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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Volunteers needed for community garden

Do you like to help people in need? Or maybe just help things grow? North Kent Community Services needs your manpower in their Community Garden! Last year the agency received over 3,570 pounds of fresh vegetables to distribute to families in need. That huge amount of food was planted and harvested by a handful of volunteers, who worked an acre of land to create a Community Garden. The NKCS is the largest food pantry in Kent County and services over 12,000 families. The fresh vegetables were a welcome sight for families who normally received canned or frozen when they pick up groceries.
Merrill Post, of Post Berry Farms, donates the land, on Myers Lake Avenue and 12 Mile Road, where the volunteers plant and harvest. For the third year in a row, Mr. Post has set aside an acre of land that he tills, fertilizes, and waters to make sure that the plants will grow. He even allows the group a space in his own private garden, where a high fence keeps the deer away from the tender bean plants. Post also donates to the NKCS corn, pumpkins, berries and other food that the volunteers do not grow in the Community Garden.
All of the seeds needed for planting are donated by The Cedar Mill in Cedar Springs. Also, several of the group members start seeds in peat pots or flats at home.
This year, there are two specific planting dates already set. Many more volunteers are needed because the goal is to harvest two tons of food this year. If you would like to help, volunteers will meet on Wednesday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m., at Post Farms, 9849 Myers Lake Road, to plant seeds in the greenhouse.
Once the seeds are ready to be transplanted outside, other dates and times will be determined for planting and a schedule will be set for weeding and harvesting. If you love to garden, want to learn more about gardening, need to put in hours for community service at your school, or have a desire to feed people in need, then call Deb McIntyre, volunteer coordinator at the NKCS, at 616-866-3478 ext. 103 Monday–Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. No gardening experience is necessary.

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How to start composting for your garden

Composted soil is great for your garden.

(StatePoint) Ecological experts have proposed countless ways to improve the environment, but something as simple as changing the way you dispose of your trash could have a significant impact on the future of our planet.
By composting biodegradable materials, such as yard trimmings, food waste and disposable paper products in a pile or bin, a nutrient-rich soil is created that can be used for gardening. This soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, is better for the environment and will save you money. It also promotes healthy foliage and growth—a boon to gardeners everywhere.
“Few Americans realize that nearly 50 percent of the waste from their home is compostable,” says Eric Happell, Director of Fiber Business Unit at Huhtamaki, the makers of Chinet paper products. “If every American household composted, we could reduce our solid waste stream by more than 60 percent.”
He said that the average American produces four pounds of landfill waste daily, and that composting is a simple solution to reducing that number.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to starting a composting pile at home:
* Select a convenient spot for composting. This spot can either be indoors in a compost bin or outdoors in a semi-shaded and well-drained area. Don’t put your compost pile under acid producing trees like pines.
* Combine organic wastes such as yard trimmings, food scraps and biodegradable products into a pile, then add bulking agents such as wood chips to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials.
* Let nature take its course.  Typical compost will turn into rich soil in two to five weeks.
A properly managed compost bin or pile will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad. Therefore, make sure you know what you can and cannot add to a compost pile.
Many everyday items can be used, including fruits and vegetables, yard trimmings, eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags, and certain paper products. You can also add dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, pet fur and fireplace ashes.
Other biodegradable materials, like hay, straw, grass clippings, saw dust and leaves can also be added to compost piles, with the exception of black walnut leaves, which release chemicals that are harmful to plants. Also, don’t include diseased or insect-ridden plants, or plants treated with chemicals or pesticides; these, too, will make the compost harmful or toxic.
Be sure to avoid adding food and organic matter that will make the compost pile smell, such as dairy products, egg yolks (whites are okay), fats, grease, lard and oils. Meat and fish scraps are compostable, but make sure they do not contain parasites or bacteria.
For more tips on composting and other environmental activities, visit www.mychinet.com and click on “Environment.”

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Digging soon? Make a call to 811

(ARA) – It’s that time of year again. All across the country, homeowners can finally put away the snow shovel, put on a pair of shorts and venture out into their yards with a digging shovel for an adventure in home improvement.
Now that the weather is getting warmer, Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the association dedicated to protecting underground utilities and the people who dig near them, reminds homeowners and professional diggers that calling 811 is the first step to protect everyone from the risk of unintentionally damaging an underground line.
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811, which connects you to your local one-call utility notification center. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811.
Here’s how it works:
1. One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one-call center to notify all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig.
2. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for utility lines to be properly marked.
3. When you call 811, a representative from your local one-call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.
4. Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, who will then send a professional locator to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.
5. Once lines have been properly marked, roll up those sleeves and carefully dig around the marked areas.
There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States that your family depends on for everyday needs, including cable TV, high-speed Internet, landline telephone, electric, gas, water and sewer.
Unintentionally striking one of these lines can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, harm to yourself or your neighbors, and repair costs. Digging damages an underground utility line once every three minutes nationwide, according to a recent CGA report, and one out of three incidents are caused because someone did not call 811.
To find out more information about Call 811 or the one-call utility notification center in your area, visit www.call811.com.

