Wednesday, June 20, 2018


On Saturday, June 23, from 9 until noon (or until supplies run out, which may not be very long depending on how many people come), the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden will be having its second Black Raspberry Festival.  Because non-gardener pickers are limited to the berries growing on the outside of our fence, there is, of course, no charge. Those berries are free to all every day.   However, we will have baked goods and some plants for sale and will accept tax-deductible donations.  The SACG is a 501(c)(3) public charity.   We have 120 feet of black (and gold) raspberries to be picked.  They don’t last long and new berries ripen every day.
Amy and I are baking.   I will also have many plants and seedlings available, including ferns, coneflowers,  white garden phlox, butterfly bushes and  purple bee balm 

We need to raise funds this year to purchase more fruit trees to fill out our orchard in the Fall and to defray the cost of running water which we expect to have in early August. We so need a gas or battery powered edger/weed wacker.  Also, we have lots of berries ripen every day in June and not enough people pick them.  I hate to see them go to waste.  They are great in pies , cakes, ice cream, jam, cobblers and crisps.    The neighborhood kids like them in smoothies or just to pop in their mouths.   

We could also use more help picking berries for our weekly food pantry donation because it takes about an hour to pick a pint (due to the thorns).  I will give you pint containers and if the outside berries are already picked over, and you seem like a very careful person, I will let you pick from inside the Garden in our food pantry plots where there are berries.   That is a special privilege granted to very few non-gardeners.

As readers know, black raspberries are among my favorite foods on earth and they are highly nutritious. Their dark color makes a great dye (and was used by the USDA to stamp meat) and is associated with high anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties. Among other things,

  •  Studies at Ohio State University showed a 60–80 % reduction in colon tumors in rats fed a diet with black raspberries added.
  • Studies at Ohio State University showed an 80% reduction in esophageal cancers in mice fed a 5-10% diet of black raspberries.

I won’t deny that the berry brambles are covered and filled with weeds in some places. (I pulled a lot Monday night on the south side).   Pickers should feel free to pull weeds when they find them because there are often ripe berries behind and under the weeds (in my experience). 

We did not have an extensive tart cherry crop this year, but there are still some left.   Feel free to bring a ladder because none of us have reached the high cherries yet. Of course, you pick at your own risk.

We would also be happy to send you home with as much spearmint and chocolate mint as you would like.   Those plants are prolific at the SACG.  I’m not too aggressive with them because their pleasant smell deters certain bugs away from our squash.

If you come, feel free to bring some books for our perpetually under-stocked Free Little Library.  

You will need to bring your own container for the berries that you plan to take home with you to eat.  We assume that you will eat some as you pick.  At least I hope so.  Too many city dwellers don’t know the joy of picking a berry and putting it immediately in your mouth.  Yum. Yum.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Wet June

It’s been a story of rain, fruit flies and compost at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden this week.    We received almost 3 inches of rain again the past week.  The plants are growing quickly and we have spent the last week weeding a lot.  We have tart cherries in season and our black raspberries should start producing this weekend. 
Because of the weird April weather, we seem to only have one cherry tree fruiting this year.  However, as the cherries began to ripen, I realized that I had again delayed too long to spray them to deter the fruit flies that increase in number every season.  I put up fruit fly traps to see if they had woken from their winter slumber.  They had.  So, I borrowed Cathy’s sprayer and sprayed the cherry and peach trees on Friday, an hour before it started raining.   Strader’s recommended Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew, which is a bacteria that you spray on the plant and it kills the bugs when ingested.    I plan to spray again when it stops raining every day.   We need to kill the fruit flies because they lay eggs in the cherries and those eggs hatch to form caterpillars inside the fruit.  The spray apparently also works on cabbages and tomatoes, etc.
On Thursday, I attended the monthly GCGC meeting.  I started attending GCGC meetings back in 2011 when it was primarily a consortium of community gardeners.  However, in the interest of making it an influential political organization with a large membership, the leadership has greatly expanded the membership to include many more individual members (i.e., backyard gardeners).  This has completely changed the personality of the group.   It is less a time to network with friends and colleagues sharing tips and experiences and is far less personal.  The backyard gardeners are not that interested in fundraising, volunteer recruitment, hoop houses, etc.    The speaker was Carrie Kamm from the Columbus Public Health Department.  She covered food safety issues, i.e., how to wash produce and what temperature to store it.  There was a debate about cut leafy greens, because I do not deliver whole plants, but cut off of the outer leaves of the kale and collards for our weekly donations and leave the rest of the plant in the garden to continue growing more leaves.    There was confusion because a leafy green is not considered to be “cut” if you just remove the outer leaves and sell/buy the rest of the plant.  This is often done for aesthetic purposes because the outer leaves are sometimes dirty and bug eaten.  However, when you just harvest the outer leaves and not the rest of the plant, then those leaves are considered to be cut.  Cut leafy greens (and cut tomatoes, etc.) need to be stored at below 41 degrees, although Ms. Kamm thought that it would be ok to delay refrigeration for between 2 and 4 hours after the greens have been removed from the field.   The other interesting aspect of the lecture was that some attendees did not understand that Ms. Kamm was only discussing food safety and not food quality.  While it is true that you do not need to refrigerate fruit (like melons) in field cut form, we all know that it will go bad (as in bad tasting or slimy or wilty) if you do not eat it or refrigerate it soon.  

