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It’s the Mid-Summer Harvest!

What an amazing summer it’s been this year!  Despite a vast number of problems and challenges the garden is still on schedule to begin harvesting some of its vegetables.  One thing I am sure of is that we now have a good idea as to how much work it took to tend a garden in the days before running water!

Mustard Greens and Celery...Spicy!

Mustard Greens and Celery…Spicy!

Cabbage Mix...some of which had bolted.

Cabbage Mix…some of which had bolted.

Have you ever seen Kale as robust as this?

Have you ever seen Kale as robust as this?

Weeding the Cabbage bed.

Weeding the Cabbage bed.

The Zuchinni and the Summer Squash are doing nicely but they need weeding and watering!!!

The Zucchini and the Summer Squash are doing nicely but they need weeding and watering!!!

Chief among all of the problems was the hot weather and the lack of rain during much of June and July.  The garden is located on the Nolan Elementary-Middle School playground and when the temperature gets too hot, they close the school.  When that happens, we lose access to the water system.  In the past, it has rained just often enough to offset a temporary school closing, but this year we have had consecutive days and subsequent weeks of hot, dry weather without being able to adequately water.

This Broccoli head probably could have been bigger if it had more water!

This Broccoli head probably could have been bigger if it had more water!

Eggplant A

Eggplant A

Eggplant B...What's the difference between A and B?

Eggplant B…What’s the difference between A and B?

Young Cayenne's...Muy Caliente!

Young Cayenne’s…Muy Caliente!

We were also vandalized.  Someone took it upon him or her self to steal our collard green plants, right after we had planted them.  We have also found a few of our new beds damaged.  It can be thought that the weather has something to do with the vandalism.  My reasoning is that when we are not on-site frequently and regularly, it provides opportunity for negative actions toward the garden.  We probably couldn’t have stopped the theft though.

"The Onion Field" er bed!

“The Onion Field” er bed!

There's more than one Beet in there!

There’s more than one Beet in there!

Pop-Pop-Pop-Popcorn!

Pop-Pop-Pop-Popcorn!

This Watermelon got a late start but let's see what happens?

This Watermelon got a late start but let’s see what happens?

Zucchini after it got watered!

Zucchini after it got watered!

There were Cherry Tomatoes here just a minute ago!

There were Cherry Tomatoes here just a minute ago!

What are these? Potatoes! (With a weed sticking right up in the middle of the picture!)

What are these? Potatoes! (With a weed sticking right up in the middle of the picture!)

Regardless, on July17th, we had six kids ready to harvest whatever was ready in the garden.  They have already enjoyed strawberries, radishes, garlic and zucchini, so now they were going to pick cherry tomatoes, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, and Chinese cabbage.  A few of the kids had never tasted vegetables raw and fresh from the garden and it was fun to watch the faces they made as they experienced the “unvarnished” flavor and texture of the various leafy greens.  “Awe” and “Amazement” are just two of the words that come to mind.  I must note that the kids ate the cherry tomatoes as fast as they picked them.  I wonder if any will make it home to somebody’s dinner table?

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Lookin’ Back!

It was just another day in the garden when I spied crawling slowly through the blades of grass a huge tomato worm.  It was camouflaged smartly so as to hide itself from its predators but it did not escape my watchful eye as I was tending the garden with the assistance of our student gardeners and a host of volunteers.  Tomatoe-horn-worm2Seeing this as another learning moment I jumped at the opportunity to draw the attention of the nearby kids to this fearless destroyer of tomato plants.  After a cascade of oohs and ahs…”what is that…oh, it’s nasty…can I touch it” type comments one little girl, who goes by the name of Jade, turned, looked down to see what everybody was talking about.  Her eyes opened wide and then with her “little big foot” she just stepped on the caterpillar.  She SMASHED it!  She then looked around at all the other kids, wiped her shoe on the grass, shrugged her shoulders as if she couldn’t understand what all the fuss was all about and why is it always left to her to do all of the dirty work.  AHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh, it is wonderful to be outdoors and working with kids!

For many people, the idea of city school kids actively participating in gardening, urban farming if you will, just doesn’t make sense.  These kids are expected to be running the streets, playing sports or just gaming on either their cell phones or an x-box.  Gardening?  It’s not cool!  It’s not urbane!  It’s…it’s…well, it’s COUNTRY!  How is that FUN?

