Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mother’s Day Comes Early to the SACG With Platform Raised Garden Beds with Benches

While the rest of the country celebrated Cinqo de Mayo, Derby Day and the Columbus Half-Marathon, Tom, James, Cathy and I brought Mother’s Day early to the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden by building raised platform garden beds with benches. Last year, I noticed that Betty – one of our charter members -- was not bending to pick up weeds she had just hoed and figured out that it might be her last year at the SACG if I didn’t figure something out. So, earlier this year, I applied for a grant from the City/County Community Garden Fund at the Columbus Foundation to build three raised platform garden beds (i.e., Grandmother beds). We found out on April 9 that our grant request had been funded. However, leaving nothing to chance while I waited to hear about our grant, I also sought out corporate in-kind donations and was blessed that Lowe’s Home Improvement Store on East Broad Street – just 2 miles from the SACG – agreed in early April to donate the seriously expensive cedar lumber to build our raised beds. Of course, when I saw the shock on the staffs’ face about how much lumber that would take, I immediately scaled back my request to lumber for two beds so as not to take advantage of their generosity and burn bridges for other community gardens in the future. They even cut down the lumber for me to build the 6x4 raised beds and helped me to load all of the lumber into my Jetta.

I researched other similar raised beds at other community gardens on the internet and decided on a design. However, during one of my evening constitutionals, I again walked by Jim Z’s house. Outside his wood shop was a sandbox he had built for a grandchild that was now being transferred to another friend (or I would have snagged it for our first raised bed). I liked his design so much better because it came with a built-in bench. I ran home to get a camera and took pictures of it at various angles before it began to rain. He must think I’m a freak.

Gardeners Beth & Mike live behind me in Bexley. Mike has his own wood shop and cut notches in the boards for the legs. I started to put the first bed together on my patio last Sunday before realizing that I might not be able to get it out of my backyard, let alone into a vehicle and over to the SACG if I finished the project there. So, I fit what I could into my Jetta (as funny as that sounds) and took it over to the SACG, where I finished assembling it on Monday evening. I have to admit there was a lot of profanity involved as I tried to assemble it by myself when the wind kept knocking it over while I screwed in pilot holes, etc.  As you know, I had to wait until Thursday for Justin from CleanTurn to flip it over for me to finish. I bought the rest of the lumber from Lowe’s for the third bed. (I’d like to say it was from the East Broad store, but they had sold out of the required size of cedar and had to send me up to Weber Road on Friday). I wanted to save Mike the trouble of cutting the notches for the legs and checked out a jig saw from Rebuilding Together, but it did not come with a blade. When I called Mike to borrow one, he ended up just cutting all of the lumber down for me on Friday evening.

Saturday was much, much easier. Tom met me at my house at 9 a.m. to pick up the lumber for the second and third bed. Orlando (from BTBO) stopped by to give me a jovially hard time about leasing our second lot (next to BTBO) and helped us move the first bed into its final location. Tom and I then assembled the second bed when I discovered to my horror that I was missing one 12-foot board. I knew the East Broad Street store was sold out, so we headed for Weber Road, only to meet with the closure of I-71! How did I not know this!?? Then, we ran into the Half-Marathon traffic. Ugh! Back to East Broad to get a narrower board. Tom even bought me lunch. We finished the second bed and made substantial progress on the third bed before Tom had to leave at 1:30. As we were eating our lunch tailgate style, Mari & John stopped by with our new gate sign. (More on that in a few days).

Also Dr. Jim from the Morrison Hill Community Garden stopped by to introduce himself (after Cathy from Urban Connections suggested that he do so) and I encouraged him to thin our strawberry patch out for the benefit of their Garden.  He came back with his two young sons and did just that.   Neighbor Rose also came by to make sure I was wearing enough sun screen.

Meanwhile, I had already learned with the first bed that my cordless drill’s battery was insufficient to complete the project. So, I checked a drill out from Rebuilding Together, only to find that they have no cordless drills!!!! Frank and Cathy loaned me their cordless drills. We burned through my drill and Frank’s drill and, shockingly enough, Cathy’s 24-V drill lasted the rest of the afternoon. She stopped by, briefed me about the block watch meeting and helped me finish the third bed and put it into its correct place. I whined so much, she agreed to come help me out on Saturday mornings.  (I won't hold you to that promise made under emotional duress:)   Ms. Anthony also stopped by to say hello as well. Then, some neighborhood girls stopped by to see our project progress. Then, Miss Gladys stopped by after church to see and select her new bed and pose for pictures. She was so excited, she wants to plant at least one of everything.   That made everything worth it for me.

Shortly after Cathy left, James came to do some gardening. Boy, did I love his shuffle hoe. When he saw me lifting the soil bags, he immediately stepped in and insisted on doing that for me. We then filled the second bed and the neighbor plots (along the alley) when Margaret Ann from Four Seasons City Farm stopped by with our grant check. (City Farm is our fiscal agent). I showed her around. She loved the new beds and our new sign. She couldn’t believe we had accomplished so much in so little time.   What a positive life force she is.

I should mention that James is quite a character.  He is one of our new gardeners.  He lives on Berekely.  In addition to growing something on every inch of his lot (like chard in the median), he also mows the grass of the abandonned house next door with his reel mower.  He reads Mother Jones and has been doing some creative gardening in his SACG plot.

Anyway, by this point, I had lost the ability to think or communicate with anything other than a grunt. Even though the beds had not been filled or donated soil completely distributed, I headed home and collapsed into an incoherent puddle just in time to see the Derby.  I then ordered a pizza and ate the whole thing as I walked home. Craziness. I woke up this morning with every muscle in my body aching and aching. I’m too old for this.

I had been concerned that the middle was not strong enough to support the weight of wet soil, so this afternoon, I cut down and installed braces and then filled 2-1/2 beds. Rayna helped distribute more soil in the neighbor plots along the alley and I began planting in them (with lots of help from the neighborhood girls). The beds have become the new gathering place for the girls because the benches allow them all to sit and chat among themselves. Rayna just loved it. They wanted to break down all of the large clumps of soil and giggled when I poured in bags of manure.   Truth is, they want me to build tiny versions of these beds for them.  Fat chance, girls:) Then, the kids just hovered over the blueberry bushes and strawberry patch predicting when the berries would be ripe enough to eat. 

For those of you who want to seek similar grant funding and build your own grandparent beds, the lumber cost around $200 and the 30 bags of soil $50. 

The next phase is to build regular raised beds (with cedar donated by Trudeau Fence Company) for our youth gardening program near the grandmother raised beds. Gotta love intergenerational gardening.

For those of you who are interested, all three of the grandmother beds may be spoken for, but one of the ladies has not turned in a signed agreement yet.  (Miss Gladys had her grandsons satisfy her working hour requirement by spreading wood chips a couple of weeks ago and signed her agreement the instant she saw her new bed).  If you want  one of the beds, let me know.

We also have four regular plots available to any hardworking and serious gardeners who will come next Saturday to help me build regular raised beds for the kids and a new compost bin.  We really need another gardener with a truck or SUV:)   Many hands make light work.

Thanks again to the City of Columbus, Franklin County, the Columbus Foundation, Lowe's Home Improvement, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Home Depot (for the fence) and our wonderful volunteers, gardeners and neighbors for making the grandmother beds possible.

Now, I will let Rachmaninoff play me off to sleep . . . . . 

No comments:

Post a Comment