Saturday, July 22, 2017

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden was like a well-watered garden. Since then, in the past two weeks we’ve received almost 8 inches of rain.  That’s a summer’s worth of rain in two weeks.   Our corn is almost 9 feet tall.  Everything is green and I have lots of free time to cook and garden at home because I do not have to water everything at the SACG.   The rains have not been gentle.  So, the aphids and most bugs have been washed off our kale.   Likewise, the flowers on our tomatoes and pepper have been washed away as well, surprisingly decreasing our yield.    My pansies finally died this week, two months after their normal life span.    Craziness. 

At my last family reunion, my Uncle Marshall (who has been laid up from back surgery) has been rationalizing not having a vegetable garden this year.  They put up so much food each summer that they really only need to garden every three years.  I can relate (except when it comes to tomatoes).

This year, I am determined to eat more of my produce while it is fresh instead of putting it up.   In
This was taken to the food pantry already, so don't try to steal it.
2009, I made our food pantry donations on Monday from what I was unable to cook or put up on the weekends.
  Now, I make donations on early Saturday afternoons and tell myself that I will cook during the week (which I rarely do).  This weekend is so hot and rainy that I plan to do nothing but cook.  This afternoon, I have made Mark Bittman’s kosher dill pickles (with no vinegar),  Moosewood’s Tabouleh, and Martha’s kale salad.  Tomorrow, I will make Bittman’s kale and sausage stew and two Rick Bayless zucchini recipes.  (On Thursday, I made a Bayless swiss chard taco recipe.  Earlier this week, I made two Martha green bean salad recipes – who knew that green beans go extremely well with olives?).   I also pulled my dehyrdrator from the basement to dry some oregano while it is flowering (and supposedly more flavorful).   I still have Napa cabbage to turn into eggrolls (which can be frozen).  I’ll probably shred and freeze some zucchini to turn into zucchini bread this fall.   And I bought some in-season blueberries to freeze for my winter blueberry pancakes.   And then there are the batch of tomatillos to turn into salsa verde while I decide whether my waist can really accommodate nachos.  Whew.  For those of you who are interested, I get my Saturday evening energy from listening to Louis Armstrong and Doris Day (and then, or course, Sinatra).  Really Loud.  Really, really loud.

Ken loaned me his post digger last Saturday and I immediately set to work and dug 6.5 post holes for our new picket fence while the soil was still soft  from the three inches of rain that we received the prior day.  He told me to dig each hole 24 inches deep.  I am an old lady and could not get more than 16-18 inches in the hour that I had to devote to this project on a hot summer day.    I also seemed to have strained some muscles in my hand. I grabbed one of the neighborhood teens, Chris,  to help me when he walked by.  I shamelessly asked if he wanted to learn to dig fence post holes.  He lost interest after about 10 inches.  Ken later took pity on me and dug out a few of the holes to the desired depth (on the hottest day of the week) so that I can start putting in the posts.  Sabrina is loaning me her husband Tom on Wednesday, so we’ll finish the holes then and maybe even set some of the posts (if the weather holds).

I hazed a bunch of our new gardeners about all of the weeds that they were growing in their plots.  They all hate me now.  The rest of the gardeners were wondering what took me so long to throw a fit about it.  Sigh. 

My buddy Praying Mantis is helping me with squash bugs
Sabrina celebrated her birthday this week.  She still came to the Garden to weed the food pantry plot (her chore this month).   Last week, she pulled all of the weeds off of the chain link fence (from both sides).  She even trimmed the weeds growing along the fence on the other side of the fence.  Pretty cheeky.  But they finally mowed their lawn.  She and Amy helped me this morning by harvesting virtually all of our beans this week.  Considering that it did not stop raining until 9 a.m. and I didn’t show up until 10, it is remarkable that I was able to get out from the Garden by 1:30 with 30 pounds of produce.  (Sabrina also filled quite a few bags with kale for me, too).  We were rained on at least twice and had to high-tail it to our cars.  Tom showed up at 12:30 with a towel for her to dry off (and hinted that it was time for her to leave).  He was really too clean at that point to help us out.  Needless to say, the lawn did not get mowed today.

