Monday, November 22, 2010

The activities of HMEG

I am proud to be a part of the energized neighbors of the Hamline Midway neighborhood who "show-up". Here is a list of the outcomes achieved by Hamline Midway Environment Group (HMEG) folks over the past year. It was a busy, a fast paced year that was done in a flash. As fall came, we added up the HMEG activities and were wowed. This group is all volunteer, without regular organizational support. We are opportunistic and unwilling to pass up on doable actions. HMEG folks, you are a remarkable people!

2010 HMEG accomplishments

Community Gardens and Greening

  • A new community orchard was installed at Midway Greenspirit Garden. The grant application, orchard design, tool acquisition, tree ordering, installation and maintenance were completed by a wide cast of volunteers. The Orchard is sponsored by the St. Paul Garden Club who granted the money to Gardening Matters for this purpose.

  • Midway community garden sites coordinated efforts to get plant donations this year through the MN State Horticultural Society's MN Green donations. Selecting, driving, and planning happened across all gardens by volunteers.

  • A new garden leader for the Hamline-Thomas garden emerged, which continues an interesting cooperative model of rotating community garden leaders.

  • HMEG was supportive of a gateway planting installed along Snelling and Taylor Avenues. Connecting neighbors to people and resources to help breakthrough bureaucracy.

  • The Snelling Avenue planter project had a successful year due to new volunteer support and better business coordination through a switch to weekday morning events.

  • Horton Park community gardeners hosted a Girl Scout troop this season. The girls trimmed, weeded, planted all while learning a bit about native plants.

  • The Midway Greenspirit Garden hosted the 1st Annual Midway Plant Swap in October.

  • HMEG members participated in the Twin Cities wide effort to explore the creation of Local Foods Resource Hubs.

Community Events

  • HMEG members exhibited at the "Festival of Trees" event at Newell Park in May. Our table had information about the ash tree survey, Emerald Ash Borer, and more. Neighbor volunteers also helped with a bare-root tree planting of 30 trees in and near the park with the 4H kids.

  • HMEG also exhibited at Newell Park for a second back-to-back weekend in May. The Midway Folks Festival brought many neighbors by the HMEG tent to see tree/EAB information and pick-up a free organic "lawn care" sign for their yards (which were donated by the SE Como neighborhood).

  • Six Midway community gardens came together to put on the Bugs n' Bike Parade of Community Garden tour in August. Each site had bug themed activities and information.

  • HMEG hosted a bike event at the library this fall in conjunction with the 10-10-10 Global Workparty. The event included a bike drive and winter biking workshop.


  • The Tree Team acquired a $3,500 grant from Council Member Russ Stark and the COPP fund. This money was sought and used for tree distribution and information in the Midway.

  • HMEG solicited and received youth book donations about trees from Coughlan Companies. These books were donated to the St. Paul Public Library, with a set staying at the Hamline Midway branch.

  • The HMEG Tree team, supported by Metro State intern Tanner, executed a volunteer-driven residential ash tree survey determining the number of ash trees exist on private property trees. In the Midway, we have 10% ash trees on private property, which is lower than the public tree rate of 17%. This citizen science initiative is getting attention locally and nationally.

  • Tree Team held two fundraisers at Borders and 10,000 Villages to raise additional funds for the tree projects.

  • The Tree Team crew distributed over 60 FREE trees to Midway neighbors in the Fall and each recipient got mulch and tree care manual too.

Waste Reduction

  • HMEG sponsored a stint of recycling yogurt cups at Shirtz Unlimited. When Whole Foods added #5 recycling, the program transitioned to their collection.

  • HMEG published a bulletin about leaf recycling Also, volunteers worked with Hamline Hardware to offer fencing lengths that can be used to save leaves for composting/mulching.

  • HMEG continues to explore community compost & recycling maps and blogs hoping to create a waste reduction resource for our local needs.

And More...

  • A new HMEG logo was created printed on banners that were designed to be used with new event tablecloth created from reused, hand-dyed materials.

  • A leap forward in web presence with a new domain (which directs to the new HMEG Blog), a Facebook page, an updated HMC web page with fresh garden & HMEG content. The HMEG Blog came on the scene with many contributors writing about trees, energy conservation, waste reduction, community gardens and neighborhood events.

  • A relationship with Experiential College EXCO and the Hamline Midway Library Association was forged with the hope that classes on sustainable living are offered.

  • Promotion of a series Home Energy Workshops by Metro CERTS for the Hamline Midway neighborhood, that included Home Energy Squad visits to outfit homes with bulbs, weather stripping, thermostats, and more.

  • HMEG members were interviewed for film documentary called the 350 Solutions Revolution.

