Awesome Urban Gardening in Detroit

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By Kelly Lett

Birches Growing In Decayed Books, from Detroit Disassembled (2010). Andrew Moore

Thanks to the spread of ruin porn there is this pervasive belief that Detroit is nothing but a burnt out, dirty, dystopian death world. I mean, sure parts of it look like that, but the truth is Detroit is fucking beautiful. Recognizing the richness of the soil and the benefit of being surrounding by fresh water, the French first settled it as a farming and trade town. Well, that rich soil is still there and try as they might, the manufacturing plants of the 20th century just weren’t able to poison all of it.

Gardeners have great luck out here, so long as they get everything planted before the first week of June. Any later than that and chances are your crops and flowers will be assaulted by a hard frost before you have a chance to harvest. Starting in April nursery’s, garden centers, and home-growers, (not that kind of grower, stoners) rush to stock up on supplies while getting those transplants started.

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This is my first year. Two years ago, I bought a home leaving me house rich and money poor. One year ago, I broke my leg destroying my Spring and Summer. This Spring I got a big fat tax return and no injuries, I’m planting a garden dammit!

Although I started some seedlings in my kitchen this past April, and most of them survived, I need more. I need variety. After realizing that I may have gotten a bit too excited about fresh tomatoes, I started 30 seedlings which they are all doing great, I had resigned myself to being the crazy tomato lady on the block. I pictured myself handing out canned tomatoes at Halloween, a rotten trick if ever there was one.

The clock is ticking.

But transplants get expensive, fast.

Which is why I almost started to cry last weekend when I stumbled upon a group that hands them out for free! Well, almost free, it cost me $10 to join.

Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) started over a decade ago and has grown into a multi-purpose program designed to empower the people of Detroit to take control over their food choices. KGD offers a program called the Garden Resource Program (GRD) which hands out high quality seeds and locally grown transplants to over 1,400 family, school, community, and market gardens scattered across the city. By their estimate over 20,000 Detroiters are now cultivating a garden or urban farm.

It is so much more than just a place to get free plants, though. In my welcome bag, paper of course, I received not only seeds, but a whole host of information packets and calendars. KGD understands that gardening and farming is a learned skill, you can’t just throw seeds around and hope for the best. With that in mind they offer classes and workshops on every single thing a person needs to know for success in year-round gardening.

I already missed the one on worm composting.

And as if the free plants, seeds and classes weren’t enough they have a youth program for teenagers! AND a program to help you turn a profit on your little garden. AND they collaborate with local restaurants, food entrepreneurs, institutions, and other whole sale buyers to encourage local food growth and sales.

Grown In Detroit

Oh. I almost forgot to mention the community festivals and parties they throw.

These people at KGD care about big picture. Maybe it started with the idea of handing out baby plants here and there as encouragement only to develop into the wide-reaching program it is today. Or maybe they always had these big plans in mind. I don’t know, but I’m going to find out and when I do I’ll report back.

typical week gardening

Until then I shall enjoy the next workshop Get Ready to Garden: Basic Gardening to be held at the Hope Community Outreach Garden on May 30th, 6-8pm. After that I think I’ll attend the sweet potato class on June 8th. OH! And there is a water catchment one on July 11. OMG you guys, I’m so freaking excited!

More Information:

If you’d like more information about how to join The Grown in Detroit CSA, email



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