On Friday, the City delivered 10 cubic yards of com-til.  I had forgotten how large of a pile that was going to be and had envisioned only 2 cubic yards.  I had told the gardeners to take about a half-bag of the compost until I realized how much was there.  Then, I said take a couple of wheelbarrows full.  Now, I’m pushing them to take 4 wheelbarrows each.  They had been pestering me about when it would be delivered.  Ideally, we like to work it into the soil before we plant and now it is too late to do that.  So, we are side dressing the plants.  I will probably also pour it down the rows of plants.   Even though Sabrina already added manure to the corn rows, I will likely add some compost, too.   We need to get rid of the pile asap before it kills all of the grass underneath it.  Our community service volunteers returned for a second week and spent their time weeding the food pantry plot and spread compost.    (They are Westerville girls and were less than thrilled when I told them how com-til is made). 
It was hot on Saturday and it was Art Festival weekend.  However, I was rained out on Friday and then it started raining soon after we arrived on Saturday, so I did not even get to see 1/3 of the artists.  Sigh.   I’m always on the hunt for garden art, ceramic plant tags and pots, etc.   On Sunday, I attended the Orientation Tea for the Old Towne East Neighborhood Association Home and Garden Tour.   There are 14 stops on the tour.  It will start at Franklin Park Conservatory, have 7 more stops on Franklin Park South and will include the SACG.    The tour is on Sunday, July 15.   We will have a bake and lemonade sale for the thirsty trekkers. 
Our raspberries are starting to turn red, which means that we will have berries to pick this weekend.  I think that we will have our second annual Black Raspberry Festival next Saturday, with a bake and plant sale to celebrate our peak berry season.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

If It’s Not One Thing

Whenever I think that I’m caught up on my work at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, the next day always brings new surprises and tasks.    A downpour not only helps our plants, but it also fills the Garden with weeds and hours of work to remove them.  Strawberry season is upon us, which means another trip to Hann’s Farm and an evening of making shortcakes and jam or marmalade (or, in my case, syrup).   The beginning of summer also brings truckload after truckload of donations of vegetables and flowers from Straders’ Garden Centers to GCGC.  Accordingly, we have been busy filling flower and vegetable beds at the SACG.   However, horror of horrors.  Lutheran Social Services permanently closed the food pantry where we have been making  most of our produce donations for the last nine years and I’m at a loss as to what to do with all of our extra produce.  But, yesterday, we were visited by a large group of Ohio After School All-Stars from Toledo and Columbus, to help us weed, plant and water.
The lettuce we planted from seed has not grown particularly well this year, unless your first name is Phil.  His lettuce is amazing.  The rest of us, not so much.  Thank goodness that Bill had stopped to donate a bunch of lettuce seedlings for our food pantry plots.  I spoke with one other community garden that was similarly lettuce-challenged this year and we are blaming it on aged seeds or unseasonable soil temperatures.  The lettuce that I started in trays in March did great, so it might be a soil temperature thing. 
Our kale and other greens have been similarly challenged, but the villain has been the voracious flea beetles.  You can recognize their handiwork from the gazillions of tiny holes.  They make a kale leaf look lacy and not in a good way.  Diatomaceous earth is our first solution.   Then, I added row covers to two plots (mine and the food pantry), but that doesn’t help the other gardeners or the neighbor bed (and tends to contort the broccoli and brussel sprout plants).  So, I have resorted to insecticidal soap, diluted neem oil and a combination of the two to kill and (at least temporarily) deter those pests.
Our strawberries were in full season by Memorial Day weekend, so one of our volunteers picked a pound of strawberries for me to take to the food pantry.  But, when I arrived, there was not a car in sight.  I assumed that they had closed for the holiday and hoped that I would find time to take them to the Salvation Army panty later that week.  (I didn’t).   This weekend, I had more strawberries, a pound of leeks, some lettuce and herbs and, again, no cars at the LSS food pantry.  Shocked, I telephoned them and their answering machine said that they were open. So, I got out of my car and found the service entrance locked with a sign saying that they were permanently closed.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  This is one of the busiest food pantries in Columbus and it’s not like hunger has gone away. 
When I drove around the corner, I discovered that they had converted to an online ordering system and that they deliver the order to various community centers.  Now, what am I supposed to do with all of the fresh produce that we harvest every Saturday?  Last year we donated 550 pounds of fresh produce to LSS, mostly greens and tomatoes, but also corn and peppers.   We have donated over 2,100 pounds to that food pantry since 2012.  It’s not just the SACG, either.  Lots of farm and farm market vendors donate their excess on Saturdays just ahead of me.  Nice of LSS to tell me; clearly they do not want any more of our produce.  The Mid-Ohio Food Bank is the only pantry I know of that is open on Saturday afternoons and I’m not driving to and from Grove City every week, kids.   That’s a lot of gas, traffic cones and a lot of crazy traffic.   I ended up driving down to Faith Mission, but I don’t want to do that every week, particularly when I have volunteers waiting back at the Garden, and I’m not entirely convinced that they actually use our produce.  Sigh.  I’m not going to start taking Fridays or Mondays off work to harvest our food pantry plots and make a donation. 
Amy tried to convince me to start taking food to the Reeb Center, but the issue is not just location, it is what is open nearby on Saturday afternoons when I harvest the produce that accepts fresh produce (because some pantries only take non-perishable food).  Some of the produce (like tomatoes, beans, squash corn and onions) will keep in my basement until Monday when I could take it to the Salvation Army down Main Street, but we do not have the capacity to refrigerate our produce and the greens won’t keep in my basement overnight, let alone 36 hours.  I know our greens are popular because I often do not make inside the door of the pantry without a client grabbing them from me on the street when I unload my car.  Sigh.   Grumble.  Grumble.   Broad Street Presbyterian church has a food pantry nearby, but they are only open the morning of the second Saturday each month.   What's a gardener to do?!

