Friday, May 28, 2010

SACG Preparing for Annual Strawberry Picking Expedition

For the last few years, I have a summer routine which includes visiting the Columbus Arts Festival and picking strawberries. When I was in high school, my Farm Bureau Youth group used to pick strawberries and then sell them for a small profit from the back of a pickup truck in the middle of my small town. As you may know, the SACG has two small strawberry patches, but there are not enough for us to pick and make strawberry jam. For now, I pick them at U-Pick farms, wash them, spread them on cookie sheets and then freeze them for later use as ice cubes in margaritas and in fruit smoothies. (I put the frozen strawberries in freezer bags to store them until I need them). I also make strawberry preserves and jam.

I picked 12 quarts this morning so that I can make jam this evening. It was not too muddy.

Stoddart Avenue Community Gardeners are gathering next Saturday, June 5 to go strawberry picking. You'll need to contact me to find out the exact time and location, although we're planning on meeting at the SACG at 9 a.m. However, these are the best options for strawberry picking from the Bexley area:

a. Hann Farms 4600 Lockbourne Road has u-pick strawberries $1.49/pound (almost a 50% increase over last year). This is the closest u-pick farm to Bexley, but the trip there is a little tricky (through an industrial district in Obetz, etc.). Beth and I picked strawberries there a few years ago and it was depressing to see how many of the berries were rotting in the field. Beth made a strawberry pie with them. They have been picking strawberries here since Mother's Day and moved their strawberry field to closer to the farm house. You must pay with cash or check. Call 491-0812 for more information.

b. Schact Farms, 5950 Shannon Road in Canal Winchester, $1.9/pound (same price as last year). This is the next closest to Bexley. This is where we went last year. They also have an extensive pumpkin patch. They accept cash, credit cards and WIC. Call 833-1932 for more information.

c. Jacquenmin Farm, (between Plain City and Dublin), $1.8/pound (same price as last year). I visited here two years ago with my nieces and it is very quaint and very close to Dublin and Sports Ohio. They have a nice system of having you leave a flag where you left off so that the next person knows where to start picking. They've just opened for the season. Call 873-5725 for more information.

d. Doran Farms, 5462 Babbitt Rd. New Albany, $1.69/pound. I've never been there, but have heard good things about it. They are opening today. Call 855-3885 for more information.

e. Circle S Farm, 9015 London-Groveport Rd west of Grove City. $1.3/pound. They will not be opening for u-pick for another week. I went here a few years ago with my niece and it's a nice, large farm, but is way, way out in the country. However, they also sell a lot of strawberries and other items in Farmers Markets and don't always have strawberries available for U-pick. They tell me strawberry picking season will run through Father's Day. Call 878-9462 for more information.

Wherever you go, the strawberries are so plentiful that you're likely to spend more time driving than picking. It should take no more than one hour to pick close to 12 pounds, although last year we waited too long to go picking and it took us longer than anticipated.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Buckeye Lawn & Garden Website Offers Great Free Advice

Another great website listed on the right-hand side of this site is Buckeye Lawn & Garden. The website lists a weekly newsletter which is published every Thursday morning during growing season based on a Tuesday morning conference call on Ohio growing conditions, pests, diseases, etc. between OSU faculty, OSU Extension Educators and other contributors throughout Ohio. It specifically lists average soil temperature for Central Ohio and growing days, lawn care, flower care, tree and shrub care, posts pictures, etc. It also links to useful fact sheets published by OSU faculty and the Extension Service.

