Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strawberries for Stoddart

From its inception, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has had a strawberry patch. Last year, we added a second patch in a large raised bed along Cherry Street. Nothing brings kids to a Garden like the chance to pick a ripe, red strawberry. Some of our strawberry plants were donated last year by Oakland Nursery. Of course, if you know anything about strawberries, you know that they have lots of children themselves and will quadruple their number in a very short period.

Our abundance is now your gain because on our first work day of 2011, several of our gardeners (Treva, Rayna, Nykkel, Beth and Betty) thinned our strawberry patches, captured the ones that had spread into our flower beds and saved them just for you. I separated them out and planted 5-8 sets of crowns/roots into pots and these 26 pots have sat in my flower garden for the last two weeks. They've lived this long, so I think they are hardy enough to make it to your garden.
We have a mix of June-bearing and ever-bearing. I cannot tell them apart until the berries ripen (which will not be for at least another month). So, you will have to bear with me that I can't tell you what kind of berry you're getting.

A pot can be yours for the suggested donation of $3. The pots are just black and not the pretty strawberry pot pictured (although you can purchase this, too, for $10). I will warn you in advance that when I used to grow berries in my backyard, the mice usually got to them before I did. However, it also made a great place for my cats to lie in wait for the mice to venture from the garage so that they could pounce on them. . . .
Plants will be sold first come first served. Barb already got two and Cozy just ordered 6, so you do the math. . . . You can email me at to reserve your order. You can pick them up directly from me or after the 11:00 a.m. service at Christ Lutheran Church in Bexley on May 1, 2011.

Caring for strawberries is relatively easy. Here are some tips for the OSU Plant Line on strawberries:
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet -- Horticulture and Crop Science

Strawberries are well suited for planting in the home garden since they produce fruits very quickly, and require a relatively small amount of space. Each plant may produce up to one quart of fruit when grown in a matted row during the first fruiting year. Twenty-five plants will normally produce enough strawberries for an average sized family. Production usually declines during the second and third years of fruiting; therefore a new planting should be established after strawberry plants produce fruits for more than 3 to 4 years for maximum production.

Planting Site Requirements for Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants require full sun for the maximum yield and the best quality. They will grow and produce crops in several different types of soil. However, best results are obtained when the plants are grown in loose, fertile soils containing large quantities of organic matter. The soil should be slightly acidic, having a pH of 5.8 to 6.5. If the extent of soil acidity or fertility is unknown, it is suggested that the soil be sampled and tested.

The strawberry plant is sensitive to excessive soil moisture. Strawberries should be planted in raised beds or on ridges if drainage is a problem. Also, avoid planting strawberry plants in areas where potatoes, tomatoes, or sod were grown recently. Insect and disease problems may result in serious plant damage in such areas.
Planting and Spacing
Early spring is the best time to plant strawberry plants as long as soil is not too wet. Fall planting is not recommended because plants can be injured by soil heaving (alternate freezing and thawing). Strawberry plants have roots, a crown, and leaves (Figure 3). The crown is a short stem between the roots and leaves.

When planting, make sure to cover the roots and only half of the crown with soil. Make a trench deep enough to set the roots vertically. Do not bend roots horizontally.

June-bearing plants are spaced 12 to 24 inches apart. On close-spaced plants, runners are controlled by removing unwanted runners during the first season. In August, rows should be 18 to 24 inches wide with plants 6 to 8 inches apart in the row. Generally rows are 36 to 40 inches apart. A circular terrace can be used if one has limited space.

For day-neutral strawberries, plants are set 8 to 12 inches apart in the row with 30 to 36 inches between rows. Remove runners throughout the first season and remove flowers for the first 6 weeks after planting. Mulch the planting with 3 to 4 inches of straw or wood chips to conserve moisture. 

