Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Corporate Community Gardens Can Improve Morale, Health and Reputations

The Society of Human Resources Management website contains an interesting article about how employer-sponsored community gardens can benefit a workplace in a number of ways. First, it creates teamwork as the employees volunteer to work together on the garden (which is generally less stressful than regular work projects). Second, it exposes employees to healthy food (which could reduce employer health costs in the long run when the employees learn to eat healthier food). Some employers harvest food from their gardens, bring it into the employee break rooms and let employees take home as much of the produce as they want for free. The thought is that they will eat fresher and healthier food and appreciate a break on their food bill. Preference is usually given to employees who worked in the garden, but not always. Finally, the garden can contribute to the greater community when produce is donated to area homeless shelters, soup kitchins and food banks (like through the Plant a Row program).

The article highlighted that start-up costs were reasonable and decreased after the first year. Some employers actually hire and pay part-time Garden Managers to maintain the garden when the employees lose interest (like during the hot summer months). Another alternative could be to partner with another community garden to develop a win-win solution. The non-profit community garden could help with the employer's garden in return for financial support from the employer.

[Editor's Note: The May 5, 2011 edition of Columbus Alive highlighted a new local business which will help any company create a gardening program (even in containers) and coach your employees into helping. Check out Green Thumb Revolution if you want more information.

You can read the article for yourself at SHRM's website.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another Sunny Day: Packed Up for the Season

This morning, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden volunteers cleaned up and packed up for the season. Mitch, Rayna, Beth, Betty, Dwain, Jeannie, Maxine & her daughter, Barb and Frank came and we got a lot done:

  • Cleaned the remaining folliage out of the plots;
  • Picked up the litter;
  • Planted tulips and daffodils;
  • Spread 11 cubic yards of compost over the plots, the flower beds and the raspberry bushes;
  • Leveled out two of the compost bins;
  • Stacked up the stakes;
  • Packed up the scarecrows;
  • Dug out even more construction debris;
  • Took down the signs and gates; and
  • Emptied and stored the rain barrels.
We started at 9 a.m. wearing sweatshirts and jackets and were pretty much done by 1:30 p.m. in shirt sleeves. We never would have gotten so much done so quickly without so many dedicated volunteers. We would have finished an hour earlier if we had another wheelbarrow and garden rake.

I brought some donuts, apple cider, apples, water and tea and Rayna brought some walnuts to keep our blood sugar up. We all chuckled when Florida-boy Mitch admitted that he had never tasted apple cider before. (Welcome to Ohio!) :) We loaded up Frank's truck and Mitch's car and transported our items to winter storage. Hopefully, the fence will survive in place.

We all marvelled at Rayna's beautiful lettuce and rosemary. We thought we might make a salad to celebrate the end of the season, but we were a little tired and dirty to be cooking at that moment. (We're also a little curious how much longer the lettuce will thrive in November). Maxcine and her daughter harvested bags and bags of mustard greens to serve on Thanksgiving in a few weeks. (Greens can be frozen in bags after you have fried them up). Another elderly neighbor stopped by with her dog as we started our work to share in our final gleaning of the year and, surprisingly, asked for the extra chili and jalapeno peppers.

Registration for next season will begin next February or March and we plan to break ground again for early planting the weekend after Easter in April (weather permitting). We discussed trying to get some blueberry bushes donated this Fall to plant along the north fence so that we and the neighbor children might have blueberries to harvest each Spring.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So This Is What 10 Cubic Yards Looks Like

In anticipation of the winter, we are preparing to add some more compost to the Garden so that we will still have super soil next Spring. This morning, Shane Yokum of Grove City delivered 10 cubic yards of Com-Til Plus compost from the City's facility on Jackson Pike. The City gave us this compost for free and Yokum Trucking gave us a 33% discount off his normal delivery fee.

This afternoon, Build the Bridge of Ohio, Org generously gave me a check to cover the morning's delivery fee. Isn't life grand? (I'll be helping BTBO with a pilot gardening project for its new Moms on the Move program (for single mothers and their children) next Spring).

Now, this is what 10 cubic yards of compost looks like. And we get the joy of spreading this on Saturday morning, beginning at 9:00 a.m. We will need as many wheelbarrows, shovels and garden rakes as can be mustered. Unlike last Spring, we will not also be spreading mulch and only have half as much compost to distribute.

I will also have lots of apple cider, hot tea, donuts and apples to keep up the blood sugar level of our volunteers. We will have lots of sun and -- unlike last April -- it will NOT be hot and we won't get sunburned. Everyone should feel free to come and pitch in.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

SACG Winter Clean Up Is Saturday, November 14.

SACG Gardeners should be completing the process of cleaning out our plots. On Saturday, November 14, 2009, we will be tearing down the Garden and storing everything for winter (including scarecrows, benches, gates, signs and possibly the fence). We will begin at 9 a.m. so that we will be done in time for the OSU-Iowa game. Of course, there will be refreshments and I will have gifts for my champion volunteers (which I hope raises your curiosity). I'd also like to hear from our SACG gardeners about what bulk seeds I should try to get for us for next year (so that we can share . . . . . . ).

It has been highly recommended that we spread compost on top of the Garden to further improve the soil further over winter. The City of Columbus agreed to give us 10 free cubic yards -- or 1-1/2 inches) of Com-Til Plus, but I have been unable to find anyone to pick it up and deliver it for us and we don't have anything in our budget to pay for the delivery. (Remember, we are a free garden:) It would cost us $80-$100 to pay for the delivery -- so if everyone chipped in, I could arrange to have it deliverered this week in time for us to spread it on Saturday.

Plant a Row. I've added another food pantry (i.e., NNEMAP in the Short North) to our March 20, 2009 Plant a Row a Row list.

