Monday, July 20, 2009

Harvesting and Preserving Herbs the Quick & Easy Way







One of the best things about a garden is the ability to grow and eat your own herbs – sometimes within hours or even minutes of harvesting them. Over the years, I’ve stayed with the basics and easiest to grow: basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, dill and sage. This year, I’ve also branched out to parsley and fennel. I tried to grow some cumin, but it died within a few days of transplanting it.

Typically, I harvest my basil as I eat it and then the rest in October, when I freeze it. Last year, however, I had way too much to freeze, and so I made and froze pesto from some of it and dried some of it (which I then grind and store in jars like you buy in the store). The pesto was outstanding (and I substituted easier-to-find and less expensive walnuts for pine nuts).

For myself, I store many of the dried and frozen herbs in regular zip-lock storage bags. However, dried herbs also make nice gifts during the holidays, so it’s a good idea to find some nice herb jars. I have had trouble finding jars this year, but then happened upon some $2 herb jars at Crate & Barrel in June. (While they’re a little bigger and expensive than I’d like, they are very cute). Let’s face it, you can buy dried herbs for $1 at Big Lots, so how you packaged your dried herbs will matter if you want to create a thoughtful gift. If you know of a good place to get inexpensive herb jars, please let me know.

Basil. The best way to preserve this is to freeze it and then throw it into the recipe (for pasta sauce or soup) at the end. I typically wash the branches, shake them dry, pluck them off, toss the loose leaves in a colander and then freeze them on a cookie sheet before filling a plastic bag. One nice thing about basil is that you can stick the stems in a glass or pitcher of water and, if you break the stems off only at the main joints, the stem will sprout new roots and live for weeks in a glass of water placed in direct sunlight. (I've even seen basil flower in the my kitchin and form seeds).

For pesto, I puree four cups of fresh leaves with about 1 cup of olive oil, 1 cup of chopped slightly toasted walnuts, 6 chopped garlic cloves and 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Add more oil if it seems too thick. I then spoon it into the tiniest of Tupperware/plastic storage containers (like ¼ cup sizes) and freeze until I need it. This thaws quickly by putting the container in a bowl of warm water or even in the microwave. For a quick meal, I mix it alone with pasta or spread it over white fish (like tilapia) before putting it on the George Foreman grill for a few minutes.

For the remainder, I hang it upside down in a place shielded from direct sunlight where it will get lots of air circulation. I gather the braches into a small group, put a rubber band around the tip of the branches and then run a twist tie (like you find on bread packages) through the rubber band. I hook or twist the tie around the rod. Once it dries, I pull the dry leaves and run them through my herb mill into a cereal bowl until I have enough to fill a jar or bag.

Finally, I also prolong my basil harvest by pinching the aspiring and actual flowers twice a week until mid-September. Then, I let it go to seed and let the unsightly brown seed pods dry on the plant. If you harvest the seed pods, you will find a few (maybe 5-10) tiny black basil seeds inside each pod. I save those tiny in small coin envelopes for next year.

Pretty much everything I’ve just written about basil applies equally to Parsley. (I’ve never made pesto from parsley, but I’m told you can). Parsley is best preserved by freezing and I dry the rest for grins & giggles and for gifts. Since this is the first year I’ve grown parsley, I have no tips for preserving seeds.

Cilantro. After years of simply drying this, I learned this year that the best way to preserve it is to freeze it. Unlike basil, I don’t bother with freezing the leaves on a cookie sheet. I just wash it, shake it dry and then pluck the leaves and put them in a freezer bag.

I still dry a little of it for old time’s sake. I tried a different method of drying this year: putting the herbs in a brown paper bag before hanging them from a rod.

For the seeds, I split them between seeds for next year’s cilantro crop and storing the rest to grind as coriander.

Finally, if you like Thai or Asian food, it is good to wash and freeze some of the roots and stalks to use to make, among other things, curry paste.