For instance, last week’s BLG newsletter contained the following useful information about why my zucchini always dies back in July:

D. WILT PREVENTION OF CUCURBITS AT PLANTING? Many growers have experienced wilting of cucumbers and zucchini in June or July. After vine crops begin to run, gardeners and farmers often notice individual leaves with severe wilt symptoms on sunny days. Within a week or two the condition spreads to entire vines which do not recover from the wilt. This disease, called bacterial wilt, is especially common with cantaloupes and cucumbers. Squash and pumpkins may not wilt as rapidly, but may be dwarfed with extensive blossoming and branching. Watermelons are rarely affected. This disease is caused by a bacterium (Erwinia tracheiphila) that overwinters in the odies of the striped and 12 spotted cucumber beetles. In the spring, the beetles merge from the ground and feed on young plants, introducing bacteria into the leaves or stems. The bacteria reproduce in the water conducting vessels, producing gums that interfere with water transport. The beetles and bacteria are so intimately related that controlling the beetles will control infection by the bacteria. Once infection has occurred, however, no control is possible and wilting plants should be removed, if practical. The disease is not seed borne.

The only practical management measure is to use an insecticide when seedlings first emerge to control the black and yellow cucumber beetles. Early infections are most severe, but total control depends on applications continuing at frequent intervals as allowed by the label on the insecticide during the growing season. In some cases, if insect pressure is heavy, it may be necessary to apply an insecticide when plants are just cracking the soil, but have not yet emerged. Management of this disease is completely linked with preventing feeding by cucumber beetles on susceptible hosts.

Two weeks ago, the BLG newsletter contained the following useful information about growing vegetables:

VEGETABLE - CARROTS (Daucus carrota). A great source of vitamin A can be planted in the vegetable garden now and harvested in 60-80 days. The most important factor to success with carrots is a loose, well-drained soil. Carrots are not happy if the soil is compacted, therefore, put a little extra time in prepping the soil for growth. In fact, carrots do quite well in containers or raised beds because of better soil quality. Another tip for great carrots is to make sure the crop gets ample moisture. Prolonged hot weather in later stages of development may retard growth and affect flavor; provide a consistent amount of moisture during the season. Carrots can be harvested as soon as they reach finger size; the smaller carrots are usually tender and juicer. Popular varieties (and maturity rate) include Red Cored Chantenay (70 days), Nantes Half Long (70 days), and Little Finger (65 days). Also try some of the interesting and different colors, shapes, and sizes of carrots including, Purple Dragon (purple), Rainbow Blend (all colors), and Thumbelina (small and round).

B. WARM SEASON VEGETABLES.Vegetables can be grouped into warm season and cool season crops. Warm-season vegetables require warm soil and air temperatures to germinate, grow and mature properly. They will not tolerate any frost and may be severely damaged by prolonged temperatures as much as 15 F above freezing. In Central Ohio, mid-May is normally considered "safe" to plant warm season vegetables. It might be one week early in Southern Ohio and one week later in Northern Ohio. Common examples of warm season vegetables are cucumber, eggplant, pepper, snap beans, squashes, sweet corn, and tomatoes. These plants can be transplanted around mid-May. The hope is that there will not be a last frost after May 15. Garden centers are well stocked with plants and seeds. It is time to purchase plants and seeds and get ready to plant!

For more information, see: OSU Vegetable Fact Sheets

C. CAN BLUEBERRIES BE SUCCESSFULLY GROWN IN HOME GARDENS? Blueberries are very tasty to just about everyone. A common question is, "Can I grow them successfully in my home garden?" The answer is, "it depends," which is a standard answer to nearly all of the questions that come to Extension offices. Blueberries require very acidic soil. The soil pH needs to be around 4.0-4.5. In addition, blueberries need an organic matter content of 4-7%. A soil test is needed to determine where the soil pH is. If soil pH is in the 4.0-4.5 range, blueberries can be planted. If soil pH is higher than 4.5, elemental sulfur or soil sulfur is needed to lower soil pH. This acidifying process can take up to 3 months. The answer is "yes" to blueberry growing in home gardens, if the gardener has acidic soil with high organic content in full sun, or is willing to lower soil pH by applying soil sulfur or elemental sulfur. Refer to OSU Extension Bulletin 949, "Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide," which can be purchased from OSU Extension offices throughout Ohio. Call to check on its availability. The bulletin is also available at OSU Extension's eStore at . The search word is "940."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ABC News Runs Story About Community Gardening Hero Will Allen

Last night, ABC News ran a very short story about Will Allen, the Executive Director of Growing Power, an urban farm non-profit in Wisconsin. You’ll notice that I have a link to Growing Power’s website on this blog because I think that what he is doing up north is terribly exciting and could be replicated – in one form or another – here in Columbus. My friend Mary from Louisville has seen him speak and told me about him. She’s also a big fan.