Additional information is available from the OSU Extension website.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SACG Celebrates Earth Day by Picking Up Litter and Dodging Rain Drops

This morning, a hardy band of volunteers from the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden dodged rain drops and picked up at least 20 garbage bags of litter from Stoddart Avenue before having to call it a day in the face of inclement weather. We had help from SACG Gardeners Jeff (who picked up the supplies from Keep Columbus Beautiful), Barb (Franklin Park Neighborhood Block Watch Co-Chair), Mari (not pictured), Dave, Treva, Charlie (who tilled our garden for us yesterday), me and Tom . We also had help from neighbor, Dante. We would have gotten more done if an intense thunder cell hadn’t trapped us a mere 90 seconds after this picture was taken.

When it stopped raining, we disposed of the garbage bags and helped ourselves to seeds, brownies and mango juice.

When the ground dries out a bit, I’ll mark the plots and grab some help to fill our neighbor plot.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SACG to Celebrate Earth Day

The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden will be celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 16, 2011 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. with two projects:

  1. Oakland Nursery has again generously donated a flat of cold weather crops (i.e., broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, greens, etc.) to plant in the neighborhood plots along Cherry Street. If the wood chips are delivered today, we will then be spreading wood chips on the paths, along the fence line and around the raised beds. If our human tiller and motor tiller can find each other and dry ground this afternoon, we will begin planting in our plots.

  2. We will be supporting the Franklin Park Neighborhood Block Watch inaugural event by assisting with a litter clean up of Stoddart Avenue and the alley between Stoddart Avenue and Morrison. Jeff picked up litter clean-up supplies (i.e., trash bags, and litter grabbers) from Keep Columbus Beautiful to help us in this effort. This is a particularly important endeavor because someone broke into our shed on Wednesday night, completely broke off the latch and disposed of the lock and then took our hand tiller/cultivator and garden rake. They apparently also took one of our blueberry bushes. Sigh:( The cultivator and rake have our intials -- SACG -- written onto them, so please keep your eyes out for them.

Then, weather permitting, we may have a cookout or head over to the Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden on Oak Street between Miller and Kelton for their cookout on their Community Garden's Opening Work Day.

There will be free seeds and other goodies for volunteers.

Many hands make light work . . . .. The more the merrier. . . . . . You get the picture.

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Enter: Columbus Growing Coalition

About 10 days ago, I received a call from Richard Harris, who is one of the founders and managers of the Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden on Oak Street between Miller and Kelton. He had read about our recent troubles and called to chat about our respective gardens. They started about the same time as the SACG three years ago. I had actually looked at that site before settling on Stoddart. Unlike the SACG, their garden is exclusively raised beds. Their opening day for the season is this Saturday, from 9-3 and they have invited all of us over for their luncheon cookout (while probably hoping that we’ll stay and help them build more raised beds). Ms. Pepper (remember her from last year) is going to be holding a children’s art program there and will, among other things, teach kids how to make dyes from food. All Stoddart neighborhood children are invited to attend. He also said that they would be hosting a National Night Out Block Party on August 2 and invited us to participate.

Near the end of our conversation, he mentioned that there would be a meeting of the new Columbus Coalition of Community Garden’s at St. John’s church on West Town Street on Thursday. He would be speaking about his garden and invited me to attend. Their fiscal agent is Four Season’s City Farm. They’ve been challenged by a water shortage because they do not have our rain storage capacity or a nearby roof from which to harvest rain.

The Columbus Growing Coalition is being formed and supported by Local Matters. There is even a paid staff member assigned to assist us, but no budget. There were roughly 30 people at the meeting.

When I arrived, I sat next to a woman from the Godman Guild’s garden and across from Peggy Murphy, who was one of the founders of the Highland Hilltop garden and helped Richard start his garden. She immediately set about trying to recruit me to join God’s Gardeners, a local movement to start 200 more church-supported gardens in Columbus in honor of our city’s bicentennial. Their second meeting was last night (and was listed on our Calendar of Events on this site) at East Baptist Church on East Broad Street. She reported that the Presbyterian Church has been instrumental with financial support in starting community gardens. For more information, contact Peggy at

You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden. Oh,
Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees That half a proper gardener's
work is done upon his knees, So when your work is finished, you can wash your
hands and pray For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!