It was the spring of 2011 that we first started the garden here at Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Since then we have had 4 different principals and we have been fortunate that each one has seen the educational and recreational benefit the garden provides for its students.  They see that one of its many values is its ability to be used as an extension of the classroom.  We teach math in our garden…measuring and calculating.  We teach science too.  Reading comes into play also.  We encourage leadership and teamwork skills.  They learn how to collaborate.  The garden, for them, is a place where their imaginations can run free and their minds can be as fertile as the soil they are playing/working in.  Here they can experience the wonder of growth and the humility that comes from understanding the power of what one seed can do.  The garden reflects the realities of life and the benefits of investment, commitment and hard work.  That might sound a little heavy for a bunch of 8, 9 and 10 year-olds, but amazingly they get it.

So here we are in 2016 getting ready to nurture our future world leaders from the ground up.  It is here where they will learn about sustainability and gain a deeper appreciation for the environment.  They are participating in the oldest rituals in the world…sowing, tending, and harvesting their own food.  There’s no better substitute!

2011

Nolan First Day DSCN0530[1]

 

Nolan Garden 6.18.11 - 018

 

Nolan Garden 6.18.11 - 019

 

Maura IMG_2160-3 

 Maura IMG_2149-2

2012

 Garden June 201229

 

Garden June 20126 

Garden breakdown photo 217[1]

2013

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IMG_3593           

 Nolan Garden 2013-18

 

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DSCN1328           

DSCN1183

2014

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2015

 Cabbage Harvest

 

Pumpkin Seeds-2

 

Pumpkin Seeds 4

 

Pumpkin Seeds 5

 

Weighting Produce

 

Fruits of our labor-1

“TA-DA”

 

dark_honey_bee_hemberger

B.E. Culturally Exposed

Bonnie Odom-Brown

MIFCU logo and tagline

Andy Daily

newSTAFFINGdiamondtop[1]

Maura Ryan-Kaiser

project-sweet-tomato-logo

Arthur Littsey

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Dig Them Potatoes!

“It’s the latest, it’s the greatest
Mashed Potato, ya, ya, ya-e-eah!

Mashed Potato started along time ago
With a guy named Sloppy Joe!”*

Ahhhhhhhh…sweet, sweet memories! The chart-topping hit song that inspired the dance, undoubtedly inspired many a youth, myself included, to eat potatoes…mashed or otherwise. And starting two years ago, potatoes have become a hit at Nolan’s “Planting the Seed” garden. Our first attempt to grow potatoes was such a success that we had to grow them again this year and grow they did, we had a fantastic crop.

Taking care of the bed!

Taking care of the bed!

So lush...so green!

So lush…so green!

Who knows what secrets lie below ground?

Who knows what secrets lie below ground?

Are they ready?  They gotta be ready?

Are they ready? They gotta be ready?

As members of “Keep Growing Detroit”, my sister Jenni and I were able to combine what we got as participants of the program along with what Bonnie Odom-Brown received also, to insure that we were going to be able to plant a considerable amount of “seed pieces” to begin with. It can’t be stressed enough how important Keep Growing Detroit is not only to the efforts of the Nolan school garden but to other gardens in the cities of Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck.

Dig them potatoes!

Dig them potatoes!

Ain't they purty?

Ain’t they purty?

A happy "fierce Nolan gardener"

A happy “fierce Nolan gardener”

Following their instructions, Maura Ryan-Kaiser and Bonnie Odom-Brown loaded one of our raised beds with three different varieties of spuds, Yukon Gold, Kennebec and Red Skins. That was basically it! We watered when necessary and fortunately with all the rain we got this summer, we didn’t have to do too much of that. We did have to keep adding more soil to the bed, a process called “hilling”, but other than that it was purely a walk in the park!

Mama Mama, look what we grew!

Mama Mama, look what we grew!

A little dirty but, Mmmm Mmmm Good!

A little dirty but, Mmmm Mmmm Good!

All the young girls!

All the young girls!

Dividing up the days harvest!

Dividing up the days harvest!

Guess what's for dinner?

Guess what’s for dinner?

