There is much hunger in the world, and a thought began to grow that we at RCS could make a difference at our corporate office here in Lake Elmo, MN. This passionate gardener knew our employees would be willing to help the community's neediest residents if only they had the means. In this case, that meant a garden. CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.

For Volunteer Questions, Contact: Joni Fletty 651.704.1750

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Homemade Seed Tape Project Finished!

Making homemade seed tapes.
Watch a great video at the bottom of this story!
We made homemade seed tapes this year!  The Jr. Master Gardening Group made many of the tapes, and during lunch, our employees completed the rest.

Our long seed tapes
Seed tapes are great, but to buy them can be expensive.  They save you time compared to sowing loose seed by hand.  They are quick to sow, removed the guesswork when sowing, it evenly spreads straight lines of plants, prevents wash off of seeds, there are fewer wasted seeds, you get good germination results, and there is less thinning of the seedlings!

What you need:
1 ply toilet paper
Small paint brushes
Flour paste mixed with equal parts water and flour 1:1 ratio
Pen or marker pen
Plastic baggies

Our garden rows are 28' long, and on many of our rows we are tripling our crop plantings, by planting rows that are 1' wide, with three seed tapes for each row.  

For example – “x’s” below indicate seeds in a row.  So, three tapes, per row, and alternated to get maximum production.  When laid out, it will look like this the example to the right:

Seed tapes rolled and ready!
  • We used the brush side of the brush to dab a dot of the flour past.  We used the opposite end to pick up the tiny seeds and put them on the dot.  If you put just a tiny dab of flour past on the opposite end, you could consistently pick up about 3 seeds at a time.  We put about 3 seeds for each dot in case of seed failure.
  • Before rolling up the seed tapes, at the end we marked the name of the crop, how deep to sow them, and how long the seed tape is.  Our conference room table is 10' long, so we would make two 10' tapes and one 8' tape for each row.
  • When the tapes were rolled up, we put them in plastic baggies.  This will keep moisture away from them, and on planting day will be easy to give to the volunteers for each planting row!

- Contributed by Joni Fletty

A Generous Donation!

14237 Julliard Street, Forest Lake, MN  55025 P:  612.220.7410

We received the most generous donation today for the RCS Teaching Giving Garden.  Thank you to Russ and Melanie Newville for their $1,000 donation.  This will go far in not only the produce that will be donated to the Valley Outreach Food Shelf, but also anything needed to sustain this garden and those who come here to learn. 

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert

Thank  you again Russ and Melanie for not only this donation, but for all that you do for your community.  We are so fortunate to to have this great partnership with you!


Giving Garden vs. Hungry Birds and our Strawberries


 Click any photo to enlarge

Birds love strawberries, and who could blame them. Imagine a bird just flying along and spotting, below, bright red, juicy berries!

Weaving together the netting
There are many methods to use to keep birds out of the strawberry patch, but the most effective way to protect them is to use bird netting,

We used 3/8" Pecs plumbing piping to form the loops over the strawberries. Then netting was stretched over the tubing.  The netting was not long enough to reach the entire length of the raised beds, so Curt, Mike L and Mike T had to weave the netting together with fishing line.  

Sliding the clothespins to raise the netting
At the bottom of each tubing, a clothespin is placed over the tubing, making sure to include part of the netting.

In order to weed or harvest the strawberries, all you need to do is to slide the clothespins up the tubing, thereby raising the netting!  See video at the top of this story.

Thank you Curt, Mike and Mike for your work on the netting!!
- Contributed by Joni Fletty

A Very Happy Greenhouse!

The greenhouse is filling up!
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

The seedlings that the Jr. Master Gardening youth have started are making their way into the greenhouse.  It seems that every
day more and more plants arrive.  I was out there early this morning to water, and  it was just so full of color and great earthy smells!

The strawberries in our new raised strawberry beds are really blooming, and I know we owe that to our honey bee's.
 Everything is so green and happy!  The countdown to planting day at 9:00 am on Wed, May 27th has begun.  12 more days, join us if you can!
- Contributed by Joni Fletty

Today is Food Revolution Day 2015

Food Revolution Day Song! Check it out and share it...

