Exhibit In a Day: 3 Ways to Grow Food in A Window

Reblogged from Summer of Solutions Hartford

I’m on the team working at the Burns Latino Studies Academy and the Connecticut Trash Museum. Recently, we planned to build an indoor garden exhibit at the museum using recycled materials.

This is the wall where we installed the exhibit. It has three big windows. Step 1: Remove the window blinds
This is the wall where we installed the exhibit. It has three big windows. Step 1: Remove the window blinds

The exhibit is an inside garden used as an example of things you can create in your own garden, house, or apartment. The purpose of the exhibit is to show that you don’t need a lot of space to grow your own food and it can be as simple as hanging curtains on a window. We installed the garden in one big workday on June 27th as to interrupt the museum visitors as little as possible. We planted a variety of things that need just the right amount of space to grow in a box, gutter, or plastic bottle. We planted swiss chard, lettuce, parsley, rosemary, mint, strawberries, and succulents, cilantro, basil, and a few flowers.

This is Tenaya painting the gutter garden. The gutters were recycled from a construction project. We cut  them to 4 feet, drilled drainage holes and wire holes in the bottom, and cemented gutter caps to the edges.
This is Tenaya painting the gutter garden. The gutters were recycled from a construction project. We cut them to 4 feet, drilled drainage holes and wire holes in the bottom, and cemented gutter caps to the edges.
Step 3: We filled each gutter with soil and transplanted our seedlings. Next, we installed hooks over the window frame and hung the gutters. At home, you can just hang them, but because the museum has thousands of children visit each year, we also drilled the gutters into the window frame on each side, so they couldn't be tipped over.
We filled each gutter with soil and transplanted our seedlings. Next, we installed hooks over the window frame and hung the gutters. At home, you can just hang them, but because the museum has thousands of children visit each year, we also drilled the gutters into the window frame on each side, so they couldn’t be tipped over.
This is Brendan and Tenaya mixing compost and manure to make a soil mix for the gutters.
This is Brendan and Tenaya mixing compost and manure to make a soil mix for the gutters.

The first window holds a gutter garden. We built this by taking used gutters and drilling holes at the bottom. Next we strung the gutters with wire that was strong enough to hang from a window and hold the gutters once they were filled with plants and soil. After threading the wire through the gutter, we looped it at the top so the garden would have something to hang from. After assembling the garden we filled it with a mixture of manure and soil (you can use whatever you find suitable for what you want to grow) then transplanted all of our seedlings. With the help of all of our team members and volunteers we hung the gutter garden on fish hooks that we screwed to the top of the window.

Last year, Mike Roach carved a sign for the Zion Street Garden, renaming it in honor of our neighbor, Wesley Colbert. We built this box out of the scrap wood he used to practice the carving.

Last year, Mike Roach carved a sign for the Zion Street Garden, renaming it in honor of our neighbor, Wesley Colbert. We built this box out of the scrap wood he used to practice the carving.

In our second window we made a window box using recycled wood that we painted and lined with landscape fabric and plastic bags. This window will act as our activity station for children visiting the museum. Here we’ll teach them how to make recycled origami planters and more about what they can do to create a garden at home. We’ve also installed a shelf on the window to display samples and visitor creations.

First, Becky and Brendan cut holes in the bottoms and sides of recycled bottles.
First, Becky and Brendan cut holes in the bottoms and sides of recycled bottles.
Next, we wove each bottle through recycled twine to make sure they were evenly suspended.
Next, we wove each bottle through recycled twine to make sure they were evenly suspended.
We installed a hook in the window frame for each column of bottles.
We installed a hook in the window frame for each column of bottles.

The last window in the exhibit holds our bottle garden. We used recycled beverage bottles and removed the label, giving the roots of the plants an opportunity to show. We removed the top off the bottle, giving ourselves enough room to insert soil and plant inside of the bottles. Next, we poked holes onto the side of the bottom so we could have a way to hang our bottles in the window. We then threaded string vertically through the holes we poked each bottle so they’d hang about 4 inches away from each other, allowing what we planted to have room to grow. We filled the bottles with soil, transplanted our seedlings, and then hung each set of bottles on a fish hook from our window. Once the bottles were hung it created a beautiful stained glass effect that can be a great accent in any apartment or garden.

Here is our exhibit at the end of the day!

Here is our exhibit at the end of the day!

We are so grateful to our extra volunteers who came out to help us pull it off in one day! Thanks Brendan, Diane, and Joey! We are so grateful to our extra volunteers who came out to help us pull it off in one day! Thanks Brendan, Diane, and Joey
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Our First Two Years and Growing Strong

By: Gabrielle Hinahara
Location: Middleton, WI

Around this time two years ago, my sister Natalie and I hatched the idea for Growing Food and Sustainability. It’s amazing to see how far our program has come since then, when it was just words and a vague vision in our minds.

Our first year taught us so much: we kept a garden alive in a record drought, learned that 9 weeks of continuous summer camp is too much, discovered how to form a close-knit team in three months, and found out that working 55+ hours per week all summer ends up burning you out before the fall harvest. We met amazing kids, ate delicious produce, got a darker tan than ever before, and tried so many new things. It was exhausting, exciting, hard, inspiring, and we knew we wanted to give it a go for a second season.

