Turn the Tables, or the Signs!
This week the Urban Agriculture group started to contact organizations within the city about the maintenance of the garden during the summer time. On Thursday, two of our members met with the director of the Youth Connection Association. Kenny Gbadebo said he was really interested in our project and willing to help us, but the only thing was the students would not be there during the summer time and would come back in September. He is hoping to hold a summer camp in August, but gave us his contact information and encouraged us to keep in touch. Therefore, this organization could be one of our options to help the maintenance of the garden.
On the other hand, the design of the sign for the garden was still on the way. On Tuesday, after a small meeting with Rod, we decided on the title name for the sign which was “Visual Arts Community”. We wrote the brief introduction of the uses for the land between the two eco-houses, which would be posted on the sign. During Thursday’s class, we discussed our write-up and new designs with the professors. A new suggestion was made for the sign, involving the idea of making a large sign without any wording on it. The sign would act as an eye-catcher, to attract individuals to the garden. Another suggestion made was to add a rain barrel to the sign, or site. The rain barrel needed to be aesthetically appealing and also have high technical skills; therefore it could water the flowers automatically and also be sensitive to the amount of water needed by the flowers. This led us to change our direction completely from the original sign project. Consultations were made with the Wildflower Group to keep their plans for the design of the land in mind, while also fulfilling our requirements of the location and size of the sign. The tasks for the completion of the new sign were separated among group members and work was to be started immediately during the weekend. In the end, we planned to have a finalized sign for next week so that preparations for construction and assembly could be underway.
automated Rain Barrel/City Water Irrigation Project
Irrigating a small garden is a relatively relaxing and sometimes therapeutic activity (well if you are a botany/biology nerd [or really in need of a hobby]) but going away for any length of time can present a problem. The simple solution of course is to purchase a hose-bib/timer package from Home Depot for about $30 and set up a small drip system to efficiently water each plant or row of plants (rather than a wasteful sprinkler system). Going along with conserving water is using a rain barrel collection system to capture rain for later use thus eliminating or more likely reducing treated water consumption.
Adding a rain barrel complicates the system significantly as there isn’t much water pressure at its spigot compared to a standard city spigot which has somewhere around 40 psi. Also, if the barrel is empty, you don’t want your plants to die and thus you need to be able to detect that the barrel is empty and switch to city water.
After a little bit of planning, shopping and construction I came up with a simple system for automatically or manually watering a garden that in an automatic mode could select the appropriate water source and turn on based on an off the shelf timer. The system uses a small 12 Volt Battery, Pump (for getting the rain barrel water pressure closer to the hose-bib, a solenoid valve, bilge pump float switch, etc. (see the documentation for more detail on parts and wiring). Oh yeah, and in keeping with the eco-friendly approach I figured I should probably keep the battery charge with a small solar panel!
GARDEN RESOURCE PROGRAM COLLABORATIVE – DETROIT
Welcome to Detroit!
(Just South of Windsor)
Urban gardens and farms play an important role in the City of Detroit. They provide thousands of pounds of fresh, nutritious produce for Detroit families and improve our communities by connecting neighbors, providing an attractive alternative to trash-strewn vacant lots, improving property values, and reducing crime.
In an effort to maximize these benefits, The Greening of Detroit, Detroit Agriculture Network, EarthWorks Urban Farm/Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and Michigan State University began working together in 2003 to provide residents with the supplies and resources they need to grow food in the city.
Now in its seventh year, The Garden Resource Program (GRP) provides support to more than 875 urban gardens and farms in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck. GRP members receive resources including seeds and Detroit grown transplants and become part of a growing network of growers and advocates working to promote and encourage urban agriculture and a thriving local food system in the City.
Urban Agriculture: A Multi-Layered Project
Image Courtesy www.agronomy.ksu.edu/SOILTESTING/
As our group has been looking closer at our project, we are beginning to discover that this relatively simple concept is actually multi-layered and complex. Our eventual goal is to combine theories of organic farming and permaculture with the language of visual aesthetics in a living, productive garden. However, there are many steps we must first complete before we can start planning our plantings.
The first layer of our project begins with the soil. Because we are planting on a former house lot and are only a few blocks from the Ambassador Bridge, we are concerned about soil contamination and a lack of nutrients. We are currently contacting soil testing facilities and hope to have samples being tested very soon. We are in collaboration with the compost group and will be using their product for garden lots later in the spring and summer.
Once we have determined the quality of the soil we can then determine how much compost we will need as well as methods of retaining soil within the vacant lot area (such as garden boxes, edging etc).
Aside from this aspect of our work on the urban farm, many of our group members are currently researching permaculture, nutrient remediating plants, and sustainable irrigation methods. More information regarding these topics will be discussed in the following weeks.