21 July 2013

Summer 2013 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo 2 - Garden Tour

The small public Five Senses Garden was my favorite today. It is part of the Kalamazoo Public School system. It was designed to support programs for youth at risk or with disabilities, but is also a wonderful place for anyone to spend time. As we entered, we found a basket of blueberries. We were invited to take a few. A taste.

You proceed down a walkway to experience the other senses. Each time you change "senses," the sidewalk changes to a different media / texture. Also to help guide you is a little sculpture sign of a nose or whatever. Very clever.

The smell area included lavender; taste area had chives and oregano; hearing had water features, an "echo" spot (this alone is worth the trip) and reeds and rushes; sight area had lovely flowers; and touch area had pebbles, and prickly and other touchy things. At the end were raised beds tended by the special childrens' programs. Benches throughout let you relax and take in the diversity of this very special place.

Stop 4 was the Giving Garden. This is a volunteer project of the Master Gardeners of Kalamazoo County, sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, in collaboration with the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, through land loaned by the Kendall Electric and Humphrey companies. That is a mouthful and a mouthful is the end result of this program. Their mission is to provide fresh veggies to the under-served. Last year they grew and gave away 15 tons of produce to Loaves and Fishes and other local community food banks. None of the food grown is for-profit. They also use "compatible" growing methods, like radishes near cucumbers and potatoes near beans. I'll have to look into this a little more for next year.

Our last stop was the Trybal Revival Eastside Eco-Garden. It is an experiment in permaculture. This was a new term to me and I found its premise is 1) take care of the earth and its life systems, 2) people use only resources necessary for existence, 3) return surpluses back into the system so waste can be recycled into usefulness. This is very simplified, of course.

Anyway, the Land Bank tore down dilapidated houses here and converted the four empty lots into a greenspace. The south-sloping space is being developed into a "food forest" through the principles of permaculture. Nut trees are planted near the top, berry bushes a little lower, a veggie garden on the bottom flats, and table grapes are grown on the surrounding fence. It is all quite new and an ambitious, long-term project.

Also located here is the Community Garden Resource Shed (yellow structure in back). The new "shed" (I used " ", because it is quite nice) was built by the Land Bank to house garden tools from shovels to rototillers. These are loaned to any community gardener for a day. The loan "payment" is for five hours of garden community service during the year and you can borrow as many times as you need to for that one five hours. Great concept. At this space few hors d'oeuvres were served, mostly veggie related.

This was a very nice opportunity to discover some places and things I did not know existed in Kalamazoo. Thanks, Land Bank and Common Ground.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.