Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amazing and Exhausting Opening Day at the SACG

This was a day of superlatives at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. Our core volunteers once again outdid themselves and are not done yet. In five hours, we put a thick layer of wood chips (donated and delivered by Tree King Services and Davey Tree) on our paths, around our fence lines, between the Garden and Cherry Street and between the Garden and the falling-down building next door. We transplanted flowers. We laid landscaping stones generously donated by GreenScapes to edge our 50-foot front flower bed and the entrance way.

We ate a bunch of pizza donated by Bexley Pizza Plus. We met new people who stopped by. We hooked up the rain barrels. We lined the paths with bricks and stones. We corralled errant strawberry plants. We harvested food and herbs that overwintered. Whew!

New gardener Joey seriously distinguished himself as a human machine. He was a non-stop energizer bunny who shoveled and dumped more loads of wood chips than the rest of us combined. He took virtually no breaks and was a credit to Americorps and Hands-On Central Ohio (where he is spending his Americorps year). Ok. He’s 20 years younger than most of the rest of us, but aren’t we glad to have him?!

Charlie continued his single minded focus in completing the edging of our front flower bed. I weeded some of the flower bed and transplanted volunteer flowers that were about to be mowed down with our beautiful new landscaping stones. Charlie set a straight line and then dug out a trench to place the stones, carried the stones to the front of the Garden from the back and then laid them. Don’t they look amazing? You can see why Charlie was Volunteer of the Year last year and will have the Magic Garden Gnome gracing his plot this year. Now we don’t have to worry about the lawn encroaching into the flower bed. AND we had exactly the right amount. Good job Bill Gearhart with your flawless estimation.

Fred mowed our lawn, shoveled wood chips and helped Charlie with laying the landscaping stones. This was quite a relief because the grass was 6 inches at this point. He even mowed the grass of the lawn on the lot of the falling-down buildings next door (not that we plan to make a habit of this:)

Rayna laid a line of donated landscaping stones inside the fence and then decided what was good for the entrance way was good enough for the entire Garden. She repurposed the bricks that fell off the next-door building and used them to line the rest of the Garden. Then, she decided that since I had thousands of volunteer daisies in my plot, that she would save them from getting tilled under this week by transplanting them into our entrance flower bed (where we usually have cosmos). I’ll pick up some Shasta daisies to interplant with them so that we’ll have daisies in bloom until the sunflowers come in during the late summer.

Mari spread wood chips and picked up litter around the Garden. Barb, Deb, Beth, and James shoveled wood chips and helped to spread them. Barb also thinned strawberries. Beth picked up and delivered our yummy pizza. (Needless to say, there were no leftovers). I transplanted some raspberry bushes, greeted guests (like Richard Harris from the Growing Hands and Hearts CG) and set up the rain barrels. Lucy played queen of the hill on our massive wood chip pile. Neighbor Rose came by and helped to shovel chips, too. (Why should the gardeners have all the fun?)

Ever cheerful Frank shoveled chips and will be setting up our gates and replacing the spicket on one of our rain barrels.

We’ve opened two weeks earlier this year because of the Easter Holiday. It was also a lot colder than usual (and that was incentive enough for us to keep moving in order to keep our body temperatures up). However, as always, it was dry. Unfortunately, the ground was still too wet to till. Frank and Fred will take care of that on Friday and then I will assign plots.

We are unofficially full at this point, but we may split some plots and are seriously considering expanding the fence westward. (We’re already seeking grant funding and in-kind donations to build three platform raised beds for our senior gardeners). However, the new regular beds will all be 5x5 raised beds. In addition, I am giving serious thought to reserving the new (regular) raised beds for our 4-H program instead of providing them to adults because we do not have enough money in the bank to expand to accommodate everyone’s interest this year. Sadly, I was not one of the winner’s of last night’s lottery:). Nonetheless, we’ll place names on the wait list. (Remember, we have people drop out every year once they get their hands dirty and we have some potential new gardeners who have not fulfilled their five working hour requirement yet).

We also have extra strawberry plants to sell -- cheap - to anyone who is interested :)

We were not the only ones working in the Stoddart neighborhood. To support the Morrison Hill and Franklin Park Area Block Watches, Urban Connections had about 15 volunteers picking up litter and clearing brush in the alleys between Morrison and Berekley and between Morrison and Stoddart.

Build a Bridge of Ohio, Org. prepared for us in advance as well by cleaning out their gutters so that we would not have to worry about too much debris getting washed into our rain barrrels and tank once we hooked them up this week.