Dill. I always have too much dill. It’s pretty much taken over my back yard and I weed it like crab grass. Before it goes to seed, I harvest a lot of it, wash and shake it and then hang it until it dries out. I then pull the dried leaves into the herb mill and process.

To preserve dill seeds, I wait until the seeds turn brown on the plant and then bring them inside and dry them inside a paper bag (which will catch any falling seeds) like I described above.

Sage. The best time to harvest sage is before it flowers, but you can harvest some without the flowers if you look. (There are not many leaves left on a branch after it flowers). I hang the sage upside down to dry and then process through the herb mill as described. Sage smells so good and has such a fluffy texture, I often think I am doing my recipient a disservice by processing it before putting the leaves in a jar.

Thyme. I usually process this at the end of the season (like basil). Most of my thyme survives the winter and so I am judicious in my harvest. The leaves are freakishly small, but you can hang them to dry like other herbs and process through the herb mill. Ditto for Rosemary (although I have not had much luck in the last three years with my rosemary surviving the winter).

I’ve heard rumors that you can bring herbs inside for the winter. However, I’ve never had much luck keeping my basil or rosemary alive more than a week or two – even with a grow light and southern facing window.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Local Upward Bound Youths Volunteer at Stoddart Avenue Community Garden


















Yesterday, a group of college-bound high school students from The Ohio State University’s Upward Bound Program stopped by in the afternoon (just as a downpour began) to volunteer to weed, dig up and spread mulch, and build another storage bin for the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. The youths are students from East, Briggs and Walnut Ridge High Schools. Although some of the teens were acquainted with gardening from their parents’ backyard gardens, a few had never seen food “in the wild” or outside a grocery store.

After I explained to them (while we waited on the bus for the rain to stop) how the Garden was formed, the group was given a tour of the Garden. The youths were split into three teams. Team 1 did an excellent and speedy job of weeding the east-side flower beds and making substantial progress on weeding the row of raspberry bushes on the south side of the Garden. Team 2 made a substantial dent in weeding the Garden pathways (particularly in front of my plot and in the front gateway area). Team 3 excelled at digging up the wood chips from where they were dumped in April and replenishing the mulch along the front flower beds and in the front gateway area. Team 3 also discovered a small garter snake and found it a new home and helped construct from our recycled pallet collection a new storage bin for wood chips (or possibly another compost bin since our first two bins are now full).

Gardener Jeannie (or Ms. J as she was known by the youths) stopped by and helped us finish the storage bin. After the teens left, Ms. J also helped me transplant Shasta daisy, Gloriosa daisy and coneflower seedlings into the front flower bed. (Alysha already planted some blanket flower seedlings last week). Rayna stopped by to work on her plot and was so inspired by all of the afternoon’s work and weeding that she ran to Lowe’s to get $.50 marigold six-packs to plant around the front scarecrow. Dwain stopped by while the youths were there and loaned his shovel to Team 3.

We are extremely grateful to the teens and their two leaders who helped us on Friday afternoon. I was particularly pleased that the day ended so well because it wasn't always clear it would end that way. When I arrived, Columbia Gas was already there and had dug a a huge pit in Cherry Street to plug a gas leak in the alley right next to the Plot of the Unknown Gardener. I had to twice move my car to accommodate their vehicles. Then, it began raining cats and dogs as soon as the OSU bus pulled onto Stoddart Avenue. However, as the Bard put it: All's Well That Ends Well. The rain actually made the weeding easier.

OSU’s Upward Bound Program has been around a while. It has been federally funded since 1965. As explained on the OSU website:

Upward Bound offers students the opportunity to excel in not only high school, but also in college and beyond. By accepting students into the program in their 9th or 10th grade year in high school, the Upward Bound Program lays a strong foundation in preparing them for college. Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, and Foreign Language classes are taught and provide academic enrichment for students. Additionally, students take an enrichment course that focuses on topics such as Financial Aid/Scholarships, Preparing an Academic Resume, Choosing a Major/Career, ACT/SAT Preparation, and Study Skills. The enrichment course also focuses on other life skills topics such as Managing Relationships, Etiquette, and Leadership.

