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Growing Places Indy:  Plant it Forward

To create a culture of healthy communities and sustainable local and regional food systems, we need to cultivate a community of people who can grow their own food. We imagine a city with thriving neighborhoods where all people have equitable access to sustainably grown produce and the skills to grow that food and knowledge to create delicious, healthy meals.

The Plant it Forward Program, powered by Growing Places Indy, helps us bring our vision to life. The program gives Indianapolis residents, community organizations, schools, and churches the tools, training, and resources needed to start their own home or community garden.

Plant it Forward Program participants will receive all the needed resources to start a vegetable garden, including small tools, seeds, locally grown transplants, and access to several hands-on workshops.

Apply Here

The Plant it Forward Program, is only for gardens located in Indianapolis, IN. If you garden outside these areas, please visit our website to learn about other ways to get involved.

Gardeners are responsible for picking up their seeds and transplants on the designated dates.

    • Spring Distribution: April 5 – April 24, 2021
    • Summer Distribution: May 17, – June 5, 2021
    • Fall Distribution: July 12 – 31, 2021

Dreaming about Blue Skies and Green Plants?

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It’s February and we’re having a “normal” winter here in Indy.   Cold, (warm!), snow, ice, crunchy grass, gray skies.  If we close our eyes, we might dream of blue sky, fluffy clouds … and dirty hands… sowing seeds and planting starters in warm soil.  Can you smell it?

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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

If you’re dreaming of that first dig of dirt, satisfy some of that wishing now!  It’s time to start thinking about what you want to grow this season.  You can flip through seed catalogs (order them in print or shop them online) and start thinking about what’s going to taste and look great this summer.

To help enable your craving for the gardening life, we’ve collected some resources for you to visit.  Seed catalog companies, garden planting timetables for Indy, and some information about making sure your soil is nutritious so your green “babies” can grow to be healthy and productive.

healthy vegetables hand gardening

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

For you KMCG Gardeners!!   Don’t forget that our Arsenal Park plots are ORGANIC!  So seeds and starts should be chosen with that in mind!

Get your gardening dreams started here…..

Hello, Soil. Pleased to Mulch You!

We have been so fortunate to have Kevin Allison, urban soil specialist with the Marion County Soul and Water Conversation District share his knowledge with us.

Yes, we get excited about things like cover crops around here. Hey, they are really cool! Cover crops = happy soil = happy plants = less work for us = more delicious veggies.

Kevin has really great, really simple tips for our gardeners and anyone growing their own produce: add a light layer of straw to any exposed soil in your garden. As your seeds and seedlings go in the ground, the straw keeps moisture from wicking out of your soil and has a moderating effect on soil temperature. Both of these things limit stress on your plants, make your life easier, and help your plants focus their energy on growing awesome produce for you and your family. It also adds more organic matter to your soil.

And as temperatures broke 80 degrees here in Central Indiana, conserving water and protecting plants from heat will be increasingly important!

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Want to garden with us in 2021? Applications now available!

Set your 2021 resolution today: join your neighborhood community organization with a serious love for gardening! Online applications are now available for the 2021 season.

Last year’s gardeners have first priority until 2/15/21, and then we will assign remaining garden beds on a first-come, first-served basis. Total cost is just $35 ($25 to help cover operating costs, $10 maintenance deposit refunded once beds are cleaned up at the end of the season).
Get all the details on our “Garden with Us” page, then apply today.

ACTION PLAN: Starting a Community Garden in Indianapolis (from someone who has been there)

The Keystone-Monon Community Garden launched as an idea in early 2015, and it took an entire year of planning, building our garden community, drafting proposals, securing land, and raising funds before the first garden bed was planted. As we enter our fourth growing season, we’ve found that the most important thing to fully embrace throughout the lifespan of any community garden is this: without community, it’s just a garden (and probably not a very successful one at that).

At our core, we strive to be a community organization rooted in gardening. We welcome all in our neighborhood and recognize that every person brings something of value to the table. Even as you work to build a garden, cultivate your plot, and harvest your gorgeous produce, the more important thing to cultivate continually is community.

So what’s your action plan? 

