Are you one of those folks who believes that the hard times are still ahead, that the mayor is going to get you to pay for a new billion-dollar sports palace, that the Congress is going to buy you a new three-trillion dollar war—who notices that gas is getting expensive, that the climate is changing, that lots of mortgages are underwater and that your retirement plan has mostly disappeared? And you wonder: How am I going to eat? I want to write a column for you.
Or maybe you just like to play in the dirt. Maybe you prefer the taste of your own tomatoes to the cardboard supermarket ones. Maybe you are concerned about chemical pesticides in your food or in the environment. Maybe you have strong beliefs in hyper-local food sources. Maybe you just like to be outside. I want to write a column for you.
I’m no expert; I don’t pretend to be. But I have given up waiting for other people to solve our long-range food issues and I am taking things into my own hands, by gardening, foraging and gleaning. That said, I want to share everything I am learning with you about growing your own food, eating delicious stuff that others may not consider food, and about eating the food that others plant but won’t eat for some reason.
This month, I want to highlight two amazing gardening possibilities right here in Minneapolis and end with a chronological listing of gardening classes for those who would love to grow their own food but have never done it. Other months, I may concentrate on foraging or gleaning, but I will always try to end with a calendar.
The wonderful Minneapolis initiatives are an incredible source of cheap seeds and plants and the sweetest deal on fruit trees you could ever find.
The seeds come from the community gardening organization called Gardening Matters. For amounts between $10 and $50, depending on your garden size, you can get a large collection of seeds and plants. Check it out at www.gardeningmatters.org/hubs. Seeds and cool-weather plants will be distributed on April 14. Warm-weather plants will be distributed on May 19. But you can join now.
The trees are Bali cherry (self-fertile) and Honeycrisp apple (which bees fertilize without your help). You absolutely, positively have to live in Minneapolis to get these 6 to 8-foot transplants, since they are heavily subsidized by the city. But if you have a sunny spot, order as soon as the sale opens online on March 12 at www.treetrust.org/.
Now the gardening classes:
March 6, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. $5. “Unexpected Gardens: Alley, Boulevard, Fruit, Water, Container …” Highland Nursery, 1742 7th St. W., St. Paul 55116. 651-698-1708. www.thehighlandnursery.com/Classes.php
March 8, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. $20. “Winter Gardening: How to Grow Inside.” MN Horticultural Society, 2705 Lincoln Dr., Roseville 55113. 651-643-3601 or 800-676-6747, ext 211. www.northern-gardener.org/classes
March 9 – 11. $45. Three-day garden expo “Learning to Grow, Growing to Learn.” MN Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska 55318. 952-443-1422. www.-arboretum.umn.edu/-SpringExpo2012.aspx
March 10, 9 – 11 a.m. $25. “Seed Starting Practicum,” Permaculture Research Institute on the U of M St. Paul campus, Room 140 of the Plant Growth Facility, 1552 Gortner Ave., St. Paul 55108. www.pricoldclimate.org/events/pre-season-production-series?task=view_event-&event_id=46
March 10, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. $8. “Getting Started Vegetable Gardening.” Gale Woods Farm in Minnestra, part of the Three Rivers Regional Park System. 763-559-9000. www.threeriversparks.org/-events/complete-listing.aspx
March 10, Noon – 3 p.m. Price unknown. “Try Sprouting,” Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville. 952-891-1212. www.valleynatural-foods.com/-CoopCalendar.shtml
March 10, 1 – 4 p.m. Free. Phillips Food Resource Hub hosts winter event at Phillips Community Center, including seed-starting, seed-ordering, garden planning. 612-821-2358. www.-gardeningmatters.org/hubs/phillipshub
March 12, 9:30 a.m. – Noon. $8. “Chickens in Your Backyard,” Gale Woods Farm in Minnestra, part of the Three Rivers Regional Park System. 763-559-9000. www.threeriver-sparks.org/-events/complete-listing.aspx
March 15, 6 – 8 p.m. $12. “Urban Chickens 101,” Mississippi Market Co-op in St. Paul. www.msmarket.coop/events/
March 15, 7 – 8:30 p.m. $8. “Container Gardening,” Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, 2105 S. Lyndale Ave., 612-871-3993. www.wedgecoop/class-schedule
March 17, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. $30 (includes breakfast and lunch). Shorewood Spring Garden Fair. 952-960-7906.
March 17, 9 – 11 a.m. $25. “Greenhouse Growing Practicum,” Permaculture Research Institute on the U of M St Paul campus.
March 20, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. $5. “Vegetable Gardening,” Highland Nursery, 1742 7th St. W., St. Paul 55116. 651-698-1708.
March 21, 7 – 8:30 p.m. $8. “Basic Vegetable Gardening,” Wedge Co-op in Mpls. 2105 S. Lyndale Ave. 612-871-3993. www.wedge.coop/-class-schedule/
March 24, 9 a.m – 1 p.m. $50. “Intro to Aquaponics,” Permaculture Research Institute at Urban Farm Project, 302 W. 61st St., Mpls. 55419. www.pricold-climate.org/events/pre-season-production-series?task=-view_event-&event_id=46
March 24, 1 – 4 p.m. Free (Reservations required). “Lazy Gardeners’ class: Plant placement,” Silverwood Park part of the Three Rivers Regional Park system. 763-559-6700. www.threeriver-sparks.org/events.aspx
March 29, 7 – 8:30 p.m. $8. “Basic Vegetable Gardening,” Wedge Co-op in Mpls. 2105 S. Lyndale Ave. 612-871-3993. www.wedge.co-op/class-schedule/
March 31, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. $5 suggested donation. Community Garden Spring Resource Fair. 612-821-2358. www.gardening-matters.org/
Charley Underwood is a retired teacher who spent 41 years teaching in the Congo, in West Africa, Puerto Rico, Michigan, Texas and Minnesota. He is a recovering political activist who spent nearly 45 years campaigning for progressive candidates, but who has “lost faith in a corrupt political system.” He is a part-time horticulture student at the University of Minnesota and a frequent attender of permaculture and other gardening classes. He has two community gardening plots in South Minneapolis and is gradually turning his own shady yard into a food factory, plus foraging and gleaning whenever he can.