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Grow your vegetables the earth-friendly way

(ARA) There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.

Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you’d imagine—all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.

Water, water everywhere, but not too much

A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but over watering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it’s better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.

Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don’t have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper’s new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It’s a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe’s in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it’s best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day. For more information about watering vegetable gardens, go to www.misterlandscaper.com.

One man’s garbage is another’s fertilizer

Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there’s a better way to andle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California’s “CalRecycle” program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.

Get growing organically

From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic and fun choice of all is deciding which plants you’ll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you’re buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There’s the added bonus of knowing that your plants won’t be tainted with harmful chemicals.

When it comes to maintaining your garden, you’ll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). You’ll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.

Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you’ll be doing something good for the earth, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Morel treasure!

Greg Magoon, of Cedar Springs, hit paydirt his first time out looking for morel mushrooms. Greg said he was out on state land, near Morley, on April 24, when he found some large morels. “I only found a handful, but the biggest ones were roughly nine inches,” he said. “We fried them up with some rainbow trout that we caught that day. What a great meal!”

If you have a plant or animal photo you’d like to send us, please email it to postnews@charter.net.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

May Wild Flowers

Large White Flowered Trilliums command notice in forested areas and some make their way into more open areas. They are most prevalent under shade trees where they have carved out a nature niche for survival. There are challenges to making a living and reproducing under a forest canopy. Trilliums seem to do well in forests that produce deep shade. Sugar Maples’ forest create such intense shade that many understory plants starve. There simply is not enough sunlight for them to thrive.

Spring beauties and wild columbine are just two of the wildflowers blooming at Ody Brook this year.

Spring beauties and wild columbine are just two of the wildflowers blooming at Ody Brook this year.

How then can the trillium find its nature niche there? One way is that it takes its time growing and storing food and it flowers before the leaf canopy shuts off light. It does not race like the hare but plods like the tortoise with growth efforts. Botanists state it takes seven years before it produces its first flower but then it can usually flower annually there after. Annual flowers must race to grow and flower all within one year. That takes rapid growth and is a high-energy effort.

Annual flowers growing in bright sun receive an essential rich supply of incoming energy currency. They use the energy quickly and then quickly spend what they receive for growth and reproduction. Annual plants die that same year and survival of their kind depends on the success of their offspring. Most of their kids die trying to establish a place in the sun the following year. For the few that survive, they race to produce seeds that will disperse and most will die. For annual flowers to continue survival for their species, it is always a race to sprout in a suitable place, grow rapidly, produce flowers, and finally produce seeds before the first killing frost.

Trilliums take a different approach for their kind. The fortunate trillium seed establishes its place where most annual plants would starve spending their earnings too quickly on rapid growth. When first established the trillium will grow slowly using limited available light energy in the shady forest. It stores energy in its underground bank of plant stems for later use. When it has saved enough energy, it can reproduce. Though research botanists tell us it takes seven years for a trillium to first flower, I am convinced this is only a general rule.

I planted mature, large-flowered trilliums to help a native species establish at Ody Brook. Those plants already had essential stored energy in their underground stems for annual reproduction. Surrounding the few plants I planted, new trilliums began to develop and four years later I had additional trilliums flowering. Why would the new plants be flowering before seven years? I helped the plants by reducing competition from other surrounding plants competing for space and nutrients. I planted the parent trilliums near the forest edge where they received more sunlight energy than they would receive in a deeply shaded forest. These new offspring received a good energy income and with adequate currency (sunlight and nutrients) they could flower earlier.

It is still a slow process for a species to expand its population and sustain family units. When I began working at the Howard Christensen Nature Center in 1986, only a few sharp-leaved hepaticas had been able to continue life because of earlier land use practices. Pre-nature center use had eliminated most hepaticas through landscape clearing for agricultural practices. Because most of the soil in the area was not good for agricultural land, it reverted as tax forfeit land. The state then established the Rogue River State Game Area on the most of the surrounding land too poor for agricultural land.