This is not a problem that I anticipated ever facing and I’m amazed that LSS thinks that most hungry people own computers and have internet service so that they can order online because that has not been my experience.  Most elderly people (like myself) cannot live off of a cell phone because their eyesight makes it hard to read small type and their fingers don't like the tiny keys.  My own mother is too paranoid to put any personal information (like her name and address) on the internet.  (We feel blessed when she sends the occasional text message).    Oh well.  I guess I could just let it all rot and get back to my own life an hour or so earlier every week . . .  . .  so, if you know of a pantry that is open on the near East Side between noon and 3, please let me know asap.

[Editor's Note:  LSS's brand new Director of Food Pantries has contacted me.    We briefly chatted and LSS is still interested in receiving donations of produce, but not on Saturdays.  She is going to try and figure out how they can contact the growers that formerly donated fresh produce and how and when they can receive such donations.  They had not collected grower contact information in the past.  I'm hoping that she will add it to the LSS Pantry website, too.  I will be posting the new collection information, as well as information about other options to donate produce on Saturday mornings because I still have not found anyone on the Near East Side taking produce on Saturday afternoons.]
As previously mentioned, we have community service volunteers coming every week to help with all of the SACG work.  They weed, water, pick up litter, harvest, mow, etc.  I had made it a chore for our gardeners to supervise them for an hour each Saturday while I run to the food pantry with our donation.   Obviously, I was gone a bit longer than that this week when I had to detour from LSS to Faith Mission.  While I was gone, I had asked the volunteers to weed around the strawberry pot because there was tall grass around it.  Like most people, they don’t know anything about anything when it comes to gardening.   They pulled all of the strawberry plants out of the jar and bagged them along with the grass.   However, they did an excellent job weeding in and around the blueberry bushes and the tomato plot.  I also had them mulch the tomatoes, peppers and strawberries with straw.   Leigh Ann had another group of CS volunteers picking up 65 abandoned tires in the Linden area.   The Block Watch insisted on mowing the lots this weekend, and I was not going to protest too much since we had a lot of weeding and watering to do.  (Most of this week’s tropical storms went north or south of us, AGAIN.  Sunday and today, we received a bit of nice and gentle rain, so I guess that I cannot complain too much).
One of Ken’s neighbors donated their patio pavers and so I need a lot of strong volunteers to lug those around.  I’m thinking that we can put them under our benches and picnic table.  The Block Watch added a bench to their lot last weekend, and so we will divert some to them for the same purpose.

