Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

How Green Was My Garden: Goodnight Garden


Tucked in for the Winter (Pamz2)

Tucked in for the Winter (Pamz2)

Putting your garden to bed is never a fun garden chore.  I am in the process of doing mine and I speak from experience. But it is a necessary one and there are certain things to keep in mind to ensure a happier spring. Peat Wilcutt, famous is conducting a seminar on proper techniques for putting your garden to bed for the winter as well as planing garlic and other fall crops.   Details of the seminar below:


Famous Chickens in the City Instructor, Peat Wilcutt, will provide you with the tools to have a proactive approach to perennial and vegetable winter gardening

Date:      Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Time:      6:30pm
Where:      Urban Earth Cooperative
Topics included:
Winter gardening
setting up a cold frame
planting fall crops such as garlic
cover crops

Space is limited so reserve now for Peats class tonight, October 20th!
To pre-register call Urban Earth at 612-824-0066
$10 for members
$15 for nonmembers
Each student will receive a free heirloom garlic bulb for planting.
Urban Earth Cooperative
910 W. 36th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Breaking the law and ruining the environment for charity?

Only in Wisconsin. It’s reported that Western Wis. bar plans charity Favre burn

The Milwaukee Burger Co. says patrons can bring in their Favre jerseys, pictures, posters and memorabilia and toss them into the barrel. The bar plans to donate $10 to an unspecified charity for each piece burned

Though, a quick search of a Wisconsin Gov’t website shows

Smoke from burning garbage stinks, can trigger asthma attacks and contains toxic compounds. Open burning of household solid wastes also is illegal with limited exceptions For example, it is illegal to burn all plastic materials, kitchen wastes, dirty or wet paper wastes, treated or painted wood, furniture and demolition material – or any other material that creates a nuisance. The exceptions include (if not prohibited by local ordinance) lawn and garden debris, small quantities of clean, untreated, unpainted wood and clean paper waste that is not recyclable

It then goes on to suggest Alternatives

Reuse: Reuse household items and give toys, clothes and furniture that you no longer want or need to someone who can use them.

Recycle: It’s the law in Wisconsin to recycle plastic, glass, metal, newspaper and cardboard. Take your recyclables to the recycling center closest to your house if there is no roadside recycling pick-up.

So unless the Favre pictures, posters and memorabilia are made out of clean paper and don’t have any plastic they cannot be burned by law. Also, it appears that burning clothing may also be against the law.

Why can’t this stuff be given to a charity that will reuse and recycle?


How Green Was My Garden: Master of your Domain, or at least your Garden

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Program in Hennepin County is looking for a few good gardeners!  They are looking for Hennepin County residents with a variety of gardening experiences; previous volunteer experience; good communication skills, including public speaking and leadership skills.  More information can be found on their website —  

Terry Straub
Program Coordinator
University of Minnesota Extension
Hennepin County Master Gardener Program
479 Prairie Center Drive
Eden Prairie, MN   55344-5378
P:  612.596.2130
F:  952.828.7280
Preferred E-mail at:
Hennepin County Master Gardener Hotline:  612.596.2118

Become a Master Gardener!  Applications are now on-line at

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Marcus Tullius Cicero

How Green Was My Garden: Matina Mystery Gets Nuttier

After last week posting my Matina Mystery about the strange green globes growing on my Matina tomato vine to the COMGAR mailing list and here on this blog and on twitter I’ve received several suggestions as to what they may be, from tomatillos gone wrong, or perhaps plant galls.  But I thought the best way to get to the heart of this mystery would be to cut into the fruit abnormalities and see what really was inside.

Tomato walnut2Tomato Walnut

Well it answered one question, only to create another great big one.

Tomato walnut3

They’re NUTS!  More specifically, something resembling walnuts.  So now the mystery is, how does a walnut grow on a tomato plant?  I understand cross pollination but never in a million years could have thought a sweet little bumble bee flitting about my tomato plant could deposit a bit of walnut pollen on my tomato plant and it would grow an actual nut right there on the tomato vine!!

And then, the other question is, what should I call this new interesting variety of nut, the Walmato? Waltina?

How Green Was My Garden: Matina Mystery

Mystery tomatoes 001While picking my Matina organic tomatoes today I came across two shriveled up globes that I thought were just rotten or fungally affected tomatoes but when I went to pick them I found they were hard firm fruit with an aroma similar to sage. I have never in all my years of gardening seen anything like this grow from a tomato plant.

