August 16, 2010
The next time you clean out and de-clutter your home, garage or tool shed, please consider your local school garden programs and community gardens for donation of your old tools and gardening supplies. Granny’s Garden School in Loveland, for instance, works with students at Loveland Elementary to teach them how to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers organically, and how to use them. This community-focused nonprofit organization has been accepting ’gardening junk’ for years and turning it into productive educational (and safety) tools for Granny’s childhood learning gardens. Other programs such as Lincoln Heights and Price Hill Community gardens run on a shoe-string budget and are in need of volunteer help and material donation support. It has been projected that there are about 1 million new edible gardens built in the U.S. this year alone. Many of these gardens (and gardeners) help their local communities by providing nutrient-rich herbs, fruits and vegetables to food pantries that may otherwise have no access to enzyme dense, nourishing produce. Such wholesome foods help to promote healthier, more productive, and yes, safer, communities.
These grass (and vegetable) root gardens are run primarily by passionate volunteers that are sacrificing their time and energy to not only provide good quality food for themselves and their families, but also for those in need. Gardening projects like these help to build a stronger sense of community and bring both old and young together for fellowship, food and fun. We can all help to support the cooperative garden programs in our community by donating any of the old tools that we’ve replaced with newer models or that are just taking up space. This is a tax-deductible offering that will enrich your community and keep the gardens growing! All of these community gardens are looking for items such as, but not limited to:
1. Metal garden trowels, shovels, rakes, hoes & other gardening hand-tools
2. Wagons, wheelbarrows & kitty litter boxes for hauling materials around gardens
3. Terracotta pots, larger ornamental containers, plastic pots & propagation trays for all growing needs
4. Canning jars for soil tests, storing seed & canning produce
5. All sizes of baskets with handles for harvesting produce
6. Plastic Venetian blinds, which are cut into smaller strips and used for plant tags
7. Tomato cages are excellent for tomatoes & other climbing edibles as well
8. Sprinklers of all sorts, both drip hose & solid hose
9. Sturdy scissors and any hand shears which are used for cutting flowers, weeds and to harvest vegetables
10. Knee pads, ear and eye protective gear assures everyone’s gardening experience is as safe as possible
11. Outdoor chairs, benches and tables provides areas for rest and enjoyment within the garden areas
12. Scales weigh produce, seeds & other items and magnifying glasses to study insects and other garden life
13. Plastic and metal trash cans for storing all sorts of gardening supplies
14. Envelopes of all sizes to store seed in
15. All shapes, colors and sizes of vases to fill with flowers and share with those in need
Please feel free to drop donated items by Marvin’s Organic Gardens and we will distribute your items to local garden programs in need. Or, you are welcome to take your supplies directly to the sources in need. Donating your ‘gardening junk’ to local community gardens helps to promote healthier and more self-sufficient communities. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and this effort not only promotes a stronger community, but also recycling, ultimately keeping useful ‘trash’ out of our over-filled landfills.
July 16, 2010
By Wes Duren
Drift back in time for a moment, and imagine yourself again as a child. Do you remember playing outside, your youthful curiosity urging you to explore the wild world beyond your home? Maybe you can recall memories of a childhood adventure amidst seemingly vast woodlands or a babbling creek that appeared larger than life. Perhaps there was a favorite tree you used to sit beneath or dangle from, or a garden that you helped nurture to maturity. Can you remember digging in the dirt or lifting the edge of a rock to discover the wild creatures that dwelt beneath?
While many of us can recollect warmhearted memories of playing outdoors in our youth, scores of children today have never had the opportunity to embrace nature and benefit from its many healing qualities. In an age where visual and audio technology have become the dominant entertainment and educational tools, gardening is one way to bring peace and the natural rhythm of life to a child. Numerous studies have shown a connection between spending more time in front of the TV and the computer, with the ever-growing obesity challenge among both children and adults. Unlike TV and computers, nature does not steal our time- it amplifies it. According to a study performed at the University of Maryland, from 1997 to 2003, there was a decline of 50 percent in the number of children ages nine to twelve who spent time in outdoor activities such as gardening, hiking, fishing and beach play. In the gardens and natural world just outside our homes, neighborhoods and cities, children’s creative imagination is evoked and there they can find freedom, adventure and time for reflection, while exercising full use of the senses.