Composting. I've also added some good composting sites to this website. The City of Columbus is no longer picking up yard waste (although the City of Bexley still does this for us). Our Stoddart Avenue neighbors could see this as an opportunity to begin their own backyard composting of leaves and kitchen scraps. Next year, they could have fabulous compost for their own gardens or to donate to the SACG. While it's tidier to compost inside a bin, my father has inadvertently composted for years by simply raking leaves into a corner of his backyard. Whatever you do, please do not put them in the gutter or they will wash down the storm drains into Alum Creek and kill our nice fish . . . . . .

The OSU composting site also contains information about the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of composting items. You want a good mix of nitrogen, carbon and potassium. Wood ash from a fireplace are a good source of potassium, but will raise the pH of the compost. Grass clippings, food waste and manure are a good source for nitrogen. Straw, sawdust and leaves are a good source of carbon. To get an ideal compost, you want to mix all of these ingredients (or as many of them as possible).

Speaking of nitrogen-rich manure, you can get free horse manure in Franklin County at the following locations (although you will have to haul it away yourself): Bentwood Equestrian Center on Litholopolis Road in Canal Winchester ((614) 832-8042 or e-mail at; Grove City (; Old Oak Farm in Marysville (Denise at or or another horse stable in Westerville (call Shelly at 614.598.1868 or email at I got my manure compost from the Westerville farm last Spring and it was nicely composted, but had to be dug out of the ground where it had been dumped 6-8 months earlier (and had some weeds, etc.) However, I just added it to my compost bin. Today, I drove about 15 miles to Canal Winchester where I picked up lots of fresh manure (mixed with enriched sawdust) kept in a very nice and clean shed. If you bring a truck, they will load it for you with their earthmover.

If manure makes you quesy, coffee grounds are also an excellent source of nitrogen and pose less risk of smell and pathogens. Here's a really good article about composting coffee grounds: Also, Starbucks gives away its coffee grounds to community gardens across the United States. (Hint: in case anyone wants to pick up some coffee grounds for the SACG and add them to any of our three compost bins):)

Field Trip. For my nice trip to the country this afternoon, I stopped by Faler's Feed Store at the corner of Lithopolis and Cedar Hill Roads and picked up some wild bird seed on sale. Even better, they gave me a baggy of free curled mustard green seeds (for us to use next year at the SACG). I then stopped by Smith's Market on Winchester Pike to get some more fire wood (and free chocolate fudge). Sale Alert: they are selling large winter squash for $1/each. They will store well for many weeks. Coincidentally, I'm making stuffed squash tonight (from an untested recipe). If I like it, I'll share the recipe tomorrow.

Cleaning Up. I'm a little concerned about the number of rotting tomatoes I've seen in the SACG. While I'm grateful most of us have not been throwing them in the compst bins, leaving those tomatoes in place over the winter guarantees that we will have volunteer tomatoes by the boatloads coming up next summer and, more importantly, rotting tomatoes are a good place for bad insects and diseases to spend the winter and infect our garden next year. Please scoop them up into plastic bags and pitch them in the trash.

Anyway, the OSU Exension Office has a nice article on steps for winterizing a garden and I include it here so that our gardeners can see what they should be doing for their own plots for the winter. You can read it for yourself at :

GARDENING IN THE LAND OF NOD. No, this article isn't about gardening in your sleep, although many of us continue to dream about ways we can improve our gardening methods. Now that a hard freeze has officially ended the 2009 growing season across Ohio, it is time to begin the task of putting your flower and vegetable gardens to bed. Dave Goerig and his fellow BYGLers would like to mention a few things you may want to do if you haven't managed them already.

First things first, harvest any vegetables left in the garden like onions, radishes, potatoes, or squash. In the flower garden, dig up any tender bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tuberous root flowers left such as dahlia, gladiolus, and cannas. Store these items in a cool, dark environment such as the basement. Keep an eye on them throughout the winter months to insure they are not drying out. If you are a seed collector, collect any seed that has been produced in your garden. Seeds from plants like sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds to name a few flowers, as well as heirloom vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and squash can all be sprouted next spring. Remove the seed heads or fruit from these plants and bring them into the garage for processing.

Next, remove all the hardgoods that were installed and used throughout the season that helped support your growing efforts. Remove stakes, cages, sections of wire fencing, rain gauges, twine, plant labels, watering devices, scarecrows, slug bars, and stepping stones. These items came in handy earlier in the season and no doubt they will be needed next year. Gather them up and store in the garden shed or garage. Continue closing your garden by using hand pruners or a hedge shear to cut off all dead foliage of any perennial plants. This task is garden specific as some people prefer to leave certain herbaceous ornamentals such as stonecrop,and tall grasses uncut to enjoy their winter look. Vegetable gardens may also have varieties of hardy plants that should not be cut off either, such as horseradish, and garlic.

Once this is done you are ready to remove all annual plant debris left in the planting bed. Do this by pulling these plants out of the ground with the roots included. Once out of the ground shake the soil off of the roots and inspect for disease symptoms. Some insects and many diseases overwinter in the host plant debris. Cleaning your garden of plant residue is the first and most important step in disease and insect pest management. Bury, burn, or compost this debris in sites away from the garden. If composting is the method you use to process dead garden plants, be sure your compost pile heats up sufficiently to destroy the pathogens that may be on the dead plant tissue. If this material is not properly composted before it is reintroduced in the garden you may be spreading the disease and insect problems back onto your soil.

Putting your garden to bed in this manner is just as important as any other growing chore you perform throughout the season. Other end-of-the-season activities you could consider in a vegetable bed would be fall tilling, sowing a cover crop and straw mulching. In ornamental beds, you may want to divide certain perennials now, mulch in new perennial introductions, and work on that edging. In any event the little things you do now will pay big dividends next season.