The mission of The Ohio State University Upward Bound Program is to instill and foster the necessary skills, talents and motivation needed for each participant to successfully graduate from high school, enroll in and complete their post secondary education. Each student will be encouraged to take full advantage of their Upward Bound experience while continuously improving their level of preparation for the next stage in their academic career. The Upward Bound Program is intentionally designed to empower students to take a proactive role in their education and excel far beyond their idealized potential.

Beyond, having the opportunity to partake in a positive, motivating, college focused environment, members of The Ohio State University Upward Bound Program family receive intensive year round academic preparation, tutoring services, and test preparation for the Ohio Graduation Test, ACT and SAT. Furthermore, students are afforded the opportunity to participate in college/cultural tours and personal/career development activities and workshops during Saturday Academy sessions and the Upward Bound Summer Institute.

In addition to services provided to students, The Ohio State University Upward Bound Parent Association (UBPA) serves as a venue in which parents are provided the opportunity to learn more about the critical steps needed for their children to successfully graduate from high school, enroll in and graduate from college. The UBPA also enables parents to network, find support, and provide assistance for one another as their children successfully transition to college.







Friday, July 17, 2009

Danger Will Robinson: Late Blight Tomato Contagious Fungus Rears Its Ugly Head in Ohio.









Last week, the OSU and Franklin County Extension offices and The Dispatch reported that there was a concern that the light blight tomato fungus – which is highly contagious, can infect potato, eggplant and pepper plants, and was responsible for the infamous Irish potato famine as well as millions of dollars of commercial crop damage in Ohio – had reared its ugly head. This fungus particularly likes our current weather: cool nights, warm days and moist.

As reported by the OSU Extension Office:

Symptoms

Late blight appears on potato or tomato leaves as pale green, water-soaked spots, often beginning at leaf tips or edges. The circular or irregular leaf lesions are often surrounded by a pale yellowish-green border that merges with healthy tissue. Lesions enlarge rapidly and turn dark brown to purplish-black. During periods of high humidity and leaf wetness, a cottony, white mold growth is usually visible on lower leaf surfaces at the edges of lesions. In dry weather, infected leaf tissues quickly dry up and the white mold growth disappears. Infected areas on stems appear brown to black and entire vines may be killed in a short time when moist weather persists.

On potato tubers, late blight appears as a shallow, coppery-brown, dry rot that spreads irregularly from the surface through the outer 1/8-1/2 inch or more of tissue. On tuber surfaces, lesions appear brown, dry, and sunken, while infected tissues immediately beneath the skin appear granular and tan to copper-brown. When tubers are stored under cool, dry conditions, lesion development is retarded and, upon prolonged storage, lesions may become slightly sunken and desiccated.
Secondary bacteria and fungi frequently enter late-blight lesions, usually resulting in a slimy breakdown of entire tubers.

Late blight can also develop on green tomato fruit, resulting in large, firm, brown, leathery-appearing lesions, often concentrated on the sides or upper fruit surfaces. If conditions remain moist, abundant white mold growth will develop on the lesions and
secondary soft-rot bacteria may follow, resulting in a slimy, wet rot of the entire fruit.


Causal Organism

Late blight is caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. Unlike most pathogenic fungi, the late blight fungus cannot survive in soil or dead plant debris. For an epidemic to begin in any one area, the fungus must survive the winter in potato tubers (culls, volunteers), be reintroduced on seed potatoes or tomato transplants, or live spores must blow in with rainstorms. Disease development is favored by cool, moist weather. Nights in the 50's and days in the 70's accompanied by rain, fog or heavy dew are ideal. Under these conditions, lesions may appear on leaves within 3-5 days of infection, followed by the white mold growth soon thereafter. Spores formed on the mold are spread readily by irrigation, rain and equipment. They are easily dislodged by wind and rain and can be blown into neighboring fields within 5-10 miles or more, thus beginning another cycle of disease.