Support the Revolution!  Every child has the right to learn to grow their own food, know its value, and what it does for their bodies.


Herbs are Planted!

Click any photo to enlarge
 Jean, from Ivy Rose Design planted our herbs in the pots in front of our building.  Not only will these add a fragrant entrance into our building, but will be welcome additions to bring over to the food shelf with the other produce.

There will be Sweet Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro, Tarragon and Chives.  You can click on the name of each herb to read about cooking tips with them!

Jean, thank you for all you do for RCS!
- Submitted by Joni Fletty


Junior Master Gardeners Preparing Plants for the Garden!

Click on any photo to enlarge!

Look what we are up to! The Junior Master Gardener kids
led by Kathy and Liz learned all about germination while starting many kinds of tomato seeds. Once the seedlings developed some of their true leaves, we transplanted them into larger pots. Now they are basking in the warm light inside the brand new greenhouse at The Giving Garden! Coming soon to the greenhouse will be the cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash.

On a recent cold, sleeting day, the Junior Master Gardeners learned how to make homemade seed tape for small seeds such as carrot, chard, kale, beets and radish! Have you ever planted tiny seeds in your garden just to have them sprout in clumps because they were washed
together or not sprout at all because they were planted too deeply? Seed tape can improve crop yield and make thinning and weeding much easier! Seed tape can be expensive to buy in the stores, especially for the seed amounts we need for a large garden such as this one! All one needs is toilet paper, a flour and water paste, a small paintbrush and seeds! Oh, and a little patience, too!

We are looking forward to getting out to The Giving Garden for the first time to see the garden
when it is set up for the 2015 summer season!

submitted by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma

Foot Note:  Thank you Lakeview Foundation for your donation of our greenhouse!


Reclaimed Raised Strawberry Beds Installed!

L to R:  Curt, Dan B., Mike (half hidden), Bob
Not pictured:  Joy and Toni
Click on any photo to enlarge
The end of last summer, Curt and Joy in our office started transforming many, many used paper pallets that we had collected from blueprint paper deliveries.  In keeping with our 'reuse and recycle' theme in our garden, they turned these used pallets into some amazing raised strawberry beds!  A few weeks ago, Curt and Joy painted the outside of the raised beds to get them ready for planting.

As part of our office Earth Day project, a team moved the new strawberry beds into place, filled them with fresh new soil, and transplanted the strawberry plants.

We have struggled with invasive weeds and grasses creeping into our strawberry patch.  The berries have shallow roots that don't compete well with weeds and can be damaged by aggressive weeding tools.  A raised bed will help isolate this crop  from these pesky invaders.

Another advantage of these raised beds is that we can start with fresh soil that meets the needs of these wonderful plants. 

Strawberries need some special attention to avoid overcrowding and to prevent the fruit from rotting or being stolen by birds. Having a bed that contains just strawberries makes it much easier to tend the plants and protect them with bird netting.  Bird netting will be our next project.

Thank you to Curt, Joy, Dan B., Bob, Mike and Toni for all of your work on these raised strawberry beds!

- Joni Fletty, Contributing Writer


Dividing the Bee Hives

A.J. Moses showing us, through a safe window, the bees on one of the racks!
(Click any photo to enlarge)
Dividing the hive
Finding the Queen bee in the existing Hive
AJ Moses came by today to set up a new 2nd hive and divide the first hive.  He explained that the bees would be mad today with the hive divide, and with me wearing a a black shirt, it was suggested that I take photos from inside at a very safe distance!

Here is what AJ wrote about the process:

Our new bees ready for hive #2!
Dividing a bee hive:

As bee numbers in a hive increase, so does the hive’s output of surplus honey.  Too many bees can also lead to a swarm where about ½ the bees leave with the queen.  The swarm usually happens only after a new queen hatches in the hive.

There is another good reason to divide a hive – it increases the beekeeper’s number of hives by one.  Preparing the hive – the one main concern is dividing a hive only if it’s strong enough to divide.  This means a brood chamber population large enough to sustain two colonies.  

It’s also critical to have a second queen available for the new hive.  Don't expect the workers in the new colony to raise a queen.  That leaves too much to chance.