Alyssa has our best sunflower this year
I included photos last time of our growing peach crop.  A mistake.  They were ALL gone within two days of my last article.  One of our Board members – who shall remain nameless – emailed me how good the peaches were.  I rushed over and there was only one tiny peach left.  I took it even though it wasn’t quite ripe yet.  It was still  tasty.  Oh well, Lynds has great yellow peaches.   After my most recent business transaction closes this week, I’ll finally have time to drive to Pataskala to get and can some fresh peaches.   Another Board member told me that he chatted with a visitor from Georgia who stopped at the Garden to pick some of our peaches and told him that they were yummy.  Maybe one year, they will actually be allowed to properly ripen and I will get one.

My plans in the next week will involve pulling out a couple rows of bush beans and planting some root crops (like beets or carrots) for a Thanksgiving-time harvest.  We’ve already lost two zucchini plants to squash borers and I may plant new zucchinis there or cucumbers.  I had transplanted lots and lots of leeks from my plot around the Garden before our three-inch deluge and they are well established.

I should not write anything about our corn.  I haven’t even tried to grow it in a few years because it is a greedy crop and so cheaply obtained.  However, we have lots of unused space and Sabrina really wanted to grow some.  I floated the idea of a co-op plot where those who shared in the work could share the crop.   How very socialistic of me; but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Sabrina bought some manure with her own money to put in the bottom of each row of corn.  I bought the seed in bulk from Dill’s Greenhouse near Canal Winchester.  Our first few rows did not go well.  But we harvested our first ears this morning and they were completely awesome.  Corn is sweet within a few hours of being harvested and then it turns into starch.   You can see the SACG from very far away this year because of the corn.  All kinds of people are stopping by  and asking about joining us next year.  I fully expect folks to climb our fence to help themselves at some point.  We’ve even had offers from neighbors to buy some of it.   This morning, I got two ears; Tom got two ears and the rest went to Lutheran Social Service’s food pantry.  It was really good.  Most of the rest of the corn is white  -- my mother’s favorite.  It’s not even close to being ripe yet.
Our weeds of the week have been pigweed, pokeweed and wood sorrel.

Pokeweed grows along our alley and in the southern fence row (often behind the compost bin).  It also grows between my backyard and my neighbor’s garage and in the alley behind a different neighbor’s fence.  While birds love the berries, the berries, stem and roots are extremely poisonous to children and mammals in general.  Notwithstanding that, it’s a hillbilly food IF you boil the leaves 3 different times in fresh water (to remove the toxins).  Failure to boil it in fresh water each time has resulted in  babies and children getting very sick from the toxins.  While Indians used it as a medicine, there I no medical evidence yet that it actually treats any illness or condition.  On the contrary, it may even be a carcinogen.  When it started poking over my privacy fence, I took matters into my own hands and chopped off the tops of the plants (because the seeds are spread by birds eating the fruit and then pooping the seeds).  My neighbors gratefully took the hint and then cleaned the rest of it out last week.  I’ve been thinking whether I can similarly attack the other outcropping in good conscience when it’s not even touching my yard. . . . . . .  You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

Pigweed is particularly prevalent along the alley (but is also readily found in our plots).  It can be easily controlled if you don’t let it go to seed.  However, not enough of our gardeners stay on top of it (or whack it in the alley like I did last Saturday and this morning).  Believe it or not, it is edible (at least in small portions) and is an ingredient in some Indian food. 

The last weed is Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel.  I know that you’ve always known it as clover, but it is not.  You already know that it is edible in small amounts because you’ve tasted it long before now.   According to Wikipedia:

Wood sorrel (a type of oxalis) is an edible In Dr. James Duke's Handbook of Edible Weeds, he notes that the Kiowa Indian tribe chewed wood sorrel to alleviate thirst on long trips, that the Potawatomi Indians cooked it with sugar to make a dessert, the Algonquin Indians considered it an aphrodisiac, the Cherokee ate wood sorrel to alleviate mouth sores and a sore throat, and the Iroquois ate wood sorrel to help wild plant that has been consumed by humans around the world for millennia. 

Well, my cd player is now on to Benny Goodman.  So, it’s time for me to move on to the Iranian foreign film that I checked out two weeks ago for when I was in a more serious mood.  I have to return it soon, so I guess that I’ll watch it tonight instead of going to see Dunkirk or Planet of the Apes.  . . . .  I saw Wonder Woman last week.  That's a movie that was a little more sincere than I usually am.

