Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bringing in the New Year

As 2010 slips into my rear veiw mirror I cannot help but revisit all of Unity Gardens successes , and shortcomings in 2010 . With that information we can look forward and plan for 2011 .

I can honestly say that 2010 turned out better than we ever imagined . At this point we are in all new territory , and learning on the fly . The growth was amazing . from 1 garden in 2008 to 34 in 2010 . But the downside was we were a little stretched , and may have not supported the gardens as well as we should have . We were not able to put signs up on all the gardens. We did a few fundraisers which were successful , but not to the degree we need to sustain Unity Gardens long term. Our plans to do educational events fell short . While we did some it was not enough . We increased the amount of volunteers helping , but we need more . On the upside we grew huge amounts of food , brought folks from inside their homes out into the garden, we educated people in the garden , raised awareness , and developed a plan for 2011 .

What's up for 2011 . Learning from our 2010 season we are starting off the year with a series of classes on how to grow a vegetable garden . Classes will be held at the Potawatomi Conservatories , and at the LaSalle branch library staring in January . We also are planning a Summer series on healthy cooking habits, and a fall series on harvesting , and saving food . In 2011 we will have 2 school gardens . We are adding a educational Isle at the LaSalle Square Unity Garden funded by PNC Bank , and the Greenhouse Garden is setting up a educational composting area showcasing different ways to compost .

We put up a shaded shelter at LaSalle Square , and the 1/2 mile walking path is in progress .

Several gardens will be getting , benches , and picnic tables , and all gardens will be receiving Unity Gardens Signs .

Some creative ideas are being tossed around for better fund raisers .

Bike Ride for Unity , Raffles , a Unity Dinner , Luau , Plant Sale , PayPal donate button on the blog , and several other ideas . I am learning that non-profits are always fighting the battle with having enough operating funds. Hopefully it will get easier.

In January we will be painting signs for all the gardens, and will start installing them in April .

We will be working harder to be more efficient in our growing methods, and work hard early to get more volunteers into the gardens.
I am excited for a new season of growing to begin

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Greenhouse Community Garden

The Greenhouse Community Garden sits behind the Potawatomi Conservatories, and is a shining example of what group of 24 people coming together can accomplish. Krista Bailey is the garden leader, and I have heard from some of her gardening group that the garden would not be anywhere without her organization skills . Its more than just about the garden for Krista. She lives a sustainable lifestyle . On any given day you may see her with her wagon heading to the garden , or she may show up at a garden opening on her bike. Krista also co-teaches a class on sustainability IUSB . She knows what she is doing when it comes to community gardens. She led the Americorp Community Garden group focusing on education, the environment , volunteer programs , and restoration .
A little history of the Community Garden; Late in 2007 a couple of people prepared a proposal to present to the city and the botanical society . In Oct of 2007 the proposal was accepted . Early 2008 the planning began . Discussions around garden design and management went from Jan to March . A cooperative framework was decided on . With 20 members ( or shares ) on board they decided on what to grow, with two shares in charge of each crop . The shares were responsible for securing seeds , finding best growing methods , and working the plot .
The first season was a roaring success . Many people toured the garden , attended workshops , an heirloom tomato tasting , and a end of the season open house .
Meanwhile on the other side of town another garden was growing . In 2008 Sara Stewart was growing an open community garden. She and Krista got together , and formed Unity Gardens in 2009.
The rest is history . In 2010 they became a non-profit 503-C with over 30 gardens . The Greenhouse Community Garden continues to stay true to it original framework of shared plots . They take a share of each harvest and donate it to a local food bank . Plans for next year include a harvest day for those in need , and a sharing shelf.
One of the things I like about the Greenhouse Garden are its use of a organic growing model . They also grow some experimental items including peanuts this year. This year they are doing a educational area showing the different ways to compost. Most of all the sense of community among its members .
So Thank You Krista, for not just your garden efforts , but also your work to protect our environment .

