Sunday, February 15, 2009

Plant a Garden; Save the World – At Least It’s a Start

Aside from the simple pleasure and sense of satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, gardeners can also lend a hand to their neighbors by growing vegetables.

According to a 2002 federal Department of Agriculture Report, 10% of Americans experienced hunger – even before the recent recession. Children’s Hunger Alliance reports that 495,000 Ohio children are hungry or experience food insecurity every day. CHA also reported that more than 1.1 million Ohioans are on food stamps. Last year, the food pantries of Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio served more than 148,000 people. That number is expected to grow significantly in 2009. Indeed, it was only fourteen months ago that food banks across Ohio were so overwhelmed that thousands of families had to be turned away because there just wasn’t enough food to go around.

As depressing as this is, none of us alone can solve this problem. However, we can contribute to a solution. In addition to non-perishable food, the LSS food pantries and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank also accept garden produce grow by regular people -- like you and me – in our backyard gardens.

According to the Plant a Row Foundation, “in 2005, more than 1.5 million pounds of produce were donated generating meals for over 5.5 million needy recipients. All this has been achieved without government subsidy or bureaucratic red tape — just people helping people. PAR’s goal for its 10th anniversary in 2004 was to make more than 8 million pounds of produce available to food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations. The total produce donations through 2005 reached nearly 10 million pounds of produce to help those in need in communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

“PAR’s success hinges on its people-helping-people approach. The concept is simple. There are over 70 million gardeners in the U.S. alone, many of which plant vegetables and harvest more than they can consume. If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food banks and soup kitchens, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger. Food agencies will have access to fresh produce, funds earmarked for produce can be redirected to other needed items and the hungry of America will have more and better food than is presently available.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Rules of Conduct

In order to participate in the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden (the “Garden”), you must agree to comply with the following rules:

1. Be a good neighbor.
2. Do not create any extra expense, annoyance or work for the Garden Manager.

Anyone who violates these rules will be expelled from the Garden and forfeit all produce. The Garden Manager is the ultimate interpreter and judge of all disputes and compliance with the rules. While she is generally reasonable, flexible and fair, she does not guarantee reason or fairness when the temperature is above 90 degrees or she is hungry or sleep deprived. Technical and occasional lapses may be overlooked in exchange for chocolate ice cream.

Because some people might find these simple rules a little vague, here are some guidelines and other food for thought based on imagined and actual experiences in other community gardens. Please take them in the jovial spirit with which they are intended.

1) Please stay on the Garden paths or your own garden plot and do not walk on someone else’s plot (or let your guests, children or your dogs wander onto someone else’s plot). It would be prudent if everyone put a fence around their own plot to keep out rodents and trespassers, but it is not required. None of our gardeners should have to worry about their garden plot soil being compacted or their tender bean or corn shoots being trampled by their inconsiderate neighbors or others. This also means that your garden should not grow into your neighbor’s plot. (If your plants grow into your neighbor’s plot, your neighbor is completely justified in pulling it or eating it at his or her discretion. Wars have started based on less than errant tomatoes and overgrown zucchinis).

2) Please keep the weeds in your plot under control. Rampant weeds are unsightly for the neighborhood and a nuisance to your fellow gardeners who don’t want your weeds encroaching into their plots or spreading their seeds. Luckily, weeds are only likely to be a significant problem during the rainy season. Because the Garden will be tilled in April (for those gardeners who want to grow early Spring crops, like spinach, potatoes, radishes, etc.), May gardeners might want to consider putting a tarp or other covering over your plot to keep weeds from growing and to kill whatever weeds were not killed by the plowing.

3) Please do not use any herbicides, Preen or other weed killers in the Garden. Despite the greatest of care, even the slightest breeze could spread some of the weed killer to your neighbor’s plot and kill their prized tomatoes or eggplants. This means that all weeds will have to be pulled by hand or demolished by tools of plant destruction (like a hoe). Poison (for rodents) is also discouraged, but careful use of EPA-approved or organic insecticides is permitted (as long as you don’t kill too many bees or other beneficial insects like praying mantises). Remember, bees are a gardener’s best friend.