Infection of potato tubers arises from spores that develop on foliage. Tubers exposed by soil cracking or erosion of hills may come in contact with spores washed down rom infected leaves and stems by rainfall or irrigation. Tubers infected during the growing season may partially decay before harvest. Tuber infection may also occur at harvest when tubers contact living spores remaining on infected vines. Little if any tuber-to-tuber spread of late blight occurs during storage if tubers are kept under cool, well-ventilated conditions.

Besides potatoes and tomatoes, P. infestans can infect only a few other closely related plants. Occasionally peppers and eggplants are mildly infected, as are a few related weeds such as hairy (but not black) nightshade. Since 1990, there have been severe outbreaks of late blight in commercial and home garden plantings of potato and tomato in both the U.S. and Canada. Much of this has been associated with new strains of the late blight fungus that have spread to many areas. Some of these strains may interact and form a type of resistant spore that can survive for long periods in soil. Others are insensitive to a systemic fungicide (metalaxyl) that has been widely used in late blight management. The protectant fungicides commonly used to protect plants from late blight remain fully effective with all known strains of the fungus.

Management

Infected cull potatoes are a major source of spores of the late blight fungus and must be disposed of properly-DO NOT MAKE CULL PILES. Cull potatoes should be spread on fields not intended for potato production the following year in time that they will totally freeze and be destroyed during the winter. If this is not possible,
they must be destroyed in some other way such as by complete chopping, burial,
burning or feeding to livestock.

Plant only certified seed potatoes. Use of "year-out" seed or seed saved from local crops is asking for trouble with late blight. Seed sources should be selected very carefully to avoid bringing in late blight on seed potatoes, especially new strains of the fungus. Look for the characteristic coppery-brown discoloration of the potato flesh under the skin of seed tubers.

Infected tomato transplants also can be a significant source of the disease. Use only obviously healthy tomato transplants free of dark lesions on leaves or stems.

Volunteer potatoes and tomatoes can be a significant source of spores of the late blight fungus. All volunteers should be destroyed as quickly as possible by herbicides, chopping, or cultivation.

Growers should scout fields regularly to look for late blight. Special attention should be paid to early-planted fields because that is where the disease is likely to develop first. Scouting should be concentrated in low-lying areas, field edges along creeks or ponds, near the center of center-pivot irrigation rigs, in areas near woodlots or any area that is protected from wind where the leaves tend to remain wet longer. Any area where it is difficult to apply fungicides such as edges and corners or under power lines if using aerial application should be examined. Scouts should look for large, black or purplish lesions on stems or leaves and the telltale cottony, white mold growth, usually on the undersides. Be sure to check leaves and stems under the crop canopy as that is where the disease is most likely to begin.

Use of a good protectant fungicide program is necessary to fully protect any crop of potatoes or tomatoes. For current recommendations consult your local county Extension agent or the Ohio Vegetable Production Guide (OSU Extension Bulletin 672).

With potatoes, make sure that vines have been completely dead for 2-3 weeks prior to harvest. Fungicide applications should be continued until vines are dead. When foliage dies, spores of the late blight fungus that remain on the foliage also die. This practice will prevent infection of tubers during harvest and development of late blight in storage.

The Dispatch reports that gardeners should:




Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dwain Penny Hosted Art Show for Stoddart Avenue Community Gardeners Last Night




Last Night, nine of the Stoddart Avenue Community Gardeners gathered for social gathering and an art show in an impromptu gallery to view the art of Gardener Dwain Penny. Dwain has been one of the most active neighbors in the SACG and has attended virtually every work event at the Garden. He helped to pick up litter and dig out rocks in early April; move the wood chip pile, chopped down a weed tree, dig out construction debris, spread wood chips and compost, and sink fence posts in mid-April; mow the grass; dig out and carry large construction debris out of the plots of us feeble gardeners; put up the Girl Scouts' Scarecrows in May; build the Plot of the Unknown Gardener in June; and most recently, build the pallet compost bin last week. I don’t know what we would have done without Dwain being there when we need him.

