Martha’s Magic Minerals

A few weeks back, during class, Noel Harding handed the Wildflower group a jar of magical minerals. He told us that if we sprinkled the minerals onto the soil where our garden was going to be that it would nourish the land and help our garden grow. When asked where they were from and what they were made of, he pointed us in the direction of his friend and donor of the minerals, Martha Gay Scroggins, co-ordinator of the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. Martha’s instructions and words of wisdom were “…The minerals consist of over 60 micro nutrients in a fine ground powder… they are sourced from Global Minerals and this product is called “Rama Rock”…They will last for years in the soil and can be returned to soil by leaving vegetative matter in fall and not removing- or composting…they are primarily used to increase plants immunity in organic food production systems…they must be watered in — do not leave on soil to dry out- best to hand broadcast, like adding fairy dust, during a rain is best time to apply…”. So we listened to Martha and sprinkled on the minerals like fairy dust before a rain. Hopefully Rama Rock helps our garden grow.

A little dab will do...or maybe a sprinkle.

Thanks for the advice Martha!

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Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho…It’s Off to Work We Go!

Wildflower Group Cleaning up the Land

Not unlike Disney’s ‘Seven Dwarfs’ who like to ‘dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night’, the Wildflower Garden Group donned their gardening clothes and eagerly dug into the next step of the Wildflower Garden plans—preparing the soil.  A few hours were spent with some help from the Urban Agriculture group (who also aided in the purchase of a permanent tool collection for the Eco-House garden) sorting through the tilled lot removing garbage, large rocks, and other debris that could hinder the growing of plants as well as digging up the grass the till had missed.  The soil was found to be incredibly hard and so it was only the biggest rocks and clay that were removed in the hopes that the flowers and rain would be able to break up the smaller mounds of dirt.  Slowly, the land is improving, and though we don’t have any Disney magic to instantly transform the lot into supple soil, we’re not far off with the generous donation of minerals from Noel Harding which will shortly be sprinkled over the land to aid growth.   It was difficult work, and I think we all left with a greater respect for those working outdoors–those seven miners included.
Wildflower and Urban Agriculture Working Together to Clean the Land

Minerals to be Sprinkled Over the Land

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A+ Team members remove the rotating platform from the Galileo tower structure

The stormy weather paused just long enough to allow A+ Team to tear down Noel Harding’s Galileo.  With the aid of scaffolding on loan from Band-Ayd Systems, the brave students were able to safely remove the potted trees and large rotating platform from the 4m tall tower.  Once the turntable was comfortably on the ground, removing the bolts and disassembling the steel tower was a simple procedure.

Securing the steel components to Rod Strickland's pickup truck

The next step will be cleaning and preparing the metal parts and redesigning the rotating mechanism so that the sculpture can be erected in Guelph. Hopefully the weather will be as kind during the next outdoor mission.

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Issues with the Greenhouse Site

We visited the Eco-house yesterday, and finalized the maximum possible dimensions of the greenhouse. In order to satisfy the requirements of the City of Windsor bylaws, we will maintain a structure less than 108 square feet. Considering some pre-fabricated options, as well as the location of windows on the south side of the Eco-house, it would appear that a 6.5 by 14 foot (91 square feet) greenhouse would be the most appropriate.

The present state of the Eco-house lot indicates that significant ground preparation will be required, including clean-up and grading, prior to starting the build. In-ground planting is being strongly considered, however, the team will require the results of the soil testing being performed by the Urban Agriculture group before proceeding. We also have the opportunity to use on-site rainwater collection for irrigation. It remains to be determined whether a solar-electric irrigation system will be economically feasible, or whether a more simplified approach will be taken.

Further research has been conducted on controlling the temperature of the greenhouse. Since it is a relatively small space, a heating system is not necessarily required. As for cooling, the team has researched the option of an automated solar venting system. Contrary to popular belief, the solar venting system is actually quite affordable, even on our limited budget.

