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.

No comments:

Post a Comment