Introducing the new queen
1.  The first step is set up a new hive structure – hive stand bottom board, hive body with frames and a top cover.  It’s also critical to ensure adequate food supplies for the new hive.

The new queen bee for 2nd hive!
2.  Find the queen in the parent hive.  This ensures you don’t move the existing queen to the new hive.

3.  Divide the colony in one of two ways – move 3 to 4 frames of brood and bees to the new hive body or move one of the two hive bodies to create a new hive.  (Move the box WITHOUT the queen.)
Marshmallow plug!

4.  Introduce the new queen into the divide.  The queen is in a cage with a marshmallow plug.  If you simply release a new queen into a hive the worker bees will kill her as if she’s an invader.  However, it takes a day or two for the bees to eat away the marshmallow plug, and by that time they've accepted her as their new queen.
5.  Monitor the hive after about a week to ensure new eggs and brood appear.
- A.J. Moses - Contributing writer
AJ had picked up enough bees to stock 7 more hives and they were all in his truck!  A.J., thank you again for all that you do for this Teaching Giving garden!
A bee cage full with extra queen bee cages and Attendant bees to accompany the queen bees! 


Plowing Day

Neil Krueger from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm!
There is something absolutely energizing about seeing the dark, rich earth uncovered in a spring plowing. Neil Krueger from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm came over today and unearthed this beautiful soil!  We, in turn, every November, go down the road to their farm and help unload Christmas trees.  It is a partnership that has developed great friendships with like minded people.

They will be back twice more to till the soil.  Soon it will be filled with the color of plants and veggies, and the laughter of youth learning in this Teaching Giving Garden.

"Thank you" so much Deb and Neil Krueger for your generous time, talents, partnership with this garden and your friendship with our staff!

Joni Fletty - contributing writer


New Snow, Greenhouses, Seeds and Hope!

RCS Teaching Giving Garden Greenhouse  (Click to enlarge)
We had a new snow fall today!  Our greenhouse is covered, but it won't be long until those seed's of hope are planted and the youth return to the garden to learn where their food comes from!

We received an email from Julie Froslan Ferralez, Food Shelf Manager at Valley Outreach food shelf, where all of our produce is donated.  She said:

"As winter, theoretically, comes to an end, my attention has now been turned to garden produce and the Retail Construction Giving Garden was our top donor last year! Your support is so crucial in Valley Outreach’s efforts to bring fresh produce to our clients."

We are so excited for the greenhouse to shed its new winter coat, for what the new year brings, increasing our produce donation, and hearing the laughter of children back in the garden!

Audrey Hepburn said "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow"  - I'd like to add to that;  "To plant a Teaching Giving Garden is to believe in the youth of tomorrow!"

- Contributing writer - Joni Fletty


A.J. Moses, Beekeeper, Feeding the Teaching Giving Garden Bees!

Bee covered A.J. Moses!
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
A.J. Moses stopped out on Saturday and again today to feed the bees. Today he was going to add a few frames of honey for them to use as food, but there was plenty of honey in the hive!  This past Saturday, he stopped by and put a Pollen Patty inside the hive for the bees to feed on.  Here is what A.J. wrote:

"Bees have a great gift for storing food to get themselves through  the winter.  Mostly, they store a surplus of honey late in the season, using empty brood cells in the comb for food storage.  They also store pollen, but often not enough to ensure adequate supplies for that time before trees and flowers start blooming.  They also need temperatures high enough for foraging.

So we can feed a pollen patty to ensure they don't run short.  Like with our bodies, Bees require both carbohydrates - honey, and protein - pollen. 

In late February or early March the queen starts laying eggs for the coming season.  Worker bees tasked with feeding the larvae must have adequate supplies of pollen.  Pollen triggers their instinct to tend and feed said larvae. 

One note - honey bees typically prefer pollen they've stored, but most experienced beekeepers realize adding a pollen patty in early spring is an important safety net.

 - A.J. Moses - Beekeeper 

Thank you A.J. for all that you do for the bees at the RCS Teaching Giving Garden!
- contributing writer, Joni Fletty