Monday, February 27, 2012

Now Accepting Gardeners for 2012

We are now accepting applications/registrations for the 2012 gardening season. If you would like a garden plot to grow your own fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs, WE'D LIKE YOU TO JOIN US. Plots are only $10 each (and scholarships are available). You will, however, have to plant your own seeds, sometimes supply your own water and fertilizer, pull your own weeds, and harvest your own produce. (We have several barrels and a 550-gallon tank to collect rain which you can use until they run dry). You will also need to volunteer some time to care for the Garden.

You should review the
SACG Garden Rules and then sign and return the Garden Agreement.

We encourage all gardeners to donate a portion of their produce to a local food pantry – like the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, the Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry on Champion Avenue, the Salvation Army or Faith Mission Homeless Shelter. Maybe your club or church group would like to donate all of your produce to a food pantry. Last year, we collectively donated over 385 pounds of produce.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Garden Manager at 231-8571 or

Garden plots will be assigned space permitting on a first-come-first serve basis – with preference given to gardeners from the prior season who also participated in two work days in April and November. The application deadline is March 28, 2012, and we need volunteers on Saturday, March 31, 2012 (with a rain date of April 14, 2012). If we run out of plots, we will expand the Garden and/or create a wait list with preference given to people who volunteer on our opening day.

Groups and clubs are welcome to share a plot.

Even if you do not want to garden with us this year, please don't be a stranger. Stop by and say hello when you see us sweating, bending and grunting down the street. Misery loves company.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hal Kneen Rocks: Local Matters Grow Year Round Workshop

This morning I attended the free workshop sponsored by Local Matters at the Godman Guild and conducted by The Ohio State University Extension expert extraordinaire, Hal Kneen. (Ok, Kneen lived for a while in my hometown and that by itself makes him special and knowledgeable about all things agricultural). Local Matters fed us at the beginning and end even though they only planned for 40 attendees and 70 people showed up. I ran into lots of friends from the Bexley and other community gardens and GCGC.

Kneen works mostly with commercial growers throughout Ohio in helping them to extend the growing season so that they can get top dollar for produce when fresh local produce is otherwise scarce (and thus more expensive) in groceries and restaurants. In other words, he taught us how to grow lettuce in March, how to harvest zucchinis and cucumbers in early June and to harvest peppers and tomatoes in November when you can charge twice or even thrice the market rate for the same produce in July. What works well for commercial growers can work just as well for backyard and community gardeners. In fact, community gardens could hope to become economically sustainable (and thus ween their reliance on government and grant funding) simply by raising early Spring and late Fall/early Winter crops for sale to restaurants and farmer’s markets when the prices for fresh produce are the highest. (This assumes, of course, that you have some dedicated volunteers that are willing to help raise and sell the produce at the peak market rates).

Kneen talked about and passed around different types of ground covers that can warm up the ground when it’s cold or cool it off when it’s hot. We talked about inexpensive options in building hoop houses. One good tip was to use grey/electrical flexible pvc pipe (instead of white plumber’s pipe) because it withstands the weather better. Another tip was to recycle pipe from old chain link fences.

Kneen also directed us to some handy dandy websites to learn more.

He said that there was a great webinar on greens and lettuces, but I couldn’t find find it. :( So, I'm going to email him at to find out where it is. It's possible that it's webinar 3 (from November 2010) in the OSU series above. If it is, beware that the handouts are not working during the lecture portion and you will need to open them -- particularly pretty handout 2 -- in a separate browser window.

Kneen also took us through a three-hour powerpoint presentation (with lots of pictures of different types of season extenders used at commercial farms and community gardens) and passed out materials so that we could all go home and build high or low tunnel hoop houses or basic cold frames. OSU also passed around books which cost $30/each, but they could sell today and next Saturday for $10.

As an aside, I created a low-tunnel hoop house in my backyard last October for under $20 to extend the season for my greens (i.e., bok choy, chard, kale and turnips) as well as parsley and I harvested all of this just two days ago to make genovese mixed greens for dinner (i.e., greens sauteed in olive oil, garlic and anchovies). I plan to use this to transplant seedlings when I start seeds in a few weeks.

Also Edible Columbus also had an article about extending the growing season with hoop houses in December.

The rest of the free Local Matters gardening workshops are full (oversubscribed even), but Trish said she was working on adding additional sections of the same workshops in light of the overwhelming interest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ohio EPA Enacts New Composting Rules That Exempt Small Compost Bins

As reported here in December (in a surprisingly popular article), the Ohio EPA had proposed new solid waste rules governing composting. The proposed rules would create an exemption for small compost bins used by many individuals and community gardens.