What did we do with the potatoes once they were harvested? Well, I would recommend using them in a frittata. There’s a lot of different frittata recipes, but I like the “Bacon and Potato Frittata”. This recipe includes a lot of the vegetables we grew in the garden this year and I bet you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Bacon and Potato Frittata

Gourmet Live | April 2012
by Gina Marie Miraglia Erique

Bacon and Potato Frittata recipe
photo by Lara Ferroni

Yield:
Makes 4 servings
active time
35 minutes
total time
35 minutes

Consider the recipe below as a loose template to be altered according to what you’ve got lying around. You can substitute cooked pasta and rice for the potatoes, and cooked greens for the raw. Play around with different cheeses, or skip them altogether. It’s your chance to let your frittata freak flag fly!
Ingredients
• 8 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon
• 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 small onion, or more to taste, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, or more to taste, chopped
• 2 to 3 cups spinach or arugula, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers, or to taste
• 3 ounces sliced Provolone (5 to 6 slices), optional
• Special equipment: 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick or cast-iron; heat-proof rubber spatula
Preparation
Preheat broiler.
Whisk together eggs, basil, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl then pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat.
Add potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Cover skillet and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until potatoes are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the potatoes with a slotted spoon to bowl containing the bacon.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté onion and garlic over medium-high heat until pale golden, about 4 minutes, then add spinach and sauté until just wilted.
Gently add the potatoes and bacon, the roasted peppers, and remaining tablespoon oil into onion mixture, spreading it evenly.
Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables and cook over medium-high heat, lifting up cooked egg around edges with a heat-proof rubber spatula to let uncooked egg flow underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until it appears mostly set, with a moist top and center, 3 to 5 minutes more.
Remove lid. If using Provolone, broil frittata 5 to 7 inches from heat until set, but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then top with an even layer of cheese and continue to broil until browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes (watch carefully).
If skipping the cheese, broil frittata until the top is lightly browned, 1 to 3 minutes (making sure it doesn’t burn).
If using a nonstick skillet, slide the frittata onto a serving plate. If using a cast-iron skillet, cut and serve wedges directly from the skillet.
Nutrition Information
per serving (4 servings)
• Calories623
• Carbohydrates25 g (8%)
• Fat44 g (68%)
• Protein30 g (59%)
• Saturated Fat16 g (80%)
• Sodium870 mg (36%)
• Polyunsaturated Fat5 g
• Fiber3 g (13%)
• Monounsaturated Fat20 g
• Cholesterol423 mg (141%)

* Dee Dee Sharp (Cohen, Gorman, Garrett, Dobbins, Bateman, Holland)

Nolan Elementary-Middle School’s

Planting the Seeds Garden is led and sponsored by

Be Culturally Exposed/Bonnie Odom-Brown

Snelling Staffing Services/Maura Ryan-Kaiser

Michigan First Credit Union/Mark Guimond

Project Sweet Tomato/Arthur Littsey

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Powdery Mildew

This year there seems to be an epidemic of powdery mildew at garden sites across the city.  It would be too easy to blame the source of the plants that have been affected, in this case our prime seed/plant benefactor “Keep Growing Detroit”, but since they only give away seeds of the affected plants, there has to be a larger force responsible for such a mass infection.  Personally, I have had this problem for over 5 years.  Some years were worse than others.  Not knowing what to do has been very problematic, especially since I have stopped planting some plants as a result.

The article below was found in my e-newsletter from Rodale Press and it clearly states what it is, the source, conditions and directions for dealing with this bothersome plant ailment.

Powdery Mildew

powderymildew_300

 

Here are steps you can take to prevent powdery mildew from blemishing your garden.

Description

A gray, talcum powder-like coating that covers the leaves, flowers, and even fruit of some of your vegetables, perennials, and shrubs.

Where it’s a problem
Powedery mildew is found throughout North America

Lifecycle
Fungal spores are spread by wind and overwinter on plants and in plant debris. Unlike mildews that appear in bathrooms or basements, powdery mildew does not need direct contact with water in order to grow. The warm days and cool nights of late summer create an ideal climate for spore growth and dispersal.

Plants it attacks
Powdery mildew is the blanket name for a few different species of fungi that infect many ornamentals, such as beebalm (Monarda), lilacs (Syringa), zinnias, roses, and garden phlox (P. paniculata). It also affects vegetables, including beans, cucumbers, grapes, melons, and squash.

Why it’s a problem
Powdery mildew is unattractive and it can affect the flavor and reduce yields of some fruits and vegetables. Although plants are unsightly and can be weakened by an infection, they do not usually die. Powdery mildew on ornamentals is an aesthetic issue, and not usually worth treating. Prevention and control is more important for vegetables.

Organic damage control
Powdery mildew can be prevented, and it can be controlled once it appears, but it can’t be cured. The key to preventing it is planting mildew-resistant or mildew- tolerant varieties. Resistant varieties get less mildew than susceptible varieties; tolerant varieties may get some mildew, but it shouldn’t affect the performance of the plant. Prevention also includes siting plants where they will have good air circulation, and exposing as much leaf surface as possible to direct sunlight, which inhibits spore germination.