Sabrina, her son, her aunt and I went strawberry picking at Hann’s Farm right after Memorial Day. It’s so much nicer to pick berries at the beginning of the season instead of the end (when there are lots of rotting fruit to pick over).   We wanted to get our berries picked before Alberto’s rain came to Central Ohio.  Indeed, I was rained out of my usual Wednesday evening work at the SACG, so I made jam instead.  I had bought a “jam bucket” of past-prime strawberries at the Farm Market.  Mistake.  They do not jell as well and do not keep at all.  I always make too much jam (and I do not eat a lot of toast), so this year I just made one batch of strawberry-lemon marmalade.  It was yummy.
We had another slight crises (which is defined as anything that raises my blood pressure and pitch of voice).  The City contacted the Block Watch and me about putting a shipping container on the lot where our fruit orchard is so that someone can sell bicycles.  I can’t make this stuff up.  No way.  We were shocked and they were annoyed that we both immediately said no.   Cathy pointed out that it was nice of them to even ask us.  After spending my entire morning at a meeting about the Garden receiving a large grant to install running water (yea!), I lost a whole Thursday afternoon to this because I had to consult with our neighbor partners, loop in others who might be affected (and offended), personally travel to the Garden to take photos to demonstrate how remarkably stupid this idea was and visit with neighbors, visit the site a mile north of us to see similar projects that the City wanted to replicate on the orchard lot, etc.  I restrained myself for a full three hours before looping in the Civic Association President and sending off a ranting email.    Barb was so much more restrained and professional about it, but no less hot about it.  

We’ve been sitting on our hands for five years at the City’s request while two of our non-profit neighbors tried to raise money to build on that lot.  Once the clock ran out, we started planting fruit trees on it again.  We will probably add a row of apple trees this Fall or next Spring.   Then, we are considering adding a row of grape vines and possibly a bee hive.  I'm in favor of adding flower beds between the trees, but that will be a few years down the road.   We don’t have room for a shipping container.  Gee whiz.  We haven’t been mowing that lot every week for five years (at our own expense) so that it could become an eyesore that does not fit with the Franklin Park neighborhood.  Gee whiz. I thought that I had gotten the matter settled, but then they called Barb the next morning to discuss it again and told her to expect to hear more about it NEAC.   Sigh.  I’m getting too old to keep circling the wagons, but I know that none of the neighbors want a shipping container on that lot, so it might not been too hard to gather a crowd with pitchforks (from our shed) and torches to descend on NEAC and City Hall if necessary.   You’d think that there was a shortage of East Main Street store fronts or Land Bank lots so that there was no place else to start a bicycle business. 
We had almost a full house this Saturday.  I tied back my raspberry brambles to keep them from taking over my lettuce, spinach and tomatoes (and got scratched up pretty good) and weeded quite a bit so that I could mulch (with the two bales of straw that I brought back from Hann’s Farm).  I put the CS volunteers to work weeding the food pantry plots.  Sabrina and her entire family came to similarly weed and then left to look at a house she wants to buy.  Amy came and brought us brownies.  Score!  She weeded and mulched and re-edged our southern flower circle and supervised the volunteers when I left to make our weekly food pantry donation.  She has really missed her calling because her landscaping was a beautiful job.   Carly came to weed for an hour or so, but forgot to bring water.  (I always bring a large thermos for the volunteers, but one of them took off the lid (don’t ask me why) and spilled its entire contents).   Alyssa and Taylor came to weed and plant and water.  Three tween neighborhood girls came by to eat the strawberries that we hadn’t already harvested.  One of them expressed a preference for the white berries.  Then, Marcel and Zion came to weed and water (and ask whether Phil had quit because his plot was overcome with weeds, notwithstanding his lovely lettuce).  Barb spent the afternoon working to improve the large flower bed on the Block Watch lot.  I transplanted collards and zucchini and sunflowers and cosmos, sprayed neem oil, weeded what the volunteers could not, re-watered some plants, thinned more turnips, answered questions from passersby, planted more flowers, sprayed poison ivy, put row covers over my squash plants to protect them from squash borers, and pulled bind weed off of the brambles, etc.  I finally left around 7 p.m.  Yes, that’s a 10 hour day – which is why I am freaked about the LSS food pantry closing.  When am I supposed to find more time?  Can you hear me pounding my forehead on my desk?  As it was, I have to return momentarily on Sunday because I forgot to hang the fruit fly traps (to tell me when I need to spray the cherries), harvest daisies for my own house, plug the new spicket on our big rain cistern with one of my many corks because it leaks, and re-spray a big red X in front of our sign while we wait for a third week for a delivery of com-til (generously donated by the same City department that wants to put a shipping container next to the SACG). 

I had to return again on Monday because we were blessed to have volunteer teenagers from the annual all-state camp of the Ohio After-School All Stars.   That morning, I had to visit the Tool Library to borrow 10 trowels.  Until the kids arrived, I put another spicket on the tank because -- go figure -- my cork did not stop the drips.  Ken's head was about to explode when I told him that he could not remove the spicket from the tank to fix it because we could not spare the water.  I also mulched a flower bed (and got all of my clean clothes dirty just minutes before the kids arrived).  I sent half of them over to help Pastor Brown get seedlings into the ground at Kimball Farms and he tortured them by making them work for a while in his hot hoop house.

