Monday, July 26, 2010

Dyeing with Japanese Indigo

We were able to start Japanese Indigo (polygonum tinctorium) in the Toledo Botanical Garden greenhouse this year, which gave us about 75 beautiful seedlings to transplant to the Glenwood Garden where we work and play with students from local summer camps.

After the indigo was about a foot and a half tall, we harvested the plant, breaking it about 2/3 down the stalk (the bottom leaves will regrow for another harvest). We then stripped the leaves, rinsed them, and cut them into tiny pieces-- what you see Felicia and Heather doing above.

The cut leaves were put in a bin of cold water and stirred. After a half hour, the water started turning a spinach green, and a few minutes after that, began to get bluer. Magic from a plant! At this point the Boys and Girls Club students came, so they squeezed out the leaves to put in a new bucket of cold water, and put the pre-soaked wool yarn into the bin.


-- Pause for a shout-out --

The wool was acquired at a small farm that Brian and I encountered while driving through Indiana-- the Haxtons at Dor Galen raise goats, lamas, chickens, and breed sheep! Lorraine spins the wool on a traditional spinning wheel, and the yarn is beautiful and smells like sheep. We bought two varieties, a white wool from a Scottish Blackface/Hornet Dorset cross, and a darker brown from a Romney. I hope that some of the former came from this lady, as her name is Chunky Buns. Check out Dor Galen farm at

An hour after the wool was put in the bin, we took it out and put it in the second (identical) dye bath for another 45 minutes or so, squeezed out the water, and voila! I find it incredible that an otherwise unobtrusive green leafy plant that looks like a cross between a pepper and ladysthumb can create such a beautiful color!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

GreenCorps' first rain garden installation

Our first rain garden was put in on the corner of Oneida and Locust streets in downtown Toledo, where rain water collects from a 1.5 acre area, often flooding the corner. It is also across the street from the Oneida Greenhouse, one of Toledo GROWs' main work sites that is daily buzzing with human, chicken, turkey, bee, worm, microorganism, plant, and soon tilapia activity.
The above plans were drawn up by Lucas County Soil and Water's exceptional Urban Conservationist and GreenCorps partner Jeff Grabarkiewicz. The first step was to dig out the entire area of the garden, following the plans so that the final elevations would be lower than the street and water would flow into the garden.

The back-dug area was then filled with 8 square yards each of compost and sand and 4 of topsoil, which the GreenCorps team mixed and spread, forming a layer of quality growing medium at 8-12 inches deep (we were shooting for at least 6 inches, and the "soil" originally in the area was some of the worst fill dirt I've seen, so it worked out pretty well).

We made sure to mound the edges to create berms in order to keep the water in the garden. These will be planted with grasses to prevent erosion.

Jeff G used a level to check the final elevations, making sure the garden was below street level.

The inlet was filled with rocks (dug from the area during the initial step) to collect debris flowing into the garden. It sits at the high end of the Locust St. side of the garden, where water often forms a small stream along the curb. The next step was to lay out the plants (donated by Broadbeck Greenhouse and purchased from the wonderful Naturally Native Nursery), paying attention to both aesthetic design and quantity of water the different species prefer.

Then was the most satisfying part: planting! Next to Shabboz is a bucket of water, which we used to "mud the hole," a process, taught by Allison and Olga, of digging a hole, scratching the sides, filling it with water to create a mud, and then planting. This ensures as little stress as possible as the transplant moves into its new home.

We then flagged all of the new plants to ensure their safety and mulched the area for moisture retention and to cut back on weeds. We'll water the garden daily until the plants are established, and keep an eye on how water flows into the garden after the first few rains (which seem to be few and far between these days).
If you're interested in installing a rain garden on your property (every garden, no matter how small, helps prevent the city's storm sewers from backing up and thus keeps clean our precious Maumee and Erie), or to learn more about he advantages of rain gardens, check out

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blade article on GROWs' Green Corps

Youths help make Toledo greener

Youths in the Lucas County Green Jobs Corps [via Toledo GROWs] helped Toledo's Division of Environmental Services and other agencies Tuesday carry out the Green Streets Toledo Program, which was begun in April with nearly $1 million in grant funding from the state and federal governments.

(read the rest of the article here)

Blade article on composting

Don't trash that banana peel - composting is an easy, eco-friendly alternative
Recycling is certainly not a new concept. In fact, gardeners have been using one form of recycling - composting - for about as long as people have tilled the soil. Composting is a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to give your garden a boost.

(read the rest of the article here)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Art Corner Toledo

Art Corner Toledo is a community-development-via-the-arts project spearheaded by Independent Advocates' Rachel Richardson.

The vision is of transforming space in the community through collaborations between artists, passionate non-profit organizations and community stakeholders.

The uptown garden at the corner of Jackson and 14th (pictured above) is the setting for the first effort.

It started when Har Simrit-Singh, productive visual artist rooted in a holistic approach to peace, met with Rasean Snodgrass, contributor to the Staff of Toledo GROWs blog.

As a neighbor of the garden and an employee of Toledo GROWs' youth job program, Rasean shared his experience building the garden from scratch over a year ago and the kind of ideas and attitudes that have formed as a result of maintaining a green space right outside his window.

Rasean's story of maturing through the process of caring for a garden in his community is the basis for Har's forthcoming work.

Check out ACT's blog to follow the project.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wedding at Glenwood Garden!

The union of two Old West End creatives = a local, sustainable wedding. Check out the couple's wedding blog to get a sense of the kind of decisions made to produce this inexpensive and cutting edge take on an ancient institution.

Congratulations Anneliese & Toby!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Guest speaker Malik Yakini on food security, Wednesday June 30 @ Glenwood Lutheran

Wednesday, June 30, 6:30pm @ Glenwood Lutheran Church (2545 Monroe St.)

Malik Yakini is chairman of the Detroit Food Policy Council, chairman of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, executive director of Nsoroma Institute and recipient of the 2006 Administrator of the Year award given by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

This presentation is free and open to the public.

Below is a video of Mr. Yakini giving a tour of D-Town Farm, one of the best-practices of urban farming in Detroit and a favorite stop on the annual Detroit Garden Tour.