To control minor infestations, pick off affected plant parts and either compost them in a hot compost pile or bag them tightly and put them in the trash.

Homemade Sprays
Research studies in 1999 and 2003 on infected zucchini and winter wheat (respectively) indicated that spraying cow’s milk slowed the spread of the disease.
To try this at home, mix 1 part milk with 9 parts water and spray the stems and tops of leaves with the solution. Reapply after rain.
Spraying leaves with baking soda (1 teaspoon in 1 quart water) raises the pH, creating an inhospitable environment for powdery mildew.

Now I have to admit that I was told about the milk spray technique this summer and I kind of pooh-poohed it.  I will have to correct myself to my associates and acknowledge that when it comes to gardening, I don’t know it all.  I’m alright with that because who does?  This shows that I need to do a better job of communicating and sharing with my fellow gardeners and listening to what they have to say, for they just might know what ails my plants and have a cure as easy  as a bottle of milk (diluted of course).

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An Important Second Opinion

Parents and teachers probably are not always aware of the total good that comes from having an outdoor or in this case a gardening experience. As one of the administrators of the garden at Nolan Elementary-Middle School, neither am I. I tend to focus on garden prep work, planting seeds/plants, watering and getting the plants ready for harvesting. Who has time to sit around and conduct studies about what benefits, other than a successful harvest, the kids and their families receive from their gardening experience.
Fortunately, there are people that have the time and energy to study, analyze and determine some of the not so obvious benefits of outdoor activities in the schoolyard. Without a doubt, some of them apply to our little program at Nolan and a recent blog published by the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, with information sourced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, provides some “quantifiable” information on how much good the kids at Nolan and other schools with similar programs and outlooks are receiving from being outdoors engaged in gardening and other activities. I have copied the information in its entirety for you to read and share with other concerned parents and adults.

EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS OF SUMMER

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 in Blogs, News by ymurphy

Many times we think of the summer as a period away from school and formal study, without considering the other benefits that children receive during the days when the school doors are closed. Yet we know that exploring our world has significant educational benefit that may not be focused on a specific topic or discipline. You might not know that:
• Studies show that outdoor experiences improve self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative in teens.
• Contact with natural and physical activity in a natural environment improves psychological well-being.
• Students who play and learn in outdoor settings perform better on tests, have higher grade point averages and cause fewer classroom disruptions.
• Spending time in the open air and learning outside increases student’s ability to think creatively and improves problem solving skills.
• Seven out of ten U.S. children have low vitamin D levels due to reduced exposure to sunlight thus risking their bone and heart health.
• Exposure to the outdoors reduces the symptoms of ADHD
• Exposure to natural morning light promotes better sleep.
• Each hour that a child spends outdoors beyond the average of 3.7 hours per week reduces the risk of myopia by 2%.
• Children who play outside in natural settings are less likely to suffer obesity and less likely to contract diabetes.

There are many other health and social benefits to being outdoors. In Michigan the best time to do so is during these summer months, however winter sports and fun are as important as the summer ones. We must all encourage the development of the positive behaviors of sharing and cooperative engagement. Reducing stress and increasing attention time enhances students’ ability to focus and therefore their ability to learn. For all of these reasons the Detroit Public Schools Foundation supports Camp Shurly, Metro Detroit Youth Day, the DPS Day Camp, and other summertime activities that will lead to greater academic achievement in the fall.

Bulleted statements are from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

So you can see there is more going on than what meets the eye and speaking for all of the adult participants and sponsors of the garden program we are all glad to be just one of the “tools” in use to provide a better learning environment for the student gardeners at Nolan. And for the record, the Detroit Public Schools Foundation was an early supporter of the garden at Nolan and other schools before they became a part of Michigan’s Education Achievement System.

This should be a “heads up” for all parents with school-aged children.  Get them up and outdoors even when they are not in school. They can save those video games for the winter time when there’s absolutely nothing to do.

project-sweet-tomato-logo

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Back To School!

Intercom Voice: (SQUELCH) All students in the garden club please come to the auditorium immediately. BEEP!

