Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Learning Something New at the SACG

Tonight was our first gardening workshop held by Franklin Park Conservatory at the SACG . Leslie and Jenna came to talk to us about extending the gardening season by growing crops which are more tolerant of cold and using cold frames. One tip we learned was to plant seeds twice as deep as you would in the Spring because the soil is cooler when it's deeper (and these seeds prefer cool soil). We also learned about using cold frames made of coat hangers and plastic to extend the season into January. Every layer we use will provide an additional layer of protection.

Rayna, Betty, Charlie, Dwayne, Briana and I were joined by some folks from the Bexley Community Garden (Barb, Diane, Trae and Michael). Leslie gave us some seeds (which we planted in Rayna's plot): carrots, lettuce, arugula, radishes and spinach. She also gave us some turnip and beet seeds and a chart to show us when to plant certain seeds based on how many weeks are left to a killing frost.

We discussed how to overwinter a garden. Last year, we pulled up all plant life and spread an inch of compost over everything (so that the freeze and thaw cycle would work it naturally into the ground. Leslie's not a fan of pulling everything out. She prefers that we cut the plants at the soil line and leave the roots to rot and improve the microbiology of the soil (and so that it doesn't all blow away). We also talked about planting an oat crop which would then die back in November and hold everything in place until we till it next Spring.

Everyone took turns preparing the soil, using Leslie's swisher hoe (which I must now buy) and using the handle end of the hoe to mark rows. Jenna brought us samples of fall crops for us to taste raw, in a salad and roasted. I had absolutely no interest in eating beets. I just picture canned beets and go "YUCK!" However, I tried a raw beet and really liked it. I also liked her mixture of roasted carrots, beets and turnips.

It was a great success. We helped them load up their car (particularly our big strong man, Charlie) and were done by dusk (with time for a few of us to harvest tomatoes from our own plots). Of course, Charlie is still looking for some advice about how to crow cauliflower and a few of us still need advice about when to harvest our sweet potatoes.

On the sad side, we learned that the only effective way to avoid losing another crop of zucchini and squash to those d*mn squash bugs is to not plant any zucchini or squash for the next three years so that the bugs starve to death in the next two seasons. Yikes! (You should have seen Mike and Beth's face when I told them this later in the evening;-)

Next week, we will have a family oriented scavenger hunt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Franklin Park Conservatory to Hold Gardening Workshops at the SACG for Next Four Weeks

Franklin Park Conservatory is holding some free gardening workshops at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden over the next four weeks:

  • Extending the Season

    Wednesday, August 25th 6:30pm-8:30pm

    Come learn how to extend your growing season into the cooler autumn months! Learn about planting second season crops and utilizing cold frames, etc. This will involve watching both greens and root crops being planted at the SACG.


  • Garden Scavenger Hunt

    Wednesday, September 1st 6:30pm-8:30pm

    In this class, families will search the garden for what belongs and what doesn't. Along the way, we will discover how new and familiar vegetables grow.


  • Nutrition in the Garden

    Wednesday, September 8th 6:30pm-8:30pm

    Learn more about the benefits of eating fresh, local fruits and veggies.


  • End of Season Gleaning and Cleaning

    September 15th 6:30pm-8:30pm

    We will explore ways to harvest and store garden produce so that we can enjoy the fruits of summer long after the killer frost.


The Workshops are FREE and open to the public. Bring a friend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SACG’s Own Nykkel Wins GTG’s 2010 Paul B. Redman Youth Leadership Award

Nykkel, Danielle and I attended the annual Growing to Green Community Garden Awards at Franklin Park Conservatory tonight. Brianna and Jaden really wanted to come to, but Brianna had not arranged for me to check with her mother first in time to get there for our free dinner. Last year's ceremony was held in the Conservatory proper in September and this year it was held on the community garden campus on the south side of the FPC property under a tent.

We dropped off our contribution to the potluck and found some seats with volunteers from Scott's Miracle-Gro and the Yoga on High community garden (which raises thousands of pounds of produce in its garden for the pantry at a nearby Seventh-Day Adventist Church which supports 90 families).

Because I couldn't not get off work any earlier, we missed the early parts of the ceremony. Governor Strickland announced that the following week will be Ohio Harvest Days. Jim King from Scotts Miracle-Gro also made some remarks (which were quite memorable last year). Bill Dawson mentioned to me that Scotts will be donating 500 pounds in product to winning community gardens.

Bruce also mentioned that fresh produce makes up 20% of the food which the Mid-Ohio Food Bank delivers to pantries these days. Keep up planting a row for the hungry and donating garden produce to your local area pantry.

