A View from a Volunteer Grower

Mike McDonald, Como Park District 10 Environmental Committee member and Capitol Region Watershed District board member, became a Como Community Seed Library  Seed Champion volunteer grower this last season. Both Mike and his wife Ruth have been deeply involved in sustainable living and championing environmental and social justice in the Como Park neighborhood for decades. Their gardens are a beautiful combination of native plantings, water conservation, and edibles. Here is Mikes account of growing out Arikara beans to reinvigorate them, make them locally adapted, and to return them to CCSL for checkout. If you are interested in participating  as a Seed Champion Volunteer Grower for next season email comoseedsavers@gmail.com for further details and varieties available. Como Community Seed Library is deeply grateful to Mike and Ruth for sharing their time, gardening knowledge and garden space this season and moving the library’s mission to be self-sustaining one more seed into the future. Thank you!!!!
We grew some Arikara Yellow Beans for the seed library this year.  They are a yellow-tan dry bean.  They are supposed to mature in 80 to 90 days.
We planted all of the seeds in the packet we were given and they have done great.  They germinated well and pretty quickly.  They have been very healthy.  They overgrew the carrots we planted next to them and we have to stake them up to stop overshadowing the carrots.
We did not water them anymore than the rest of the garden and they were ok with that.  About 3 weeks ago, we looked at them closely and noticed the bean pods had turned white and were dry.  I talked with Dawn about this and she said that this is normal for dry beans and unless we see signs of fungus on the plants we should just let them continue to dry on the plant.  That is what we have been doing.  They still look good but the pods are not really dry yet, so we will let them continue to dry on the plant in the garden.
I am curious about the taste of the beans and will keep some for us to try after we have provided a good batch back to the seed library.
They have been easy to grow, with little issues or problems.  If they taste good, I will consider growing them again next season.
Mike MacDonald



Cultivating Community in Roseville, MN


Seeds of Hope Community Garden is entering its 9th summer here in Roseville, MN. The garden started in the summer of 2009, when North Como Church (renamed New Life Church) received a grant from Presbyterian USA that included funding for a community outreach program. The church decided that they would like to create a community garden on their property with this funding, and an internal committee was formed to identify needs and possible solutions for this to happen.

With the grant, we erected fencing, contracted a landscape designer, negotiated with neighbors, and broke ground in a few summers of intensive, sod-busting labor to create what today is a 32 plot, all volunteer-driven garden. Housed on the southeast corner of the church property, it includes 4 raised bed gardens reserved for people with challenged mobility, and two plots for the Church to grow and donate fresh veggies to local food-shelves such as Keystone Community Services throughout the summer.

A charter was established for the garden, to ensure a diverse mix of gardener populations had equal access to this resource. This is comprised of ⅓ church community, ⅓ immigrant populations, and ⅓ surrounding community members. Today, a leadership committee of all volunteers (comprised of both church members and other gardeners) manage business aspects of the garden, and church staff serves as a hub for communication. Our garden community comes from all walks of life, with people ranging from the ages of 24 – 75.

We strive for and encourage all gardeners to know one another by name. To better accomplish this, we organize monthly “cleanup days” as a designated time that gardeners can come and work alongside each other in their respective plots and attend a workshop lead by a U of M graduate student, resident master gardener, or a knowledgeable greater community member like the Como Community Seed Library. In addition, at the end of each growing season we arrange a gardener potluck to celebrate the harvest, discuss tips and exchange recipes. We feel that everyone gains and learns so much by these interactions and we experience so much joy when we see them taking place.

As of 2017, we received an Urban Agriculture Grant from Ramsey County and plan to use the money to construct a more permanent fence around the garden, build a tool shed, and have watering and tool instructions translated into the spoken languages of our immigrant garden residents.

We have learned a lot together in the past 9 years. We have learned that Roseville, surprisingly,  is a bustling centre for all forms of wildlife including cunning deer and their fawns, rabbits, moles, and mice. We have learned a lot about how to attract and maintain native pollinators and natural insect enemies to our garden and enjoyed the buzzing bees in our space together.  We also realized that certain vegetable crops, like potato and squash, facilitate recurring populations of pest insects and have agreed to ban those food plants for everyone’s benefit. We have spent many years of testing and correcting our soil quality by adding compost by the truckload.

We have much more to learn together, but love doing so in unison and gaining everyone’s input and ideas before moving forward on long term plans. We hope to continue to grow together as we enter our 2018 gardening season and provide a safe place to be and grow food with an engaged community for all of our members.

For more information about Seeds of Hope Community Garden visit us on Facebook or at our website: http://www.newlifechurchroseville.org/garden

We host a monthly short workshop in the garden that is always open to the public so feel free to join us!