There are two recent New York Times articles about Allen and Growing Power: Urban Farmer and Street Farmer.

SACG Neighbors may recall Will Allen from the March 2010 edition of the SACG Grapevine which had the following article:

Composting Is For Geniuses

What would a SACG Grapevine be without an article promoting composting? Our website lists a few good websites to learn about composting. One of them is Growing Power.

One of America’s most famous urban gardening heroes is a former professional basketball player and P&G marketer: Will Allen. A 2008 recipient of the prestigious Mac-Arthur Genius Fellowship, he co-founded Growing Power to promote urban farming and better food quality in the inner city of Milwaukee. He particularly preaches the value of composting recycled food waste (from grocery stores), farm waste, newspapers, brewery waste, and coffee grinds, and using worms (aka vermicomposting).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Columbus Department of Public Health Is Funding a Water Tank for the SACG

In mid-April, Ms. Anthony forwarded to me an email she had received about a small grant program that City Councilperson Priscilla Tyson had put in the City's budget this year to support community produce gardens. I then received a slightly revised version of the grant description and application in the mail. It had a very short deadline (i.e., April 26) and was limited to existing community produce gardens. Grant applications were to be prioritized by the level of partnership/collaboration, volunteer participation, and community benefits. The grant was being administered by the Institute for Active Living at the Columbus Public Health Department and the funding decisions would be made by the Health Department.

We already have five rain barrels attached to the downspouts of the offices of BTBO. Four of these barrels were donated to us last year by Rain Brothers and I loaned a fifth (which I purchased at a reduced cost from Rain Brothers through a federal government subsidy program administered by the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed – or FLOW). We had a small portion of our grant from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Fund at the Columbus Foundation already set aside to purchase two additional rain barrels because we ran dry a few times last summer. However, we would need to buy a 500 gallon water tank if we ever hoped to expand the SACG because even 350 gallons of rain water would be insufficient to support a larger gardening program. (This had been one of the recommendations of our visitors during the American Community Garden Association annual meeting last August). Moreover, because BTBO has also decided to create a gardening program for its clients behind its office and to create a similar community garden on the lot between our two properties, we clearly needed to increase our water source sooner than later. Thus, Ms. Anthony and I decided to collaborate on obtaining a tank to satisfy our joint watering needs for our gardens. The plan is that the tank would replace the three rain barrels on the east side of the BTBO offices, although it would still be connected to the same downspout to harvest the 18,000 gallons of rain water coming off the BTBO office roof. Then, we would put 3 rain barrels (instead of the current two) on the west side of the BTBO offices to harvest the rain water from that downspout. The fourth rain barrel will eventually be connected to the roof of our new shed. Altogether, that would give us 700 potential gallons of water to support both community gardening programs.

I submitted the grant application and kept my fingers crossed, but became concerned when I did not hear anything on April 30 (as promised). (That was also the same day that our new shed was delivered and The Cougar Group held a fundraiser for the SACG to raise funds for our needed water tank). However, hope springs eternal and I waited for an announcement from the City about the grant.

Last week, our prayers were answered when Barb Seckler called and told me that the SACG would received funding from the Public Health Department for our new water tank. Yipee!! I then contacted Rain Brothers and Jonathan told me that it would actually be less expensive to get a 550-gallon tank. Like other Rain Brothers' products, the tanks are manufactured locally. In this case, the tanks are manufactured in nearby Lancaster – only 45 minutes away. Unfortunately, he had just sold their last tank of that size and we have to wait 10-21 days for a new one. Rain Brothers will deliver it for free.