So, every growing season is different.  This year, we can look at the weather as Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered.  Or Que Sera Sera.  Or Luck Be a Lady.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Like a Watered Garden

We are having a summer like I remember from my youth.  A day in the low 80’s was considered hot back then and we went to the pool to have fun and were not freaked out by a passing thunderstorm.  The last few weeks, we have had more than an inch of rain at the end of each week, which has shortened my Saturdays at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden by 90-120 minutes each week.    I’m loving it and am starting to enjoy gardening again.  Rain makes our lives much easier at the SACG.   I had accosted weatherman Phil Kelly at the Art Festival last month about always cheering for hot, sunny days because those of us with gardens and lawns need at least an inch of rain each week to enjoy our summer.  So, now, the anchors at his stations are cheering for rain, too, “for our lawns.”  Good job.    I visited a few church gardens in the last few weeks and two of them cited to a passage of Isaiah that I decided to investigate this morning.  In it, the Lord blesses us by making us “like a watered garden.”    More on that later.

Life is good at the SACG.  Everything is growing.  My biggest problem at present is that the frequent, heavy rains are creating leaf mold in many of my tomatoes.  OSU blogged about this a couple of weeks ago and I realized that I had a problem.  It is spread by wind currents and high humidity.   I tend to plant close together to keep down the weeds, but that creates a fungus/mold problem when we get a lot of rain.  The humidity creates a fungus on the tomato leaves, which then get yellow spots and then brown and then fall off.  This creates a problem for the plant in not having enough leaves to generate enough energy to grow and be fruitful.  But it also creates a problem after it has set fruit because then the fruits are unprotected from the scorching sun and can rot on the vine.  Fungicides can help, but nothing I’ve sprayed so far seems to be making much of a difference.  Leaf mold is a particular problem for heirloom varieties because some tomatoes are bred to be more resistant than my treasured Brandywines.  Sigh.   But all things considered, I’ll take the rain.
With the free time created by the rain, I’ve had more time to actually cook and enjoy my garden produce.  That hasn’t always been true.  For my family’s Independence Day reunion, I made an Asian slaw from my napa cabbage, as well as spring rolls.  I still have some cabbage left and don’t know what I am going to do with it.   For last week’s GCCG meeting, I made chocolate beet brownies, which turned out very, very well.  That recipe is a keeper.   For last night’s turn at Shakespeare in the Park (which was really  Austen in the Park because they were performing Pride and Prejudice), I made kale chips and beet hummus.  I still have 1.5 pounds of green beans that I want to convert into a salad before they start turning brown.

We have made no progress towards installing a picket fence in front of the front wire fence at the SACG.  I forgot to pick up a post digger on Thursday from the Tool Library so that I could start digging post holes on Saturday.  I hope to remember this week.  It will be much easier when the ground is soft after a rain and we’ve also been blessed with cool Saturday mornings.   Because I did not have to water this week, I chopped weeds along the alley and mowed the lawn and planted cabbage seedlings donated by Oakland Nursery in one of our food pantry plots.  Sabrina weeded the food pantry plots and around the kids beds.   Her men (i.e., Husband Tom and sons Zephyr and Finn) stopped by at noon to surprise her with a picnic while she took a break.   The flea beetles are going to town on our grape vines, so Marge suggested Neem oil.  I’ll probably go back tonight to water in the cabbage, plant some more beets and go to war with the flea beetles.

Jaden and Cameron stopped by the Garden on Wednesday.  They were very bored.   We thinned some of Jaden’s carrots and transplanted them (and watered them in well to give them a fighting chance).  I sent him home with a giant beet from his bed, but he didn’t really want it and his mother has already told me that she never, ever bakes anything.  Cameron wants her own bed, but she’s not old enough.  As it was, she started eating one of the baby carrots even though I told her to take it home so that her mother could wash it off.  She then went to wash it with tank water (when I wasn’t looking) and I had to freak out over that (considering how extremely germy that water is).  She did not understand the concept of germs.   We ended up practicing how to tie her shoes so that I could take some comfort that she learned something.

The squash bugs are back.  I found one while watering on Wednesday and some eggs on my delicatta squash.  Yikes.  Sabrina promised to check out our food pantry squash plants.  We found a couple mating and a squished them without any problem.  Gross!