My team of ASAS (who were mostly from Toledo and Columbus) had a  much more enjoyable time.  I split them into three teams and gave them each a raised bed to weed and plant.  One team chose to plant a pepper seedling, tomatoes and cucumbers.  One was assigned 9 tomato plants and the other planted cucumbers and melons.  then, the first team planted petunias and watered everything south of the Garden.  The other two teams got to prepare the soil and plant two rows of bush beans, a row of pole beans (along a row of corn) and then a row of butternut squash (i.e., the three sisters) before watering everything in.  Then, I took them down to the strawberry patch for five or ten minutes to search and eat strawberries.   Finally, I took them to the southwestern flower bed and showed them how to make daisy chains and let them cut daisies and make their own, while debriefing them about what they learned.

Sadly, we lost two trowels in the process. I searched for them for an hour.  We had lost 3, but I found one underneath the petunia planting project.  I suspect that I might find some under the straw mulch around the tomatoes. 

There had been more Strader's donations (one yesterday when I was rushing around) and today in the rain.   It's that time of year. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Turning a Corner

After all of the work we accomplished on Thursday at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, yesterday was almost like coasting to the finish line.   Although I was able to leave by around 4 p.m. (instead of after 6 p.m like the rest of this month), I started earlier than usual in order to miss the traffic cones in Bexley for a 5K race there in my neighborhood.  Our community service volunteers came later than usual, but I tasked all but one of them to neighborhood issues because we did not have much left to do at the SACG.  I have A LOT of extra tomato seedlings to share with anyone who stops by and will save planting our raised beds for when the Ohio After-School All-Stars visit us on June 4.

I started early yesterday in order to get out Dodge fast.  South Bexley was closing off my entire neighborhood at 8:30.  (They actually started closing the streets earlier than that.  Grrr).  I finished weeding my plot and got the rest of my pole beans planted.  I am a bean freak, and grow lots of heirloom beans, including Christmas lima beans, dixie speckled lima beans, taylor horticultural beans, goat eye beans, pink half runner beans, asparagus beans and, then of course, Kentucky Wonder and edamame.  I used to also grow  my own black beans, kidney beans and romano beans, but I just don’t have the room.   I also planted a few basil seedlings before I left for the day.

My other belated achievement was to get  my row covers in place for my greens and in the food pantry plot.   We have a massive flea beetle problem at the SACG and, later harlequin beetles will attack them. They eat our bok choy, arugula, kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc.  Although we use diatomaceous earth to sprinkle on our greens and beans (until the beans flower), it gets washed off when it rains.  I also plant garlic, onions, leeks and shallots near them to deter bugs.   A few years ago, I invested in 3 row covers that I purchased online at Amazon.  They are freakishly light weight and do not require any framing because they can rest right on the plants.  Water can seep through them and they can be re-used from year to year.  I hold them down with softball sized rocks and unfold them back periodically to weed and water my plants.  I let out more slack as the plants get taller and require more fabric.   I also use them to cover my squash plants to keep squash borers from laying eggs in the stems of my zucchini and winter squash.  I remove the row covers from my squash once they start to flower so that the bees can find them and pollinate them.  Because my squash has not yet germinated and/or formed true leaves,  I loaned a cover to Sabrina to try out until she gets her own.
Amy also came by for an hour or so.  After taking care of her plot and transplanting volunteer sunflowers, she turned to weeding the strawberry patch.  It can be a challenge to pull the weeds without also damaging the strawberry plants.   And, she deadheaded some salvia for me. 
The Community Service volunteers got a late start.  Leigh Anne called first to see if we were going to cancel because of the forecasted impending thunderstorms.  Ha!  It NEVER rains at the SACG.  Indeed, those storms passed to our northwest.  Others formed just east of us.  We are back to our regular rain pattern.  Because our big tank still has not re-filled since Ken fixed the spicket, I have begged the City to give us our free annual re-fill early.    I usually want to wait until September and sometimes never use it, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  
As soon as our volunteers arrived, I immediately tasked one with mowing in case we were surprised with rain.  We ran out of gas after mowing our lot and most of the Block Watch lot next door.  The Urban Connections folks re-filled him so that we could fimish mowing the corner lots.  One good turn deserves another, so I had another volunteer mow UC’s vacant lot (where the neighborhood kids play red rover, etc.)   I also had this volunteer weed a flower bed and weed around our fruit trees and to re-mulch some of those trees.  He also restacked our mulch bags to make room in the raised bed area.  He was quite enthusiastic and had met our urban agriculture hero Will Allen.