Bruce Harkney (the FPC's Executive Director) got up to explain that these awards are the Central Ohio community garden equivalent of the Oscars. Then someone piped up that they should be called "the Greenies." Anyway, the awards:

Neighborhood Improvement Project of the Year was presented by First Lady Frances Strickland. This $250 award goes to the park, gateway, streetscape, school or other community beautification project that does the most to beautify the surrounding community. It went to Plant Pride on Parsons for organizing 300 volunteers to pick up litter, and create individualized flower planters up and down Parson's Avenue between SR 104 and Livingston Avenue. It might be easier to list who and what is NOT involved in this project, but it included Ganther's Place, Children's Hospital, the City of Columbus, United Way, etc., etc., etc.

Education Garden of the Year is presented and sponsored by the Hinson Family Trust. This $500 award is given to a school or other organization that utilizes garden projects for educational purposes. It was given to the Granville Schools Sustainability Program. This started when a student asked why the school couldn't maintain a sustainable agriculture project. The students were not satisfied, however, with one raised bed. Instead, they have 26 beds (with over 420 square feet of garden space), a water garden, composting and a fruit orchard with 14 trees. Very Very impressive.

Paul B. Redman Youth Leadership Award is presented by the Franklin Park Conservatory's Women's Board and presents $250 to the youth (under the age of 18) for use for his/her community garden or his/her education in gardening. It is presented to an outstanding youth gardener. (Did I mention that Paul Redman and I were in the same Leadership Columbus class?) IT WAS AWARDED TO OUR VERY OWN NYKKEL!!! It came with a beautifully engraved trophy, a beautiful book on gardening from Paul and a personal letter from Paul. Nykkel even shared the stage with her sister, Danielle, for helping her with her garden plot. The Women's Board was impressed by the ambition she showed in her garden with so many varieties of vegetables and fruit. This was Nykkel's first garden and she spent a lot of time there. I also heard a lot of awwwws in the audience when Bruce read how she wanted to grow flowers for her mother's birthday and a "that's right" when he read about her first time cooking yellow squash in butter. Lots of people came to congratulate her, including Maggie Samuelson from Four Seasons City Farm & Friends of the Alum Creek Tributaries, Kojo from the Linden community garden project and New Harvest Cafe, Bruce Langer the Development Director from the City of Bexley and Ms. Pepper (who visited a few weeks ago). We're very excited for Nykkel and I shared our good news with a Dwain, Barb and few other of the Stoddart Avenue neighbors when we returned after the ceremony.

Community Gardener of the Year This $250 award for the community gardening project (sponsored by GreenScapes Landscape Co.) was to be awarded on account of a person who is exceptionally dedicated to his/her neighborhood garden and/or the movement of community gardening in central Ohio. This year it went to Glen Demott from the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (not to be confused with Kelly Hern of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church who won last year). Glenn organized some early Spring planting for the garden this year and increased the amount of food donated to LSS Food Pantry, the Faith Mission and a few other programs by over 1000 pounds.

Community Garden of the Year. This $500 award (sponsored by The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company) was to be awarded to the top neighborhood gardening project for beautification and/or food production. It went to the Franklinton Gardens. Started in 2007 as a single plot of land leased from the City of Columbus land bank for $1, it grew to a patchwork of gardens in the Franklinton area. Then, when the City began taking back the lots for economic development, they began to lease land and accepted a donated plot. They now have 4200 square feet of urban farms and one community garden plot area (for families). They also began a community garden farm stand (which accepts food stamps) and is open at least 2 hours every day of the week. This is an area of Columbus that has no grocery stores and depends on corner markets and gas stations to supply all of their food. Like the Granville project, they have also started their own fruit orchard with 14 trees and harvest 1000 gallons of rain water to support their garden (to compare to the 750 gallons harvested by the SACGJ. Very impressive. Lots of idealistic young people in Franklinton folks.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

SACG Hero of the Day

You don't have to be a gardener to be Hero of the Day at the SACG. Neighbor Ron doesn't want to garden, but still helps us out from time to time. This morning while I was picking beans in my plot, he showed up with a lawn mower and mowed our grass. And Ron is one of those guys that if there's a job to do, it's worth doing right. He didn't just mow our grass, he mowed the portion our neighbor's lot, too, and mowed the weeds growing in the curb and then trimmed the rest of the weeds growing in the curb and near the light pole. Needless to say to our loyal readers: it was very hot again today ladies and gentlemen. So, my gardening hat's off to Ron today.

Ron's mother, Mrs. D, also helps us out. She keeps an eye on the garden (and the neighborhood children), has her own plot in the back of her apartment, and protected our two lone pumpkins last year from near certain destruction. Every year, several gardeners request to have the plot next to her. Her husband, last year's Volunteer of the Year, Dwain, is one of the handiest guys I know when you need something done in a pinch.