-- Kipling

Andrew Proud explained that this was but the third meeting of the coalition. The first meeting was at Barley’s on Dublin Road in Grandview. We’ll be meeting at Barley’s again on May 5. Richard spoke about his garden and explained that they were putting in a back flow water system with soaker hoses. He did not have a cost estimate yet.

Soil Testing. The main event – and well worth an evening away from my television -- was a presentation by Dr. Dahler from CLC Labs at 325 Venture Drive in Westerville. He can be reached at 888-1663. Many of the gardens in attendance had submitted samples of their soil to his lab to be tested. Dr. Dahler provided them each with detailed reports of the nutrients in their soil and then discussed some of them in great detail (with a powerpoint presentation for the rest of us). I learned that:

  • overwatering is bad for plants because it fills prevents the roots from taking up oxygen from the gaps in the soil. Who knew?

  • Worthington Oak trees are dying from a lack of manganese.

  • He discussed improving the nitrogen content of soil with Ammonium sulfate (which is a great acidifier and does best if first dissolved in water and spread evenly over the garden).

  • Calcium is also good for raising pH. Corn, squash and peppers need lots of nitrogen, but tomatoes do not.

  • Turf seed starter fertilizer is a good source of phosphorus, which is otherwise pretty expensive and can also be obtained from bone meal (from marine animals).

  • Potassium can be obtained from sunflower seed ash and wood ashes (which are otherwise mostly made of calcium).

  • Magnesium is necessary for the manufacture of chlorophyll and can be obtained from regular Epsom salt.

Dr. Dahler directed us to the organic garden bible, a website sponsored by the organic materials review institute at This is where you can learn about what products are approved for organic gardening. The information is free.

This, of course, is just a taste of all of the truly fascinating information he provided during his 45 minute presentation.

Announcements. Michael Doody (595-3826) is with a garden at 17th and Kossuth on land owned by the Salvation Army. Sadly, the Army wants to sell it and they are desperate to raise funds to purchase it after all of the time and effort they’ve spent over the years improving the soil. If you can help, call Michael asap.

Dan Downing – from Highland Youth Garden in the Hilltop – surveyed the group for gardens large enough and on non-urban lots which need a tractor to till their land. He suggested that they pool their resources to collectively rent a tractor and share it. They would get a discount that way. I, of course, volunteered our new tiller.

Yolanda – from Weinland Park – reminded everyone about the Lighten Up Earth Day events (which the SACG is also part of). On April 30, the Weinland Garden will be hosting a Grub and Groove at the stage in their garden. (A stage??!!). Transit Arts will be participating, as well as PBG & Jazz for kids. There will be food demonstrations, too.

August 21 is the Highland Hilltop Garden celebration. All are invited.

The City of Columbus has budgeted $60K to support community gardens this year (compared to $500K in Cleveland and in other major cities). The City will be announcing the grant recipients at the April 23 Earth Day festival at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Trish – from Local Matters – introduced herself as our garden angel to fill gaps that Bill Dawson (by himself) cannot fill. She is trying to fill a void and will in the near term be focusing on solving our water issues. They are working on getting farms to donate manure and then how to get it distributed to all of the community gardens to compost. They are looking for someone to donate a truck . . . . .

So that is how I spent last Thursday evening. The next meeting is May 5 at Barley’s on Dublin Road in Grandview. The presentation will be by the Franklinton Gardens. Be there or be square.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sometimes You’re the Bat; Sometimes the Ball

Yesterday was the opening day for our third growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. As in years past, we had great weather (i.e., dry). We also had great volunteers.

When Beth and I arrived with the supplies at 9, Rayna was already there pruning and transplanting raspberry bushes. She continued with that task for quite a while. As a result, we were able to plant raspberry bushes along the west fence this year and to give a few to Master Gardener Barb from the Bexley Community Garden (who came to volunteer).

  • New Gardeners Dave and Treva as well as Charter Gardener Betty picked up several bags of litter around the SACG lot.