I assigned the other three volunteers to plant strawberry plants next door at Kimball Farms.  They had purchased the strawberries a few weeks ago from Four Seasons City Farm, but had not gotten them planted.  Our strawberries are already fruiting and turning red.  GCGC forgot to tell Kimball Farms that it had been assigned volunteers from the United Methodist Women international conference on Thursday, so I felt bad that they missed out on a critical volunteer activity.  To help compensate, I offered to plant a bed full of our extra tomatoes and to get their strawberries planted.  Pastor Brown uncovered two beds, but one of them was where we had planted tomatoes last year.  I wanted to put the strawberries there, but he didn’t.  So, we planted a row of broccoli down the middle, red cabbages to the south and white cabbages to the north.  The volunteers then watered all of the newly planted strawberry plants and cold crops.   (Later, we received .2 inches of rain around 7 p.m.).
After they finished at Kimball Farms, we worked on shrinking our wood chip pile along the alley.  Urban Connections has a small raised bed growing area for the neighborhood kids.  Cathy did NOT want me to weed it because she wanted the kids to do so before they plant in them in a few weeks.  However, she was ok with us weeding around the beds and spreading wood chips.  So, that is how the crew finished their day. 
It got warmer than anticipated.  I sent the volunteers home with volunteer tomato seedlings (for home gardens, and for one of them for his grandmother).  One of the volunteers wanted to return for her assignment next week and Leigh Ann agreed.   I was pretty wiped out and never got around to taking a group photo.  Oops. 
After they left, I turned to watering a bit in my plot, transplanting gladiola bulbs, and weeding out the herb garden in order to plant some basil and parsley.   While I was finishing up, Phil stopped by to check on this plot and plant a few tomato plants.  I also gave him a few volunteer sunflowers (because they make great cut flowers.  Just don't let them shade too many of your plants).   I also inventoried our fruit trees.  Only one of the cherry trees has many cherries to speak of.  I think that is weather related because they did not all flower at the same time this year.  There are only peaches on one of the trees and one of the trees has a lot of dead branches, which I should prune.  I am hoping that is weather related, but a volunteer pointed out some issue with some of the leaves, too.    We have no plums fruiting this year, but it is only the second year for one tree and the first for the other.  
So, this week, I need to add the mosquito dunks to the big tank and our rain barrel to avoid becoming a breeding ground.  I also need to napalm more poison ivy that has shown up.  The Block Watch lot across the street is again a forest of it near their water cistern.  Kimball Farms has its own extensive crop behind its hoop house, around its porch and growing 15 feet up the walnut tree by our rain cistern.  At Pastor Brown’s request, I sprayed the ivy near the porch and tree, but didn’t have any round-up with me when Sabrina pointed out the extensive crop behind the hoop house (along the chain link fence).   We will also be planting and transplanting winter squash and cucumbers and, hopefully, some collard greens.   Of course, there will be lots of watering and weeding to do as well.   With any luck, I will be able to leave by 3 p.m. next Saturday.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Sow All You Can

Before they started working
Yesterday, eleven volunteers from the United Methodist Women’s international conference helped to sow seeds in the food pantry plots at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  As reported in today’s Dispatch, the UMW are celebrating 150 years by meeting in Columbus, where its first conference was held 77 years ago.  The SACG had volunteers from Korea, Alaska, San Diego, Florida, and Iowa.   They had not been told in advance where they would be volunteering, and so most were not dressed or prepared for hard work in a community garden on a hot day.  Bill Dawson from Franklin Park Conservatory came by for some selfies and to drop off lettuce and beet seedlings to support our effort.  Cathy from Urban Connections also pitched in during a crises to refrigerate the UMW’s boxed lunches and open the UC Ministry House for restroom access and a place to eat out of the sun. 

Our irises were donated by the CG at the Epworth UMC
On Wednesday evening, there was almost a full complement of all SACG gardeners when I brought my extra tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings for distribution.   I was able to plant a few peppers in my plot and start on my asparagus beans, as well as transplant a dozen or so volunteer sunflowers.  However, I discovered to my horror that despite receiving an inch of rain on Tuesday, very little of it made it into our rain cisterns.  The hard rain washed a lot of tree pollen into the gutters and clogged the downspout strainers.  So, I left my seedlings at the SACG overnight so that I could return on Thursday morning with my ladder to clean out the gutters (again after already doing it once on Friday).  