I think the neighborhood will be happy with the new tank because its earth-toned color will be slightly less conspicuous than the neon blue of our rain barrels and will altogether will take up slightly less space. I know that I'll be happier to not have to worry as much about running out of water during those pesky dry spells in August and September.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BTBO Raised Bed Project Makes Great Progress on Blustery Weekend

On a chilly and blustery day in Columbus, several volunteers from Build The Bridge of Ohio joined me to build raised vegetable garden beds at homes operated by BTBO to help ex-offenders reacclimate to society. Although we got off to a rocky start, we eventually completed four of the seven raised beds yesterday before 3pm. Randy had helped me on a sunny day 10 days ago scout locations for the beds.

Charles and I worked on constructing the frames (made from cedar wood). For the 6x4 beds the SACG built behind the BTBO offices last month, we used one-inch cedar boards (which can be pretty expensive). Including the cost of the 20 bags of top soil, those beds ran about $60/each. However, for these beds, we used much less expensive cedar fence boards (which are only 3/4 inch thick) and only cost about $2.50/each at Sutherlands (compared to $18 for similar one-inch cedar boards). They also only needed about 10 bags of top soil (and then we filled the beds to the top with bulk compost purchased from Kurtz Brother for $18 per pickup truck load). This adjustment in the lumber cut the cost of the beds in half and only reduced the size by a few inches. Granted, the thinner beds won't last as long, but the cost savings was worth it under the circumstances.

To join the sides, we cut down cedar 2x4 boards donated last year by Trudeau Fencing and Bowden fencing. We put these 6 inch cedar 2x4s at each corner and screwed the fence boards to them. We also sometimes used metal L-braces to reinforce the corners.

Next, I put down a thick layer of newspapers (with some help from Ms. Anthony and collected by Betty) in order to keep the existing grass from growing up through the soil and compost. Then, Orlando, Veronica and/or Scott, helped spread the top soil and compost into the bed and Charles spread wood chips around the outside of the beds to keep down the future weeds. Finally, I planted some seeds (beans, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, zucchini, squash, & cucumbers) and Scott watered them in. Next week, we'll also plant some seedlings (which was too dangerous this weekend with the low night-time temperatures and frost warnings).

I was concerned about the available sunlight the beds would receive. At one location, Orlando climbed up into the trees to cut down some branches that might block sun from the western sky. Orlando has the gift of finding humor in any situation -- like when two neighboring, quiet and obedient pit bull dogs stopped by to check us out -- and this became one of the funniest parts of our adventure. For instance, there was some discussion about whether his saw was a hack saw or a buck saw, but we ultimately decided it was his saw and he could call it whatever he liked.

Four down; three to go.

BTBO is a faith-based, prison re-entry, non-profit organization which provides housing, employment and life skills services to ex-offenders being released from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) and placed on parole or post-release control (PRC). BTBO’s services assist ex-offenders to find housing, improve life and conflict resolution skills, obtain employment and establish credit so that they can transition from prison into productive and taxpaying members of society and not return to homelessness or their criminal past. BTBO also provides its clients with clothing, food baskets, referrals for food stamps, Bible classes, mentors, and referrals to other social services and agencies (like health care, mental health counseling, literacy assistance, etc.). None of BTBO’s housing services are offered near the SACG, but BTBO provides employment training, job referral services and life skills training at its Main Street office. All BTBO clients are required to remain drug-free as a condition of its program.

Funding for the raised bed project came from the grant we received from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Fund at the Columbus Foundation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

SACG’s Tomatoes, Seeds and Lumber– Oh My!

In the past two weeks, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has received many blessings. Several of them have already been described here. But there are always more.

