WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FARMING METHODS?
Generally, we farm the way people have farmed for thousands of years. Instead of using machinery and modern technology to minimize work, we do things the old-fashioned way, using our hands and simple garden tools which can make our contact with nature more intimate and soul-enriching. We also work with the land to conserve water and to make high-grade fertile soil.
We practice the no-till method of making garden beds, which means we don't use a rototiller or tractor to turn over soil (we don't like to mince up worms either!). Instead, we form our beds on top of cardboard placed on the ground to smother the grass and weeds. One type of organic matter is then layered over another, similar to the making of lasagna. The first layer is usually a 1-2 ft high layer of decomposing leaf mulch. After that, we layer with grass clippings, decomposing straw, kitchen scraps, animal manure and more leaf mulch. To the top of the bed, we add a six-inch layer of sifted compost, so we can transplant seedlings or direct sow seeds.
By the time the seedlings take root, the entire bed is already decomposing. Worms attracted to the wet cardboard loosen up the soil beneath the cardboard. By the end of the growing season, we have attractive garden beds that are rich in organic matter. Freshly tilled soil may look attractive and seem practical, but once it rains, the soil becomes compact and within days a blanket of weeds usually emerges. Two-foot paths six inches high with wood chips between the beds look good and help to shore them up.
Our soil is cultivated organically, we use native plants to attract pollinating insects and add bio-diversity, we're learning how to propagate Monarch butterflies, and because our two projects are in a flood plain, we want to excel at using storm water for crop irrigation.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PLANTS?
All our plant seedlings, including the crops of vegetables, herbs and flowers that we cultivate, we start by seed. As early as February, we begin germinating certain types of flower seeds. Once the trays of seedlings germinate, we place them under grow lights for a few days before they go to the heated backyard hoop house. Many types of greens can be planted in the early Spring when the soil can be worked, but most plants we start transplanting into the ground after the last frost.
We use only non-genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs threaten our food supply and are changing the genetic make-up of non-GMO plants with frightening consequences for the environment and our health. The seeds from GMO plants are underdeveloped, non-viable or non-existent so that the farmer has to purchase new seeds every year. Most commercial produce comes from hybrid varieties, chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously, withstand bruising from harvesting equipment, survive shipping and packing and last on a shelf. These varieties are not only more prone to insect infestation and fungal diseases, they are also less tasty and nutritious than heirloom produce.
Heirlooms are old-time plant varieties, the seeds of which are saved and handed down through generations of families and farmers. They are healthy, delicious, and hardy. Next year we will start saving seeds from our heirloom plants, which will all be heirloom varieties.
WHAT DO YOU GROW?
We grow a wide range of vegetable crops and within each one we grow a number of interesting varieties. For instance, this year we're growing over 50 kinds of tomatoes, 10 eggplant, 15 lettuces, 10 zucchini, 7 kale, 9 collards, 15 peppers and the list goes on.
When we choose which vegetables and herbs to cultivate each year, not only do we look for those that tend to grow well in our climate, but we also keep an eye towards those that are rich in nutrients and taste good. Take dark green leafy vegetables, for example, which are seldom eaten in sufficient quantities to meet our basic nutritional requirements. We grow old-fashioned varieties that are nutrient dense and delicious. Seventy-six-year-old Dorothy, one of our neighbors, has eaten greens her entire life and often prepares our collard varieties for her family. She says everyone is always astonished at how good they taste. Her family determined that our collards are superior in taste, not only because they're grown organically and prepared fresh, but also because they're heirloom varieties like Green Glace, Old Timey Blue and Georgia Southern vs. the commercially-grown hybrid collards they normally eat.
We also grow culinary and medicinal herbs, fruit trees, berry bushes and maintain an orchard of Moringa trees (aka “Miracle Tree”), which are native to Africa. We regularly pick the leaves, dehydrate them, grind them up and use the powder to promote health. As our projects grow, we plan to specialize in growing food crops that can help to improve the well-being of residents in our community.
At Detroit Abloom, we grow an array of flowers, including tulips, anemones, snapdragons, sunflowers, zinnias, lavender, dahlias, larkspur, nasturtium, basil and over 45 types of dahlias, which are one of our most favorite and popular flowers. In fact, we specialize in dahlias, which we also sell as potted plants.
WHY SHOULD I BUY LOCAL PRODUCE?
In order to support our emerging local food system, residents need the following: access to local food, ways to identify food alternatives, ways to learn meal planning and preparation skills, an understanding of seasonal variation and finally, an appreciation of the benefits of eating seasonally and locally.
Smaller, family-run farms are vanishing all over the world. And it's no wonder - commodity prices are often below the price of production. The long-term damage that industrial farming causes to the environment and our health is not calculated into the final cost of commercial food. People buying local provides revenue for jobs and building green infrastructure. Additionally, by buying local, you help reduce the use of fossil fuels. Most conventionally-grown produce travels an average of 1500 miles to reach your plate. This takes at least a week - and a LOT of petroleum.
Supporting local farms like The Garden means that you are ultimately helping to bring about positive changes to unhealthy farming practices and are supporting those who need your support the most - your community! For us, your support means we can continue to grow organic produce, provide local jobs and educate our neighbors about the benefits of healthy living and local agriculture.
DO YOU SELL YOUR PRODUCE/FLOWERS? WHERE CAN I GET SOME?
Yes! We sell our freshly-picked produce and flower bouquets at Grosse Pointe Park's farmer's market, called Park Market. It is held every Saturday during the summer from 9am to 1pm. If you can't make it to Park Market, but would like some of our harvest, please Contact Us.
Next year we hope to open up our offerings in the Jefferson Chalmer's neighborhood. Stay tuned.
CAN I VISIT THE GARDEN?
Yes! We love visitors and would be happy to show you around. Please Contact Us before planning your visit so we can be sure to meet you there.