According to the Ohio EPA website:

Ohio law (Chapter 3734 of the Ohio Revised Code) considers solid waste composting a form of solid waste disposal utilizing controlled biological decomposition. Therefore, composting is regulated by the Ohio EPA-DSIWM Composting Unit. Current rules regarding solid waste composting can be found under Chapter 3745-27 of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), specifically Rules 3745-27-40 to 3745-27-47.

The solid waste composting program requires or specifies that a composting facility obtains a registration, license, and/or permit as applicable, according to the classification of the facility. Other requirements established by the program include: what types of wastes can be composted, operational requirements of the facility, and testing requirements for the finished product prior to distribution. Wastes which may be acceptable for composting are categorized as feed stocks types, bulking agents or additives.

The composting rules classify composting facilities according to the wastes that can be accepted and, in some cases, the size of the facility.

The proposed rules were approved by the Joint Agency on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) and were published by the Ohio EPA last Thursday. The new Ohio Administrative Rule 3745-560-01 becomes effective on April 2, 2012 and provides an exemption for small compost bins from the applicability of other OEPA rules governing composting facilities as follows:

3745-560-01 Composting facilities - applicability.
(A) This chapter is the program chapter for composting facilities.
(B) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (E) of this rule, this chapter shall apply to any person who establishes or operates a solid waste composting facility in the state of Ohio.
. . .
(E) This chapter shall not apply to the following:

(1) Any person composting yard waste, agricultural waste, animal waste, food scraps, bulking agents, and additives within an aggregate area not greater than three hundred square feet on any premises in a manner that noise, dust, and odors do not constitute a nuisance or health hazard and does not cause or contribute to surface or ground water pollution.

(bolding added for emphasis).

Of course, just because small compost bins are now generally exempt from oversight by the OEPA does not end legal compliance issues. OEPA still will take interest in any compost bin which creates a nuisance or health hazard or contributes to surface or ground water pollution. In addition, the city and/or county may still take an interest in the bin even if OEPA does not.

In any event, community gardeners throughout Ohio can start this year’s growing season relieved that the OEPA will not be knocking on their gates this year to inspect their modest composting arrangements.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's Time to Start Sweet Potato Slips

One of the fun things about gardening is the infinite number of experiments that are available to you. A couple of years ago, I decided to grow sweet potatoes from an inexpensive potato I bought from the grocery after several SACG gardeners asked me for helping in growing them. (Of course, you can sometimes buy slips at a local nursery or order them online).

Over that first winter, I started reading blogs and other information on the internet and learned that sweet potatoes grow differently than regular potatoes. For one, they don't grow off seed potatoes. You can buy things called "slips" at some nurseries. Second, they are a tropical plant and are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. Third, the potato is a root and not something growing off the roots, like regular potatoes. However, like regular potatoes, they grow better in ridges and hills.

According to the blog I read, you can do the following to grow sweet potatoes:

To grow a sweet potato from the grocery, put it in a mason jar filled 1/3 with water in your kitchen window or other reliable light source. Make sure that the root end is facing down because this does not work well with the root side facing up. Although it will take a while, the potato will form roots which will take over the jar.

After a few weeks, nubby sprouts and leaves will begin to sprout from the sweet potato. When the leaves get big enough to form companion leaves off a stem, snap the stem off at the base and put the base in some water. (I used a shot glass in my kitchen window).

When the stem forms its own roots after just a couple of days, plant it in potting soil and put in a sunnier (or better lit) location that is protected from cold drafts. Sweet potatoes grow quickly, so don't skimp too much on the size of the container.
When the plant gets at least six inches long, and the outdoor temperature is reliably above 50, plant in the ground. Here in Ohio, you should warm the group up by covering the location with black fabric or plastic for a couple of weeks in advance. Mounding is also highly recommended.

Rumor has it that sweet potatoes need six months to grow. However, I usually plant mine around Memorial Day weekend and harvest them in October and November. Some varieties are ready to harvest after only 100 days.

I recommend putting a marker of some sort where you plant so that you know where to aim when you water. The roots grow underneath and the vines spread, so it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts. Beware: last year, my potatoe vines took over most of the garden and grew up in the tomato cages. I had hoped that they would set down roots throughout the garden, but they did not.

My single root potato was the source of many, many slips and I finally just pitched it into my compost bin (where it continued to grow like crazy). Each planted slip yielded at least 3 sweet potatoes if planted early enough and if it received enough sun.

This was an easy and fun gardening experiment. I've read it will work in most climates.

Sweet potatoes keep well in a root cellar and I still have five of them left in my basement from last Fall's harvest. I eat them in a variety of ways: baked, roasted, pureed with squash soup, etc.