Support given to these projects came from Hamline Midway Coalition, Extension Service Master Gardeners & Tree Care Advisors, Home Energy Squad, Hamline University, EXCO, Sibley Bike Depot, Metro CERTS, St. Paul Forestry, Frogtown Gardeners, Metro State, Girl Scouts, Gardening Mattes, CM Russ Stark, St. Paul Garden Club, Hamline Hardware, Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply, Coughlan Companies, Borders, 10,000 Villages,, Sibley Bike Depot, Bike/Walk Ambassadors, 350 Solutions Revolution, SECIA, Hamline Midway Library Association

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No Tomato Tastin' at this year's Como Cookout

I am sorry to report that the 2010 Tomato Tastin' Experience scheduled for Sept., 19th at the Como Cookout is canceled. The outlook for tomato availability is poor. Chalk it up to a wet season that lead to lots of disease, and not enough consistently high temperatures to ripen fruit. We have reports of vines producing a few here and there, but the rest remain green, or the plants have succumbed to blight. The homegrown tomato dearth is an unexpected outcome with all the excitement in April of Minnesota's early spring warm-up. To see the past 6 years of results of the Tomato Tastin' Experience, sponsored by the OWLS Community Garden, check out this past post.

Those folks who planted some early producing, and determinate tomato varieties have had better luck at getting a bumper crop. Growing a diversity of crops and varieties wins out again! If you would like to augment your own crop, look-up a nearby farmer's market.

If you want to learn more about tomato diseases, look over this U of MN Extension bulletins:

Tomato Diseases

Early Blight of Tomatoes and Potatoes
Late Blight of Potato and Tomato
Nonparasitic Disorders of Tomatoes
Parasitic Diseases of Tomato
Tomato Anthracnose
Septoria Leaf Spot of Tomato
Verticillium Wilt of Tomato and Potato

Extension also has been supporting seed trials grown and reported by Master Gardeners. Tomatoes get a lot of attention during the seed trials and below summarizes their results which are published every year in The Northern Gardener magazine. Tomatoes of various kinds were tested against each other since 1988. Past winners are:

  • 1988 (determinate early): Celebrity VFNT hybrid
  • 1989 (determinate midseason): Mountain Pride VF hybrid
  • 1990 (cherry): Sweet Million FNTL hybrid
  • 1991 (paste): Square Paste
  • 1993 (yellow, orange, gold): Lemon Boy hybrid
  • 1994 (Beefsteak): Supersteak hybrid
  • 1995 (main season hybrid large red determinate): Celebrity Hybrid
  • 1998 (container types): Cherry Gold
  • 2000 ((indeterminate red hybrid main season): (tie) Park's Whopper and Big Boy
  • 2003 (heirloom varieties): Brandywine
  • 2005 (grape types): (tie) Juliet and Yellow Jelly Bean
  • 2007 (heirlooms): Pineapple
  • 2008 (slicing types - past winners): Lemon Boy
  • 2010 (paste): not yet evaluated

Several varieties selected as best by Master Gardeners have also been favorites at the Tomato Tastin' Experience (bolded above), a useful correlation for tomato fiends.

image credit: University of Minnesota

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hamline Midway Bugs n' Bikes Community Garden Tour

Spend the day biking between Hamline Midway gardens, participating in activities, eating wonderful food, and having a great time at the:

Hamline Midway Bugs n' Bikes Community Garden Tour Saturday, August 21st, 10 am – 2 pm

Part of the Gardening Matters “Parade of Community Gardens”

Here is the list of the SIX community gardens participating in Hamline Midway neighborhood and the exciting activities and events each site is planning. This day will celebrate these sites and the people who volunteer to make them happen. Lots of fun to be had right in the Midway!

Pump up those bike tires and chart your course:

41. Snelling Planters
755 Snelling Ave N

::Bug hat activity
::Composting information/demonstrations
::Sidewalk sale & free popcorn at Hamline Hardware

at Mosaic on a Stick
595 Snelling Avenue N

::Free community mosaic on a stick project 12-2pm

42. SPROUT Garden
1514 W Englewood Ave

::Bike check-ups, tune-ups, and education with Terri from Now Bikes and Fitness
::Bike Activity with Scott and Carrie from the Hamline Church
::Crafting project for kids!

43. Maxine Smith Rain Garden
Hamline Church-W Minnehaha Ave & N Simpson St.

::Rain garden information
::Capitol Region Watershed District staff present to answer questions on managing rain water runoff
::Face painting and cargo bike demonstration.

44. Midway GreenSpirit
W Pierce Butler Route & Hamline Ave N

::Check out the new orchard!
::Eat honey sweetened treats
::Ask Master Gardeners and beekeepers everything you ever wanted to know
::Beehive Demo at 1 pm; kids activities

45. Horton Park Gardens
W Minnehaha Ave & Hamline Ave N

::View beautiful native plant gardens
::Get questions about tree growing & emerald ash borer answered by experts
::Learn about the neighborhood tree inventory and how to get a free or low cost tree for your yard
::Refreshments and activities

46. Hamline Thomas Garden
Hamline Ave N & W Thomas Ave

::Information on monarch butterflies
::Learn the history of the garden – from decay to beauty!
::Come at 1:00 for a 15 minute lively and informative stuffed animal show by playwright, ::performer, and teacher Leslye Orr of Dreamland Arts.