  • New Gardener Tom flipped our three compost bins. As you can see from the picture, he was very gung-ho about this and squashed the partially decomposed stalks and vines (like grapes in a wine press) to compact it. He decided that this would be his primary assignment for the remainder of the season. You go Tom!

  • Treva, Nykell, Barb and Beth spent most of the morning harvesting, thinning and potting strawberry plants from our two plots and from where they had spread in the flower bed. Rayna then jumped in to move perennial flowers in the flower bed.

  • I reattached the rain barrels and mowed grass (when I wasn't directing traffic and answering questions).

  • Charlie, Dave and I replaced the fence in the southwest corner and replaced some aging cedar fence stakes with new steel ones.

  • Charlie started attaching a gutter to the shed (to support a rain barrel) and this project was finished by Frank.

  • Dave spread peat moss and compost in the raised beds, then Charlie and Dave spread peat moss in the plots.

Mrs. D loaned us her grill and her son got the charcoal going and cooked our hotdogs. We took a short break for lunch (hot dogs, bananas, brownies, iced tea, cookies the size of a large plate) and a group picture (minus Betty who ran away when we started lunch). While taking the group picture, a car suddenly pulled over and a father and baby jumped out to join the picture. Go figure.

We had big plans, but sometimes things just don't work out as you planned. Our big task was to spread the wood chips on the paths, around the fence and around the raised beds. However, the chips were not delivered as scheduled, so that task will have to wait until next weekend. We had planned to thin and pot strawberry plants next weekend (to celebrate Earth Day), but we did that this weekend instead. (The plan is to sell pots of 6-8 strawberry plants for $3/pot as a fundraiser for the SACG).

We had also planned to till the garden, mark the plots and start planting today. However, we injured the tiller and could not figure out how to repair it. New guy Bill aka Fred came by, joined the garden and volunteered his tiller, but it was too big to lift into Frank's truck.

Frank and Barb will reinstall the gates and signs sometime this week.

After half the volunteers had left (at the designated 1:30 p.m. quitting time), I finally remembered the seeds in my car. The remaining volunteers picked some seeds and I'll bring them back for our Earth Day celebration. We finally all packed up and moved on at 2:30 p.m.

We got a lot done, but still have a lot to get done on Saturday. Everyone is welcome to come and help on April 16. We will be spreading wood chips and picking up litter along Stoddart Avenue with the FPNBW. We have five plots left if there are other gardeners out there who would like to join us.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Most Important Day of the Year

I have just returned from the third meeting of the Columbus Growing Coalition Meeting (which I'll blog about next week with all the nitty gritty details). So, I'm very jazzed that the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden will be breaking ground in two days -- Saturday, April 9, 2011 – beginning at 9:00 a.m (until 1:30 or 2:00 p.m.) for our third fantastic year of growing vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. This is the single most important day of the year at the SACG and sets the tone for the rest of the year. Luckily, we have a core group of seriously hardworking and dedicated gardeners who make all of this possible. If you read this blog regularly, you would think that all of this comes together effortlessly, but it is really the result of a lot of great volunteers.

On Saturday, we will be doing the following (as time and weather permits):

  • Pick up litter -- and there is a lot of itL

  • Spread Mulch (which Wright's Tree Service will be delivering this week). Please bring a garden rake, shovel, gloves and wheelbarrow/cart if you have one.

  • Hook up a gutter and downspout to the shed;

  • Hook up rain barrels

  • Hook up gates

  • Put signs back up

  • Spread peat moss on plots to raise the pH

  • Replace fence in southwest corner (with wire fence and steel fence posts)

  • Flip the compost bins

  • Mow grass

  • Plant blueberry bush

  • Paint shed (weather and time permitting)

  • Weed flower and other beds

  • Till the garden (if the soil is workable; otherwise we'll do that on Sunday afternoon or next week). This will be the first chance we've had to use the new rototiller that the Cougar Group gave us last year and I can't wait. Charlie has volunteered to till the garden, but knowing the men, they'll all want to take turns using this giant power tool. As long as I don't have to do it . . . . .