They are almost alien like and reminiscent of hedge balls you can purchase as a natural repellent for spiders in your home.

If anyone has any information to help me identify these strange tomato plant formations please let me know, I don’t know whether I am more intrigued or afraid at this point.  The Matinas are still producing wonderfully, and there were even juicy red tomatoes on the same vine and bunch as these strange green creatures.  There are only two that I can see out of three plants so far but it is indeed a Matina Mystery I would like solved.

Mystery tomatoes 003

How Green Was My Garden: Local Food and Two Movies

For those who appreciate community gardening and healthy food there is an upcoming two-film event at the Riverview that may be of interest.  Sponsored by Gardening Matters and Midtown Farmers market these two films are good documentaries regarding food and gardening issues that are pertinent in today’s environment.

Below is the announcement and information on the two-film event at the Riverview Theater.

Celebrating Local Food, Creating Permanent Community Spaces Gardening Matters and the Midtown Farmers Market invite you to a two-part film event:

The Garden
Wednesday, September 9th – 7p.m.
Riverview Theater

Food Fight
Wednesday, September 16th – 7 p.m.
Riverview Theater

Do we value our community spaces?  How do community gardens and farmers markets impact our ability to nourish ourselves and the neighborhoods in which we live?  What can and should be done to protect these spaces for the benefit of the common good?
The gardenThe Garden: In 1992, neighbors working together to grow food, feed families, build community, and repair blight established The Garden, a 14-acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles.  It became the largest community garden in the United States.  But behind closed doors at City Hall, the Garden was sold to a developer for less than fair-market value.  The Garden, an Oscar-nominated documentary by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, follows a group of urban farmers, mostly immigrants from Latin America, as they organize, fight back, and demand answers. View the trailer at

Food FightFood Fight: When we walk into a supermarket, it’s easy to believe we are in the midst of the widest possible selection of wholesome foods available.  Don’t be fooled: Chris Taylor’s film Food Fight documents how over the course of the 20th century, our food system has been co-opted by corporations whose interests aren’t always in providing our families with fresh, healthy, and sustainably-produced food.  But there are alternatives: beginning with the 1960’s counter-cultural revolution, Taylor’s film features some of the folks who have been taking our nation’s food production back into their own hands through innovative urban agriculture projects, schoolyard gardens, locally provisioned restaurants, and community farmers markets. View the trailer at

Featured Speakers: Following each film there will be a brief presentation/panel discussion to address the issues raised by the films. Chris Taylor, director of Food Fight will be at the screening on the 16th to discuss the documentary & answer questions from the audience. Additional speakers to be announced.

Tickets for both shows are $10 at the door, no advance sales.

Doors open at 6:30pm.

The Riverview is located at 3800 42nd Avenue South, Minneapolis, 55406.

Sponsored by the Midtown Farmers Market & Gardening Matters, with support from our Promotional Partners:  Birchwood Cafe, Common Roots Café, Environmental Justice Advocates of MN, Headwaters Foundation for Justice, Land Stewardship Project, MN Food and Justice Alliance, Peace Coffee, and Seward Co-op.

Please contact Jesse ( with any questions and we hope to see you there!

The Garden Facebook Page

Celebrating Local Food/Protecting Community Spaces Film Facebook Event Page

Film event


Issues like these are important to our community.  Locally, the Soo Line Community Garden in Minneapolis just received notice that they are considering the area for rezoning. Community meetings regarding the rezoning are being held August 31, September 1 and September 2.  All three will be in the Midtown Exchange building (920 E Lake St) from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.  A the same presentation will be given at 7:00 PM at each meeting.

Organizers have said that at present, the Soo Line Garden’s land has split zoning,  with half zoned residential (R2B) and half industrial (I1) which was was created 15 years ago at the request of the Whittier Alliance and the South Whittier Land Use Task Force to create an obstacle to possible development (one half would have to be rezoned before any project could go forward).  As part of the Midtown Greenway Rezoning Study it is now proposed that the lot where the Soo Line Community Garden lies  be zoned R1A, Single Family Residential.

Say Soo Line Community Garden leaders “We would like to see the City adopt an open space zoning category so that the zoning code can reflect the intended use of the land. Until such a category can be created we support the rezoning to R1A as the option which offers the best protection against any future development threat.”

While there is no immediate threat to the SLCG and it was not individually singled out for the rezoning, the organizers are requesting supporters to participate in the meetings so that the garden’s interests can be protected and any future threat minimized.