Except for six years when he lived in Reynoldsburg, Dwain has lived on Stoddart Avenue since 1989. Gardener Barb mentioned that he was an artist and that she was curious to see his pictures. When I asked him about his art, he offered to show it to me and I suggested that we invite the all of the Gardeners. That gathering was held last night. Light refreshments were served.

During the show, Dwain told us a little about himself. He is originally from Washington, D.C., is the eldest of eight children, and began sketching when he was in the second grade. He branched out into other media when he was twelve, but did not turn to oil painting until 2000. He likes oils because he can spend days working on the same painting and can put it aside to work on another painting and then come back to it later. Although he tends to paint when he’s feeling down, his pictures are bright, colorful and hopeful.

Dwain has not always been an artist. He had told Alysha and I while we were moving the wood chip pile in April that he began working as a brick mason when he was very young because his father would wake him up on Saturdays and during summer vacation to go to work. Although it was very hard work, he liked the money and so kept at it. Over the years, he became a very skilled brick mason.

In 1986, he decided to see the country and hitch-hiked across country from Washington to Los Angeles and was hitching his way back when he stopped in Columbus in March 1989 and ended up staying. He had some very amusing stories about his travels. Although I’m sure that I cannot do them justice here, I’ll summarize a few.

As you can imagine, he met a lot of people while hitchhiking. About the only place he had trouble finding a ride was walking along U.S. 50 in West Virginia (which was mountainous and hot). A lot of Christians – including a nun – picked him up, would tell him about Christ and often bought him breakfast. He said that God always provided for him and in the three years that he hitchhiked, he only got wet once from a rain storm. While near Kansas City, he stepped inside a storefront church for spiritual refreshment and discovered that he had been “adopted” by a family with 24 children that ran the church. During the nine months that he stayed there, the family housed him upstairs from the church and sent him to college to obtain degree in the medical field.

In March 1989, he was hitchhiking on Interstate 70 on his way back home from St. Louis when he was picked up by the Columbus Police. He offered to get off the highway, but they insisted on transporting him and put him in the back of the cruiser. While checking to see if he had a criminal record, they offered to buy him breakfast at McDonalds and ended up dropping him off at the Open Shelter downtown, where he obtained a map of the City.

The next day, someone came in and offered to hire a few men to pick up trash. He volunteered. That same day, he met a man who not only gave him a more permanent job, but also a room in a house on Stoddart Avenue. The rest, they say, is history. He had never returned to Washington, D.C. to live, but still hopes to. He has been working on building and financing a prototype of a machine invention he designed 30 years ago. He has a very large extended family and attends a few family reunions in Washington and North Carolina. He finally married a few years ago and dotes quite a bit on his dog. When he’s not rehabbing apartments in the area, helping me with the Garden or painting, he can be seen riding his bike with his dog.

At the end of the show, one of the Gardeners provided him with contact information for a local art gallery and another gardener offered to construct a website for him to showcase his art.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Welcome Stoddart Avenue Community Garden’s Second Compost Bin


We built our first compost bin at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden during a hot Memorial Day weekend. I was helped by two neighborhood boys in sawing the lumber down to uniform sizes. Within days, we realized that we wanted to build another one, but of a different design. I was leaning towards using chicken wire (similar to the one at my own home), but put it off until I completed other projects and bought some more chicken wire. At the end of June, Gardener Barb emailed me, indicated that she had an old wood storage pallet in her backyard that she did not need and suggested that we get a few more and build the new compost bin out of pallets. My initial reaction was – ugh more hot work. Then I was concerned about finding more pallets and, of course, how aesthetic this bin would be in the neighborhood. Pallet bins are pretty big and not what most people want right outside their backdoor. I had seen pictures posted on the Columbus Community Garden website of the Master Gardening class at OSU spending a day constructing pallet compost bins. However, Barb convinced me that the pallets would not be that big and so I gave the idea more thought.