4) Please do not litter. Take your trash with you. Feel free to create a compost pile in a corner of your plot and bring a trash bag with you to haul refuse away when you leave for the day. Tidy gardeners get brownie points and may receive unexpected goodies courtesy of the magic Garden Gnome.

5) Please do not engage in any criminal or unlawful behavior or otherwise make a nuisance of yourself to other gardeners or the neighbors. This includes your family and guests as well. Guns and lethal weapons are banned from the Garden. Profanity and anger is highly inappropriate in the absence of personal injury. Gardeners should remember that young children and my aging ears are highly sensitive to swear words and angry threats. Violators of this guideline risk, among other things, having their face and the embarrassing story posted all over the internet. If you have no shame, other methods of dissuasion shall be pursued.

6) Please do not hurt yourself or anyone else. Gardening can be dangerous. There are sharp tools, repetitive motions, heavy lifting, unexpected storms and wilting heat. Bring water to hydrate yourself and maybe even a chair for rest breaks. If marauding gangs of thugs, lightening, tornados or packs of vicious dogs unexpectedly visit the neighborhood or the Garden, please put off gardening until another day or hour and quickly return to a safe place. Do not be a hero, remember the Alamo or imitate Charles Bronson. On the other hand, the Garden is not for Chicken Littles who always think the sky is falling. In short, failing to be prudent in protecting yourself or suffering from frequent bouts of paranoia could lead to the Garden Manager having sleepless nights.

7) Please clean up your plot and remove anything you want to keep by October 31, 2009. Any items left in the Garden on October 31 will either become the Garden Manager’s personal property or be donated to Rumpke. For that matter, you probably should not leave anything in the Garden which you cannot live without. Because the Garden is free, there is no budget item to pay for Blackwater or other security guards to keep out vandals, raccoons, terrorists or space aliens. Each gardener is free to bribe the City’s fine police force (out of your own funds) or to build your own scarecrow to keep out aggressive birds and squirrels. (However, while creative scarecrows are encouraged, please do not create an eyesore for the neighbors.)

8) Each gardener is responsible for supplying his or her own water for their plot. Large buckets or rain barrels are permitted to collect rain water. However, please place screens over standing water in order to deter mosquitoes. The Garden is not insured for diseases like malaria, yellow fever or West Nile virus.

Complaint or concerns about violations of the Rules or suggestions for new rules should be directed to the Garden Manager at

Welcome to the NEW Stoddart Avenue Community Garden

The City of Columbus is leasing a vacant lot at 445-51 Stoddart Avenue to be used as a community garden. (This is less than 1 mile directly west of Christ Lutheran Church, about three blocks west of Nelson Road and ½ block north of East Main Street).

Depending upon the number of gardeners, the Garden will be divided into between 20 and 24 plots of between 200 and 250 square feet. Each gardener (or gardening group) will be assigned one or two plots to garden as they see fit (as long as the gardeners comply with the Garden Rules of Conduct). Individuals, families, clubs and other groups are allowed to participate.

There is no charge to participate in the Garden. However, donations will be cheerfully accepted to defray any expenses incurred by the Garden Manager (like soil tests and insurance).

Gardeners are responsible for providing their own tools, seeds, water, fertilizer, compost, and pest controls (including insecticides, scarecrows and fencing). Wire and mesh fencing is permitted to deter rabbits, dogs, varmits and other trespassers as long as it is easily removable at the end of the season and is no more than 40 inches high.

The Garden will be made available to gardeners sometime in April. The Garden must first be tilled and staked out. Each plot will be marked by stakes and twine. Gardeners must only garden inside their own plot. There will also be paths to provide access to each plot. Gardeners interested in helping clean up and stake the plots and to spread compost in April should contact the Garden Manager.

Gardeners must remove themselves and all of their property from the Garden no later than October 31, 2009.

No promises are being made about the quality of the soil or safety of the Garden. It has been zoned residential and there was a building of some sort there in the past. While I do not believe that it has ever been a toxic waste dump or cemetery, I am making no promises of any kind. Each gardener should review the Columbus Police website regarding crime statistics in the neighborhood and take their own precautions. Columbus Police Department records show that there were five reports of shots fired within a block of the garden site in 2008.

