Friday, June 24, 2011

Bexley Farmer’s Market Moves Time and Place

Last night, I rolled my bike over to the new Bexley Farmer’s Market, which is now on Thursdays from 4 until 7 p.m. in the roomy parking lot where Parkview dead-ends into Main Street. (It used to be on Saturday mornings on cramped sidewalks in front of City Hall). This is just ¾ miles south east of the SACG.

To start, G Michaels was offering sautéed ocean scallops over a ragout of applewood smoked bacon, corn and peppers. FOR FREE. It was advertised as a cooking demonstration, but we all got samples. The restaurant owners/chefs live in Bexley and wanted to support the Farmer’s Market with a popular incentive. They don’t come every week, but rumor has it that other restaurants have offered similar incentives in the past. The picture shows where the restaurant stand was – after he tore down the cooking table (because I forgot my camera on my first trip). Next week, the Broad Street Presbyterian Church will be promoting its food pantry.

We were all blessed with our first dry Thursday in a while. A volunteer also handed out cloth tote bags (with the new hours and location of the Farmer’s Market prominently displayed). The bags were paid for by a sponsor (listed on the other side of the bag) and no tax dollars were used:) There were also free copies of edible Columbus, with recipes and stories about local farmer’s markets and even the Franklinton Community Garden.

Brent Rhoads from the Rhoads family farm south of Circleville was there with their family farm stand. There was an article about their family farm in edible Columbus. The family has farmed for 40 years, supports 4 families and 25 seasonal workers. We chatted for a few minutes. They had bok choy ($2/bunch), zucchini and lettuce and red raspberries for sale this week and will add corn, blueberries and blackberries next week. We talked about the SACG’s black raspberries and he warned me to keep them away from red raspberry bushes because they tend to infect each other with viruses. I assured him that I keep my red raspberry bushes in my backyard.

There were two other produce sellers (with slightly different offerings). The cookie lady was sold out by the time I got there at 6 p.m. The bread bakers were almost sold out. The cheese folks had at least 10 different kinds of cheeses to sample (at $6/block). Unfortunately, the most popular – chive and onion – was sold out – as were a few other popular blends. There was a butcher there. I sampled chicken sausage for the first time ($6/pound – four links). There was also a flower farm represented. There was also a jam lady with strawberry champagne, strawberry pepper and a few other flavors I should try sometime.

Of course, it was at the Bexley Farmer’s Market that I discovered the peaches from Legend Hills Orchard. But there was no one there last night from LHO. I was surprised not to see any strawberries.

There were lots of kids, bikes and dogs – Bexley staples. I passed a few lemonade stands on my way there. Perhaps they would have been better placed at the Market . . . . . There was not, however, a compost bin to collect paper plates or half-eaten produce for the Bexley Community Garden . . . .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

The SACG has been extremely blessed this year in making new friends. Gentle readers this year have learned about the Columbus Growing Coalition and God's Gardeners. Peggy Murphy is active in both organizations and has been a blessing to the SACG, as she has been to the Highland Hilltop Community Garden where she spends most of her time.

During the first week of June, Peggy emailed me about a massive donation of seedlings made to the HHCG by Strader's. That evening, I took a flat of cabbage seedlings for the SACG. A couple of weeks ago, Peggy called again to report that Strader's Garden Center was making a second massive donation of seedlings to the HHCG and there was enough to share with their neighbors and other community gardens. I rushed over with my little Jetta and brought back for the SACG flats of marigolds, begonias, impatients, salvia, baby's breath, and some purple flowers as well as a few habanero peppers and seed potatoes. While there, Peggy gave me a tour of the massive HHCG and its amazing new drip irrigation system. Volunteers were busy planting peppers that morning. She showed me their hoop house (which allows them to start seedlings and extend the growing season), where the new children's area (which Home Depot volunteers was building for them) will be and where the new shed that Lowe's is donating will go. The walk-ways were decorated with stones which neighborhood children had painted. It was amazing.

Peggy also showed me some great three-foot flower containers which they would either sell as a fundraiser or use for a children's art project. They had been donated by the community garden operated by Christ the King Catholic Church, about a half-mile southeast of my house on Livingston Avenue. I contacted Marge to see if she had any other containers to donate. She did. I wanted to put a large container at the corner of our lot at Cherry and Stoddart as a memorial to the boy who died there in March. Marge pointed out that we could grow potatoes in them, too. This brought to mind the fact that Barb had planted potatoes in Treva's plot, which Treva then removed and Barb was very sad. I took another pot to plant potatoes for Barb.