For further information on the rezoning meetings or the Soo Line Community Garden you can contact Russell Raczkowski (

Soo Line Garden: Annual or Perennial

Celebrating Local Food / Protecting Community Spaces Film Series

How Green Was My Garden: Homegrown Tomatoes

“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.” – Guy Clark

Garden 007

After a long wait finally this summer’s tomato crop is coming in! You may find it strange that for a gardener who grows so many fresh tomatoes, I actually don’t enjoy fresh tomatoes myself.  For some reason I have never been able to enjoy the taste of a raw tomato; I need it doctored in salsa or sauce. But that is fine because I grow not only for myself, but for others, and I also plant enough varieties of tomatoes to ensure I have enough tomatoes for all my cooking endeavors as well.

This year seems to have produced a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, though they are late.  I thought for a while I was only growing tomato vines, and not fruit, and then only green tomatoes, but this recent spate of hot weather has started to turn the green fruit red, finally.

Garden 006

The old standbys are doing well, Sweet 100, Rainbow Cherry, San Marzano, Roma, Amish Paste, Double Rich & Robrecco Paste. But this year I tried a new one organic tomato called “Matina” from Thomson & Morgan which has been an outstanding success.  I grew all my tomatoes from seed this year except the Amish Paste which I get each year from Mother Earth Gardens.

Tomato Matina

Tomato Matina

Other than the Amish Paste & Matina, I did not grow any heirlooms this year, choosing instead to grow more tomatoes for canning and roasting and saucing.  The Matina has been a huge suprise with the volume of yield and how wonderful they are for a nice salad or sandwich slicing tomato.  I even made a fantastic bruchetta with them and plan on using them in a nice salsa as well.  With the continued production of the plants there will also be some canning of them I am sure.

Surprise compost tomato

Surprise compost tomato

One of the surprises I received in my garden this year was a tomato plant that grew next to my compost bin. Obviously it was a plant that seeded itself from one of the plants I placed in the bin last year and somehow one of the tomatoes escaped. It appears to be a cherry tomato so the good news is it has enough time to yield perhaps a few fruits.

I am afraid to write that so far I have avoided many problems with tomato blight or disease for fear that I will jinx myself. Other areas of the country are experiencing severe bouts of tomato and potato blight.  The worst I have seen so far (knock on wood) is some blossom end rot on a potted tomato from uneven watering.  But now that it is warmer and more humid fungal diseases can start to take hold more easily so I will likely keep an eye on the plants, trim any leaves that show signs of yellowing or brown spots and use and organic fungicidal spray if necessary.

Because we also still are behind as far as the growing season goes I think I may look into building some form of greenhouse for my tomatoes to extend the season, some way to encase my raised bed in a big plastic tent to allow the temperature to be a bit warmer once the cooler fall temperatures arrive.

In the meantime, I will be enjoying this wonderful harvest of fresh tomatoes.  I’ve even  invested in a few kitchen gadgets over the years like my Wüsthof-Trident Tomato knife to my Tomato Press to make processing the tomatoes even easier.

One of my favorite food television programs was Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” where he specialized in cooking meals straight from his organic garden.  He had an entire episode devoted to tomatoes where he cooked a tomato salad, fusilli with salsa rossa cruda, an oven baked sausage ragu and pale pink tomato and vodka consomme. I think I’ll be tapping into that on the old Tivo soon.  But the other surprise I had in my garden has been a second yield of asparagus, only a handful of spears, but it was a fun discovery nonetheless.  And the discovery means I’ll be making one of my other favorite Jamie Oliver recipes for dinner this week, Chicken with asparagus & cherry tomatoes.  I have a lovely little chicken breast from Braucher Sunshine Harvest Farms that will be perfect for it.

I am not want for recipes or ideas that is for certain. I know Andy Williams says that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but it is hard to beat tomato season!

One Day of Cherry Tomatoes

One Day of Cherry Tomatoes

One perfect Matina

One perfect Matina

How Green Was My Garden: Everyone loves a Parade OR It’s all about Community

From our friends at Gardening Matters comes this announcement:

The Minneapolis Parade of Community Gardens is August 22nd.   It will be a wonderful kick off to National Community Gardening Week that was declared by the US Department of Agriculture.   Minneapolis & St Paul City Councils will be passing resolutions proclaiming August 22nd as  “Community Garden Day”, honoring each and every community garden and the hard work that everyone contributes to making these green spaces community assets.