After they finished working.  Photo courtesy of Adam Cairns
Luckily, the UMW volunteers were running late, so I was able to clean out the gutters and get everything unlocked before they arrived (as well as transplant a few volunteer cosmos).  I was supposed to be sharing 25 volunteers with another community garden, but they were not sent the memo and did not know to arrive.   (I checked the email later and it was never addressed to my neighbor).   Good thing for the SACG, though, because only 2 volunteers arrived for the SACG and this meant that I got to keep all 11.  (Never fear, I contacted the other garden leader to let him know and he didn’t mind that I kept them all).    But, it meant that I had to call for help with refrigerating their lunches, etc.  Cathy – always my angel in such emergencies – was extremely supportive. 
Sabrina also came to help and brought her two-year old son, Finn.  The ladies gushed over him and his blonde locks.    I took a team of the women and tasked them with weeding and then digging lots of holes in our tomato plot.  While they did that, I dug out some trellises (extra wire fencing) and wood stakes that we store next to the shed.   We hung the trellises and then planted more than a dozen tomato plants in the plot.   We put cages around the plants that were not trellised. 
We tasked another team with weeding and then cultivating a row every two feet in the root crop plot: carrots, turnips, beets and sweet potatoes.  I usually plant more closely together, but with the Community Service volunteers coming to help water these plots over the summer, I wanted to make sure that there was enough room between the rows so that they could walk down them without stepping on any plants.   
Sabrina led the effort in the vining crop plot: zucchini, melons and pole beans.   They weeded it and then created mounds for the squash and melons.  I helped to hang a trellis for the beans and then they planted beans on both sides (I hope).   
Meanwhile, I tasked another lady with planting the lettuce seedlings between our rows of broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage.   Bill explained that the seedlings came from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank by way of the Franklin Avenue Community Garden.   He was trying to stop at all of the local community gardens having a work day to share the extra seedlings.  
We also took some of the lettuce seedlings over to the neighbor beds along the alley and planted some extra lettuce there.  I then took a group over to the neighbor bed and we hung a trellis and planted six tomato plants and then a dozen pepper plants. 
After lunch, I marked off four rows where we will plant corn for our co-op plot and we cultivated two such rows.  Fittingly enough, our Iowa volunteer then planted two rows of corn.  All of the plants and seeds were then well watered in as we finished up before waiting for their bus to take them back downtown.  While we were watering and collecting the tools, a Dispatch photojournalist, Adam Cairns, noticed all of the orange shirts.  Curious, he stopped by to take a few photos and interview the women.   He was a good sport.  Before taking a group photo with his own super camera, he took lots of cell phone shots for the women. 
While gardening, I was able to chat with a couple of the women. One lady grew up in Pyongyang (now in North Korea).  Her mother had a vegetable garden during World War II, and so she developed a love of fresh food and flowers.  However, when she got married, it was hard to get fresh food or flowers for her wedding.  She remembered that someone showed up with a bouquet of daisies, so she was delighted with our daisies.  I wanted to send some home with her, but wouldn’t you know that my wine bag full of daisy seeds was in my basement at home!  The daisies we have in bloom were not quite ready to produce seeds yet, or I would have sent her home with seed heads for her own garden.  She also loved our peonies, but wished that we had some pink ones in bloom.  Maybe next year.  I would have loved to have had more time to chat with her.  She worked pretty hard.
The lady from San Diego was so delighted with our efforts that she called her sister to see what they were growing at their community garden in southern California.  It was hysterical.  About the only item we had in common were watermelons.  They are still suffering from water restrictions there, so gardening is the subject of debate.  The Alaskan lady told me that their food pantry won’t accept much fresh produce, so they invite the patrons to stop by their garden for items, such as fresh dill.  They also cannot grow corn up there.
I had told the UMW volunteers that I had been raised as Methodist (and was wearing my United Methodist Mississippi Relief shirt from Hurricane Katrina relief).  John Wesley has a number of famous sermons and sayings, including:
Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.
And these women put that into practice yesterday by sowing all they could to help the SACG raise more fresh produce for area food pantries and Faith Mission’s homeless shelter.   Big THANKS to the Great Columbus Growing Coalition for arranging for the UMW to assist the SACG and the following community gardens yesterday:  Linden Garden Association, Bible Skipway CG, Franklin Avenue CG,  St. Vincent DePaul Garden (at Christ the King Catholic Church), CMN Memorial  Garden, Lincoln Park Education Garden, Southside Head Start Children's Garden, Fresh Town Farms, Four Seasons City Farm (with Old  First Presbyterian Church), and Garden of Communion. 
So, tomorrow, on Saturday, I will try to get the rest of my pole beans planted, work a little more on prettying up the path edging, and finally turn my attention to our herb garden, etc.  I told our neighbors that if they uncovered one of their raised beds, we would fill it with tomato seedlings (because I have a LOT of extra seedlings).  I also told his teenage volunteers that I would loan them a hoe and teach them to use it because they have been weeding plots by hand.   One of our neighbors is improving the landscaping along the alley, so I promised him some supplies and, to properly thank UC for helping us out today, we will weed around their raised beds and fill it with some of our extra wood chips.   Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.  
Our strawberries are coming in gangbusters, so I hope that we get lots more rain (after I leave at 2:30) so that they also get much bigger.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Three Season Gardening?

It is official.  There will be no Spring in 2018.  We have gone straight from winter to summer at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.   Our berries are forming, despite the late start, but we have not had bees to pollinate our cherries or strawberries, so I am not seeing many.  The raspberry branches have not had time to grow taller than my waist, but they are already forming berries because of the heat.   My beans sprouted and formed seed leaves in mere days.   Meanwhile, our volunteers are wilting by lunchtime.    Nonetheless, this is the busiest time of the year and this week was no exception.