The Foundation of Your Garden

Picture your favorite garden. Call to mind everything that makes this garden magical and beautiful. Are you imagining particular plants that make this garden stand out? Maybe a water feature or a statue? Maybe you like seeing the birds or butterflies that are regulars here?

FHK bluebirds on the spicket
One of my favorite gardens.

I would wager that what you’re not thinking about is the part of your favorite garden that makes it all possible: the soil. At least, I hope your favorite garden has soil – too many have only dirt: a depleted version of the complex, resilient, living ecosystem that is soil.

This tiny pinch of quality compost is packed full of microscopic life!

There’s a big difference between those two things – dirt and soil. The former describes the rocky crusty stuff that is sometimes referred to as “parent material,” or sand, silt, and clay. It is sometimes described as being dead, which is actually far from the truth when you consider the teeming billions of bacteria that typically thrive in black dirt (giving life to weedy plant species!). Diversity-wise though, dirt is pretty dead. It doesn’t contain the miles of fungal filaments, millions of microscopic animals, or the complex, life-giving compounds found in a tiny pinch of healthy soil.

At Renaissance Soil, a Saint Paul-based nonprofit, we are dedicated to clarifying this difference and encouraging people to respect and build the soil that serves as the foundation of all other life on this planet. We regularly host classes and workshops designed for beginner and Master Gardeners alike. We also provide biological testing services that help gardeners, farmers, and landscapers measure the life in their soil and/or compost.

These brown threads are called fungal hyphae. They are the microscopic growing, eating body of fungi that bind soil particles together preventing erosion and nutrient loss.

RS Logo

For more information about Renaissance Soil visit us on Facebook or at our website: renaissancesoil.wordpress.com. We will also be presenting at Como Community Seed Library’s May Mosaic – Hope to see you there!


Spring at the Como Community Seed Library

It’s been a long winter and the snow is receding, the sun is getting stronger and the soil is getting warmer. We’ve been busy adding seeds to the library, running germination tests to check viability and vigor of saved seed and others in the collection and starting seedlings for the May Mosaic. We also have a few events planned that we’re really excited about. And along with the events are a host of opportunities to get involved either as a participant or volunteer.

April Events:

A Seedy Situation: Join Frogtown Farm, Urban Farm and Garden Alliance, Frogtown Neighborhood Association and Como Community Seed Library for all things seed on April 7th. For details follow the above link.

Seeds of Hope Community Garden Kickoff:  Sunday, April 22nd. Earth Day!! 2:30-4:30 pm. 965 Larpenteur Ave. W. (Victoria and Larpenteur),Roseville MN 55113. Come check out the community garden, check out seeds and resources from CCSL and hear why seed saving and locally adapted seed are important to a resilient food system. Seed saving is a fun way to share with your neighbors.

May Events:

May Mosaic: CCSL’s annual garden kickoff complete with the latest in garden education, a plant and seed exchange, and more!  Follow the link above for the dirt. Share your gardening enthusiasm and signup to volunteer at the May Mosaic. Volunteers receive a special thank you for their effort!

More to come…

CCSL needs you to grow….literally!

We’re looking for gardeners, urban farmers, and urban/suburban homesteaders who would like to help us grow out certain seed varieties in the library that haven’t seen soil  in a few years and are at risk. They need to be planted to grow and seed again.  Help us further the CCSL mission of sowing, growing and sharing as well as increasing the locally adapted seed stock and self-sustaining nature of the library by being a volunteer grower. Details and signup are here.


Beauty in Passing

If you walk the paths around the lake in Como Park, you may notice the well tended flower gardens placed here and there. One of  these gardens bears a dedication sign perched on a morning glory adorned post identifying the garden steward as Debby Smith. Debby with a help of a few volunteers has been maintaining this garden, as well as two others, and the gardens at Chelsea Heights Elementary for many years. The mix of native flowers, perennial favorites and annuals given to her by the city and donated from her personal garden display an ever-changing mix of color and texture. Her weekly tending means there’s not a weed of any size to be found and all the plants are lush even in the hottest and driest of weather all for the quiet beautification of her neighborhood park and school. So next time you’re walking the paths by the pavilion and you notice someone in a sun hat busy editing one these oases of blooms say “hi” and thank her.


The Edible Garden at Langford Recreation Center

Gardening at Langford

For the past two summers Como Community Seed Library has helped the Langford Recreation Center with their edible garden. This year Kristen Cannova from the U of M student garden, Cornucopia, helped design and plant with the kids from Langford. Based on a flower layout the center of sunflowers will have petals of tomato plants, beans, greens and peppers to share and eat at the end of Summer Splash. Plenty of color and variety will add to the harvest celebration.