Note: the numbers on the map correspond to the numbers above, which correspond to the listings posted at, which will correspond to the bright orange directional signs you will see on the Parade day. A poster/flier for the Bugs n' Bike Tour for printing can be found here.

This map can also be accessed online at Google Maps

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Entertainment, refreshments and photosynthesis all being arranged for the Parade of Community Gardens

This summer, I am assisting seven St. Paul and Minneapolis bring in neighbors, energy, entertainment, refreshments and photosynthesis together to celebrate and show-off as part of the Parade of Community Gardens. Why go to all this effort? Community gardeners are hard-working folks and by all means they need a day to reflect on their accomplishments and while we are at it, why not invite the neighborhood! The Parade is an awareness raising event, both for the state of Minnesota, and along the streets of each participating garden. Below is the media release from the event's organizer, Gardening Matters where the important role of community gardens in our neighborhoods is highlighted. See you on August 21st!

Gardening Matters Announces the 5th Annual Parade of Community Gardens
On August 21st, sixty-six community gardens in the Twin Cities Metro Area and Greater Minnesota will be on parade! Gardening Matters is proud to organize the 5th Annual Parade of Community Gardens, a state-wide garden “open house” intended for the public to get to know these important community spaces. Participating community gardens invite visitors to take a self-guided tour through their gardens, where they will be hosting celebrations as diverse and vibrant as the gardens themselves. Parade activities in 2010 include food samples, cooking demos, bike repair and composting workshops, youth-led yoga, art, and much more! Download a Parade Brochure for a complete listing of gardens and activities.
This year’s Parade is bigger and better than ever! The Parade is going virtual with all sixty-six gardens mapped on Gardening Matters’ Online Parade Directory, and gardeners will be Tweeting live from the gardens on Parade by tagging #GardenParade. Gardening Matters is also proud to partner with Bike Walk Twin Cities to create several biking and walking routes to gardens. In addition, BWTC is sponsoring a photo contest for pictures of biking or walking to gardens! The Parade of Community Gardens is sponsored by Seward Co-op in Minneapolis and Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville, who will be distributing coupons and prizes at participating community gardens in their areas. Info about these promotions is available at
Interest in community gardening has soared nation-wide in 2010 in light of recent environmental, economic, and health concerns. Gardening offers individuals the opportunity to improve personal and community health and their local environment, as well as decrease household food budgets. The health impacts of community gardens are particularly important, as childhood and adult obesity are at pandemic proportions: a recent report released by Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Minnesota Department of Health revealed that 60% of adult Minnesotans are overweight or obese, and 75% do not eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. Community gardens provide a social atmosphere and hands-on opportunity for people of all backgrounds, abilities and experiences to get exercise and access to fresh produce for themselves and their households. In addition, community gardens provide a supportive environment that encourages healthy behavior change.
Community gardening has also become increasingly popular in Minnesota in recent years. Gardening Matters received over 350 requests for community garden space in 2010. The demand for gardening space far outpaces the space available, in spite of the fact that many new community gardens are started every year. In fact, the number of community gardens in Minnesota has increased by at least 50% in recent years, from 200 to over 300. In 2010, both Minneapolis and St. Paul made public land available for community gardening, illustrating the importance of/demand for community gardens to both citizens and municipalities.
Minnesota and the Twin Cities have a rich history of community gardening, with more people participating in gardens over the long-term than most regions nationally. Gardening is not a hobby. It, along with our food traditions, is an important part of our cultural heritage and should be celebrated. The community aspect of community gardening also helps people connect and preserve these important traditions, as well as providing an opportunity for long-time gardeners to teach and share with gardeners who are just getting started.
Join Gardening Matters and the sixty six community gardens on parade in celebrating these valuable neighborhood assets! Gardens on the Parade come in all shapes in sizes, and are located in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Community gardens truly offer something for everyone, and bring many benefits to their neighbors and neighborhoods – take advantage of these neighborhood spaces by celebrating in a community garden near you!
Gardening Matters is a non-profit organization dedicated to successful, sustainable community gardening and the enhancement of neighborhood-based urban agriculture. Gardening Matters programming supports community garden sustainability and places community gardens at the core of a support system for increased home-based food production and neighborhood beautification. In the last five years, Gardening Matters has helped over 2000 people start or join a community garden. Read more about the multiple benefits of community gardening and get a snapshot of community gardening in Minnesota.
Parade of Community Gardens
Date/time: Saturday, August 21st from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Rain or shine.
Location: Community gardens throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area, Dakota County, Chaska, Rogers, and Mankato! Download the brochure for a map and listing of participating gardens.