The Christ the King community garden primarily grows food for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry down the street on Livingston Avenue. The garden is right next to the food pantry. There is a picnic table under a large shade tree in the garden where clients and their children can wait. While there, they often tour the garden and ask questions about the food. When I arrived, there was a long line of families waiting. Marge explained that one of the pantry's former clients started a car repair business recently. When he arrived at the garage he had rented, he found several pallets of these large gardening containers and asked Marge if she could put them to good use. He even delivered them. She has used them as an art project for neighborhood children. They have painted them and then planted in them. Marge also showed me their new greenhouse, where they hope to start seedlings next year to give to client families to grow some of their own food at home. She said they had been blessed for many years from donations by Dill's Greenhouse.

Treva made our first food pantry donation run this week. I told her that she could pick any pantry she wanted. She chose to donate her lettuce at St. Vincent de Paul on Livingston Avenue because it is the closest to her apartment.

This morning, Peggy called again. Strader's Garden Center again made a massive and unexpected third donation of seedlings and she needed help distributing them. I emailed the God's Gardener Group, Roger from the First English Lutheran Church Garden, Growing Hearts and Hands CG, and the Bexley Community Garden. I then hopped in my new little Jetta and picked up flats of petunias, tomatoes, lettuce, watermelon and muskmelon and a few cayenne peppers for the SACG, Build the Bridge and Urban Connections. I think we'll try to grow melons in the old pumpkin patch while we starve out the squash bugs this year. I'm hoping that our gardeners will donate their mature lettuce this week and replace them with the new lettuce seedlings. Of course, other community gardens and non-profits were very excited, too. I met Dan from Four Season's City Garden there, who hoped to raise money for their 18 community gardens by selling some flowers in their near-east neighborhoods. I also received an email from Habitat for Humanity, who was similarly excited and eager to put the seedlings to good use.

While telling Cathy at Urban Connections about the seedlings which they can use at their ministry house (and encouraging her to take the kids up to help themselves to our ripe black raspberries), she mentioned that they had volunteers for the next few weeks and might be able to spare a few some evening to help us weed and plant at the SACG. (She also expressed doubts about the tastiness of black raspberries, but I'm still in denial that anyone could find them less than perfect;)

What goes around comes around.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Passionate Learning about Companion Planting

It’s hardly a newsflash that it is seriously hot outside. It was at least 89 degrees at 6:30 p.m. last night. You have to be seriously passionate about gardening to attend an outdoor workshop on Companion Planting, but 10 hearty folks did yesterday at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. Franklin Park Conservatory’s own Barb Arnold visited the SACG to educate us about the benefits of companion planting and answered a host of other questions as well. The workshop was well attended, especially considering the heat. I brought water, popsicles and frozen juice bars for everyone.

Barb gave each of us a chart showing plant friends (which you should plant together) and frenemies (which you should not plant together). Some plants attract good bugs (like lady bugs) to eat pesky aphids, while others lure aphids away (like nasturtium). Basil is good for a lot of plants because its aroma repeals bad bugs (like tomato worms). Planting pole beans next to corn puts nitrogen in the soil (which benefits the greedy corn). Then planting zucchini near the beans and corns creates a large barrier (with its prickly stems) to varmints.

For bug control, you can try:
• Sprinkling cat nip tea on eggplant and potatoes to deter flea beetles (which had infested the potatoes in the Hawkins family plot).
• Beans protect eggplant from the Colorado potato beetle
• Basil repels aphids, flies, mosquitoes and mites.
• Garlic, chives and leeks repel aphids, weevils, carrot flies, moles, red spiders, BUT is not good to be near beans or peas
• Cilantro repels aphids
• Geranimums (particularly white ones) repel cabbage worms and Japanese beetles.
• Marigolds deter Mexican bean beetles and nematodes.
• Mustard greens are a trap crop which attack numerous insects and can be removed and destroyed before the other crops are harmed.
• Nasturtium repel cucumber beetles, whiteflies and squash bugs. They attract aphids and should be removed and discarded when they are covered with ants or aphids.
• Radishes deter cucumber beetles, but radishes planted this time of year will be extra spicy.
• Thyme deters flea beetles, cabbage worm, etc.

Barb also discussed how important it was to plant at the proper time of year. Soil temperature has a huge affect on the germination of seeds. It will be a good time to plant melons in another week. You can find out the current soil temperature by googling OARDC weather. This Ohio State University program tests soil temperature every five minutes at 2 and four inches in Columbus.