An easy way to introduce children to nature is through the practice of organic gardening. Such practices include working with nature to promote safer, more sustainably grown and nutrient dense food, while helping to protect our wildlife, soil, water, farmers, and ultimately the health of future generations. Because organic gardening is an action-oriented activity, it helps children to channel their energy in positive and constructive ways. Gardening can be an educational tool for children because it helps them develop cognitive skills such as problem solving, a sense of responsibility and purpose, as well as improved focus and patience. Many aspects of organic gardening can be therapeutic for children by improving self-esteem, confidence and interpersonal relationships. When adults and children garden together, it is well known that children feel more useful, productive and possess a profound sense of belonging. Organic gardening and playing outside teaches children how to nurture and respect all life forms, from the tiniest insect to their gardening helpmates. The mind and spirit of a child is a lot like wet cement. When a child is young, it takes little effort to make an impression that can last a lifetime.
Think about what it means to be a child growing up in today’s media driven society, inundated with technologies that distract them from a close connection with nature and their community. We are spending more time communicating with each other through cell phones and computers, rather than quality face-to-face time with our friends and family. Nature captivated the imagination of older generations, but now many of our youth are lured indoors with a bombardment of media driven messages telling them what to wear and how to live. We’ve become disconnected with our natural areas, whether it is a garden, woodland, field or ponds edge, and many do not even realize what they are missing. One of the greatest benefits of gardening and of unstructured outdoor recreation is that it doesn’t cost anything. Because organic gardening and nature exploration are free, or very inexpensive, there is no major economic interest involved. Rather than allowing media to manipulate and define our youth with profit focused messages of self absorbed materialism, let us help to guide our youth towards the ever enriching outdoors, filled with adventure and age-old positive life lessons.
Organic gardening helps children to develop practical skills that they can use throughout their lives, while reducing their exposure to dangerous and persistent garden chemicals, such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. More crucial now than any other time in history, we need to help reduce our children’s risk of exposure to harmful pesticides, which have been directly linked to ADHD and childhood cancer. While gardening organically, children are able to learn about plants, their environment and themselves. It begins now, here, and with you! We can all help to positively impact our youth by trying some of the suggestions below:
1. Build an edible organic garden together. Help to plan, plant, maintain, harvest, prepare and eat the fruits and vegetables that you grow together. Teach the children about the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetable grown organically. Let the children help make decisions regarding what to grow, and guide them to patiently and steadily culture the garden to final harvest. Take time together to savor the sweet, dripping flavor of your own summer plucked watermelon, or of the fresh picked asparagus stalks which can be easily snapped at ground level by hand and eaten raw. There are many edible and equally ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, vegetables and herbs, so it can be very exciting to explore new fruits, nuts, flowers, herbs, veggies and berries that could enhance your child’s gardening and culinary experience. If you do not have land or gardening knowledge, let the children join a farming camp at your local not-for-profit learning farm such as Gorman Farm (http://www.gormanfarm.org/) , Green Acres (http://www.green-acres.org/GAF_sitepages/GAF_MAIN/GAF_MAIN-Home.html) and Turner Farm (http://www.localharvest.org/turner-farm-M343).
2. Construct a compost pile together. Collect kitchen scraps, garden debris, lawn clippings, fallen leaves and animal manure from local livestock farms (if available), and mix all ingredients in a pile, tumbler, bin or other compost containment system. Allow children to see, touch and smell each material before it is incorporated into the compost pile, and then let them help to turn (or tumble) the compost to speed up decomposition. Once the compost is well broken down into a usable garden amendment, show the children how to incorporate compost into the soil around plants, making sure they get to work with their hands as much as possible. Children love learning that soil is alive and that we shouldn’t treat it like dirt.
3. Plant native Ohio flora in your yard and community together to encourage wildlife. From birds, bees, bats, butterflies and other bugs, children can help you integrate plants that predate European settlement in our area, many of which help cater to our abundance of local wildlife. By spending more time outdoors, children will begin to see and enjoy the infinite wonders our wild natural world has to offer. Television, computers and video games will never replace the enchanting chorus of frogs and toads belching in harmony along the rim of a muddy pond, or the song of a myriad of migrating birds as they flutter effortlessly amid the tree canopy of colorful autumn foliage. By learning to enjoy plants and wildlife, children become more competent and confident and are more likely to protect and preserve nature as they get older.
What greater gift can we give our children than the opportunity to care and share and to be a positive force in their community? The oldest children’s garden in the United States was built in 1914 at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and a quote printed from within the garden gates that resonates through the ages proclaims, “He is happiest who gathers power from the wisdom of a flower.” While simple, this passage magnifies the importance of interconnectedness with nature and humans. Together, we can nurture positive childhood development in our community through the support of organic gardening and outdoor activities. Share your love of gardening or nature with a child, and watch them bloom into a beautiful, loving adult. Please contact us at Marvin’s Organic Gardens to discuss ways we can help you and your community develop an organic children’s garden or build educational hiking trails through a local wooded area. Go organic. It’s only natural!