Although significant emphasis has been placed on simplifying the design in an effort to bring it down to a more practical level, there is still a strong desire to include innovative and interesting aspects with an associated artistic value. One method to be used is the concept of vertical growth. Since we are designing a relatively small structure, vertical growing methods would dramatically increase the potential yield of the greenhouse. Including vertical growth along the wall shared between the greenhouse and the Eco-House would further assist with regulating the temperature of the Eco-House while providing a great opportunity for hydroponic growth in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. The vertical growth wall could even be expanded beyond the length of the greenhouse to include adjacent portions of the Eco-House wall. One example of a vertical garden (including rainwater harvesting) is presented in the blog photo. This particular green wall was developed by an OCAD student (Michael Tampilic) in 2008.

Special thanks to Martha Gay-Scroggins (University of Guelph) for meeting with us last Thursday and offering much insight on our greenhouse development.

Photo & Associated Article:

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Getting Technical, Practical and Moving Forward

After having a meeting with Noel and Rod last Thursday, Noel gave us really good insight about our current structures, and while unique, we are not thinking as practically as we should be, and they did not match the budget that is constraining us. We now have a more narrow direction and feel we are on the right track. From here we researched pre-fab greenhouses available to us to try to get a price-point to match our budget. We are also planning to utilize the side of the eco-house to benefit both the greenhouse and the eco-house.

Yesterday, we met with Jennifer. She was excited both about our spinal designs (see last blog), as well as our lean-to greenhouse design, as long as we hybrid it and make it more unique. We agreed to research pricing on materials for the spinal designs, create detailed drawings and schematics. We are going to get back to Jennifer with the pricing hopefully this Thursday so the choice of materials can be complete. We are also going to speak with Martha Gay-Scroggins this Thursday who is a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture in Guelph. She is hopefully going to give us ideas on how to build the greenhouse, how to make it sustainable and anything other information we need.


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Biomimicry: Creative and Practical

We shared our accomplishments in our midterm presentation, and received a lot of positive feedback and criticisms. Our new approach is to match our creativity with practical aspects of the design so we will research size of the greenhouse, the exact location, pricing and funding, different materials as well as natural systems for heating, cooling, water and moisture. We will also focus more on these natural systems, rather than just the design itself, for example, a living wall, ponds, and natural heat capture. We are also going to continue researching biomimicry and methods to incorporate it into our designs. As well, we will look into information on the pros and cons of attaching the greenhouse to the present eco-house and all the requirements needed to make that happen. Next Tuesday, we have planned to have a scale model created, as well as all the research on biomimicry completed, and potential materials and pricing, as well as mind mapping of natural heating, cooling and water. We have also scheduled another meeting on this day with Jennifer Willet to showcase all our new research and designs.
Photo from:

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Art & Urban Agriculture: Building a Sustainable Future

As part of The University of Windsor’s “Green Corridor” winter 2010 class 6 different students, from varying academic disciplines, have assembled into a group that will research, develop, and implement the foundations for what will eventually become a community garden utilizing the vacant space available at the site of the Eco-House, another project by the Green Corridor providing a prototype for an environmentally friendly and self sustaining residential home. This garden will be self sustaining, organic, and provide vegetation that will nourish not only the community but the environment as well.

The team is comprised of an interdisciplinary mixture of students: Mike, Brad, and Kyle from Mechanical Engineering, Roel from Sociology, Megan from Visual Art & Anthropology, and Chris from Visual Art & Communications.Hopefully the combined skills of critical thinking, innovative problem solving, and technical know-how provided by our group will result in a vibrant and effective collaboration.

The community garden is a new project proposed by the artist run collective Green Corridor and our group is the first to tackle the project. In the few classes we’ve had thus far we’ve created a basic plan of attack: we need to determine the quality of the soil that is currently available at the site figuring out the toxicity and nutritional levels, research viable solutions for enriching the soil, design the most effective layout possible for the garden, and map out possible areas on campus the project could be extended to in the future.

Luckily we have the help of Dr. Rita Haase, a professor here at the University of Windsor who works with a local activist group “FedUp”. She has interests in developing the garden as well and our group will be meeting with her on a semi-regular basis and will hopefully be able to assist her in developing ideas while utilizing her experience and knowledge to enable us to make more effective decisions in relation to our sustainable garden.

As a group we’re excited to see where we can take this project and look forward to the process of developing it.

The Team

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Student Blogs

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» Read all of the student blogs


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