greening of detroit market garden

this one has been a long time coming (the garden and the post).  i’m amazed by the tenacity and determination that folks show in pulling off this project.  it’s been at least five years in the making, and there were many times i didn’t think it would be pulled off.

i remember a cold winter day going and visiting the site before it was even purchased, covered in gravel, pavement, and standing water.  it wasn’t much to look at, but it was a great location, and that i think is what really kept this project going, the location, and an amazing one it is.  just down the street from the eastern market sheds, next to the soon to be expanded dequindre cut, and the entrance to the cut from the market, and on the other side of the cut is a charter elementary school.  what could be fresher than produce sold at eastern market from a farm located in eastern market?  what could be a better showcase for urban agriculture but a farm located in the market district?  what could be a better location for agritourism than a farm right next to a greenway, and one of the most popular weekly destination for visitors.  i’m pretty well at a loss of something better.

you needed a lot of imagination to see a farm on that site, and a team of folks from the greening of detroit spent a lot, a lot of time thinking about how to make this happen.  the early site plans showed not just an amazing location but also what would be the best looking urban farm in detroit to date.

i heard the reports of the set backs, the difficulty obtaining the site, the frustration of high levels of contamination, getting the structures though city zoning, the removal of up to two feet of soil in some spaces.  At any point in that process i would have thrown in the towel.

earlier this year i saw that the fences had gone up, and the posts for the greenhouses had been laid.  i began making a small detour occasional on my morning ride to work to see the progress as it went, and taking photos to document.

february 1st

march 20th 

april 20th

may 14th

june 19th 

july 25th 

august 8th

september 7th

October 10th

this week, the greening held a grand opening for the market garden, and i got my first up close look on the ground.

at the back of the lot a shipping container greets you to the market garden, it functions as much more than storage, it’s been insulated on the inside, fitted with an air conditioner and cool-bot, and now functions to store crops.   the container also functions to serve as shade for the washing/packing area. fittings are mounted above each tub so that they can be easily filled without having to drag hoses around.

hoop house growing is a major focal point of the site, with three movable hoop houses, and one stationary house.  the stationary house is a large 144 foot long house.  these houses have the advantage of electricity (yes even in the mobile houses) so they can have a inflator blower to keep the houses a little warmer, and automatic shutter vents on the end walls!

those movable hoop house that just a few years ago seemed to crazy high-tech, are now seeming common place as i find more and more people using them.  crazier than them moving is the added complexity of developing a crop rotation that includes them.  i find it difficult enough to try to plan a crop rotation in a hoop house that doesn’t move, let alone one that does.  i’m quickly coming to see the value of them though, and if i ever build another hoop house at work, i think we will seriously consider a mobile.




the whole idea of the mobile is that you can start crops outside that can withstand colder temperatures and then when it starts getting really cold you roll the hoop onto them.  alternatively you could start crops in the hoop that you plan to overwinter outdoors, but want extra protection to insure good germination. then you roll the hoop off, and add row cover or hoops.  


the possibilities are pretty endless for possible rotations.  which is why planning crop rotations in them seems so complex, and even more so when you are using three hoop houses.  another major advantage is that hoop houses that in the same place year round don’t have exposure to the outdoors.  two reasons this a problem.  1. it means that pest pressures can build up because of the milder temperatures in the hoop. movable hoops expose the soil to hard frosts, and help with pest pressure.  2. salts can build up in the soils.  because irrigation waters often have salts and other chemicals in them, a crust can build up on the surface of the soil inhibiting growth of the plants.  exposing the ground to rainwater helps to flush the soil clean.  in addition to the hoops they are also doing outdoor annual production, peppers and greens were left out in the field with plenty of garlic planted to over winter.  eventually they plan to develop on site composting and perennials, but just trying to develop what has been done has been enough, and they are slowly easing into that.

currently the site doesn’t have open hours, but plans are to have them soon, especially once the dequindre cut is added.  i recommend a visit, it is easily one of the coolest farms in detroit.


6 responses to “greening of detroit market garden

  1. Beautiful series of pix, Patrick! Can you please post the address? (I’m a native Detroiter but haven’t lived there or even visited in a long time. Your posts have made it a certainty that I will visit next spring.
    Thanks so much!

  2. This is outstanding. It gives me hope that I can do much with my own 1/10th acre urban plot.

    I can’t wait to see how things grow and change for this project over the years. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. This is simply amazing! If I didn’t see those pictures I would hardly believe a urban farm like this to be true and in such a short time. There really are some great ideas, especially your movable hoop houses and crop planning seem to scream “effective” and everybody loves that. Great inspiration.

    • i’d hardly call it a short time – while it might have gone up pretty quickly, all the leg work to get it done took years.

  4. Oh my goodness! How beautiful! I can’t wait to visit. Last time I saw this lot (over three years ago) it was pretty barren. Congrats to Greening of Detroit for making this a reality!

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