We are also soliciting donations of compost and manure. We are attempting to obtain some financial grants to pay for seeds, other supplies, and rain barrels to place at the Garden for the benefit of the gardeners. However, gardeners may need to bring jugs of water from home after the rainy season.

We are encouraging all gardeners to donate a portion of their produce to the Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry on Champion Avenue (or other food pantry, like the Mid-Ohio Food Bank). Arrangements may be made to pick up and deliver donated produce twice a month beginning in June.

All gardeners are required to comply with the Garden Rules of Conduct and to sign and return a Garden Agreement and Release. Interested Gardeners should contact the Garden Manager by email to receive a copy of the Garden Agreement and Release.

Additional information is available from the Garden Manager and at this website.

The terms of the Garden Agreement are as follows:

The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Agreement and Release

I, _______________________, am a voluntary participant in the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden (the “Garden”). As an express condition to being allowed to participate in the Garden, I agree to the following:

1. I am responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of my assigned garden plot. Planting, watering, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting and all other garden-related maintenance is my sole responsibility. I am also responsible for providing my own tools, seeds and water. If at any time, I unable to harvest my produce (because of vacation or illness, etc.), I will notify the Garden Manager so that other arrangements can be made to harvest the ripe produce and donate it to a food pantry.

2. Youth participation is encouraged with adult guidance. Children are welcome in the garden, but must be accompanied by an adult and must be supervised at all times. I am also responsible for my guests.

3. I have been given a copy of the Garden Rules of Conduct and agree that I and my guests will comply with those Rules and guidelines. I forfeit my assigned plot if I do not adhere to those Rules.

4. I am fully aware of the risks and hazards associated with participating in the Garden and assume responsibility for all such risks and hazards, including any loss, cost or damage that may result from any accident, injury, illness or death to me or another person. I also assume responsibility for any damage to or loss of any property owned by me or another person. I understand that no special precautions of any kind have been made to remove obvious, environmental or other hazards from the Garden property, including but not limited to, uneven surfaces, pollution, vandalism, theft, and sharp objects. If I have had any questions about the Garden, its nature, risks or hazards, I have contacted the Garden Manager and discussed those questions with her to my satisfaction before signing this Agreement.

5. I have reviewed crime map statistics prepared by the City of Columbus for the neighborhood surrounding the Garden at, but understand that past events do not guarantee that no crime will affect me or anyone else while at the Garden. I am responsible for taking any necessary precautions for the safety of myself, my family and my guests while at the Garden.

6. My participation is entirely voluntary and will involve a moderate degree of physical activity. To my knowledge, I am not affected by any physical condition that would preclude me from safely performing in any aspect of the Garden activities.

7. On behalf of myself, my executors, administrators, spouse, children, agents, heirs and assigns, I hereby fully and finally release and forever discharge Priscilla Hapner, her assigns, and all other Garden volunteers and gardeners from any and all claims, suits, demands, and actions whatsoever, including but not limited to, those based on negligence, in any manner arising out of or resulting from my participation in the Garden. I understand that this release means that, among other things, I am giving up my right to sue for any accident, injury, illness, or death to me, another person, or member of my family and for any damage to or loss of property owned by me or another person arising out of or resulting from my participation in or visit to the Garden.

8. I agree that I will indemnify, hold harmless and fully reimburse Priscilla Hapner and her assigns for any and all losses, damages, claims, suits, demands, attorneys fees and actions whatsoever, that result from, or occur in connection with, a visit to, participation in or use of the Garden by me, members of my family or any of my guests, including but not limited to, those claims based on negligence by me, members of my family or any of my guests.

9. I will remove all items from my assigned plot by October 31, 2009 and will crush any remaining plants to no more than 2 feet high before I abandon my plot for the winter. Any items left in my plot on October 31 may be kept as the personal property of the Garden Manager or disposed of as she sees fit.

10. I am at least 18 years old, have carefully read this entire Agreement and fully understand its terms. I am aware that this is a release of liability and indemnification agreement and I voluntarily sign it of my own free will.

Signed: ____________________________________ Printed name: __________________ Date: __________

Address: __________________________________________________ Email address: _____________________