It’s Tuesday at Nolan Elementary-Middle School and Bonnie Odom-Brown (BE Culturally Exposed) and I (Arthur Littsey/Project Sweet Tomato) are meeting with our student gardeners for the first time. They are a rag-tag bunch that covers at least 4 different grade levels. For the first time since the move to Nolan, Planting the Seeds has an abundance of students. There are almost 20 kids of varying ages and for another first, we have strong representation from the young males of the school. 8th graders too? Yes, I am very surprised.

As you would expect, this has brought a few more challenges for the team, but we are starting to get a grip on things, with the help of some recent advice from our sponsor, Maura Ryan-Kaiser. She helped create a plan for managing so many students. One can tell that she never forgets that she is dealing with kids (I think she has the camp counselor gene) and in spite of that they can be managed effectively. And she had an immediate affect on them. She grabbed their attention and held it throughout the gardening session. They performed very well for her. And I can tell you from previous experiences that’s not a very easy thing to do.

We’ve got a lot of vegetables in the ground with more on the way, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit. New this year will be watermelon, a new variety of sunflower, peas, strawberries (they are surviving so far), onions and sweet potatoes. We are also growing many of the standard summer vegetables, like tomatoes, green and yellow beans, garlic, zucchini, greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuces, basil, parsley, peppers, radishes and potatoes (Yukon Gold and red skins). There’s a lot going on and it would be difficult to manage without the help that we get from the Snelling Staffing Services volunteers. They are a great bunch…easy to get along with; supportive (for me that means young and strong)…that takes their volunteer work seriously and has fun doing it. It’s a lot of fun to watch them learn a few things about gardening too!

There has been a change outside the garden as well. Sandra Tomlin, the former Vice President, Community Relations, of Michigan First Credit Union, retired. She was a wonderful advocate for our little program and we thank her for her support. She has said that now that she is retired, she might pay the garden a visit. So, now would be a good time to welcome Mark Guimond as our new contact at Michigan First Credit Union. Mark’s title is Assistant Vice President – Business & Community Relationships. MFCU is active with several schools in and around Detroit and I hope that we continue to earn their support.

Pictures? Yes, here’s a few…

Getting ready to plant some onions!

Getting ready to plant some onions!

 

Lettuce, Cabbage and Greens

Lettuce, Cabbage and Greens

Prepping the big bed!

Prepping the big bed!

Putting the kids to work!

Putting the kids to work!

Is this a weeding party?

Is this a weeding party?

Our first peas...ever!

Our first peas…ever!

Thursday's Garden Angels!

Thursday’s Garden Angels!

Well, I’ve got to get back to work. Between home and here, there’s a lot of work that needs to get done.

 

This story is dedicated to one Jack Kaiser. He’s a great guy to be around and to have around. Thanks Jack…for what you do, the way you do it and for who you are!

BOB669

 

Thanks To…

dark_honey_bee_hemberger

BE Culturally Exposed

MIFCU logo and tagline

newSTAFFINGdiamondtop[1]

project-sweet-tomato-logo

And a Special Thanks to the gang at…

Keep Growing Detroit

header-cherry-cola-comp-2b

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Yes, We’re Going To Grow…

My Southfork!

My Southfork!

It’s a funny thing about gardens and how some measure of its worth by what you grow.  I thought then that my garden was better than others because it was so diverse, but there were some that didn’t share that opinion.  Back in the day, when I lived in Southeast Oakland County, Wixom to be specific, I had a nicely sized garden.  Overall, you’d have to say it was about 2000 sq. ft., but I farmed only about 1800 sq. ft. of it.  With that amount of space I was always able to grow what ever I fancied at the moment.  Diversity was nice but as I found it didn’t always make my garden experience better, which is what it always should have been about.

I always grew two to three types of corn, even though I was forced to rotate it as it was so hard on the soil, which was clay by the way.  One year I grew popcorn, and that was a big mistake, as you had to have a special tool to remove the hard kernels.  I was told that rubbing two cobs against one another would separate the kernels.  I rubbed my knuckles raw trying to get the kernels.  I, just as well, might have tossed a whole cob in a pot with a little oil.  I suspect that would have been easier if not dumber.  Arrrrgh!

I grew peanuts.  It took three attempts to get a good crop. I finally had to fence them in, because rabbits loved the peanut tendrils that dug back into the ground.  What I didn’t know was that after harvesting your peanuts they need to be dried and kind of cured for a little while.  Raw peanuts taste nothing like the peanuts I get in a bag at the store.  I can still say that they were fun to grow but like the popcorn, it was definitely too much work for me to ultimately enjoy the effort.