  1. GATHER your community and establish whether there is a critical mass committed to both gardening AND community. Discuss community organizing topics, such as Asset Based Community Development and Assume Positive Intentions, and ask people why they are there and what they hope to get out of creating a garden.
  2. ESTABLISH your organization’s mission and vision. Don’t rush through this part, and make sure your mission and vision are developed collaboratively by all.
  3. EXPLORE land options. Some options include vacant lots, parks, churches, private land – any unused or underused space. Be creative, and be sure to consider access, parking, and, most importantly, water. The Indy Urban Garden Program is an example of our city supporting turning vacant lots into urban garden production. The Keystone-Monon Community Garden identified Arsenal Park as our desired space due to its central location and its popularity as a gathering space for all in our community.
  4. DESIGN your space, considering light, access to water, placement within your neighborhood, and any site-specific considerations, such as busy roads. Our design team developed two phases, allowing us to grow slowly, building off successes and giving us the chance to rethink any missteps.
  5. DEVELOP your proposal. Because we work closely with Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation, we developed an extensive proposal, including our mission and vision, goals, design plans, annual schedule, maintenance plans, and risk management tactics. While many locations might not require such an extensive proposal, this guidance document has been extremely useful as we have built the garden, established partnerships, and applied for funding.
  6. BUILD partnerships. Truly, you cannot talk to enough people, organizations, or businesses. Look to everyone in your community, and listen to their needs and services. Schools, businesses, non-profits, hardware stores, churches, restaurants, neighborhood development corporations and associations, other community gardens: all could potentially serve as partners or provide guidance and support.
  7. RAISE funds. In addition to a nominal per-bed fee (waived for anyone who is unable to pay), we have raised funds through grants, individual donations, donations from churches and businesses in our neighborhood, neighborhood garden tours, and seedling sales. We have also received in-kind donations of wood and supplies, free mulch from tree service companies, and the donation of a Bobcat from a neighborhood tool rental business to move soil.
  8. FINALIZE land agreements and ACQUIRE insurance. Each year, we submit reports and renew our agreement with the city. The American Community Gardening Association also recommends community gardens acquire general public liability insurance, which we established through Farm Bureau Insurance.
  9. BUILD! This is when you get to really activate your community in a very tangible way! During the spring of 2016, we hosted multiple volunteer days, moving mountains of mulch, building 20 garden beds, and putting together our storage shed. These are also some of the most fun, rewarding projects for volunteers who can walk away seeing what a huge difference they have made.
  10. MANAGE the garden. Applications, participant waivers, regular gardener communications: your group will need to decide how to manage everything.
  11. EDUCATE and CELEBRATE early and often. Offering educational and social opportunities rooted in gardening and celebrating your community help continue your positive momentum and involve all in the neighborhood, even if they aren’t gardeners.

If you read the steps above and felt like you could never accomplish it all on your own, you are probably right! But when you have a strong community of people who are willing and encouraged to speak up; share their skills, ideas, and connections; and empowered to take action, you can accomplish anything. And each person involved will make everything you do that much stronger, better, and easier to accomplish.

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Recipe Corner: Refrigerated Dill Slices

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – pickle time! We just made our first batch of cucumber pickles over here and had to share. Cucumber pickles are so fast and easy to throw together. While we love the result from the more time consuming process of making “real” pickles, the “time consuming” part gets in the way too much to be practical these days.

So yesterday, we turned to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for help and tried out the Refrigerated Dill Slices recipe (2006, p. 292). In about 2-3 weeks, we’ll know for sure how delicious they are!

35189836_2150582995219395_5951460788211286016_oRefrigerated Dill Slices: Makes about 5 pint-sized jars

8 1/4 cups sliced trimmed pickling cukes
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tbsp canning salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp pickling spice
7 1/2 tsp dill seeds
5 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
5 cloves garlic, halved

Set aside cucumber slices in large nonreactive bowl. In medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and pickling spice. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 10 mins.

Pour pickling liquid over cucumbers, cover with waxed paper and let cool to room temp, about 30 mins.

In each pint-sized jar, place 1 1/2 tsp dill seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp peppercorns, and two garlic clove halves. Add cucumber slices to within a generous 1/2 inch head space of top of jar. Ladle pickling liquid into jar to cover cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Apply lids. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for 2 weeks for best results, and use within 2 months.

