Photo by Melody

Community Gardens Different in their own Unique Ways, Part II

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowDecember 5, 2007

The second garden in my series on community gardens has a lot of historical significance behind it. Itís located on property that was Henry Fordís home. His mansion Fairlane is ľ mile east of the garden. The mansion is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

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Henry Ford’s family donated the 1300 acre site to the University of Michigan shortly after Mr. Ford’s death in 1947. The university built the sprawling U-M Dearborn campus in 1958.The campus has a huge wild area where virgin trees still stand. Located on the banks of the Rouge River it offers hands on opportunities for students to study aquatic life, botany, forestry, ornithology and other environmental related subjects. Mr. Ford’s wife Clara was an avid gardener. Her rose garden still stands on the mansion site.

Local school groups from kindergarteners to high school seniors are almost daily visitors to the area.

There is a large sugar bush on site where each spring sap is drawn for maple trees and cooked into maple syrup.

As part of the environmental studies program a community garden was created for the students as well as the general public. The garden is used by students for research as well as local residents to grow organic vegetables and flowers.

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Welcome to the Uof M Dearborn Organic Community Garden.
Recycled good are used throughout the garden as witnessed by sunflowers in clay drain tiles

The garden is adjacent to a large virgin wild area. It’s not uncommon to see deer, fox and a myriad of wild birds. I used to have a plot in this garden; I liked to go over early in the morning and work from dawn until 7:30-8 a.m. It was peaceful and I have had red-tailed hawks land on a fence post inches from where I was working a watch me for several minutes.

This garden is located within sight of the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters and ½ mile from a mega-mall Fairlane Town Center. You would never know it as serene as the location is.

The garden is divided into 15X30 plots which are rented to nearby resident for a small fee. The monies are used to purchase equipment for the garden. There are 2 tool sheds located on site for tools and other equipment. A 10 HP rear tine tiller as well as a lawn mower is provided by the University for Gardeners use.

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The plots are spacious 15X30 feet.

4 hours are set aside once a month for a “community” work session. Common areas in the garden are mowed and trails groomed. The work sessions are capped off with a pot luck picnic and socializing.

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An enabling garden is available to folks
confined to wheelchairs.

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Common areas are maintained by all the gardeners once a month

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A gazebo provides a break area and location for monthly pot luck lunches.

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The garden is 100% organic, no chemicals
whatsoever. These Bagworms won't eat much.

Another important aspect of this garden is teaching children to garden. An area is set aside just for kids to grow tend and harvest vegetables just like the grownups.

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The kid's have their own area in which to garden.

A garden like this is an excellent example where you can still have a “wild” area among the urban sprawl.


  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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