She also discouraged us from planting zucchini, pumpkins or summer squash before mid-June in order to avoid the first egg-laying cycle of squash bugs.

The workshop was well attended with Barb and Diane from the Bexley Community Garden, Richard, Annie (the unpictured photographer) and baby from Growing Hands and Hearts Community Garden on Oak Street and Louise, Betty, Charlie, Fred and me from the SACG. Rayna came as we were ending (to get a flier and water her plot). After everyone cleared out, Barbara came by to weed and thin her plot and brought 5 of her 15 grandchildren with her. We had fun picking strawberries and carrots.

On another note, the GHH garden is planning an arts in the garden program for area children beginning July 19 (if they get funding).

God’s Gardeners Meet to Prepare for August 20 Kick Off Event

[Editor's Note: The Gala has been moved from August 20 to September 10, 2011]

On Tuesday, a group of about 24 God’s Gardeners met at Christ Lutheran Church in Bexley to discuss efforts to create and support 200 new church-supported community gardens in Central Ohio for the 2012 bicentennial of Columbus next year. I floated between this meeting and my monthly Knitwits group and so have incomplete information to report. Peggy provided fresh fruit and a chocolate ice cream cake from the Bexley Graeters and I supplied 1.5 quarts of fresh strawberries I picked on Friday.

Bill Dawson, Coordinator of Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program, attended to explain what he, the twelve FPC hub gardens and FPC could do to support new and existing community gardens. He discussed the Chase Garden Academy which offers workshops to help community garden leaders. He needs every community garden to complete a survey of needs so that he can match them up with available resources as they become available. He is also available to consult. FPC is establishing twelve hub gardens in Central Ohio to also act as a mentoring resource for Central Ohio community gardens. The hub gardens can share ideas, resources and training. Representatives from four hub gardens were present:

Marge Telerski *Christ the King Catholic Church * *(614) 237-0720
Peggy Murphy *Highland Garden / Church Collaboration * *(614) 260-5767
Susannah Evans *Epworth United Methodist Church * *(614) 578-0171
Moi *Christ Lutheran Church / Stoddart Avenue * *

Bill also announced that FPC is working on putting together an educational event on July 15 featuring Will Allen from Growing Power. Details to follow. The annual Growing to Green Awards ceremony will be on August 25 at the community garden campus at FPC. The ceremony follows a community potluck tent dinner. Gardens may nominate themselves for the awards (which come with financial prizes). Then Bill had to flee to the airport to fly off to another exotic location, undoubtedly to assist them with starting another community garden.

Attendees took turns reporting the activities of their community gardens or desires to start one. Attendees could discuss ideas and offer tangible and emotional support.

Peggy Murphy had a great story about Highland-Hilltop Garden. She reported that they had sought a $4K grant from the City this year to establish a drip irrigation system. They only received $600, but then a check for $2,100 suddenly appeared from a Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania and they were able to install their new irrigation system. Their garden is collaboration of a number of different churches. The Presbyterian Church in Louisville provided the substantial amount of grant funding. The Garden is located on land owned by the Baptist Church. The Lutheran Church acts as their 501(c)(3) fiscal agent (to administer grants) and the Methodist Church supplies their water.

Peggy also reported that Stader’s Nursery AGAIN is donating more flats of flowers and vegetables. They may be picked up before 1 p.m. TODAY from Highland-Hilltop garden.

Advent United Church of Christ on North Cassady Avenue is having a fish fry this Saturday. Dr. Larkins from Dayton will be making a presentation on building a community through community gardens.

Another church was gathering 30 nearby churches on Saturday to work on building a community garden program.

Wendy Finch McCusker related plans for the giant God’s Gardener’s kick off gala for August 20 at Highland-Hilltop community garden. It sounds very entertaining.

The next meeting of God’s Gardeners will be on Tuesday July 19th 6:30pm to 8:30pm Christian Assembly 4099 Karl Road 43224 Entrance B.

If you want more information about God’s Gardners, please contact Wendy Finch McCusker at or Peggy Murphy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Joys of Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Yesterday, I went to Hann Farms and picked 13 pounds of strawberries (at $1.50/pound). I then canned 4 pints of strawberry jam (which for the first time in my life, jelled perfectly the first time). I also froze 3.5 quarts to later use in smoothies and cocktails. And I put aside 1.5 quarts for the God's Gardener's group which is meeting at Christ Lutheran Church on Tuesday, June 8, 2011 at 6:30. And I put aside 1 quart to make strawberry shortcake for myself. But I still had 2 quarts left and I got the hankering to pull my ice cream maker out of mothballs and see if it would really be that much trouble to make my own ice cream.