  • Mark plots

  • Thin strawberries (and pot them to sell as a fundraiser)

  • Grab Botanical Interest seeds from the bags which Linda gave me on Tuesday.

  • Start planting:) I have lots of seeds and seed potatoes

We still have 8 plots available if there are readers out there who want to join us gardening this year. Ms. D is generously providing us with the use of her grill so that we can have hot dogs for lunch (instead of cold cuts like the last two years).

Last Saturday, I spent the day starting seeds. Some of them had already sprouted by this morning and I'll share some at the end of May. When they get bigger, I'll put them in the portable greenhouse (pictured) which my mother gave me in 2009 for Xmas. (Nice investment for $35).

I also have pictures of fun from the Opening Day of the last two years so that you can have some idea of what to expect. If it rains, all of this will take place on Saturday, April 16.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Seeds, Seeds and More Seeds

On Sunday, Linda from the Knitwits group at Christ Lutheran Church, made my day by telling me that the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden would again be benefitting from a boatload of seeds from Botanical Interests. Remember last year? This permitted us to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in 2010 and now we can look forward to a similar bounty in 2011. After we finish working on Saturday, the SACG gardeners and volunteers will get to select their own seeds for their own plots. Then, I'll bring the seeds back for our Earth Day work on April 16, our gardeners and volunteers will get a second chance to get seeds for their own plots.

After that, we'll be delighted to share the remaining seeds with any other community garden or Stoddart Avenue neighbors. Just send me an email and let me know when you want to select your seeds.

Here is a list of the seeds which filled one garbage bag and two grocery bags. Linda and her parents sorted all of the seeds, banded like kinds and organized them in bags alphabetically. It's like Christmas in April!

  • Amaranth

  • Arugula

  • Beets (and my childhood friend Susan sent up a bunch of different variety of beets, too).

  • Beans (Kentucky Wonder Pole, Royal Burgundy, Trionfo Violetto, Pole Runner Scarlet Emperor)

  • Bok Choy (Tatso Rosette, White Stem)

  • Broccoli, Broccoli Raab

  • Brussels Spouts

  • Cabbage (Copenhagen Market, Chinese, Red Acre)

  • Carrots (Danvers, Cosmic Purple)

  • Corn

  • Cucumbers (Straight Eight, Armenian Burpless, Space Master, Japanese Soyu Burples, Homemade Pickles, Lemon)

  • Edamame (I grew these last year for the first time. The plants don't look like regular beans, but there were a ton of them).

  • Eggplant (Black Beauty, Long-Purple Japanese/Chinese)

  • Endive

  • Escarole

  • Greens (Georgia Southern Collard, Southern Giant Curled, Ruby Streaks Mustard Greens, Mizuna mustard, Red Gian Mustard)

  • Kale Nero Toscana

  • Kohlrabi (Purple & White Vienna Blend)

  • Leeks

  • Lettuce (Red Sails, Black Seeded Simpson, Mesclun, Tom Thumb Butterhead, Micro Greens, Romaine Little Gem, Romaine Freckles, Butterhead Buttercrunch, Butterhead Marvel of Four Seasons, Leaf Redina, Romaine Parris Island Cos, & Farmer's Market Blend) and Mache Corn Salad)

  • Muskmelon/Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon and Charentais Melon

  • Onions

  • Parsnip

  • Peas (Wando, Green Arrow, Super Sugar Snap, Oregon Sugar Pod)

  • Peppers (Serrano, Purple Beauty, Canary Bell, California Wonder Orange, Early Jalpeno, Yolo Wonder, California Wonder, Cayenne, Ancho/Poblano, Habanero)

  • Pumpkins Jarrahdale

  • Radish (French Breakfast, Daikon Miyashige White)

  • Radicchio

  • Spinach Lavewa,

  • Squash (Waltham Butternut, Early Yellow Crookneck, Summer, Summer Scallop, Winter Delicata Honey Boat, Black Beauty Zucchini, Baby Round Zucchini, Summer Clarinette Lebanese & Pink Banana Winter)