GCGC’s meeting this week was at the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden next to Christ the King Catholic Church on Livingston (about 4 blocks from my house).  The rain stopped in time to have the meeting under the giant oak tree that towers over the garden and food pantry.  Marge and Paula run a marvelous operation there.   They convinced me to use row covers for my kale, although my plants always get too big for plant covers by this time in the season.   They just introduced me to ground cherries.   They also redid their compost bins and encased the wood pallets with wire mesh to preserve the wood.  We talked about running more wire mesh down the front to discourage rats.

While at the GCGC meeting, I chatted with Margaret Ann from the Four Seasons City Farm.  They operate a number of community gardens on the Near East Side.  One of them is attached to her church, Old Presbyterian at Bryden and Ohio.  They spent Friday getting ready for the Old  Towne East Home and Garden tour today.  I stopped by to get some geraniums for the SACG and was delighted by an arched row of tomatoes. The apple trees line the alley.  Then, there was an arc of tall sunflowers, followed by an arc of tomatoes then an arch of basil and then a flower bed.  Next to the brick patio, there was a plaque with a lovely quote from Isaiah that I knew that I would want to re-visit, so I took a photo.

A few weeks ago, I checked out the progress at the new community garden at Life Vineyard church.  All of the raised beds are being tended.  They have installed the gate that we donated to them and even have up a couple of signs.  One of them also referenced a passage from Isaiah.  This morning, I realized that it was the same passage cited at Old Presbyterian.  So, I really needed to pull up that chapter.  Here it is (from the English Standard Version) (Isaiah 58: 1-11):

Cry aloud; do not hold back;

Lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no notice of it?”

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?

Is it to bow down to his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed  go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall  be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. . . .

And so, because we have so few gardeners this year (compared with previous years), almost half of the SACG consists of food pantry plots.  Not surprisingly, our donations are significantly ahead of our record pace from last year.   I’ve attached charts of our food pantry donations as of July 1 (which does not include the beans -- planted by Amy and her friend Sarah -- that it took me an hour to pick yesterday or the giant zucchinis).   After an hour being crouched over (as though I was about to assume the yoga crow position), my backside was feeling the burn by 1 p.m.  Watered garden or not.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Breezy After A Rain

I would love gardening if every Saturday could be like yesterday.  It was not too hot and not too cold.  The sun was shining.  We received 1.75 inches of rain on Friday, and so I did not need to water anything.  We had weeded a lot on Wednesday, so there was not much of that to do either.    Sabrina spent the morning picking black raspberries, which we still have coming based on the number of unripe red berries we saw.  She picked about a quart from just the south side of the Garden.  Amy had arrived before her and picked some as well. Alyssa and Taylor came to tidy their already tidy plot, put cages around their tomatoes and pick a boatload of peas.  I spent the morning pruning brambles, cutting back strawberries, pruning back daisies and asters, mowing and then making our weekly food pantry harvest.  I got out reasonably on time and even had enough energy left to exchange pleasantries with Gene at the LSS food pantry (which I often do not).  (At least they had electricity this week).

From when I had my first strawberry patch at home, I recall that it had been recommended that we mow over it once before Independence Day.  So, I took our new hedge clippers and, after cutting back overgrown raspberry brambles (which will make it safer for us to pick berries and walk around the garden) so that they will bush out more, I cut/pruned back some strawberry plants.  I realized that I had not been aggressive enough when I returned to rake the patch.  There’s always Wednesday. . . . Our blueberries are having their best year ever.  Our initial four bushes were donated by Oakland Nursery in 2010 and we moved them to the south side of the Garden to get more sun a few years ago.  We planted them in stone turrets because they require very acidic soil.  We essentially fill the turrets with peat moss and a little compost.  They seem to love it.

We had received over an inch of rain last weekend, but the big tank was only a third full because downspout got clogged AGAIN and I had to return on Thursday with my ladder to unclog it before the anticipated Tropical Storm Cindy arrived on Friday.  I also spent Thursday picking over a quart of black raspberries for myself and our weekly food pantry donation.  Lynd’s in Pataskala sells u-pick black raspberries for $4/pint and they are free to pick everyday outside our fence. I also could not help myself and planted some more seedlings so that they could take advantage of the coming deluge. 

