100 YARDen Dash takes off

Calling for more food gardens in Osceola, neighboring counties

CADILLAC — Are those sunflowers you’re planting native to Michigan? Do you know how to make (and use) seed balls? Did you know the humble horseradish plant was designated Herb of the Year? Would you like to grow your own potatoes in a crate?

Under sunny skies, hundreds of experienced and aspiring gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts from Cadillac and surrounding communities learned the answers to these questions, and many more, at the kick-off of the 100 YARDen Dash.

Sponsored by Transition Cadillac to promote the importance of local food gardens, the 100 YARDen Dash is an open invitation to folks from Osceola, Missaukee and Wexford counties to learn more about the benefits of gardening and grow their own food.

The event took place Sunday afternoon—as part of Earth Day celebration—along the shores of Lake Cadillac in the grounds of Cadillac City Park to inspire area residents to make a formal commitment to plant a garden.

“Our goal,” said Dash organizer Shelley Youngman, “is to register 100 new gardens in Osceola, Missaukee and Wexford counties.”

“The expansion of an existing garden counts too,” she added. “And if you’re short on space, try a container garden, or even a pot of tomatoes on your deck. They all count as a garden.”

Music from the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion, featuring a number of Earthwork musicians including Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, provided a lively backdrop as families and friends visited more than 30 exhibits, vendor booths and informative demonstrations providing practical information and tips on gardening topics.

Remember the sunflowers we mentioned above? If you planted oxeye sunflowers, you have a native species, according to Jody Zemsta from Misty Ridge Greenhouse in Mesick.

“We specialize in vegetable plants and Michigan native plants and herbs,” said Zemsta, “and we encourage the use of native species in the home landscape.” To learn which native plants are available for your garden, visit the greenhouse at 6171 N. 11 Road, in MesicK. Call (231) 885-2290 for details.

Bryan Metz traveled from Ann Arbor to participate in the Dash. He handed out sample seed balls and explained how to make and use them. Seed balls are not planted; they are simply scattered directly onto the ground.

Ingredients include clay, soil humus, water and seeds. Good seed choices are wildflowers, decorative grasses and herbs. They don’t have to grow in straight rows; just throw them wherever you want plants to grow. (www.gardengirltv.com)

Members of the Wexford County Herb Society were on hand with information on herbs, what they are used for and how to grow them.

Every year since 1995, the International Herb Association has been showcasing one herb a year and educating the public about its unique uses and properties. In 2011, it was the humble horseradish plant. This year it is the glamorous rose.

Did you know you can use roses in cooking? For intriguing rose recipes, including how to make rose water, see www.iherb.org.

Karen Anderson from Cadillac displayed a potato garden in a wooden crate. “You get lots more potatoes with this method,” she said. To learn how to construct the crate, plant the potatoes and increase your yield, see www.tipnut.com/grow-potatoes.

If you want to grow your own vegetables but are short on space or don’t have the necessary tools, a community garden is a good option.

Area residents can select a plot at the Cornerstone Community Garden on Leeson Court in Cadillac which offers plots or raised beds for the disabled. Gardening tools, composting materials and water are provided.

A 10 by 10 plot and the raised beds cost $12.50; a 10 by 20 plot costs $25.

Cornerstone also sponsors gardening workshops. Beginning Vegetable Gardening ($10 fee) is scheduled for May 16 at 6:30 p.m.

For details about the workshop location and to register, call Rebecca Reinink at (231) 775-9491 . Contact Reinink also for more information about the community garden and to reserve your plot.

The 100 YARDen Dash registration process in ongoing. If you missed the kick-off celebration, it’s not too late to participate. Go to www.transitioncadillac.org/100-yarden-dash for full information and online registration.

“On behalf of the 100 YARDen Dash, I want to congratulate Kathy Marshall from Marion who was our 100th registrant and the person who brought us to our goal of 100 gardens,” said Youngman.

“We went on to exceed our goal by the end of the day, and are happy to announce we registered a total of 151 gardens.”

The Transition movement began in Totnes, Engalnd which was the first community Transition town.

It is a grassroots movement which is growing throughout the United States. Cadillac is one of hundreds of Transition towns working to restore more emphasis on local food production, promote initiatives related to energy depletion and climate change and foster positive steps to strengthen communities. (www.transitionnetwork.org)