We’re not done yet. We will be having another work day on Saturday, April 14 beginning at 9:30 a.m. to finish work we could not get to today before we left around 2 p.m. Be there or be square.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

ISO Volunteers and Gardeners: SACG’s 2012 Growing Season Begins on March 31

Start dusting off your garden rakes and shovels. This Saturday, March 31, 2012, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden will begin its fourth season of growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. We're opening a little early this year because of the Easter holiday, but the weather has certainly been supportive. This is what we have planned:

  • Spreading wood chips donated by the Tree King Services and Davey Tree along the paths, fence rows and between the Garden and alley. If you have them, please bring a garden rake, shovel, work gloves and wheelbarrow.

  • Transplanting raspberry bushes;

  • Thinning our strawberry patch;

  • Tilling the garden soil. We have our beautiful tiller donated in 2010 by The Cougar Group, but Gardener Fred has his own tiller and we may have a till-off between Charlie and Fred (or any other macho guy who wants to operate large power tools).

  • Weeding the front flower bed;

  • Cutting turf and laying landscaping stones generously donated by GreenScapes Landscaping Company to protect the front flower bed from the ever-encroaching lawn;

  • Laying landscaping stones donated by GreenScapes in pretty designs and to line the Garden paths;

  • Flipping the compost bins;

  • Picking up litter;

  • Putting up the gates;

  • Transplanting volunteer flowers (mostly daisies and bachelor buttons);

  • Harvesting what is left of the crops we planted last Fall. (I saw spinach, carrots, leeks, colored greens, cilantro, etc.)

  • Hoeing;

  • Assigning plots;

  • Miscellaneous clean-up.
Refreshments and pizza (courtesy of Bexley Pizza Plus) will be served. We also will reward our volunteers with free seeds, but we won't have our stache to distribute until April 4.

While scattered showers are predicted (as it always is), we are keeping our fingers crossed and saying a prayer that it holds off until late afternoon like it has the past three years. However, stay tuned to this site. If it is raining hard, we will re-convene on Saturday, April 14, 2012. Same time and same place.

This is our most important day of the year.

Be there or be square. Many hands make light work.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

City's GreenSpot Rain Barrel Program

I found this on the Franklin Soil & Water Conservation District website and decided to pass it along . . . . .

Why would you want a rain barrel at home?

  • Reduce flooding, streambank erosion and water quality problems in your neighborhood.

  • Save money by not using city water for watering vegetables, flowers and trees.

  • Conserve both water and energy by not using drinking water for watering vegetables, flowers and trees.

  • Provide delicate houseplants and your prize vegetables natural rainwater with no additives.

How can you purchase a low-cost rain barrel?

  1. Register as a GreenSpot member.

  2. Live in your home located in Columbus, unincorporated Franklin County, Canal Winchester, Gahanna, Upper Arlington or Worthington.

  3. Attend a workshop by mailing the registration form with a check for $50.00, attend the workshop and take your rain barrel home with you; OR After April 2, 2012, visit our online storm water education page, pass the quiz, use PayPal to purchase one rain barrel for $50.00 and pick it up at our office. (Online program opens April 2, 2012.)

When can you get your rain barrel?

  • The online program opens Monday April 2, 2012.

  • The workshops begin on Saturday April 7, 2012.

Where can you get your rain barrel?

  • The workshops, with times and locations, are here.

  • If you passed the quiz and ordered online, and have received an e-mail from Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District (in addition to your PayPal confirmation), pick up your rain barrel at 1328 Dublin Road, Suite 101, Columbus 43215 (map here) between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for county holidays.
What does the rain barrel look like?

  • It is terracotta colored.

  • It holds 45 gallons of rainwater that comes off your roof.

  • It is easily installed into your downspout.

  • The instructions are very easy to follow, but for extra help, here is an installation video.

Who is making this possible?

  • Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and the Columbus Department of Public Utilities.

  • Franklin County Commissioners Paula Brooks, Marilyn Brown and John O’Grady.

  • The cities of Canal Winchester, Gahanna, Upper Arlington and Worthington. [Editorial Comment: But NOT Bexley?!! What's up with that???]

  • Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries (FACT) and Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) are facilitating many of the workshops. These watershed groups are volunteer organizations that work to preserve and protect local streams and rivers. Join your local watershed group today!

  • Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.