That afternoon, I visited Lowe’s and restocked some of our tools, with a warren hoe, hedge clippers, a heavy duty shovel, another trowel and some pruning shears.  I could so this because of the funds we raised at our Berry Festival.   Then, Taylor arrives yesterday and tells me that he will be donating a lot of tools as they clean out his recently departed grandmother’s garage.  That’s very nice of him, isn’t it.    We will put her tools to very good use.  I also used the hedge clippers to mow the lawn growing in my own plot.  I don’t like to leave so much good soil exposed to wind erosion.

The abandoned truck is finally gone.  Or at least it has been parked elsewhere.    The City also came by and resurfaced our alley aka Cherry Street.   They  had announced this with fliers during the berry festival.  When I inquired of 311 to determine whether we needed to move anything, I was told that there was no resurfacing planned.  However, there they were Thursday morning.  I caught one of the workers inside the Garden while I was picking berries.  He was fascinated because he only grows his own herbs at home. I gave him a tour.

Our peach trees have lots of peaches on them.  It’s almost sad to see.  They won’t be ripe until late July or August, but I doubt that they will remain on the trees that long because someone always picks them off and throws them around the neighborhood in early July.  We’re wondering if we should make a sign alerting these folks that the peaches won’t be ripe for at least another 4-6 weeks.

It’s squash borer season.  I was weeding on Thursday when I found one buzzing around the squash in our Three Sister’s plot.  I chased it with my camera before finally squashing it between two leaves.  This is why I am keeping my squash plants covered for another 10 days (or until they begin to flower).  Orange squash moths (which look a bit like horseflies or wasps) land on the squash vines and lay tiny brown eggs, which hatch larvae/worms and burrow into the vine to feast on the insides of the plant. Their "frass" (i.e., poop) collects in a mass outside the vine like a pile of sawdust (which is the tell-tale sign of a squash borer inside the plant).    Then, the plant begins to wilt in the heat of the day (because the vines are no longer efficiently transporting water) and then the entire plant collapses dead in a heap.  There’s not a lot to do once the worm has started to feast.  You can try to slice the vine and scrape it out, but that hurts the plant, too. 

A few websites recommended spreading sevin around the base of the plant to kill the borer and its hatched larvae, so I did that yesterday with the food pantry squash plants because they are not covered.  Another also recommended waiting until early July to plant squash because peak borer season is late June and early July.  Another site recommended trapping them with yellow bowls filled with water.  When the larvae are done feeding, they will burrow into the ground to pupate into the moth the following Spring.  So, don't plant your squash in the same place the next year(especially if you want to use row covers to control them).  If you plant squash in the same place, you can try to minimize the damage by thoroughly tilling the ground in the Fall or early Spring to kill them or bury them too deep to crawl out later.   After this plague passes, we can look forward to the evil squash bugs (which, frankly, are easier to spot and kill than the squash borer).

We’ve got lots of baby grasshoppers to look forward to growing up and eating our greens and beans, as well as some baby praying mantises. Our corn is growing gangbusters.  Sabrina spent Wednesday weeding after she and I had planted pole beans among the stalks last week. Last weekend's rain caused them all to sprout.   They say knee high by Fourth of July.  Ours will be should be shoulder high by then.  . . . .
Barb and Frank have been busy and have completely replanted the large Block Watch flower bed across the street.  The perennials are gone, such as the salvia.  (Our "annual" salvia returned this year in our flower bed and looks amazing.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Peak Berry Season

It may have been hot on Saturday, but it was peak black raspberry time at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden as I was picking them almost a fist at a time.  If I hadn’t had to leave for a family obligation, I could have picked quarts of berries instead of just two pints for our weekly food pantry donation. Last week’s Berry Festival was a great success and we will definitely hold another next year.  But, best of all and just in time, we received an inch of rain last night and I hope that it filled our almost empty giant rain cistern.