About two weeks ago, Bill Dawson (from Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program) stopped by and I mentioned we were thinking about building a pallet compost bin next to the current compost bin. He suggested that we dig a trench to stabilize the pallet bin.

The next evening, I was biking along the Alum Creek bike trail and noticed that there were a number of pallets by the trash bin behind Crimson Cup (on Alum Creek Drive). The next morning, I also noticed some discarded pallets next to the Mr. Tire auto repair store on East Main Street and went inside to ask if I could have the smaller one. Sure, they said, and I dragged it four blocks back to my garage. I then called Crimson Cup and asked if we could have the discarded pallets to build a compost bin. Sure, he said, but I had to act quickly because other people liked to take them, too.

I called Barb and she said her husband, Frank, agreed to pick them up in his truck (as well as the one behind my garage). When I got to the Garden on Wednesday, they had stacked them on the west end of the Garden. The pallets were a nice size, very clean and new looking and freakishly heavy. (Solid, new wood will do that).

I researched ways of building pallet bins and settled on a design that seemed relatively simple. All that was needed were four corner brackets (which cost about $3/each) and some screws (which I already had). I had planned to build it when youth volunteers were scheduled to visit on Friday, but they cancelled and we already had scheduled to pick-up some compost on Monday to put in it. Volunteers or not – we had to build the bin this weekend.

Barb and Frank wanted to help build it, but couldn’t be at the Garden until around noon on Saturday (when it was supposed to start storming). Luckily, Dwain is almost always up for hot work, heavy lifting, digging out bricks and using power tools. Even though he thinks I’m a little odd, he understands how important compost is to help the Garden next year. When I showed up at the Garden on Friday and explained my plans, he graciously agreed to help. Then, not to be outdone, Lawrence agreed to help, too. Dwain carried the pallets from the west side to the northwest corner of the Garden. He dug a six inch deep and wide trench out of solid brick with his rock hammer. I handed the guys the brackets and screws and loaned my screw driver. Lawrence and I debated whether the holes needed to be pre-drilled: I said yes, he said no. Ever the diplomat, Dwain alternated drilling techniques while Lawrence and I held the pallets upright. (The corner brackets were attached inside the bin corners).

The project took less than an hour (including digging out the trench). Dwain suggested that we add a top brace because he knew that I was concerned about the bin bowing out when it was full.

Unfortunately, Lawrence left before I passed out brownies and took pictures. (However, his mother and nephew got brownies on his behalf). The picture I took is of Dwain enjoying a brownie after building the bin. (On Wednesday evening, SACG gardeners will be viewing a nearby gallery of Dwain's art work).

We have five more pallets left. Three of them will be used to build a storage bin for the wood chips (which line the Garden’s paths and fences) on the southwest corner of the Garden. The fun of building it will either go to Barb and Frank or the youth volunteers who are scheduled to come next Friday (or maybe both if Frank and Barb are able and willing to do it next Friday afternoon). Since we will have two extra pallets left, I’ve suggested using them to construct a similar compost bin for the Bexley Community Garden, but I’ll need help transporting the pallets to Mayfield Place and in finding a third storage pallet. (Of course, if someone gets two extra pallets and two large hinges, we could also put a door on the empty side of bin. We are talking about Bexley, after all.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Welcome New Benches to Stoddart Garden