June 24, 2008
Throughout history, the story has repeated itself: Great civilizations have grown where soils were fertile enough to support high-density human communities, and fallen when soils could no longer sustain our rough treatment. Soil directly and indirectly affects agricultural productivity, water quality and climate. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the air we breathe, humanity depends on the very dirt beneath our feet. Biodiversity in the soil ranges in size from microscopic one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi and protozoa, to larger nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, insects, plant roots and small animals. This community of organisms help to break down and incorporate organic materials into the soil, convert nutrients into useable forms for plants, and help to hold carbon which might otherwise enter the atmosphere, potentially contributing to global warming. Healthy soils also contain an abundance of minerals, air, water and organic materials, all which are essential for healthy plant growth. We must learn to understand, respect and rebuild our soils, before this precious commodity degrades beyond repair.
The major threats to our soil, and ultimately our water is: over-intensive farming and gardening practices that arise from tilling, heavy machinery and the use of harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Soil compaction from heavy equipment reduces the soils air space and ability to take in water and nutrients. Compacted soils become hard when dry, and can restrict root growth and the activity of soil organisms. Deep tilling accelerates soil erosion, which ends up washing into our streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. When excessive nutrients from eroded soil enters waterways, algal bloom is stimulated to grow in abundance, and suck up most of the available oxygen as it breaks down. This process known as eutrophication, leads to death of aquatic life, and has created a “dead zone” in the mouth of the Mississippi river larger than the size of New Jersey. In addition to water degradation, a 1995 study published in Science concluded that in North America alone, the loss of soil from croplands in the form of erosion decreases agricultural productivity by about $27 billion per year. Lastly, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizer can not only over acidify the soil, but also destroy the very soil organisms that support healthy plant growth. Soil is being lost faster than it can naturally replenish itself, but the good news is that we can rebuild our soils and revitalize soil life.
Soil is the skin of our planet, and a vital living system. Too often we forget that soil sustains all life, and is arguably the most important natural resource we have. The more abundant, diverse forms of life we can nurture in the soil, the more fruitful and self-sustaining our crops and landscapes will be. Harvey Blatt, author of the 2004 book, America’s Environmental Report Card, points out that one heaping tablespoon of healthy soil contains up to nine billion living microorganisms, which is more than the human population of earth. Better known as the soil food web, this complex group of organisms bear the important task of breaking down toxic pollutants and purifying water as it passes through the soil. Other roles include increasing the soils porosity, which improves air and water movement, as well as increasing the soils ability to bind, which can lessen the damaging affects of soil erosion. There is constant interaction among the organisms living in the soil. The few “bad” soil organisms are kept in check by the vast diversity of beneficial organisms, wherein keeping healthy soils in balance for optimum plant growth with the least amount of effort to upkeep them. If we do our part to encourage healthier soils, the organisms of our soils will flourish, and work even harder to help us build more nutrient rich crops, cleaner water and bigger, brighter blooms in our gardens.
We can increase the health of our soils, and ultimately the productivity of landscape plants and crops with a few simple techniques. Most soil organisms like cool, moist conditions, which are enhanced by the addition of mulch, plants of all sorts or lawns. Such groundcovers also help to hold soil, which lessens the affects of soil erosion. Also, the addition of well-aged compost can add organic matter back into the soils. The more diverse the ingredients that are incorporated into a compost pile results in a greater diversity of nutrients and soil organisms in the end product that is ready to be applied to your lawn and garden areas. Compost ingredients such as plant debris and manure should be aged for at least one year before being applied to such areas. Reducing the amount of tilling in one’s garden areas also help to reduce the loss of organic matter. Leave all landscape plant and crop residues in your bed areas through the winter to help reduce erosion in otherwise barren areas, as well as providing habitat for over wintering beneficial insects. Such plant debris can be removed in the spring to encourage soil temperatures to warm faster, which can increase early season plant growth. All over the world, a great portion of our useable soils are worn out, depleted and close to death. These soils possess the ability to be restored to maximum productivity. We need to continue to work together to enrich our soils and treat them as living communities of organisms that can enrich all life that stands a top them. Only when we stop treating our soils like dirt, will civilizations such as ours be able to sustain themselves permanently.