Nine days ago, we held our first ever Black Raspberry Festival at the SACG.  I invited friends (none of whom came), and GCGCers (several of whom were the first to arrive).  Sabrina invited a bunch of folks from Bexley and lots came.  Cathy, Sabrina, Amy, Regan and I baked goods for a bake sale and I brought lots of plants and seedlings (including ostrich ferns, white phlox, basil, parsley, thyme, African marigolds, cosmos, and coneflowers) to sell for donations.  Picking berries was free, but we accepted donations and will now be able to purchase some additional hand tools and supplies for the new picket fence that we will be building.   (In contrast, Lynd’s Farm in Pataskala sells u-pick black raspberries for $4/pint).  Our first two arrivals were two Master Gardener graduates who operate the new community garden at CarePoint East.  We also had a Conservatory Women’s Board officer and Erikca from the Conservatory’s Growing to Green program.  They both focused on picking berries and cherries for our weekly food pantry donation (and Erica stayed behind to prune our berry brambles).  Margaret Ann from Four Seasons City Farm stopped by to pick berries for a church event later that morning.  We had stiff competition because several (and possibly all) of the Settlement Houses were having health fairs and OSU was having a major gardening event at Waterman Farm.  I was delighted with our turnout (particularly because I didn’t finally decide to proceed with it until the prior Monday afternoon), but couldn’t help but think this last weekend that they would have picked more berries this last Saturday.   A few of the pickers brought books for our Free Little Library, which was very sweet.  A few even signed up to volunteer. 

Sabrina and Amy have been helping me a lot.  Sabrina even brought a metal mobile to help scare away the crows from our corn plot.  We finally got the pole beans planted around the corn before it rained yesterday, so hopefully the will germinate within the week.   I had brought a bale of straw while at Hann’s Farm to mulch and it has worked great to conserve the moisture in the soil.  I wish that I had remembered to mulch the squash plot (because they have been growing very, very slowly).  I’ll do that on Wednesday.  I’ve had to spend most of my time at the Garden the last couple of weeks watering because we had only received about .35 inch of rain in two weeks.  I’ve been keeping my own squash and lettuce covered so far because it protects the lettuce from the heat and protects my squash from the squash borers that might get implanted on their stems.  This is getting a little trickly for my vining plants that I typically train up trellises.   I’m glad that I will not have to water anything other than the squash and melons on Wednesday this week.  I also picked up a flat of bell peppers and planted them last week. 

Ken and his wife stopped by last week to mark where the fence posts will go for our new picket fence.  We are still debating how to install the fence.  I can’t convince men about the importance of protecting our flower bed.  I know most everything will grow back next year, but I don’t want to have a pathetic looking flower bed this year.   He wants to install the stringers and then the pickets and then paint.  This will wreck havoc on the flowers. I want to assemble and paint the panels and then install them.  Sigh.   We considered whether we could attach the fence to the trellis.  He seemed to think not.  Then, I called Ahmed, who is the new president of the south of main civic association who had volunteered on our Opening Day to get me volunteers for any capital improvement projects we might tackle this year.  At that point, I wanted an off year.  But now, I need help.  So, I texted him about helping with digging the posts for the fence.  He called me an hour later and was at the Garden about an hour after that to inspect my project.  He wants to attach the panels to the trellis and I had similar trouble convincing him not to destroy our flower beds through this.  I will clearly have to cut out early some of our early Spring flowers (like daisies and bachelor buttons) and possibly dig out some sunflowers and other perennials that I want to preserve and replant when they are done.   He just wanted to take a weed wacker to them beds.  I wish you could see the look on my face when he said that.  Sabrina’s right; we should wait and do this on our Closing Day.  I may have to ask the City what they think of that.

On Thursday, I picked up two large boxes of books from Half Price Books’  annual book give-away to school teachers and non-profit organizations.   We have been running low on books for months, but I’ve been too busy with work to drive to the west side and beg for some. A few years ago, the traffic line to pick up books at this annual event took hours; the last couple of years I’ve been able to swoop in and out without any waiting.   Our library is finally now well stocked.   