Last year, we were especially blessed when Livingston Seeds donated two boxes of hundreds of seeds of an almost infinite variety. We were especially successful with the lettuce and tomatoes, but it also gave us the opportunity to experiment with varieties of vegetables and flowers we never would have purchased on our own. Livingston Seeds was so generous last year, it was almost embarrassing to ask if they might remember us again in some small way this year. When Ken called, he explained that he had been on the road a lot this year and was just now turning to our request. (Livingston Seeds is a wholesaler and does not generally sell seeds directly to the public). Because we had already finished our early Spring planting and I hadn't been expecting his call, I asked for corn, tomatoes, spinach and beans. I completely forgot to ask about cucumbers and zucchini. Duh! However, Ken had everything ready for me to pick up later the same day. I've already started some of the Early Oregon tomatoes for me and other SACG gardeners and planted some of the bush beans. They are 2010 seeds.

Then, Lisa – my church's administrative assistant – emailed me out of the blue about donating approximately 70 organically grown cherry and beefstake tomatoes to the SACG. Was that thoughtful or what? I picked them up on Sunday and transplanted them into individual containers later that afternoon in my garage (while it rained outside). We'll use some of them for BTBO's new gardening program and let the SACG gardeners help themselves when they get a little bigger and the night-time temperatures a little warmer.

On Tuesday, I assembled the new reel mower which we purchased for the Garden with funds from the Scotts-Miracle Gro Fund at the Columbus Foundation and then tried to mow – for the first time this season – the northern part of our lawn. It took a while. The grass was almost a foot tall. I must have looked rather pathetic because several people walked by and asked me if I needed help. I then took a stab at the rest of the lawn (which was only six inches tall), but it was getting late and I left the rest for Charlie. When I returned on Wednesday evening to plant bean seeds, eggplant seedlings, and herb seedlings, I discovered to my delight that someone had visited the Garden in the last 20 hours and mowed our entire lawn with a power mower – short and even. I just love random acts of kindness. It set the tone for a lovely evening – almost a Girls' Night Out – as Rayna, Barb, Keyante, Nykkel & I gardened until dusk. Danielle even stopped by with bottled water for the adults and popsicles for the kids. [Editor's Note: Dwain took credit on Friday evening for mowing the grass. However, the BTBO folks bought a brand new mower from The Cougar Group and used it to mow our neighbor's 18 inch grass on the south side of the Garden and put the grass clippings in our compost bin.]

Finally, yesterday Mike & I drove to the far, far west side to pick up some lumber being donated by Trudeaus' Fence Company. We ran short of tomato stakes last year and we could save expenses for the BTBO gardening project by using donated cedar. We had lots to chose from and then Russell Trudeau also found some green metal fence stakes which we could use to replace some of the cedar stakes currently holding up our fence. The metal stakes will certainly be sturdier, last longer and free up more cedar stakes to use as tomato stakes. This project also gave Mike an excuse to buy a new miter saw this afternoon (so that he could cut down the wood for us). Happiness all the way around:)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

SACG Is Blessed From The Cougar Group’s Giving Back to the Local Columbus Community on Arbor Day

As faithful readers may recall, The Cougar Group celebrated the relocation of its headquarters to 1515 Alum Creek Drive (just a hop, skip and jump down the road from the SACG) on Friday – which also happened to be Arbor Day. Although a bit windy, it was a beautiful day – with lots of blue skies and sunshine. The organizer of the event – Kathy Wiant – arranged for a tent, live music and a BBQ for all of the guests. As part of the celebration, The Cougar Group also held a raffle to benefit the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. They found us courtesy of Bill Dawson, Director of Franklin Park Conservatory's Growing to Green program to support community gardens. To underscore The Cougar Group's commitment to the SACG, its president – Mike Watkins – and Kathy were the first volunteers to show up when the SACG broke ground for the 2010 season. Kathy picked up litter and Mike dug holes for our blueberry and rose bushes and helped Beth plant the rose bushes. One of the SACG's neighbors -- Ms. Anthony, Executive Director of the Build The Bridge of Ohio, Org. – also attended the The Cougar Group event to show her support.

