardens this fall. The eastern end of Ellsworth and our Chapel Hill site both have quite a bit of clay in the soil.  We dumped large quantities of leaves onto Chapel Hill for the first couple years but in the wet spring of 2011, the leaves prevented the soil from drying out and the garden opened late.  This year we hope to till the leaves into the soil in the fall so this does not happen.  

Gardeners in these sites are invited to join in this fun event and see what a difference the addition of leaves can make to your plot.   Notice of the event will be sent out when dates are known.  If you are interested in helping, please contact us at info@projectgrowgardens.org.

Problem With Summer Veggies This Year?

Because of the very wet spring, gardeners at sites with clay soil (mainly Chapel Hill, Dicken and Greenview) had problems with tomatoes and other late season plants this year. All three sites are tilled but tomatoes, beans, corn, squash and other tender vegetables were not planted until around June 1st. With plenty of rain, any soil becomes compacted in a month and clay soil will become impenetrable. Gardeners at these sites are encouraged to try the following:

Use raised beds to improve drainage
At sites with good drainage, this is not much of a problem, but at sites with clay soil or compacted subsoil like West Park, it is important.

Add compost to your soil
You can haul in compost from We Care Organics by the bucket load or go in with you neighbors to have Kevin Ernst deliver several yards to your site. Spring is the time to do this and the spring newsletters will include reminders about his and Kevin's contact information.

Dig to loosen the soil
Unless seeds are planted immediately after tilling (and fussy gardeners will do it even right after tilling!) The soil should be loosened with a spade before planting. This involves some hard work! If the soil is dense and compacted, and you dig a two inch deep hole for the seedling, then the the roots may not be able to penetrate the soil more than the depth of the tiny hole. 

After Labor Day in the Garden

It is hard to believe that the garden year is coming to a close.  If you have cool weather crops in your garden, like broccoli, cabbage and kale, you can continue to harvest them until the gardens close on October 18th.  If you have a perennial plot you can continue even longer.  

All plots, including perennial plots, need to be cleaned up for fall.  You can avoid rushing and struggling to get everything done in October by cleaning up the crops that finish in the summer like beans, corn, peas and others now.

Project Grow Summer Potlucks

Project Grow held our third 2014 garden site potluck at Greenview August 16th.  We got perfect weather, a good crowd and many interesting dishes to sample.     

If you couldn't make this potluck, there is one more scheduled for September. All Project Grow gardeners and friends are invited to attend.  Each of Project Grow's 20 garden sites is unique and has its own particular advantages and challenges.  These potlucks are a great chance to meet other gardeners, see other sites and enjoy some great food.  The September potluck will be at Matthaei:

Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Sunday, September 14th at 2 p.m.  No rain date.

2014 Potluck at Greenview

If you plan to come, please RSVP here. This matters because if we get rained out, we will only update the people who have RSVP'd.  Hope to see you there!
Become a Master Composter This Fall!
Project Grow will again be offing a series of classes through Ann Arbor Rec and Ed this fall for students to become Master Composters.  

Registration for the Master Composter program will be available at the end of the month on the Rec and Ed website.  


The program is seven classes that are 2.5 hours each:
  • Tuesday, September 30th: Class overview, composting basics, types of bins (Nancy Stone, Master Composter)
  • Tuesday, October 7th: Yard Waste Reduction  (Chris Simmons, Master Composter, City of Ypsilanti)
  • Tuesday, October 14th: Tour of municipal composting operations, home soil testing, hot composting, 4150 Platt Road, Ann Arbor.  Students will meet outside the Compost Center's access road and carpool through the site operated by WeCare Organics, followed by a classroom segment in the city's recycling plant, MRF Education Center. Distribute/discuss open book exam. (Chris Simmons, Nancy Stone, Joet Reoma, Master Composters)
  • Tuesday, October 21th: Vermiculture, worm bins, special composting, compost teas (Jesse Raudenbush of Starr Valley Farms)
  • Tuesday, October 28th: Soils (Erica Kempter of Nature and Nurture)
  • Tuesday, November 4th: Worm bin workshop and site tour (held at Project Grow's Compost Education Center at the Leslie Science and Nature Center, 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor).  Note: interested students may purchase a worm bin take-home kit for $30 with 1000 red worms, a 12-gallon container and worm bedding. (Jesse Raudenbush and Joet Reoma)
  • Tuesday, November 11th: Guest presenters with community composting opportunities, Take-Home Exam corrected in-class; students will share ideas for volunteer projects, set date and topic/speaker for graduation pizza dinner (Lisa Perschke, Advanced Master Composter and Advanced Master Gardener with guest presenters)
All classes are 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m..  They will all be held at Pioneer High School excpet the tour of the municipal compost operation on October 14th, and the Worm Bin Workshop November 4th. 


You can only sign up for the entire series, but the cost of all seven classes is only $49.  Erica Kempter, who helped create and still teaches part of the Organic Gardener Certification program at WCC, will be teaching the soils class.  

The Master Composter program does not require any previous knowledge of composting or gardening, but Erica thinks it is a great follow-up to the Organic Gardener Certification or Master Gardener programs for people who want to continue their organic gardening education.  

After finishing 10 hours of hands-on volunteer work and the classes, you become a certified Washtenaw County Master Composter.  


How Do I Register?
You can register through the Rec and Ed website but not until late August.  Just go to the Rec and Ed website and search on "Master Composter"  After Labor Day, you can also register by phone or in person.  Call Rec and Ed at (734)994-2300 for more details.


Upcoming and New Project Grow Classes



Heirloom Vegetables

Saturday, September 6th from 10 a.m. to noon

Leslie House, Leslie Science and Nature Center, 1831 Traver Rd., Ann Arbor

There are a multitude of heirloom vegetable varieties that survive today thanks to home gardeners of the past. You can maintain that connection by saving heirloom plant varieties for future generations, while enjoying them today. Discover why it's important to do so and key seed saving techniques. In doing so, you might even create you own "heirloom" vegetable variety! Royer Held continues his exploration of heirlooms in this class.  Class is free, but registration is required. 


Tips and Techniques 4: Extending and Closing Down Your Vegetable Garden

Saturday, September 13th from 10 a.m. to noon

Leslie House, Leslie Science and Nature Center, 1831 Traver Rd., Ann Arbor

As fall approaches, there is the pull and push of wanting to extend your season and wishing to end it.  If you are not ready to put away your garden, the panel of Inge Ferguson, Jesse Raudenbush, Joet Reoma, and Marcella Trautmann, will show that fall is a great time to grow cool weather crops that can keep you harvesting right up until a hard frost.  It is also the best time to grow garlic, for harvesting next summer.  Methods for extending your season, such as low tunnels, will also be covered.  However, if you are ready for a good book in front of the fireplace, we will cover ways to close down your garden so that it is ready for next spring.   Class is free but registration is required.

The final two classes in our 9 part series on  beekeeping will be offered in September and another October.  Please visit our website to read about them.