Late Sunday night, Cathy texted me about the Big Tulip Dig at Franklin Park Conservatory being the next morning.  We went two years ago, but last year it was cold and rainy.  Although I had real work to do, I love digging up and replanting beautiful tulips.  So, we went over Monday morning and dug up tulips for an hour.  Actually, Cathy dug and I pulled and bagged.  We should have stayed another hour (as Cathy wanted to do)  because there wasn’t much of a crowd and there were many more tulips left to dig.  I planted a few at home, but most of my share went to the SACG.  Amy helped me to plant them in our front and south flower beds.  I planted a few more in the center flower bed.  I think the pink tulips will look exceptionally pretty in front of our new, grey picket fence.

On Wednesday, I started planting in my plot with tomatoes.  Sabrina came and was able to snag a few extras (like Brandywines, celebrities, beefstake, Ohio Belgian, etc.  On Saturday, I also put in my eggplant and some peppers and a few more tomatoes, as well as my cucumbers, zucchini and winter squash.  Tomorrow night, I plan to finish with 3 more tomatoes and peppers and pole beans.   My earlier plantings are not doing well.  That is probably because I cannot remember where the rows are . . . . .   Former gardeners Stan and Jeannie both stopped by to say hello, but I could not twist their arms to stay and garden  . . . . 

Amy came for a while on Saturday and helped weed the center flower bed.  I then got to mulch it and the south bed.    I should have worn sun screen because I got a sunburned farmer’s tan after being at the SACG for 10 hours on Saturday.  Ron at Ohio Mulch even mocked me about it on Sunday.  Gee whiz.  One neighbor stopped by and asked about taking some wood chips for his house.  We got him shovels and offered to help him. He wanted to get his wheelbarrow tire pumped and to do it when it got cooler.    Another neighbor came by and asked to have flowers for her mother for the holiday.  I was exhausted and loading up the car, but what’s a girl to do . . . .  She got her flowers.  I was too dirty and hot for a hug.

Our four Community Service volunteers arrived with bells on.  One lady was psyched to pick up litter in the blocks around the SACG.  She brought back four or five bags.  She commented that it was one of the cleaner neighborhoods that she had been in and she found everyone – including Pastor Brown next door – to be very nice.   One gentleman mowed our lawn and the Block Watch lots, helped me with the fence straightening project, and trimmed around the flower beds and blueberry bushes, etc.  One lady (who also volunteered with us last week) weeded one of the neighbor beds and a pantry plot.   And, she said that she wanted to come and help me again so that she can learn even more.  (She used to work at Strader's last year).  Another girl weeded and weeded and watered our new trees.    It’s been a dry month at the SACG.  As in the past, most of the storms that hit Franklin County pass us by.  (This excited our sole gentleman because he HATES rain).    I wanted to get the Garden tidied up because a professional photographer was coming by to take pictures for the Old Towne East Home and Garden tour brochures. 

Sabrina came by on Sunday and used the debris that Hillary and Jake dug up to plug holes in chain link fence in case that groundhog returns.  She also tidied up the path edging so that it does not look like we just threw rocks around.    Amy returned on Monday to carry out the lawn waste bags to the curb.  They are always over-filled and often break (requiring us to get another bag and re-fill it).   She wasn’t really dressed for that at the time.

Today, I drove to Bethel Road for the annual Half-Price Books children’s book drive give-away.  A few years ago, the cars were lined up for over a mile to get two large boxes of free books for our Free Little Library.  The last couple of years, however, I have not had to wait even one minute.   There was no line at all.  You have to pay attention to the HPB emailed ads for when they announce the give away and to register in advance.  Any non-profit and school is eligible for the free books.  The Half-Pint Library give away is usually at their warehouse in Hilliard, but this year it was at the Bethel Road store in a strip mall.  We are extremely appreciative.

We received lots of good news this week, but I cannot share it all at this time.  Right now, I am enjoying a rare extended rain storm.  Whoo hoo.  I had just called Seth at the Land Bank this afternoon inquiring about getting a free refill of our rain cistern because we are out of water!  That’s why it’s raining now;-)   We have 10 volunteers coming on Thursday from the United Methodist Women’s day of service.  We plan on planting the food pantry and neighbor plots with tomatoes, peppers, root crops (like carrots, beets, and turnips), beans, melons, and squash, to assemble and tidy up our herb garden, hopefully divide some overgrown lilies that are growing into a rose bush, maybe plant some corn and possibly weed the strawberry patch.   There is always a lot to do and I’m glad that Sabrina is coming to help, too.  
The Columbus Landmarks Foundation identified one of favorite photography subjects as one of the 10 most endangered sites in Columbus:  the former Holy Rosary Church and school, now known as Rock of Faith Baptist Church across the street from the SACG.  The Rectory was an 1840's farmhouse that was part of the Underground Railroad.