Thursday, February 18, 2016

Leila Arboretum: Part 2

One of the groundskeepers caught me taking a picture through the window of a greenhouse.

She invited me inside to get a closer look.

Brassicas are the heavy lifters of the winter, greenhouse garden.  Leila Arboretum is growing mostly collards this winter.  That is a great choice.  Other than kale and Asian Greens, more "developed" forms of brassicas trade style for photosynthesis efficiency.  Efficiency is the name of the game during the short, gray days of the winter.
The yellow thing in the foreground is a sticky trap for monitoring and control of insect pests.

Battle Creek, Michigan

Battle Creek is the center of America's breakfast food industry.  Before that, it was the center of a vast number of "sanitariums" that focused on nutrition and health.  The idea was radical:  Replace the "aspirational" breakfast of 6 fried eggs, half pound of fried potatoes, half pound of fried sausage and four slices of white bread saturated with butter with a breakfast based on cereals and and other foods of plant origin.

A large number of Seventh Day Adventists settled in Battle Creek.  Even today, Seventh Day Adventists are known for their robust good health and their longevity.  The Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California have been tagged as a "Blue Zone" for the large number of people who live beyond the age of 100.  The city of Battle Creek still benefits from their influence.

So maybe it is not surprising that Leila Arboretum is energetic in its mission of supplying the locals with good food.  They may not have enough greenhouse to move the needle for the general populace.  But they can provide some excellent food and serve as a template for others to copy.


Spinach.  The beds are fortified with compost made on-site.

Leaf Lettuce
One of the hybrid red Pac Choi.  Red Pac Choi is elegant but the red pigment reduces the efficiency of the plant as it intercepts light.
Fennel.  Man does not live by brassicas along.  Sometimes he/she needs flavor!  The gardeners allowed this volunteer fennel plant to live, even though it was in the middle of a walkway.
This borage plant was also allowed to live, for much the same reason.
Artisan Swiss Chard.  Swiss Chard is a form of beets that has been selected for their lush leaves.
This one Swiss Chard plant has an interesting form.  I wonder if it has any advantage since winter gardening is all about intercepting light.
They even deliver.

You can see where the money goes.  Trickle irrigation line is not cheap.  Neither is a reliable delivery van.  For now, their major market is "boutiquey".  That is very OK.  Folks are more willing to try new things when they think the 0.1% is trying to stop them.

And then they told me...

That the greenhouse is just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended).

They also have a community garden.
This garden is a bit larger than most urban community gardens.  I estimate that it is about a half acre in size.  Each family is given/leased an allotment.  If they desire, they are also provided with technical advice, access to plants and seeds and irrigation.

If you study the picture you will see a variety of crops, including season extenders like brassicas (left, foreground) and a multitude of structures (trellises) to intercept the light that would otherwise be wasted on walkways.  Trellises are beneficial in community gardens.  They are almost mandatory in narrow city lots where vegetables must stretch upward to capture sunlight.

Again, this half acre will not feed a city.  But it keeps the technology alive and can serve as a genesis bomb should the need arise to grow more food locally or should more people desire higher quality, more flavorful, more nutritious food.

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