I even grew celery one year.  I didn’t know that you had to blanch the stalks by covering them up with sand and/or straw.  I can’t tell you how hot and peppery unblanched celery is.  My tongue felt like 1000 needles were pricking it and it was on fire!  Anybody that knows me knows that I am not the type of guy that will run from a hot chili pepper, but that celery took me places that I don’t ever want to go to again.

Out of all the things I grew, whenever somebody came out, I was always asked time and time again, did I grow any watermelon. This is where the “garden worth” proposition always began. Finally, after years of saying no, the answer was, yes I did.  As a kid I loved watermelon, it was a treat that was reserved mostly for holidays.  I would sit there and suck the juice out of a cold slice of melon until you could hear the juices slosh around in my belly when I walked.  I didn’t eat it that much as an adult but being the consummate gardener I had to grow some.  So when I finally managed to get an early start I had a full season for the melons.  I also grew honey dew and cantaloupe that year.  They were beautiful fruit and I wish I could tell you how good they were.  You see, I had one bite of the first cantaloupe picked and I threw up.  Turns out, for some reason, at some point in time, I became allergic to melons of all types.  Didn’t know it until I had a mouthful.  I won’t go in to details, but I will say that it’s not a pleasant reaction.

Early July Broccoli

Early July Broccoli

Cantaloupe and Honey Dew Melon Patch

Cantaloupe and Honey Dew Melon Patch

Project Sweet Tomato Cucumbers

Cucumbers!

An early spring morning 1985 or 1986

An early spring morning 1985 or 1986

Same morning...a different section of the garden.

Same morning…a different section of the garden.

Last one...look at that clay soil!

Last one…look at that clay soil!

A typical morning harvest - August

A typical morning harvest – August

My onion field.  I had over 300 sets/3 varieties in the ground.

My onion field. I had over 300 sets/3 varieties in the ground.

A young pumpkin!

A young pumpkin!

Love that old barn!

Love that old barn!

All of this is important because it is the back drop for our first class project in 2014.  We are going to have the students’ plant watermelon seeds indoors so that we can have young plants to transplant in the garden when the weather turns.  Once again, watermelons were the most requested fruit in 2013, so we hope to make them happy by growing a few.  I think that people think that they are easy to grow, but they do present challenges for most gardeners.  It would be nice to have a successful yield, but since they will take up a lot space, they may draw a lot of unwanted attention.

I hope we can also start some peas.  An early start for peas virtually guarantees a successful crop.  There are only a few things better than fresh peas from the garden.  Peas are also good for the garden soil.  After the spring harvest, they can be dug under to provide additional nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.

Carrots would benefit from an early start too.  I had a great yield from the carrots I planted in 2013.  It was my first significant carrot harvest since I started gardening in Detroit, approximately 10 years ago.  Last year, at the school, we did plant a few carrot seeds and for the length of time they had in the ground, they were just okay.  This year with more time they should do a lot better.

Speaking of carrots, I am going to close with just one more garden story from back in the day.  You see, we had this small bed where we were growing short term vegetables and herbs.  I had harvested a couple of rows of carrots and had intended on turning the ground over to be re-used for something else.  Well, I didn’t get around to turning it over for about 3 weeks.  So one Saturday afternoon I went out with spade in hand and started to work the soil.  Two spade full in everything is okay.  It was on the third spade full of dirt I started having a problem.  You see, what I turned over was a small nest of baby snakes.  It was scary!  I had to take a deep breath before I could dig again.  Thinking that I was digging too deep, I dug in a little shallower.  What I got was another spade full of dirt and another load of baby snakes.  I am trembling now because each spade full of dirt is getting closer to where I am standing.  So I dug in one more time and…WHAT’S THIS…LOOKOUT NOW…HOLD ON…WAIT…LORD HAVE MERCY…A MOTHER…MOTHERLODE!  There were thousands and thousands of snakes squirming around at my feet!  I couldn’t run…I was frozen to that spot.  It was breathtaking.  Literally, I stopped breathing.  Once I got my breath back, I let out the loudest scream you can possible imagine and emptied my lungs again.  My neighbor heard me and he lived 100 yards away!  I stood there with shovel in hand and just started to flail away at the ground.  I could have chopped my feet off and I would not have cared.  When I got through there were dead snakes everywhere…everywhere but underneath where I was standing.  As I stumbled away, I dropped the spade, my arms were weary.  I vowed to never plant anything in that plot again and I never did.  The snakes could have it!

Pictures circa 1985-86

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