Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Counting Our Blessings during the Freakish Heat and Drought

As most of you know, we do not have an irrigation system at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. This means that we fill our watering cans at our rain tank and barrels and then walk them across our second lot to our plots. When the temperatures are regularly above 90 degrees during the day and the rain has been sparse to non-existent, our plants require watering two to three times each week. I am routinely spending 90 minutes during each trip to the Garden just watering vegetables and seedlings.  While I am usually a sweaty, flushed and frizzy mess after just a couple of trips, and this exercise has deterred our older gardeners, I have noticed that my arm muscles are much more toned this summer than in the past. 

The thirstier plants have benefitted from our water bottle system, straw mulch and extra compost. For those of us who have nurtured our plants, they have survived well enough to set and produce fruit. In fact, my eggplants actually seem to be enjoying this weather. The rest of my vegetables and fruits, however, are shorter than in years’ past and are producing smaller fruit. The beans and corn are taking this weather particularly hard (although the beans may also have suffered from having a fire hose turned on them by a well-intentioned, but misguided demolition worker). Some plants lost their flowers (and could not, therefore, set fruit) during the last heat wave.

Nonetheless, we persevere. The kids think watering is fun and often volunteer to help (although they are not strong enough to carry a full watering can from the tank to the Garden). We have also had volunteers stop by to help water on occasion. Last night, for instance, Cathy, Jen and the kids helped me to water most of the Garden (after we spent quite some time hunting squash bug eggs and reading a chapter out of Seed Folks). Barb helped me last Wednesday before heading across the street to water the Block Watch flower garden.

But this summer has not just been about our freakish weather. We have also benefitted from generous donors in the last few weeks. Mike Watkins from the Cougar Group (which donated our precious rototiller in 2010) donated a brand new lawn mower to us at the end of June when he learned that we desired one. (Our last lawn mower was stolen in August 2010). While we obviously have not had to mow the crunchy grass much this summer, having our own lawn mower again means that we no longer have to rely exclusively on our neighborhood gardeners – like Barb and Frank – to mow the lawn and can assign that chore to anyone. (In 2009, I used to transport my own lawn mower to the Garden in the trunk of my car and Joey did that a few times in April this year). Of course, this lawn mower is too big for our shed, so we are storing it at a nearby undisclosed location under several locks and chains until it rains again someday. Isn’t it pretty?

Then there are random acts of kindness. On June 30, the McClellan family donated a number of our Wish List items. They had heard through Christ Lutheran Church that we had a wish list and they are fans of community gardens through their acquaintance with Local Matters and Jonathan from Rain Brothers. Out of the clear blue sky, they tracked me down, introduced themselves and asked me to let them know what we needed. They tried to have it all delivered (including compost, but I had to explain that no one would be willing to shovel and distribute compost in this weather). The entire family came to deliver the items in 95 degree heat. They had already assembled everything before bringing it over (saving me from having to do so in this heat). So, we now have new gardening gloves, tomato cages, tomato stakes, two additional watering cans, a patio umbrella, and a tumbling compost bin.  Every community garden should be so lucky to receive such support.

Thus, despite the adverse weather conditions, I try on occasion to remember to count our blessings, particularly those that will last beyond this growing season.

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