A few days ago, I saw an article online comparing the cost of homemade ice cream to store bought. They were comparable if you factored in the cost of the ice cream maker. Since I already own one, there's no real comparison. So, then I went to the handy-dandy site to search for ice cream recipes. I was dreading making my own custard from scratch (because I did not want to heat up my kitchen any more than I already do in making and canning jam). However, the highest rated recipe did not require any eggs or cooking. I modified it as suggested by several of the prior readers. It was easy as pie and tasted fabuloso this morning. I'm now going to try it with a variety of different fruits. I wonder if it will work as well with chocolate (the Achilles heel of my weight-loss goals). . . . . . .

Hard-To Mess Up Strawberry Ice Cream

Yields 1.5 quarts.


1 pound strawberries
½ cup sugar (but you can use ¾ cup or less or, I'm told, substitute maple syrup)
3 or 4 large squirts of lemon juice. I probably used ¼ cup
A few shakes of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup half-n-half (or, I'm told whole milk, more whipping cream, etc.)


  1. Wash, core and mash the strawberries. Mix with sugar, juice and salt.

  2. Put strawberry mixture in blender. Pour the cream and/or milk on into the blender. Puree.

  3. Pour strawberry contents in a container. Chill it. (I put it in a deep freezer for 30 minutes or you could put it in the refrigerator for a few hours).

  4. Set up your ice cream maker. Mine is electric and holds 4 quarts of ice cream. I put it in the utility tub in the basement, so that I could easily drain it later without much mess. Pour 7 pounds of ice and 1.5 cups of rock salt around the tub in alternating layers.

  5. Pour chilled strawberry mixture into the ice cream container of the maker. Put in the stirring device and start your machine. Let it process for about 40 minutes. It should look like pink whipped mashed potatoes when it's ready.

You can freeze the ice cream in your tub, but I took it out and spooned it back into the container and put it in the freezer. Give it at least between 4-6 hours before eating.

Yumm. Yumm. Yumm.

Remember that it will not have the same consistency as store-bought ice cream because it does not have those special chemicals. There will be some ice crystals unless you put plastic wrap over the ice cream in the container before putting it in the freezer. Don't forget to leave at least an inch at the top of the container for the ice cream to expand as it freezes.

[Editor's Note: After posting this recipe, Jeni Bauer -- from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream -- released her new cookbook -- Jeni's Splendic Ice Cream at Home -- on making ice cream and other frozen treats at home. She also had written an article for Food and Wine magazine with a few recipes. She addresses the the consistency issue with homemade ice cream like this:

  • Boil the cream/sugar mixture first.

  • Mix a 1.3 tablespoons corn starch with two tablespoons of milk, add to the cream.sugar mixture and bring to a boil again.

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream cheese

  • Put a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the ice cream before putting it in the freezer (to keep ice crystals from forming on top)
I tried some of these tips yesterdays (I heated the cream and sugar mixture first and then brought it to a boil only after adding the corn starch). I pureed the cream cheese with the strawberries and added the hot cream mixture to the strawberries before chilling. I also used berries I had frozen and then defrosted from my first trip to Hann's without any loss of flavor. Still Yumm Yumm Yumm].

Rumor has it that it will last a few weeks in the freezer. I'll let you knowJ It's never lasted that long at my house:)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Columbus Growing Coalition Breaks For Summer

Last night, the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition met at the Florentine Restaurant on the near West Side for its last meeting for the summer.

Highland Youth Community Garden. When I arrived, Peggy Murphy was giving a presentation about the Highland Youth Garden in the Hilltop on the near West Side. She discussed in detail their recent experience with installing a drip irrigation water system and what's involved in hooking up to City water. They do not know how much it will cost for the season, but the Weinland Park Community Garden folks suggested that it could run from $350 to $900 for the season (depending on the weather). Ms. Strader from the City's Public Utilities Department was present to answer questions about other water options and tentative plans by the City Health Department to lease 550-gallon water tanks (like the one at the SACG) to City Land Bank Community Gardens so that they could harvest rain water or perhaps purchase water from the City Service Department (that could be delivered by street cleaning trucks). However, this idea is very tentative. We also discussed the need to also purchase a deduct meter (so that the garden is not charged for sewage in addition to water) and the cost involved in turning on and turning off the city tap at the beginning and end of each season. It was surprisingly expensive.