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beacon Heights Open House

Last Friday Unity Gardens had a open house at Becon Heights Apartments . Sort of a meet , and greet with our neighbors across the street from the LaSalle Square Unity Garden . Also a little bit of a mission to see how they like what we are doing , and what the see in the future for the garden , How will they use the garden . It was a little slow but folks came ito the clubhouse , had some snacks , and spent some quality time learning about the Unity Gardens . Some people knew about the gardens , some were new to the area , and had not seen te garden yet . Some things were clear . Like its a good place to get the kids out of doors, and teach them about healthy food . Some thought it was good to have healthy food close by . Some mothers would like a playground .
What I learn over , and over is that its a process of reaching people one at a time . The Unity gardens concept is a new one sharing , bringing people together , and building community . Its not just another community garden its for everyone not just select members . So far its working great one person at a time .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keller Park Unity Garden

Keller Park Unity Garden is located at 1001 Bryan St behind the Keller Park church . It was started 3 years ago by Meridith Eaton . After her first year she moved the garden to a new location in the neighborhood , and joined the Unity Gardens . Meridith is teacher at Marquette Montessori School . She uses her talents as a teacher to bring neighborhood kids into the garden . Much of the volunteer help comes from Keller Park church .

The church is very involved in helping the community . They host celebrate recovery meetings, Wed open community dinners, Spring , and fall block parties , GED classes , tutoring , and basketball . They also of course have Sunday Worship at 10:30 am .

Unity is excited to have Keller Park Unity Garden on board . They work hard to get the neighborhood involved in the garden, and on Saturday mornings they even harvest food and have the kids deliver it to the neighborhood . They work very hard to grow the garden . in 2010 they built several raised beds , and grew lots of food .

2011 holds some real exciting plans . Picnic tables ,rain barrels, mini greenhouse , a new sign with a sharing shelf , Raspberries , compost bin , and a decorative fence to highlight the area .

Looks like another busy year for Keller Park . We honor all the good work you have done .

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Looking for Funding

Unity Gardens is lookng for funding for 2011
Please read our story on the tab above . Unity Gardens is more than just growing food .

Please donate through the Paypal donate button on the right side of this blog . All donations are tax deductible
Or contact
Sara Stewart

Mail to :
Unity Gardens
PO 10022
South Bend IN 46680

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Master Gardeners

Last night I took my test for my Master Gardner test . Its the first step in becoming a master gardener . Next I become an intern, and do volunteer education.

Master gardeners are people who who study university approved research based horticulture practices through the local extension . There are over 94,ooo Master Gardeners in the US . They volunteer their time, and expertise to for the benefit of the community. To date Master Gardeners have logged over 5 million volunteer hours helping to save the world one garden at a time . Its all about helping others grow flowers , trees , shrubs, grass , and yes even vegetables . My class is taught by Phil Sutton who heads up the Purdue Extension office for St Joe County . I took the class to learn more about vegetable gardening so I could do some education for Unity Gardens . I soon realized that it was great to learn about all the plants, insects , and disease. Its seems we have lost touch with with the environment . Hopefully I can help others get back into their gardens through education . Its a great class I recommend it to everyone , even if you don't garden .

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wrapping for a Good Cause

Thanks to everyone who helped with the gift wrapping at Macy's this weekend . And thanks to Macy's for the space , supplies , and a program that helps support the community .

We will be back at Macy's next weekend .

Friday, December 3, 2010


When not working in the Garden we can find a little time to support the local community . United Way tree Sale , First Friday's at Junk Evolution ..All good fun .

Wrapping Presents

Unity Gardens is wrapping presents at Macy's this Holiday season to raise money 100% of the proceeds goes to Unity Gardens.We need volunteers to man the wrapping tables so please can to help out, or just come shop, and get your presents wrapped
Please sign up to raise money for Unity by manning our wrapping station at Macy's Dept Store Dec 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 19, or 20th from 12 to 7pm. Call or message us to sign up! Work an hour or all day! Any helps!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Potawatomi Conservatories

Last night Sara & I attended to Volunteer dinner at the Potawatomi Conservatories . It was a time to honor the people who keep the place going , a to present plans for the upcoming year . Andy Schnabel the President of the Botanical Society spoke a little about the upcoming collaboration with the Unity Gardens . Heidi handed out awards to the Volunteers . Don Spoke about future plans for a website , blog , and membership drive . Jon Burke with city layed out the plan for revamping the heating system in a more environmental way . All in all there are great things going on at the Conservatories . If you have not visited in awhile or you never have , it might be time to pay them a visit . Maybe join the Botanical Society , and lend a hand . The Conservatories are a one of the cities fine gems from another era that we must preserve . I am glad to say that are city is doing just that . Its just one piece in the puzzle of revitalizing our city .

The role the Unity Gardens will play in supporting the Conservatories is still evolving . We plan on doing a growing a home garden series starting in January , Starting plants in the greenhouse to sell to raise funds , helping them with their blog , and maybe even growing some vegetables in the greenhouse .
All good , and exciting stuff !!