Recipe Corner: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Turkey Chili

In 2018 we began one of our new endeavors: creating a recipe corner of delicious recipes, tested out by our gardeners! 

It can be hard to figure out how to cook fresh produce or veggies that might be new to you. We also know how disappointing it is to grow something from the ground up, only to be less than impressed with the final prepared product.

With that in mind, our Recipe Corner will provide an ever-growing list of crowd-pleasing recipes to use with produce grown right in the garden that won’t let you down. Contact us at kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com if you have a recipe to share!

SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN TURKEY CHILI: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/228404/slow-cooker-pumpkin-turkey-chili/

One of our community gardeners, Sharon, grew these beautiful cheese pumpkins this year and gifted one to my family, so I knew I needed to find just the right way to use it. The recipe linked above, complete with both chili powder and pumpkin pie spice, hit all my personal requirements: 1) decadently delicious, 2) ridiculously easy, and 3) filled with veggies and legumes. We skipped the cheese and added cumin, tomato sauce, carrots, and cauliflower. Extra points: I have enough pumpkin to make a second batch for Christmas night!

The best things in life aren’t things

What amazing years we have had at the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park! We want to thank all in our community who made it such a success: our gardeners, our generous sponsors, and our community supporters. We are so grateful for you!

Here are some of the things we have accomplished so far:

  • In August, our second Neighborhood Garden Tour raised over $430 for the garden. Close to 20 participants visited six gardens, and we welcomed the support of 13 local business sponsors!
  • We hosted a weekly by-donation yoga series, Yoga in the Garden, all summer. Huge thanks to instructor John-Payton Rowley, SoBeFit. We welcomed almost 300 yogis-in-training of all ages and raised nearly $1,000 in donations for our instructor and the garden. 
  • We built a new welcome and communications area: a planting table, outdoor message board, and arbor to create more growing space and shade. Huge thanks to our construction guru Liz Laughlin, owner of Limelight Coffee, and the Marion County Master Gardeners Association, whose generous grant helped support these exciting infrastructure additions.
  • We partnered with the IBG Youth Outreach Program during its pilot summer, hosting a weekly gardening and nutrition class for youth from our neighborhood.
  • We hosted a seed giveaway, cover crop workshop, essential oils workshop, and seedling sale, open to all in our community, raising over $560.
  • We hosted two big workdays and expanded our perennial wildflower plantings. The monarch butterfly caterpillars found us this summer! Not only do flowers add beauty, but they greatly increase the biodiversity of pollinators in Arsenal Park. 
  • We partnered with so many in our community! We would be nothing without our community partners and supporters. Please support them year-round and during this holiday season. And the biggest thanks go to Indy Parks and Recreation for their continued support of the garden.
  • We gardened – and our gardeners’ beds were simply gorgeous this year! 20 gardeners grew fresh, organic produce all summer long.
  • Updated garden signage to tell our story and help community members connect with the garden and each other when they visit.

What do we have planned for 2021?

  • Website updates, including a recipe corner, virtual garden tour, gardener biographies, and other activities.
  • Expanded efforts to make a deeper impact in our neighborhood. And more yoga!

 

Get to Know an Urban Garden Near You!

This map just amazes us! Urban gardens have taken over Indianapolis, and it’s so wonderful to see that so many value the community and individual benefits of community gardens and urban farming.

P.S. Check out lucky number 87 – the Keystone-Monon Community Garden!

Download a PDF version of the 2016 Community and Urban Gardens Map, Indianapolis.

Urban Garden map, 2016 11 x17

I get by with a little help from my friends: Companion planting herbs

So many times, we fall into the trap of making an herb “section” of our garden and putting all the herbs together. We love this article we just stumbled across on companion planting herbs – or planting them alongside certain vegetable plants to yield a stronger, more productive garden.

When you companion plant with herbs, you can:

  • increase yields
  • repel pests
  • encourage pollination
  • provide shelter for beneficial insects

Learn how to use dill, marigolds, chives, basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary for a stronger – and tastier – garden this summer:Companion Planting with Herbs for a More Robust Garden” by Chris Dalziel on Attainable Sustainable.

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