The Cougar Group manufactures and sells outdoor power equipment, like lawn mowers, snow blowers, weed trimmers, leaf blowers, generators, and rototillers. Mike started it a few years ago and recruited a high-octane management team to help him. For instance, Henry Davis graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Yale and an MBA from Stanford University. Two of the management team worked together at Saturn and two of them worked together at Allied Signal. They all have a lot of experience from Fortune 200 companies. They chose to relocate to Alum Creek Drive because that location gave them an opportunity to have both retail space and warehouse space from which to ship large orders to customers located as far away as Dubai. They've already entered into a contract with the State of Louisiana and with Columbus' own Parks & Recreation Department (which celebrated its 100th anniversary last week as well) to supply power lawn equipment. They've also recently received their Minority Business Enterprise designation, which will greatly assist them achieve more government contracts.

The event was well attended. State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard presented the management team with an eloquent proclamation and a representative from the Ohio Department of Development was also there, along with members of their families, friends who had helped them get started, and business associates. Each member of the management team emphasized how blessed he had been in his personal and professional life and wanted to share his blessings with the local community. Among other things, The Cougar Group wants to relocate its manufacturing operation to Columbus in order to create more jobs for the local community. In addition to providing support to the SACG, it also wants to help FPC start an entrepreneurship program for youths to start their own lawn mowing businesses. It is also creating a franchising opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to start their own outdoor maintenance service business by providing a trailer which would be filled with lawn care equipment in the summer (like lawn mowers, trimmers, & blowers) and with snow removal equipment in the winter.

The raffle was a great success and raised $300 for the SACG which we can use, among other things, towards the purchase of a 500 gallon water tank (to collect rain water) so that we can satisfy the current watering needs of the SACG as well as possibly supporting an expansion of the garden next year. Kathy created very cute wheelbarrows to hold the blank raffle tickets, money and ticket stubs. The raffle's winner won a Cougar lawn mower. (Even though Bill and I both bought two tickets and I pulled the winning ticket, alas, neither of us were the winners of the raffle or the door prizes). Kathy also created very cute table centerpieces of child-sized Cougar lawn mowers. To support the raffle, our gardener extraordinare, Rayna, created a fabulous story display board showing highlights from the 2009 growing season -- from our first litter pick-up day on the vacant lot in early April 2009 to our Fall clean-up day in November 2009 – and I added a few pictures from this season as well. Bill brought a few display boards showing scenes from other local community gardens as well as information about Plant a Row and Growing to Green.

Each attendee received a gift bag with the logo of the Cougar Group and which contained some pens, a Briggs & Stratton hat, a stapler and note pad from the Ohio Department of Development, a water bottle from Insurance Agencies of Ohio, a Franklin Park Conservatory bookmark, and a security whistle key chain from ADT Security, etc. Music and entertainment was provided by the very talented and good looking Thor Winston.

However, the biggest surprise of the event was reserved for me at the end of the opening day ceremony: The Cougar Group donated to us a brand new rototiller!!! We can use it whenever we want and won't have to reserve it weeks in advance and keep our fingers crossed for good weather on the one day we have it (like we do now). No more sleepless nights wondering if I can find someone who owns a tiller and is willing to till the garden for us each April. Isn't that great! Of course, it's enormous and just barely fits in our brand-new shed. In the spirit of paying it forward and inspired by the generosity of The Cougar Group, we'd be delighted to loan it to other community gardens (who, of course, sign a blood oath to return itJ).