It is important to show support for these resolutions being put forth by the cities so if you have an opportunity to stop by the City Council meetings this week please do so.

The entire process takes only 15-30minutes.  Quick and Easy. Let the city council know just how important these green spaces are to our neighborhoods.  You won’t need to say anything — your presence will say it all.

Minneapolis City Council Meeting
Friday, August 14, 2009
9:30 a.m.
300 5th St
Council Chambers, Room 317 City Hall, Minneapolis

St Paul City Council Meeting
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
3:30 p.m.
15 Kellogg W Blvd
Council Chambers, Third Floor City Hall, Saint Paul

The International Outreach Church Community Garden in Burnsville is working on a City of Burnsville Resolution also! Right on!! Date of Resolution TBA.

Parade of Community Garden brochures can be found at or call 612-492-8964!


Dowling Community Garden

I have had the joy of growing up next door to the Dowling Community Garden all my life, and while my own backyard is large enough that I do not need the space of a community garden, I enjoy walking by every day and watching the crops and flowers grow, and my neighbors tending to their plots.  I speak with many of them at Mother Earth Gardens each spring about what they are going to plant and during the summer we commiserate about the lack of rain.  Community Gardens are a most wonderous thing and there are not nearly enough of them in the Twin Cities, though we are fortunate that there are far more here than other cities,  as the Parade will attest.   Each year it is such a thrill to see how many more have been added to the Parade.

Community Gardens are not just enjoyable for me, there is research that more and more people are enjoying them. The makers of Scotts Miracle Gro (they do make an organic product now at least, and their research was insightful), sponsored a comprehensive white paper on gardening in America.   In it they state  “Among households that don’t currently participate in food gardening, 3 percent would be extremely interested and 4 percent would be very interested in having a plot in a community garden located near their home. That translates to an estimated 5 million households that would like to garden in a community garden in the future, compared to the 1 million households that are current community gardeners.”

Five million additional people could be joining the community gardening movement if we could only find safe and clean spaces for them.  And not only could this be helpful in creating a further sense of community, providing safe, healthy produce, and an enjoyable activity for the family, but according to a 2006 study by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University & the New York School of Law:  “The opening of a community garden has a statistically significant positive impact on residential properties within 1000 feet of the garden, and that the impact increases over time.  We also find that higher quality gardens have the greatest positive impact.  Finally, we find that gardens have the greatest impact in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Community Gardens can increase your property value,  more and more people want to participate, they provide an economical source of fresh produce that is good for the environment and on top of all that, gardening is good exercise and is one of the most enjoyable activities imaginable.  So if you can, please go to your City Council meeting, or send your regards to your representative in support of National Community Gardening Week and Community Gardening Day. Because with more support from our government, perhaps more of those 5 million people nationwide can have that chance to participate in this great activity known as Community Gardening.  Maybe one of them is you!

For more information on how to start a Community Garden, the American Community Gardening Association is a wonderful resource as is of course, Gardening Matters mentioned above.  The City of Minneapolis also has the specific details on rules for starting a Community Garden on their website.

Totally Doin’ It with Art and Emily: Fresh Taste Festival

We went to the second annual Fresh Taste Festival, an “organic, sustainable food and wine event” put on by Minnesota Monthly.

Art’s Part

While I truly enjoyed the Fresh Taste Festival, for me this was an exercise in fantasy. The tickets cost $55 each, which I would never have been able to afford had Emily not won them. And even with the cost absorbed by the fact that the tickets were won and not purchased, nearly all the foods I tried were organic or otherwise boutique, which means they were mostly cost prohibitive on my nonprofit wage.

But as far as exercises in fantasy go, this one was pretty great. I got to see people and be seen by people, I got to be outside (sometimes) on a perfect August day, I got a pretty sweet commemorative wine glass, and I got to gorge myself on interesting and not so interesting foods.

The biggest surprise was a habanero-based spread. It did not singe my mouth; rather, it left a pleasant warmth on the sides of my tongue unlike any other kind of spicy food I’ve ever eaten. This came from Kayak Kitchens, which does not have a storefront, but which has a website. It’s all good.

This tasting gave me an excuse to confirm something I had long suspected: grass-fed beef is bogus. I was actually a little excited to try the hamburger patty they provided, but was let down to find the beef tasted normal at best and was actually a little chewy—NOT the buttery-soft supermeat I had been promised by oh so many hippies.

The chef demonstrations went at such a pace that I don’t even know if they were interesting because I got up after 20 minutes due to it being boring crap and not actually a demonstration of how to cook food. Live chef demonstrations are dumb in general though, so there you have it.