More information:

BTW, the Conservation District is also having a great tree sale for another week. The fish sale ended yesterday.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

4-H: A Four-Leaf Clover of Another Kind on St. Patrick’s Day

This morning, I planted peas at my house and then headed over to the Four Seasons City Farm garden at Carpenter and Mound to help rake and plant more peas. However, I spent part of yesterday afternoon meeting with Beth Boomershine at the Franklin County Extension office on South Hamilton Road and talking about starting a 4-H club at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. As a small town girl, I grew up with 4-H. My mother was a cooking club advisor and I had four sewing projects growing up. My friends and cousins had horse projects, my sister raised rabbits, my cousins raised chickens and everyone else raised pigs or cows which they sold at the county fair to help finance their college educations.

4-H has many gardening projects. To start, for the youngest kids, there is Go Plants! This has five lesson plans (which I’ll probably cover over two weeks instead of one): 1) Seed Secrets; 2) Getting to the Root; 3) Sturdy Stems; 4) Leaves to Live By and 5) Fantastic Flowers. There are scientific lessons, opportunities for the kids to observe and then reflect with written exercises, group activities, and artistic activities (i.e., writing songs, poems, raps, stories, essays, creating a seed mosaic, etc.). Of course, nutrition is covered, too. Also, there are flash cards, puzzles, seed journals (where kids can plant seeds and then draw a picture of the plant as it grows while they make notes every day).

One of the beginner level individual projects (which, if not enough kids sign up this year, we may do as a group project) is Vegetable Gardening for Backyards or Patios. The first step is to pick a group of vegetables to plant by tasting and research. The second step is to plan the and prepare a vegetable garden by location/site and by calendar/timing. The third step involves experiments with light. The fourth step involves improving the soil. The fifth step involves starting seeds and transplanting seedlings and the last step involves creating your own compost. There are also citizenship activities, such as helping someone else with their gardening project, organizing a tour of home vegetable gardens, inviting a gardening speaker, etc.

The next beginning project is How Does Your Garden Grow? This is essentially a two-year project. The first year, you plan your garden project (with containers or a 25 sf plot) and grow three different vegetables and flowers. The second year involves refining or planning a different garden in containers or a 50 sf plot. You should grow at least five different vegetables and flowers (to learn pinching and deadheading). This project explores safety (such as lead in the soil, fertilizer mixing, tools, poisonous plants, clothing, sun, heat, allergies, insects, etc.), weeds, and citizenship activities.

The first intermediate project is Growing with the Seasons. This project focuses more on intensive and space-saving gardening techniques for a 225 sf garden, organic gardening issues, pest management, harvesting and storing vegetables. There are two organized activities and two citizenship/leadership projects. There is also a section on displaying your vegetables for the county fair (or Circleville pumpkin show if you grow something that large;)

The next intermediate level project is Canning and Freezing. This project requires understanding the pH of various food and how that affects the kind of canning, what kind of equipment is required, understanding the season for various fruits and vegetables, the different ways to freeze vegetables, herbs and vegetables and how to can acidic foods with a hot water bath. There are also citizenship/leadership activities and projects, such as making and canning pickles and apple sauce.

Finally, there is Beekeeping. We hope to get a bee hive soon and so Beth threw in this project in case the neighborhood kids wanted to get involved. This project can be as basic or advanced as age and experience dictate. It actually discusses setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time-bounded. The project involves housing and parasites, etc.

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, with 6 million kids and teens enrolled in urban, suburban and rural communities. It is run here by the United States Department of Agriculture, through Ohio State University’s Extension Program and Franklin County. 4-H fosters an innovative, “learn by doing” approach with proven results. A study by Tufts University showed that youth engaged with 4-H are: (1) Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school; (2) Nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college; (3) 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors; and (4) 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.

The 4-H Pledge:

I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,

My Heart to greater loyalty,

My Hands to larger service, and

My Health to better living,

for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

4-H has found that youths learn best by doing and then explaining it others. (It’s not enough to just listen or to watch; you have to do and then explain). Therefore, once the youth is at least 8 years old, he or she must adopt a 4-H project in order to participate. 4-H has almost 200 different projects available for kids and teens to choose from. In addition to the gardening projects described above, there are non-gardening projects, too, involving dogs, cats, sewing, cooking, photography, scrapbooking, nutrition, first aid, citizenship, leadership, public speaking, money management, bicycling, electricity, robotics, small engines and lawn care, woodworking, etc.

There are also opportunities for competition, prizes, camps, college and camp scholarships, public speaking and participating in the county and state fairs. 4-H is what you make of it.

Beth could not have been more supportive of encouraging 4-H at the SACG. However, she was also clear that she cannot grow grass. So, if you want to get some materials to start a youth program at your garden, contact Beth, but don’t ask her to plant anything. :)