8Campers Last Year Continue reading

Summer Garden Camp Begins!

By: Grant Armour
Location: Middleton, WI

Happy July All! We at Growing Food and Sustainability hope you all have fun, safe and relaxing plans for the upcoming holiday weekend. Last week we had our first garden campers! We had 8 campers arrive for fun mornings on Tuesday and Wednesday with activities for our older campers (ages 10-14), from making spring rolls for snack with veggies harvested fresh from the garden and collecting compost by bike to learning about how toxins can get into our plants from the soil. Our younger group (5-10 years old) met Friday morning and learned about how and why we compost, planted squash and made safe space friendship bracelets which mark our ties to each other and remind both campers and farmers (our name for counselors) of the fact that our behavior has both intended and unintentional impacts on those that we share our lives with.

biketrailerOur Older Campers Picking Up Compost from Middleton Outreach Ministry Continue reading

Expanding Team, Expanding Solutionary Vision

This month has truly been one of expansion!  The network of people working together to make Growing Food and Sustainability a reality is growing everyday, as is our vision for a youth-led, community-based sustainability program.  We are reaching out to our neighbors, engaging high school Ecology Club students, and exploring the idea of adding a third garden site at the Middleton Alternative Senior High (MASH).  In the process of planning our Summer Program for middle and high school youth, we are finding ways to incorporate a wide variety of sustainability topics, including composting, water conservation, reuse of resources, and people-powered transportation.  With spring right around the corner, it’s an exciting time in Wisconsin!

Expanding Team

In this early phase of our organization’s development, we are using door-to-door canvassing as a primary tool for local outreach, community feedback, and resource generation.  We set aside a few hours every weekend to walk around Middleton and engage our neighbors in a conversation about our project.  The response has been incredibly motivating!  We’ve met master gardeners, teachers, community activists, parents, and even a dietician.  We’ve compiled an email list of 149 people.  AND we’ve raised over $600 to support our work this spring!

Middleton’s Program Leaders, Gabrielle and Natalie, both served as president of the Middleton High School Ecology Clubwhen they were in high school, so it only makes sense that we would collaborate with this group of students!  The Ecology Club decided to dedicate their spring semester weekly meetings to help us design the gardens, start seeds and take care of baby plants in the greenhouse, recruit more high school participants, and plan an event at the high school to highlight our program.  What a great group of students to be working with!

Presenting to the MHS Ecology Club

We’re exploring a possible expansion of our program to a third garden site at MASH, the Middleton Alternative High School.  Since this school has more available land, we’re hoping to site our “farm-style” garden here so we can grow a wide variety of annuals in a row crop layout.  We think that this new location will be a huge asset to our program and to the students attending MASH.  It will provide easier access to our program for at-risk students and will tie-in perfectly with MASH’s upcoming transition to a project-based model of education.  Incorporating the gardens into this style of learning will keep them in use throughout the school year and will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about sustainability and agriculture.

Expanding Solutionary Vision

We are expanding the idea of a “school garden program” to incorporate a wide variety of sustainability initiatives and opportunities for green business ventures.

We are building compost containers out of reused shipping pallets to compost all of the refuse from the garden and from all meals that we host in the garden.  We are also partnering with Bloom Bake Shop, a local bakery, to pilot a bike-powered compost service.  Starting in March, we will pick up their used coffee grounds and vegetable waste once per week, compost it at our garden site, and use the finished compost to organically fertilize the gardens.  If this project is a success this summer, we will expand our composting operation to include food waste from the school cafeterias and other local businesses.

Water conservation will be incorporated into the garden through daily water use practices (such as not watering the gardens during the middle of the day) and through the use of rain barrels.  A number of our workshop topics specifically relate to water conservation, such as how to conserve water at home and rain garden design and installation.

Growing Food and Sustainability incorporates art and creative expression through engaging projects and workshops, all of which focus on reused materials.  For example, we will teach students how to weave coasters out of old magazines and how to create beautiful mosaic frames using old CDs.  The coasters are also for sale on our website, with all proceeds supporting our program!  $12 for a set of 4.

The program’s reliance on bikes as our primary form of transportation guarantees that students will be involved with people-powered transportation on a regular basis.  We will transport all of the tools and supplies between our three garden sites by bike trailer, with students either walking or biking with us.  We will also deliver produce to the local food pantry once per week by bike trailer, and students will be invited to join us for this group bike outing.  These opportunities encourage individual use of people-powered transportation while simultaneously exposing our participants to the network of bike paths available within Middleton.

This summer we plan to pilot a raised bed home vegetable garden installation business at a local residence.  Community members who purchase this service will be provided with a custom-designed vegetable garden based on their needs, complete sourcing of materials and plants, installation, and instructions on plant care and harvesting.  We may also provide weekly maintenance for an additional fee.  The ultimate goal of this project is to train and employ local youth in work that benefits their community while simultaneously increasing local food production in Middleton.

Expanding into the Future

Last week we received three part-time participant applications!  We are looking forward to engaging these new team members in our work and to hearing their new insights and ideas for Growing Food and Sustainability.  Our goal for the summer is to involve 5 full-time participants, 5 part-time participants, and 5 high school interns.  If you are interested in joining our team, please apply online Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and stipends for full-time participation are available!