Ken has proposed that we add a free little pantry to go with our Free Little Library.   It is similar in concept – instead of books, people can put food into the pantry for anyone to take as needed.  One of our neighbors has been treating our library as a pantry this year.  Each week I find sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, boxed food, etc. in the library.  Last week, someone emptied a box of cheerios in the flower pot next to the library.  It’s been driving me nuts.   While our Board is supportive of the idea, we have concerns.  For instance, I am mostly responsible for putting books in the library, but do not feel like I should be responsible for keeping the pantry stocked (and buying most of the food to go in it).  Some of our neighbors do not want the area to become a magnet for homeless folks.  There is also a concern with food safety because we do not have time to check expiration dates and spoilage.  What happens to canned goods put in there when the temperatures drop below zero in the winter?  I’ve asked Ken to see if his church will commit to diverting some of its canned food drive to the pantry once each month so that we know that there will be food in it.  Susan has volunteered to periodically check it all year round to ensure that it does not remain empty.   Ken’s idea is to take an old kitchen cabinet, put glass doors on it and use it, instead of building a replica of our library.  We’ll probably paint it blue instead of red.  I want it to face the alley instead of the street.  I checked with the City Land Bank and they have no objections, so I guess that it will go up when Ken finds free time (after his current mission trip) to build and install it.

Since my last post, I’ve covered two other weeds with our gardeners.   The first was lambs quarter.  We have a lot of it.  When, young, it is edible and can be used like spinach.  According to Mother Earth News, it is rich in Vitamin C and has many uses.  That is not why so much of it can be found at the SACG.  The other is bindweed.  It is the Midwestern version of kudzu.  It grows in almost every square inch of the SACG, pulls down flowers, covers the brambles and vegetables when left unchecked.  It has flowers like its cousin morning glory and spreads through seeds and by its very deep roots.  Luckily, it is relatively easy to pull and break the vines (until they twine together to form a thick rope), although they will keep returning unless you dig out the root.  I spend most of my July and August pulling bind weed off the brambles, fence lines, sunflowers, coneflowers, beans and tomatoes.  I never cared so much until a stylist at Michael Garcia’s salon asked one of our gardeners a few years ago what was covering our brambles because he could see the weed – as thick as it was – while driving on East Main Street.  Sigh.

Baby Bind Weed
We had a bit of odd crime this month.  Someone came and dug out every single tomato plant from our neighbor plot the day after our Alliance church volunteers cleaned up the Garden.  Every single one of them.  I had just watered them.  I returned the following Monday to carry the lawn waste bags to the curb and maybe water them again.  Except that they were not there.   I think it’s horrible that another gardener would do that to us.  I had just planted a couple dozen tomato plants next door.  Why didn’t this thief just ask me for some seedlings before I gave my extra away?  So, I went scavenging throughout the Garden to find volunteer tomato plants that I could transplant (during a two-week dry spell with a heat dome).  Sabrina helped me, too.  

My bizarre story of the week is that someone randomly emailed me on Monday to volunteer his services and to mow our lawn.  How wonderful I thought.  He also inquired about getting a plot next Spring.  I pushed my luck and asked if he’d like one now.  I explained our requirements (agreement, $10, agreement, work equity and then chores).  He was so gungho for a couple of days.  However, he then cancelled on Friday.  I lost not just a new potential gardener, but also a mower.  I had trouble getting excited to garden on Saturday morning because I knew that I had a lawn to mow on top of watering everything, harvesting, weeding and getting to the pantry early so that I could get to southern Ohio in time for an early dinner with my parents.   Oh well. Easy come.  Easy go.
Someone must have heard that we were annoyed about the broken-down pickup truck planted in front of the Garden.   Right after my last post, it was moved across the street.  Flat tires and all (which I have to assume is hard on the tire rims).  There it has sat for two weeks.  But now, it is collecting parking tickets and citations of some sort from Columbus' finest.  I wonder why they decided to park at the Garden . . . . .
The Ohio After-School All-Stars also finished weeding the rest of Kimball Farms' raised beds next door (and with gardening at Four Seasons City Farm) last week.  Earlier this Spring, I was able to help their volunteer coordinator -- Lindsay -- start a community/education garden at East Gate elementary by putting her in touch with the ever generous Trudeau Fencing Company near Hilliard for free cedar to build her raised garden beds so that she could stretch her small community garden grant. 
Finally, the City announced that they will be resurfacing our Cherry Street alley soon.   All things considered, it's not in horrible shape.  However, I have been concerned about what will happen to our pretty (and expensive) curb.  The City will be surface treating (i.e., chip sealing) which involves spraying emulsion and then covered it with crushed stone.   The gentleman passing out fliers seemed to think that we would be ok.  Our curb is south of where the alley left off (and we let a cratered line between the alley and our curb to make the point that we were not encroaching.