As you can imagine, the rototiller would not fit in the back of my Jetta, so we were lucky that Bill drove his truck to the event and could transport it back to the SACG for us. This also gave me the opportunity to show him our brand new shed – which Charlie had just painted with primer – as well as our recent capital improvements along Cherry Street, our new blueberry bushes and the two beds we built for BTBO behind its offices. Speaking of Bill. You've heard the saying, "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium." Well, Bill also really gets around. Who knew? On the day before The Cougar Group event, he was in Arkansas helping with a new community garden and on the morning of our event, he was back in Columbus helping with the creation of the new Healthy Hands and Healthy Hearts community garden on the near East side. I remember that he was in Fairfield County (helping with its Master Gardening program) when we broke ground for the 2010 growing season and I saw him on WCMH early on Saturday morning for the Earth Day weekend workdays. His travel schedule was so exhausting; I could not remember any more details. However, he thinks he might get two days off in June to attend a wedding. Otherwise, he is essentially working six days each week and tends his own garden on the seventh. I get tired just thinking about it.

We are truly blessed to have such a generous benefactor in The Cougar Group. Their support of the SACG will help us accomplish great things – not just this year but in the future as well. I hope that The Cougar Group will be a great success in the future and be able to help us out again someday with volunteers and other support. That is, of course, more likely to hapen if all of our readers and supporters stop by its newest store on 1515 Alum Creek Drive (just feet south of the I-70 entrance/exit ramp) to wish them well, check out the Cougar line of mowers and patronize a new, local business.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

SACG Hero of the Day

This has been a very exciting week at the SACG. All but one of our rain barrels was full from last weekend's rain. Then, on Friday morning, our long awaited shed arrived. Finding the right shed has taken a couple of months. Pursuant to our lease, we cannot make any permanent improvements to the land and have been discouraged from getting a large or even normal-sized shed. I had pleaded on this site for volunteers to build our shed (because I envied Christ the King Church on Livingston Avenue which had a boy scout build its garden shed as part of his Eagle Scout project), but we had no volunteers. Then I started leaning towards a small resin shed (i.e., 2x4) because it would not decay in inclement weather. I even based the purchase of our garden cart on this smaller-sized shed (since a less expensive wheelbarrow would not fit). However, they were pretty expensive for their size and I read online customer reviews which questioned the reliability of the hinges and the roof. Finally, Bexley Barb suggested a pretty 4x4 Israeli-made resin shed from Sam's Club that seemed to fit our needs and budget until one calculated the sales tax and delivery charge. Frustrated, I asked our gardeners for leads and suggestions. Betty once again came to the rescue and found a shed – or rather a chicken coop – on Craig's list.

Jim Coffey of Triple Braided Farm Products in Lexington, Ohio (near Mansfield) makes chicken coops which can also serve as sheds. He agreed to construct a 4x4 wood shed especially for us which was in our budget (even considering the delivery fee). He even gave us a discount (without my asking). We asked for shelves instead of nesting boxes and did not want any windows. We also did not need a light. At some point, we may hook up gutters and rain barrels to the roof (which is why we won't be following the lead of Franklin Park Conservatory and growing sedum on our roof). We also opted against the crosses on the doors to save $20.

The shed arrived close to 10 a.m. on Friday and Charlie came to help me unload it. Of course, Dwain showed up shortly thereafter, removing any chance that I could get splinters in my tender hands. We placed the shed on a shallow cedar platform and then Charlie went right to work with his paint brush to apply the first coat of primer. The shed soaked up more paint than I had anticipated and I had to run back to the store to get more.

Dwain returned and bended down the roof edges so that the kids would not get hurt (too much) if they bump into it.

I wasted no time in filling the shed with our new supplies and, as you will learn later, it is a blessing that our shed is bigger than 3x5. The door is not very tall, so everyone will need to duck when they enter the shed.

Now we have to decide what color to paint it. Because Charlie has convinced me that we should also paint the galvanized metal roof, we could go with two tones and aren't limited to colors that coordinate with the existing roof.

Funding for our shed came from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Fund at The Columbus Foundation.