In the area that became HCNC, a secondary forest grew. A robust hepatica plant managed to survive development at an edge near the creek and has delighted us annually with its early blooms. Gradually over the past 30 years a few more of its offspring have began to survive and expand the species population. A century had past since most of the hepatics lost a place to live there but now native habitat reestablishment allows them to slowly spread under the forest canopy of oaks. Most of HCNC still lacks the hepaticas but given a few more centuries it will repopulate. They will establish too slowly for our life times but our future generations will enjoy them.

The one hepatica that survived is likely older than Cedar Springs elder senior citizens. Because the above ground plant portion dies back annually, we do notice its individual long life like we notice for a tree.

In yards, we can re-establish native plant communities than cannot survive in places where we grow annual crops to meet our personal food and energy needs. Our yards can be a haven for native species for us to enjoy. Yards can support biodiversity being lost to human population expansion. We can share nature niches by reducing lawn areas and expanding native habitats to include wildflowers like jack-in-pulpit, wild sarsaparilla, wild ginger, Mayapple, wild geranium, trout lily, wild lily of the valley, false, true, and starry Solomon’s seals, bloodroot, wood anemone, wild columbine, and many more species. Enjoy the short pageant of spring wildflowers that bloom before leafing out of the tree canopy shuts off abundant light needed for flower production. One of my favorites it is the nodding trillium that has its flower hidden beneath it leaves.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net  Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.

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Morel hunting

By Alixann Spaulding

Jimmy Johnson found this 5-1/2 inch morel mushroom at his home on Penny Road in Cedar Springs. On May 10, his nephew went out and found a few smaller morels, putting Johnson in the mood to hunt. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever found!” said Johnson. After taking a picture of his great find, Johnson promptly cooked and ate it.
Do you have a photo of plant or animal wildlife you’d like to share with us? Please send it to postnews@charter.net.

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Digging up dinner:

Get in on the growing trend and raise your own veggies

(ARA) – Across the country this spring, more Americans will be cutting out sections of lawn, retiring flower beds, building raised vegetable beds and turning their spare time over to gardening. Many of them will be first-timers, inspired to try their hand at tilling the soil for economic reasons as well as the many benefits gardening offers.

In addition to pruning your grocery bill, raising your own veggies offers the benefits of freshness, flavor, convenience, healthful exercise, socialization opportunities and the ability to have more control over what your family eats.

So if you’re ready to try your hand at picking your own produce this year, roll up your sleeves, dig in, and arm yourself with this helpful advice from the experts at Bonnie Plants:

Pick your plot: Most vegetables thrive when they get plenty of sun, so pick a plot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sun every day. It’s OK to plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach in shadier spots, but get them in the ground early in the cooler part of the season. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash will do best in the hotter months.

Think outside of the box planter: Get creative with space. You don’t need a huge yard to plant a veggie patch. Try planting lettuce under tomato vines, or mix veggies into flowerbeds among the bright blooms.

Give veggies a raise: Try raised beds; they’re quicker than planning out a plot. Raised beds will enable you to use near-perfect soil, better organize your garden, improve drainage and provide easier access for maintenance. Time saving tip: Use transplants instead of seeds.

Feed natural plant food: Since one of the reasons for growing your own vegetables is to control exactly what your family consumes, be sure to use all-natural, safe products in your gardens like Bonnie Plant Food which is derived from oilseed extract such as soybean seed extract. Research shows plants are healthier and more vigorous using organically based foods, rather than chemical based options.

Water wisely: One inch of water weekly is adequate for most vegetables. Soaker hoses or drip systems deliver water efficiently and keep foliage dry, fending off leaf diseases.

Pick your produce: Be sure to pick the right plants. To maximize your grocery savings and ensure successful gardening choose vegetable and herb plants that are easy to grow, useful in a variety of dishes, and produce high yields throughout the season. Some sure-fire winners include:

Tomatoes – The most popular home-garden vegetable in America, tomatoes are hard to beat in terms of taste, health benefits and versatility. Bonnie Original Tomato can easily yield 50 pounds of tomatoes.

Yellow squash and zucchini – Although their growing season is shorter than tomatoes, squash are very productive. You’ll pick them every day once the season starts.

Lettuce – As long as the weather is mild, leaf lettuce will keep on producing. If you eat lots of salad, growing your own lettuce can save you lots of money.

Cucumbers – Grown in a cage or on a trellis, a single cucumber plant can produce 5 to 10 cukes. You can get two or three plants on a cage that is just 18 inches in diameter and 4 feet high, so that’s a yield of 15 to 30 cucumbers from a slice of ground no bigger than an end table.

