Unity Gardens to host Growing Summit with free gardening workshops


By: Geoff Lesar

Photo supplied/Unity Gardens

Local community gardening nonprofit Unity Gardens is hosting its annual series of free workshops and classes dedicated to empowering the community to grow its own healthy food.

The 2015 Growing Summit will take place March 20, 21 and 22 at IU South Bend’s Wiekamp Hall and feature 30 classes to inform attendees on emerging techniques and trends within the gardening world. Plus, attendees can get their hands dirty in how-to workshops for adults and hands-on classes for kids.

Flavor 574 will be at the Growing Summit Saturday, March 21, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Come see us to check out the digital magazine, learn about some of our new community bloggers and get your hands on some sweet Flavor 574 swag.

The summit kicks off Friday night at 7 p.m. with keynote speakers and a film screening. Classes and vendors will be open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Unity Gardens first began offering free classes in 2011 for nearly 130 participants. Last year, that number grew to over 470 visitors.

Sponsored by PNC Bank, Kohl’s and IU South Bend, this year’s summit includes classes on solar power, urban chickens, composting and the gardens of former U.S. presidents, among others. 

Friday, March 20

7 p.m. 

  • Women Empowering our Community – Terri Russ JD Ph.D., April Lidinsky, Ph.D and Unity Gardens director Sara Stewart R.N. MSN will be addressing attendees through three keynote speeches.

8 p.m.

  • Screening of the film “Terra Firma”
    “People have lost the connection, not only how to grow their own food, but they’ve lost the connection to each other and their national environment,” said Unity Gardens director Sara Stewart. “So we thought ’Terra Firma’ was an interesting way to combine the concepts of gardening and working with nature that heals us all.”

Saturday, March 21

9 a.m.

  • Room 1165 – Shade Gardening: Master Gardeners Dave and Carol Coffman will discuss plants that grow well in shaded areas.
  • Room 1175 – Natives in a Formal Garden: Mark O’Brien, regional manager and nursery principal at Cardno JFNew, will detail the role of native plants and how to best integrate them into a formal garden. 
  • Room 1185 – Intro to Permaculture: Dr. Katherine Kent will explain the principles that help gardeners use nature to their advantage, rather than fighting against it. 
  • Room 1190 – Kids’ Class on Butterflies 
  • Room 1150 – Solar Power: Vince Barletto, PE and senior electrical engineer at Inovateus Solar, will instruct attendees on the benefits of solar power and its application to gardening.

10:30 a.m.

  • Room1165 – Growing Hostas: Master Gardeners Dave and Carol Coffman will offer advice on how to plant and sustain the low maintenance plant.
  • Room 1175 – Compost and Compost Tea: Brett Pepper, owner of Grassroots Organics, will teach efficient composting.
  • Room 1185 – Container Gardening: Purdue Master Gardeners Jim and Cara Lupa will explain the practical purposes of container gardening.
  • Room 1190 – Kids’ Class: Topic to be announced.
  • Room 1001 – Focus on Soil: Community leader Judith Rubleske will detail how to get the most out of soil for home gardening.

1 p.m.

  • Room 1165 – Critters in the Garden: St. Joseph Valley Master Gardener Patty Fowler will talk on the variety of bugs and wildlife commonly found in area gardens.
  • Room 1175 – Forgotten Garden Treasures: Candace Corson demonstrates how to make a salve from local plants to treat minor burns and scrapes. (Two hour class.
  • Room 1185 – All About Hummingbirds: Purdue Master Gardeners Jim and Cara Lupa will lead a discussion detailing the migration pattern of bitty bird and area watch programs.
  • Room 1190 – Kids’ Class on Container Gardening: Master Gardeners Dave and Carol Coffman will offer hands-on potting and container gardening instruction.

2:30 p.m.

  • Room1165 – Ornamental Grasses: Master Gardener Sue Lowe will instruct attendees on the uses of ornamental grass available to region.
  • Room 1185 – All About Honey Bees: Steve Lesniak of Peace Bees will discuss improving honey bee health and the benefits of their presence in gardens.
  • Room 1190 – Kids’ Class: Topic to be announced.
  • Room 1150 – Healthy Soil and Water in St. Joseph County: The course, taught by Rick Glassman, will be split into two sections. The first will cover the diversity of life found within soil and how it leads to better plant growth. Part two will discuss the state of local waterways and instruct attendees on how to best monitor them through the Hoosier Riverwatch Program.

4 p.m. 

  • Screening of the film “Terra Firma”

Sunday, March 23

10 a.m.

  • Room 1165 – Tower Gardening: Andrea Mather-Stow will offer a “how-to” instructional class for creating tower gardens.
  • Room 1175 – Urban Chickens 101: A new South Bend city ordinance allow for domesticated chickens. Mitchel Yaciw will explain the ordinance and its regulations, as well as what types of eggs to expect and the best breeds to raise for the region.
  • Room 1185 – Doing the Most Good and Least Harm: Alex Lesniak, founder of Peace Bees, will be discussing sustainable options for gardening and its effects on the natural environment.
  • Room 1190 – Seed Starting for Kids

11:30 a.m.

  • Room 1165 – Transparency and Global Products: Knowing your Grower: Shaun Maeyans, owner of South Bend’s Zen Cafe Coffee, will speak on the importance of developing direct relationships with international growers, including his own with Honduran coffee bean grower Rudy Carcamo.
  • Room 1175 – Soil Regeneration Unlimited: Chemical engineer and soil expert Dan Pavich will speak on the cycles of soil.
  • Room 1185 – Gardening Presidents: Master Gardener and Unity Gardens board member Cyndi Kingma will discuss the respective gardens and heirloom vegetable histories of U.S. presidents.
  • Room 1190 – Honey Bees for Kids: Hosted by Peace Bees.
  • Room 1150 – Small Fruits and Berries: Learn how to enhance your garden with small fruits and berries. Master Gardener Laureen Fagan will lead the class.

1 p.m.

  • Room 1165 – Organic Gardening 101: Greg Leyes will lead the instructional class on the basics of organic gardening practices.<
  • Room 1150 – Herb Gardening: Master Gardener Laureen Fagan will speak on growing herbs.
  • Hall – Fermenting with Joe Gady: Joe Gady of Farming for Life will speak on the benefits of fermented food. His products will also be available for purchase.
  • Room 1190 – Chickens 101 for Kids: Amy Riedel will oversee a live chicken introduction for children. The anatomy of a chicken, its life cycle and proper care will be covered in the program. Origami chickens and eggs will be constructed as well.
 Can’t make it to the summit? Check out Unity Gardens’ blog on Flavor 574, Growing With Unity, for gardening tips any time.
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