Gardening can be hard work. Weeding, watering, harvesting and hauling water in extreme heat can make for a long day. Until Wednesday, there was no place -- other than the ground -- to sit down and rest. Imagine my delight when I came to the Garden on Wednesday and found two beautiful benches in the back of the Garden. They were delivered by Bill Dawson courtesy of the Franklin Park Conservatory's Growing to Green Program. Alysha and I did a little jig and we immediately put them to work:)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DeMonye's Half Price Sale In Time For Second Sesaon Crops

As I began to consider planting second season crops (like cabbage, beans and winter squash) as my lettuce and peas die back and my zucchini will undoubtedly collapse on its own weight, I called around to Lowe's, Dill's and DeMonye's to see what was still available. Only DeMonye's still had cabbage seedlings, so I wondered over there this afternoon. ALL PLANTS -- including hanging pots and perennials -- ARE 50% OFF. There are GIANT FERNS for only $5.00. Really.

I found vegetable seedlings of all kinds available for less than $1.00. This included a wide variety of peppers, cabbage, greens, squash, etc. Nice-sized herbs -- like Rosemary -- for $2.00 per pot.

If your garden plot is beginning to look a little worse for wear, consider starting your second season -- or fall crops -- now. You can plant more spinach and lettuce at the end of August:)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Discount Rain Barrels Available From FLOW To Speedy Columbus Residents

The Friends of the Lower Olengangy Watershed (FLOW) are once again offering subsidized rain barrels to Columbus residents. If you hurry and register for a rain barrel workshop, you can get a rain barrel for only $30.00.

As discussed in this month's FLOW newsletter, rain "barrels are a great way to conserve water and reduce your utility bills while at the same time helping to protect" our local water ways. "With funding from the City of Columbus, FLOW will once again offer our popular rain barrel workshops and cost share program. The two-hour workshops are free and open to the public. Columbus residents who attend a workshop will be eligible to purchase a rain barrel at a cost share price of $30. Residents of other municipalities [like Bexley] may participate in the workshop, but, due to funding restrictions, they will not be eligible to receive the cost share price. "

Due to the high demand in previous years, FLOW has "switched to a new registration system. Registrations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. We recommend registering as early as possible in the process, as space is limited and workshops will fill quickly. Please go to" the FLOW website at http://www.olentangywatershed.org/ to register by email or call 614-267-3386 and leave your name and telephone number.

Workshops are currently scheduled for July 14 (7-9 p.m.), August 13 (7-9 p.m.) and September 19 (10 a.m. to noon). Location to be announced.

You don't have to live in the Olentangy watershed to participate. Friends of Alum Creek Tributaries may also attend and purchase subsidized barrels as long as they live in Columbus.

If memory serves correctly, FLOW also covers the cost of the delivery of the barrel. But I'd ask first . . . . .

I attended a workshop like this three years ago, which is how I met the Rain Brothers and bought three barrels from them for my home. I also purchased a subsidized barrel last year for my community garden plot (before residency restrictions were formalized:)

Alternatively, FLOW is offering another option for Columbus residents to get a $30 rain barrel. You can attend a six-week course it is offering on Healthy Yards, Healthy Streams. According to FLOW, by attending this course, "you can learn how to protect our streams by making your own yard healthier, more beautiful and safer for your family. Topics will include rain barrels, rain gardens, composting, low-impact lawn care, and backyard habitat. " The program is subsidized by The Columbus Foundation.

Registrations started on June 30. The classes run on Monday evenings from 6:30 until 8:30 from July 20 through August 24. Again, registration is first-come-first served and space can be reserved on FLOW's website. The location of the seminar will be revealed when you register. Unlike the FREE rain barrel workshops, this course will cost you a whopping $15 to cover the demonstrations and written materials. Fees are due within two weeks of registration. FLOW promises that "participants who complete all six workshops will receive discount and cost share coupons with a value that exceeds the course fee. The cost share coupons may be applied to implementing any of the practices covered in the course (including rain barrels, rain gardens, composters, and native plantings)." This includes the $30 rain barrels for Columbus residents.

The brochure does not limit participation in the course to Columbus residents.

Good luck!