Brianna came by to check on her plot and found several ripe tomatoes and even more green beans to pick. Brianna took over an abandoned plot near our front gate. Her mother came and hoed it back into submission in 92 degree heat. I wasn't sure that the beans would recover from being overrun with weeds, but they came back with a vengeance this week. There were so many, we couldn't fit them all into Brianna's shirt.

We were supposed to go pick peaches at Legend Hills Orchard this morning. However, I think the freakish heat has intimidated people from climbing ladders and fighting bugs (not to mention the two-hour car ride). So, Beth, Cozy and I cheated and drove to Lynd's this afternoon to buy yellow peaches from its farmer's market. They're on sale: $12.50/peck. How many pecks of peaches will we buy? I'll make fuzzy naval marmalade this evening and can the rest of the peaches to eat with oatmeal (or by themselves) this winter. I have no doubt that Beth will bake a peach pie. Afterwards, I gave Cozy a tour of the Garden.

We had also planned to have a canning demonstration this afternoon, but scheduling conflicts have lead this to be postponed by two weeks (assuming we still have a bumper tomato crop then). Contact me if you're interested in learning to can tomatoes on Saturday, August 28.

BTBO was having another brunch for its Moms on the Move program today. I stopped by to give them a garden tour, but they were too excited going to through the clothes which BTBO had collected for them and it was too hot outside to tempt people to leave the air conditioning. I was also too dirty to stay for lunch. If you didn't know, Mrs. Anthony is one of the best cooks I know. She fed us some outstandingly memorable chicken, beans, etc. Memorial Day 2009. Even Orlando stopped by this morning with his very cute nephew to say hey today.

Our Plant a Row program has really picked up steam this year. I think we're actually ahead of where we were in donations this time last year (not including Maxcine's donation of 50 pounds of zucchini one night in 2009). Betty came by this morning to put ice in the cooler she keeps in our shed and there were already two bags of tomatoes which had been put there this morning before I arrived around 9 a.m. We collectively donated over 25 pounds last weekend. I collect what I can from the abandoned plots (and my own plot) and Betty collects what folks put in the cooler over the weekend and then she delivers it on Monday to the Lutheran Social Services food pantry on Champion Avenue. It's a team effort.

Speaking of abandoned plots: We have three this year. They all have tomatoes in them and some have lots of other goodies as well (like beans, sweet potatoes, peppers, etc.). If you still want to garden, we have a plot for you! All you have to do is weed it, water when necessary, harvest what's ripe and plant something new if the spirit moves you. (Yes, there's still time to plant bush beans, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, etc. We also still have lots of seeds to share with new and existing gardeners.) A new family stopped by just as Cozy and I were leaving this afternoon and may be interested in one of the plots. . . . . . Let's keep our fingers crossed about adding a new family.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, there is a new radio station at 103.5 which plays my favorite music from my wayward youth and is commercial free for the next few weeks. Check it out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Making Food From Thinnings

The single most common question I get from the SACG gardeners and neighbors does not involve gardening, weeding, bugs or flowers. It is this: Are you a vegetarian? No, I am not. While I do not eat a lot of meat, I enjoy a thick barely browned steak (so rare that it moos when I cut into it), chicken and fish. I've been on a sardine kick recently, so feel free to share any recipes.

Yesterday, while chatting with Miss Jeannie, she saw a fennel bulb in my harvest tub and asked me what it was. On Wednesday, a few of the neighborhood boys asked me about the bulbs, too, and their pretty foliage. I let them taste the leaves. For the uninitiated, fennel taste like black licorice or anise. (It was funny listening to elementary school boys announce that they like anise). So, I've decided to blog about it.

Anyway, for the past three years I have tried to grow fennel and this is the first year I've had any success. The first year – up in Dublin – I got lots of plants, but no seeds or bulbs. Last year, I got plants and seeds, but no bulbs. This year, I learned that you must plant fennel very, very early (like in April). Then, you must thin the plants so that they are at least 2-3 inches apart. Anyone who gardens with me knows how much I hate to thin. It seriously pains me – like I'm killing my children or something. It's rare that you can do something with the thinned plants you've sacrificed for the good of the order. However, fennel is different. I look for reasons to thin my fennel so that I can make fennel chicken which is just one of my many favorite Greek-inspired recipes. You can make this from an adult fennel bulb too (as I did this afternoon), but I made this a few times earlier in the season just from the fennel I had thinned from my plot. Enjoy.