Peggy also announced that Strader's Nursery had been extremely generous and donated 300 flats of tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, etc. to the Highland Hilltop Garden yesterday. Hundreds of neighbors descended on the garden to share in the good fortune. The ever-so-helpful Patrick Kaufman from the Franklinton Community Garden loaded up the back of his yellow pickup truck with flats of tomatoes and cabbage for the rest of us to share. I brought back a flat of cabbage seedlings for the SACG. (When I arrived at the SACG, I found Charlie, Louise and Fred there finishing up the cultivation of our last two plots. We are now fully cultivated for the season and will not have room for more gardeners unless people drop out. Frank had also installed our wonderful gates. Louise wasted no time in putting cabbage into the ground).

Group Discussion. The Coalition then engaged in a discussion of what we would like to accomplish as a group. Some people felt that improvement was needed in publicizing the existence of the group and time/place of the meetings. There was discussion about creating a Facebook page (which won't help me because I am not on Facebook and do not plan to join in the foreseeable future). The group liked sharing resources (such as the seeds that were shared in our last meeting) and the seedlings in this meeting. Trish thought that we should do a better job of setting out alternatives for community gardens based on our level of resources. Some gardens have no money and need leads for free or shared resources. Others have grant funds and can adopt more elaborate options (like backflow watering systems). Patrick would like to have a list of experts on various topics (like pruning fruit trees) so that he would know who to call on a particular topic.


There will be a FREE gardening workshop at the SACG on Wednesday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss companion planting. Barb Arnold from the Franklin Park Conservatory will be leading the discussion. It would be a good idea to bring a folding chair.

Derrick announced that had free art for community gardens. The art is created by local youths. Contact

Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden on Oak Street is having a workshop on preserving produce through dehydration on July 19 at 1:00 p.m.

There will be No GCGC Meeting in July and August because we are all so busy with our gardens. If you want to get on the GCGC email list, contact Noreen Warnock at Local Matters (because she is having trouble reading everyone's handwriting from the sign-in list):

Peggy announced that the God's Gardeners will be meeting on Tuesday, June 7 at 6:30 at Christ Lutheran Church in Bexley to discuss plans to start 200 new church-supported community gardens in Columbus in 2012. (I will be strawberry picking this morning and will bring some to the meeting as an inducement -- if they are still edible:).

Finally, I am sad to report that the Franklinton Garden did not win $50K from the Pepsi Refresh project competition. Patrick said it was a good experience and they gained some new volunteers and contacts from the attempt. :(

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Strawberry Season is Upon Us

For the last few years, the SACG gardeners have taken a road trip to pick strawberries at local U-Pick farms in Central Ohio. We grow our own strawberries at the SACG, but the neighborhood kids are pretty good at scavenging them for snacks throughout the week and we cannot harvest enough to make jam or pies. As usual, I've called around to get the most recent price for picking your own strawberries (which are usually on sale for $2.50/pound at your local Krogers).

a. Hann Farms 4600 Lockbourne Road has u-pick strawberries $1.50/pound (a penny 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. You can pick 10-6 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. I was warned that the fields are very wet this year. You must pay with cash or check. Call 491-0812 for more information. [Editor's Note: It's not too wet. It took a while to pick 13 pounds of ripe strawberries, but there were very few rotten ones. Today is the perfect day to pick because it's cool and not too sunny. On the downside, I drove around for a while trying to find this place.]

b. Schact Farms, 5950 Shannon Road in Canal Winchester, $1.99/pound (nine cents more than last year). This is the next closest to Bexley. This is where we went the last two years. They also have an extensive pumpkin patch. They accept cash, credit cards and WIC. Because of the anticipated heat wave, they are opening extra early so that we do not roast in the fields. Starting tomorrow, you can begin picking at 7 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. However, be forewarned that the Pickerington High School graduation is this Saturday morning and will be across the street. Call 833-1932 for more information.

c. Jacquenmin Farm, (between Plain City and Dublin), $1.9/pound (a 5% increase over last year). I visited here three 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. They are opened 8-5. Call 873-5725 for more information.

d. Doran Farms, 5462 Babbitt Rd. New Albany, $1.69/pound (same price as last year). I've never been there, but have heard good things about it. They are opening tomorrow. They will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day until the strawberries are gone. Call 855-3885 for more information.

e. Circle S Farm, 9015 London-Groveport Rd west of Grove City. They will not be opening for u-pick for another few days (at least). 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.

Last year, strawberry season lasted until Mid-June.