  • Swiss Chard

  • Tomatoes (Roma, Cherry Sun Gold, Grape, Rainbow Blend Cherry, Brandywine Red & Yellow, Red Siberian, Silvery Fir Tree, Beefstake)

  • Tomatillo

  • Turnips

  • Watermelon (several varieties)

  • Wheatgrass


  • Basil

  • Parsley

  • Oregano

  • Catnip

  • Sage

  • Chamomile

  • Dill

  • Chives

  • Rosemary

  • Thyme


  • Alyssum

  • Shasta Daisy

  • Echinacea

  • French Marigolds, Calendula

  • Datura

  • Butterfly Flower

  • Flax Blue

  • Bells of Ireland

  • Sunflowers (Evening Sun, Autumn Beauty, Mexican Torch, Peach Passion, Sunspot, Mammoth Russian, Mammoth Grey Stripe, Moulin Rouge, Vanilla Ice,

  • California Poppy

  • Coneflower

  • Candytuft

  • Pansies

  • Chinese Lantern

  • Lov-Lies-Bleeding

  • Black Eyed Susan Vine

  • Butterfly Flower

  • Cosmos

  • Datura

  • Gaillardia

  • Sweet Pea

  • Impatiens

  • Hyacinth Bean

  • Stock

  • Snapdragon

  • Hollyhock

  • Bachelor Button

  • Larkspur

  • Lavendar

  • Lobelia

  • Lupine

  • Forget Me Not

  • Hyssop

  • Moonflower

  • Nasturtium

  • Penstemon

  • Delphinium

  • Portulaca

  • Painted Daisey

  • Nicotiana

  • Rudbeckia

  • Verbena

  • Zinnias

  • Broom Corn

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Being a Good Neighbor; Watching Out for Our Neighbors

There are only two rules at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. The first one is: Be a Good Neighbor. Principally, this means do not make a nuisance of yourself, keep things pretty and clean, and make people glad to see you. Lately, it has taken on a new meaning. Since August, two people have been murdered within feet of and/or on the Garden lawn. The most recent was less than a week ago on Monday. It is simply unacceptable that people cannot feel safe at or near a community garden. Being a good neighbor has become more important than simply keeping a tidy garden.

Today was the first meeting in a few years for the Franklin Park Neighborhood Block Watch (FPNBW). For the foreseeable future, it will be meeting the first Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at the East Main Street Policing Center at 950 East Main Street. The Co-chairs are Susan Wilson-Brooks and the SACG’s own Barb Carter and is assisted by the area community resource officer, Theresa Kalous. They have applied for grant funding to support a security camera for the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood and to support the reinvigoration of the FPNBW. The FPNBW covers the neighborhoods between Nelson Road and Morrison Avenue and East Main Street and Broad Street.

They are looking for volunteers to organize the residents of each street in the neighborhood so that we all know who are neighbors are and who to call if trouble arises. Barb is the captain for Stoddart Avenue and the SACG’s Mari Sunami is the current captain for Fairwood, but would like a co-captain. Susan would also like a co-captain for Bryden.

We are also organizing social events to take back our streets from common thugs. The First Event will be a neighborhood clean up to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 16, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. It will consist of picking up the considerable amount of litter on Stoddart Avenue and in the alley between Stoddart and Morrison. Volunteers should meet at the SACG to pick up supplies and refreshments.

Future events will include a neighborhood beautification effort to pick up more litter and plant flowers donated by Children’s Hospital. Keep Columbus Beautiful will also help us with graffiti remediation projects (so start making a list of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood we should start with). National Night Out will likely be July 5, 2011. [Editor's Note: I've heard from someone else that it is August 2]. We’ll also help with a block party.

Handouts were distributed. You can get more information about Olde Towne East block watches in the 12th Precinct at Select 12th Precinct Block Watch Groups and scroll down to Franklin Park Block Watch. However, note that we are meeting on the first Saturday of the month at 1:00 and not the fourth Tuesday at 7.

For more information, email Barb or Officer Kalous at: or call 614.645.1412.