Overall, I’d say I really enjoyed this event, but I don’t know that I’d make a point to save $55 for it. If I had $55 lying around, I’d definitely make it back, no question. If you need more convincing to go next year, the proceeds do go to Minnesota Public Radio! (But considering all the new stations they’re opening all over the state, I think they might be able to get by without your $55 donation just this once.)

Emily’s Part

I’ll preface my review by saying that I won two tickets to this event via Minnesota Monthly’s brand new Twitter account. I’m very interested in food and wine, especially sustainable and organic food and wine, but $55 in advance and $65 at the door?

I don’t have a job, people.

But anyway, when I saw that they were giving away pairs of tickets to basically the first ten people to ask for them, I jumped at the chance to go.

So Sunday morning, with our stomachs empty and our hopes high, we got on the bus and headed to Nicollet Island for the event.

After a bit of a snafu at will call (no one seemed to have informed them of the 20 tickets that were given away via Twitter), we were handed our passes, a wine glass (one of their goals is to make it a waste free event, so we rinsed and reused the glasses) and a free subscription to Minnesota Monthly (score; I love magazines!)

Then we went on our way to try some food and wine.

Which, for the most part, was very good, and most of the exhibitors were knowledgeable and excited to talk about their offerings. Some particular standouts were butter from the Hope Creamery (no idea butter could taste that good) and Haute Habanero Paste (I don’t know who came up with the idea to put it in pumpkin bread, but I want to kiss him or her on the mouth).

I also didn’t mind trying a few varieties of Flat Earth beer, which was being distributed at a booth that was also offering massages and chocolate. That’s excellent planning.

And, though they weren’t feeding me, I had to respect the people from Tap Minneapolis, who were very enthusiastically extolling the virtues of our city’s tap water and pointing out the many ways in which drinking bottled water sort of makes you an a-hole (but being nicer about it than me).

So anyway, let’s get to the bottom line.

Did I have a great day?

Would I have paid $55 for it?

Would I be willing to pay $55 for it someday in the future when I have a job and a little more disposable income?

How Green Was My Garden: Its not over until the Fat Lady Sings about Sustainable Agriculture

People have been singing to their plants for years. And there have even been scientific studies on the effects of music on plant growth.   Now there is a traveling Opera being performed in local Community Gardens in the Twin Cities. Mixed Precipitation is presenting  Orpheus and Eurydice: a picnic operetta,  “a celebration of the sustainable foods system with brave mortals, a three headed-dog, tear-jerking lovers and locally sourced food samplings.”

Roland Hawkins II and Meredith Cain-Nielsen encounter the unexpected during their musical picnic (photo credit-Brad Dahlgaard)

Mixed Precipitation is also hosting a Brunch Benefit at the Bedlam Theater

Saturday August 15th 11:00–1:30
Sunday August 16th 11:00–1:30

Featuring  live music by Karen Townsend, others and a champagne toast to ecological design and backyard barnyards. Leave with a few gardening tips from master gardeners!

Bedlam Theatre is located at 1501 S 6th St, Mpls

This production is directed by Scotty Reynolds and features the spirited music direction of Erik Pearson, dynamic choreography of Taja Will and the work of culinary interludes of collaborating chef Nick Schneider of Café Brenda

Suggested donation: $10 to $40

Community Garden Schedule:

Sat. August 29th 4:00 at the Birchwood Community Garden

(2544 Hwy 100 South in St. Louis Park, behind Reformation Lutheran Church)

***audio description provided at this performance

Sunday August 30th at the JD River’s Children’s Garden

(Glenwood and Washburn Ave in Theodore Wirth Park, Mpls)

Saturday September 5th on Nicollet Island

(Maple Place and Nicollet Street)

Saturday September 12th 4:00 at the Columbus Community Garden

(33rd and Columbus Ave, Minneapolis)

Sunday September 13th 4:00 at Celeste’s Dream Community Garden

(1880 Randolph Ave, outside the Sister of St. Joseph Carondelet, St. Paul)

Saturday September 26th 4:00 at the Augsburg Community Garden

(20th Avenue and 6th Street, Mpls)

Sunday September 27th 4:00 at the Midway Green Spirit Community Garden

(at the intersection of Taylor and Hamline Avenue and Pierce Butler)

Tickets:  612.619.2112

$10–$20 Suggested Donation  (no one will be turned away for lack of funds)

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