Six Hamline-Midway Community Gardens participating in the 5th Annual Parade of Community Gardens!

Bike, walk, run, skate, drive if need be to explore and celebrate a variety of green spaces and the bugs that help them grow on the Hamline-Midway Bugs n’ Bikes Community Garden Tour! Saturday, August 21 10am-2pm, six Hamline-Midway community gardens will offer fun, educational, and creative activities and treats for all ages as part of the 5th annual Parade of Community Gardens. Stop by any location to start your tour and pick up a map and schedule of events. Locations include:
  • Hamline-Thomas Community Garden at Hamline and Thomas Avenues
  • Hamline United Methodist Church at 1514 Englewood Ave
  • SPROUTS Community Gardens at 1514 Englewood Ave
  • Horton Park at Minnehaha and Hamline Avenues
  • Midway GreenSpirit Community Garden off of Pierce Butler between Hamline Avenue and Albert Street
  • Snelling Avenue Planters at Hamline Hardware at 755 Snelling Ave N

For further information or to get involved with these Midway garden sites and their events, please email

Friday, June 4, 2010

Recycle your garden pots through October 1st

You have got your seedlings transplanted (mostly) and now have a pile of greenhouse plastic. It's a good idea to reuse pots, trays, or baskets whenever possible to save money and reduce waste. However, the volume of pots can add up and these plastics can not be set out for curbside recycling pickup. You do have an easy recycling option set-up by the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association and Choice Plastics. Select garden centers will accept plastic pots, trays, and hanging baskets for recycling from April 15th through October 1st. Just bring clean, plastic garden pots to the registered drop sites listed on the MNLA website. (Please note that some sites will take pots only on June 19-20 and September 18-19.)

• Do not bring household plastic or clay pots.
• Dump all soil and remove metal hangers.
• Your garden center will only take plastic for a limited time. Ask a staff person for more details.

The nearby locations to SE Como, Minneapolis & the Midway, St. Paul appear to be Linder's Garden Center - 270 W Larpenteur Ave, Roseville, MN 55113 & Mother Earth Gardens - 3738 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The importance of native pollinators

The Midway community gardens are hatching a plan for the August event called the Parade of Community gardens on 8/21/2010. Its too soon to let you know about all the fun details, but it will involve six Midway community garden sites, and will give visitors a peek at pollinators. Even in our urban area, pollinators are vital. In this photo, my Leadplant is being visited by bees. at the Midway Greenspirit garden, the beehive there are increasing yields of tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, , raspberries, apples, melons, sunflowers, pumpkins, plums, and squash both in the garden and for miles around. Native pollinators can be even more efficient at the job, such as bumblebees increasing yields even more. The Xerces Society is an organization looking into the importance of invertebrates. Below is some quality information from Xerces on how to encourage native pollinators which were developed for roadsides. While a small residential urban yard may need to be selective from this list of practices, most are applicable for our cities too. I see it in my own yard and in my community gardens regularly. Xerces research show that using native plants in a landscape can double the number of bee counts and increase the types of bees found there by 35%. So you want to get the most out of your food production gardens? Plant for the bees too!

From Xerces:

Eighty-seven of the world’s 124 most commonly cultivated crops are insect/animal pollinated. Between 60 to 80% of the world’s 250,000 flowering plants depend on animals for pollination.
In the United States, the National Research Council (2007) reported noteworthy losses of both managed and wild pollinators. Habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, parasites, and the spread of invasive species are the major causes of pollinator decline. Threats to pollinator communities affect not only pollinators themselves but also natural ecosystems and agricultural productivity.

Key design factors & practices to enhance flower diversity for bee habitat around farms, gardens or roadsides include:

Planting choices
1) Use native wildflowers and grasses, with high densities of flowers.
2) Plant a minimum of 3 blooming plant species during each season.
3) Aim for season-long blooming plants, early and late season blooming plants are especially important.
4) Plant a range of wildflowers of varying colors and shapes. Bees mainly visit blue, white, yellow, and purple flowers.
5) Plant flowers in single species clumps for best results.

Providing Nest Sites
6) Warm season, clump-forming grasses provide bumble bee nest sites.
7) Have a mix of forbs and shrubs.
8) Don’t mow or hay entire grassy meadows or roadsides, leave some for pollinators.
9) Conserve habitat for rabbit burrows and groundhog burrows for bee nesting sites.
10) Reduce tillage and avoid plastic sheeting for ground nesting bees.

Reducing the Impact of Mowing and Spraying
11) Intensive mowing or grazing impacts abundance of bees.
12) Avoid or minimize the use of insecticides.