Single Girl's portion:

1 large chicken breast (sliced into one-inch chunks) (Today, I used 2)

¼ fennel bulb (chopped) (or use 2-3 thinned bulbs) (Today, I used a whole bulb)

2 chopped cloves of garlic (or more if you like it)

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chopped red onion (Today, I used a whole, small one)

1 tsp chopped oregano

5 chopped green olives (Today, I used 10)

2 tbsp lemon juice

8 oz sliced mushrooms

  1. Throw all of this into a skillet and sauté it until the chicken is browned. Really. (I usually start with the oil, garlic and onion, add fennel and mushrooms, then add chicken, then the herbs, and then squirt a lot of lemon juice before throwing in the olives, but there's really no magic to it).
  2. Serve over couscous (like I did today), or a thin pasta, like orzo (like I did in June). Both cook up quick. Yum. Yum.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

SACG Continues Bountiful Harvest

Not much new at the SACG this week. The weather was a lot better than last week. I thought that I could get in and out in two hours this morning, but it took me twice that long because I ended up harvesting from a few abandoned plots to collect food for the LSS food pantry and ran into Miss Jeanie for the first time in over a month. It turns out that she was growing okra and donated some (as well as butternut squash, greens, zucchini and tomatoes) to our Plant a Row program. She also mowed our grass for us this week because she wanted to master using our new reel mower. Keyante and Dionte moved away last weekend and left a lot of beans and tomatoes in their plot.

The squash bugs and borers have done their job on our curbits. I hauled a number of plants out to the dumpster with bugs in tow. (The bugs have moved on to climbing up my beans, peppers and sweet potatoes, but I doubt that they will eat them). The pumpkins are pretty much done for. I have one zucchini plant and one yellow squash plant left, but was delighted to discover I have a butternut squash plant hanging on as well (as well as the squash growing into my plot from Mike and Beth’s plot next door). I cleaned out the row of chickpeas and harvested a scad of bush and pole beans and reinforced with stakes some tomato cages that had fallen over on top of my precious peppers.

The neighborhood kids keep messing up the shed while trying to take seeds to plant at home. After I cleaned up the shed last week, boxed all of the seeds and put them on a shelf, I found them scattered around on the floor, in the cart and outside the shed. One of the neighbors stopped by to tell me that he had chased some kids away last night trying to break into the shed. Both of our very nice trowels are missing. No one under the age of 18 is supposed to be in the garden without an adult in the garden. I had to have a few parent conferences this morning about this problem and a score of unopened seed packets were returned (but, alas, no trowels as of yet). As Miss Jeannie and I discussed this morning, the garden is not a playground:-)

The birdhouse gourd plant is still going gangbusters, but Rayna told me that a number of the gourds (particularly the ones I photographed last week) have been cut from the vine. Do they know that the gourds are not edible?

The storm knocked over our pole bean teepee on Wednesday, but Keisha helped me put it back up. However, it had fallen again by the time I got there today and I put it back up. The one in my backyard has had similar trouble staying upright, but it has spread onto my climbing roses and Rose of Sharon bush, so those vines keep it from going too horizontal.

I’m going to try and finally schedule the tomato canning class next weekend. Another nice lady from my church’s knitting group mentioned that she has a lot of mason jars she could donate. I know that Barb and Miss Jeannie are interested in learning to can their abundant tomatoes.
Our flowers seem to get prettier every day. I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring sheers to cut some flowers from my plot to beautify my kitchen (and possibly my office).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Birdhouse Gourds and Open Fire Pit Cooking

Well, Rayna’s enormous birdhouse gourd plant has finally began producing giant gourds. Whatever she did to prune the plant last week certainly bore fruit this week (as you can see from the pictures).

Mike and Beth returned from a week long Wisconsin vacation at 8 a.m. and wasted no time in getting back to the garden that same morning to harvest what had grown in their absence. They’ve made pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and pumkin cookies, but need new ideas for their bumper pumpkin crop – particularly because my nemisis – the squash bug – is taking its toll on their pumpkin patch.

Mike – from Four Seasons City Farm – stopped by to admire the garden and our new rain tank
We’ve also had some nocturnal raccoons visit to try out our small corn crop and a few items in Charlie’s plot.

I took some additional pictures to share with the rest of you. My shelled bean crop and squash are probably reaching the end of their useful life. My peppers have been affected by the extraordinary heat (by not setting fruit). However, I’m in the height of canning season and have canned lots of tomatoes, salsa, pickles, and pasta sauces (when I’m not shelling black, kidney, pinto, pink half-runner and red peanut beans and marinating and grilling squash).

On Friday – while finishing up my evening constitutional – I stopped by Cozy and Jay’s house to say hi and then stayed for a cocktail which then turned into an extraordinary cookout. Jay is quite the open fire chef. He has a collection of cast iron skillets which he puts on a grate over his fire pit to cook. Their neighbors participate in a CSA and share extra vegetables with them (along with the harvest from Cozy’s backyard garden). He fried up some potatoes and grilled brats and cheeseburgers. But the piece de la resistance was what he did with kale. I’ve never really liked kale and just took some to be polite, but he sautéed bacon in the skillet and then added chopped kale (along with chopped mushrooms and onions) and topped them with a vinaigrette. It was to die for. I had two servings. I simply must get that recipe;-) Great way to end a Friday.