Specialty peppers – Price specialty peppers like jalapeno, or even regular chili peppers, in the grocery store and you’ll be inspired to try growing your own. Hot peppers are especially high yielding and productive in areas with a long, hot summer.

Herbs – Expensive in the grocery store, fresh herbs are easy and economical to grow. Plant one each of sage, rosemary, mint, thyme and chives, and at least three plants of basil. There are several varieties of basil.  Good choices from Bonnie Plants are Sweet, Cinnamon, Thai and Boxwood basil, each with a unique taste.

Bonnie Plants offers a wide selection of vegetables and herbs in eco-friendly, biodegradable pots; just tear off the bottom of the pot and stick it in the soil. Biodegradable pots not only protect varieties from transplant shock, they save tons of plastic pots from entering landfills. For more gardening advice and tips visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Solon farmers to add flea market

Due to public interest, Solon Township has decided to expand their farmers market/craft show to include an outdoor flea market beginning this Saturday, May 22. The market will be located north of the stable at 15185 Algoma Ave.
“We’ve had a great response,” commented Linda Badgerow, administrative assistant at Solon Township. The farmers market just opened this month.
Flea market vendors can apply with Linda Badgerow at Solon Township 616-696-1718.  A refundable $20.00 deposit will be required to ensure prompt removal of any unsold items. The flea market will run concurrent with the existing farmers market every Saturday through September from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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Asparagus

By Janice Benson, Marketing Coordinator, Michigan Land Use Institute

Spring came early to Michigan this year and thanks to the sunny days and the welcome rain recently, the first spears of asparagus have arrived!

As someone who tried hard to eat as locally as possible this winter, asparagus is a thrilling sight. Though I’ve enjoyed all those root crops these past months, something so green and fresh stirs my soul and I’m anxious to try some new recipes and savor my old favorites that I haven’t tasted since last spring.

The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board tells us that asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence, so you can’t get too much in the next several weeks! Time to make frittatas, primaveras, soups, and more.

If you’ve got a great asparagus recipe you’d like to share, send it to us. We’re always looking for new ways to prepare the great local foods of this region, and we’ll add it to our online database to share with others who love local food.

So rejoice…’tis the season of asparagus!

Selecting and storing

* Select spears that look moist, firm, and fresh, with compact tips. Ones with larger diameters are more tender.
* Wash thoroughly, pat dry, and refrigerate as soon as possible after purchasing.
* Bundle spears and stand upright in a container of water to maintain freshness.
* Freezing: Blanche spears for one minute in boiling water. Rinse in ice water, then drain and pack in airtight containers, leaving no head space.

Fun Facts

* Asparagus can grow as quickly as 10 inches in one day!
* Asparagus plants will generally produce for about 15 years without being replanted.
* Michigan ranks third in the nation for asparagus production.
* Michigan asparagus is hand-snapped above the ground, resulting in a more tender and flavorful product.

Nutritional Information:

* A good source of potassium, fiber, Vitamins A, B-6, and C, and thiamin.
* Asparagus has more folic acid than any other vegetable!
* Asparagus contains glutathione, an antioxidant that’s key to preventing diabetes.

Cooking:

* Simple preparation: Place in a tall, covered pot with an inch of water. Stand asparagus upright and steam for five minutes. (This cooks the tougher stalks, while lightly steaming the thinner tops.)
Sources/Links:
Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, www.asparagus.org

RECIPE:

Asparagus with Sesame-Soy Dressing
One bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut into 2-
inch pieces
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (lower sodium)
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 to 4 drops hot chili oil
2 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions:

Bring water in a large saucepan to a boil. Add a tray of ice cubes to a bowl and fill it with water. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 2 minutes and no more. Quickly drain the asparagus and submerge it in the ice water to stop it from getting mushy. Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Don’t let yourself get lulled into complacency as the seeds stay white for a while. When they start to toast, they do so quickly. Whisk the soy sauce and sesame oil together. Dribble in the chili oil. Drain the asparagus and toss with the dressing. Top with the toasted sesame seeds.
Submitted by:     Dr. Preston Maring, Farmers Market Recipes, Perman

Have you got a recipe?

Got a great recipe that showcases the season? The Cedar Springs Post is building our collection of recipes to share among our readers in the paper and online. Share a recipe using any in-season fruit or vegetable, and we’ll list it on our website! Send your recipe to postnews@charter.net.

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