Friday, August 31, 2012

SACG’s Fairy Garden Keeps Growing

As you can see from the pictures, the SACG’s Fairy Garden – tended by the infamous RootBarb – has grown much over the summer since its birth over Memorial Day. RootBarb added a new fairy statue to it on Wednesday evening and reported that she is recovering nicely, but slowly, from her February accident.

Wednesday was a busy evening and was made more hectic by the very early sunset before 8:30 p.m. I tried to hook up hoses to the tank to run water directly to the Garden, but the pump wasn’t working and there wasn’t enough water in the tank to create sufficient water pressure.

Tevon stopped by unexpectedly to examine his garden and harvest. Tevon moved away about two months ago and had been the only neighborhood boy to show passion for raising food. He recruited a number of boys to share his garden with him and then kicked them out and transferred his garden to a boy across the street so that someone would periodically water it. (We have a regular Peyton Place). During Memorial Day weekend, Tevon had begged me to build him a raised bed and helped me for a few minutes to fill it with garden soil (until, that is, he was distracted by the nearby sandbox). Tevon’s garden turned out much better than the weedy garden of his 18-year old sister even though he is only now in the third grade. To be fair, he was gardening in a raised bed (which always has fewer weeds) and she was not. He planted sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, squash and broccoli. I also insisted that he plant collard greens and pole beans, over his objection. Last night, he was excited to harvest beans and greens, so my stubbornness paid off. He was very focused on discovering and harvesting his produce and ignored the sandbox completely. He ordered me to find and hold a bag for him while he harvested his food. I’ve created a monster. He then walked all over the neighborhood showing off his prizes.

I then turned to watering the 600+ square feet of food pantry plots, the neighbor raised beds along the alley and my plot. Luckily, Cathy came by to help me water the peppers and her daughter Hope watered her pretty flower garden. A neighbor stopped by for produce. Then a bunch of teenagers – including Charter SACG gardener Keyante – stopped by to water and harvest from Keyante’s raised bed. I gave them a tour of the various peppers and eggplants we’re raising in a nearby raised bed. The girls didn’t believe me when I explained how hot chili peppers were and wanted to see if the pepper could make them cry by rubbing their eyes with a red one and then eating part of it raw. A few screams later and they are believers now.

Then, back to harvesting the small red and orange tomatoes from the food pantry plots before they burst. And then harvesting ripe produce from my plot. Sadly, someone stole the butternut squash I had been carefully and massively watering for the past few months. Sigh.

However, for the first time ever, I still have living squash plants in my plot. I have been battling squash bugs all summer. They have destroyed all of the squash plants (including pumpkins) in the Garden except for a few in mine and Charlie’s plots. It’s been a lot of work.

Then, I put everything away, packed up the tank hoses and pumps, etc. and left for the evening before having a chance to plant our second season Fall crops (i.e., turnips, lettuce, and more greens). These early sunsets are very inconvenient.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Milestone Achieved; SACG Obtains Tax-Exempt Status

Oh happy day! It’s raining (but who knows for how long).

This morning’s mail brought a Determination Letter from the Internal Revenue Service confirming that the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, Inc. is “exempt from Federal income tax [as a public charity] under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to you are deductible under section 170 of the Code. You are also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts . . . . “ With this lovely letter, we can apply for grant funds without finding and working with a fiscal agent/sponsor sufficiently in advance of the grant deadline. The gifts and contributions we receive from our supporters can now be deducted on their tax returns (if they itemize). And, once I figure out how, we will likely be exempt from state sales tax as well. So, this is another step towards long-term financial sustainability.

Obtaining a tax exempt Determination Letter is a long and time-consuming process. As you can imagine, the Internal Revenue Code (and all of the supporting and explanatory publications, rulings and decisions) are lengthy, complicated and detailed. Once you have read and digested all or most of them, you are required to complete a Form 1023 – the application for tax exempt status. This will also require you to provide supplementary information and attach other documents in support of your application. After going through all of that, you then pay the IRS $400 to read, and hopefully approve, your application. It was a three-month wait for us after submitting our application in May.

It probably took me longer to draft our application than it should have, but I obsess over everything. I am glad that I did so, because we did not receive a single follow-up question from the IRS. A friend at the Columbus Foundation had suggested that I first review the 1023 applications submitted by other community gardens. Unfortunately, there are not that many standalone community gardens (in that they are often affiliated with a church or other charity). However – get this – not a single community garden that I could find in Central Ohio or nationwide would share its 1023 application with me even though they are required to do so under federal law. Is that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?!! One told me that they lost it. Lots of finger-pointing at whose fault it was. Another told me that they did not want me to benefit from their hard work and inferred that I was a lazy freeloader.  Really? Craziness.

Luckily, I am not that petty and am attaching our application and supplement (with home addresses redacted) in case any other community garden wants to get some comfort level with what to expect. You cannot just copy from our application verbatim because your application will be fact specific to your particular circumstances and activities. You should also if at all possible retain a certified public accountant or lawyer to help you navigate this process. You can contact the Columbus Bar Association’s pro bono referral service to see if they can find a local attorney who will volunteer to help you free of charge. (While most pro bono attorneys help indigent individuals, the corporate attorneys prefer to help organizations with issues like this). If they can’t find someone quickly, then call Marion Smithberger at the CBA and beg him to twist some arms. Assure the CBA that you expect to do most of the work, and will not put everything off on the lawyer, but need experienced help and judgment in reviewing what you are doing.

I have not attached all of our supplementary information because it is so extensive (i.e., bylaws, resolutions, newsletters, etc.). However, I will make this available to review upon a proper request in compliance with federal law and will not lose it.

Now, back to my happy day jig. And lunch.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blessed to be a Blessing: Vineyard Columbus Volunteers at the SACG

This morning, approximately 1,000 members of the Vineyard Columbus church volunteered throughout the City of Columbus to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the church with a giant servant evangelism event. Eight of them – in matching t-shirts -- volunteered at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden weeding and watering the food pantry, pepper, and bean plots, staking and tying tomatoes, weeding and watering flower beds, weeding along the alley, picking up litter in the greater Stoddart Avenue neighborhood and harvesting approximately fifteen pounds of produce to donate to the Lutheran Social Services food pantry at Frebis and Champion on the near south side of Columbus.

Sandy Lindsey – who tends a plot at the SACG with her daughter, Kelly, organized the group and kept them sugared up and hydrated. She was the first to arrive. Two members of the group were serious gardeners and stayed behind after everyone else had left around noon because they could not stop pulling weeds. And we have a lot of weeds. They are welcome at the SACG anytime.

SACG gardeners Beth and Rayna came by to clean up their plots and to harvest produce. Rayna donated yellow tomatoes from her own garden. After almost everyone had left, Barb & Frank came to clean up their plot and donated a boat load of tomatoes and squash (as well as basil for our weekly barter delivery to Bexley Pizza Plus).  
Taking picture with someone else's cell phone

I showed our gardeners our new toys which were delivered yesterday and was able to try out our new solar-powered pump.

As I was packing up to leave, a photographer from the Vineyard Church showed up to photograph the Garden, and I had to explain to him that he had just missed the Vineyard volunteers. Two of the neighbor girls had stopped by for sweets and to play in the sand box, and so Kenaya and I (in all of my sweaty glory) posed for pictures to be shown at tonight and tomorrow morning’s church service.

SACG Gardener Kelly was splitting her time between two Vineyard volunteer groups that were assigned to the Weinland Park Community Garden and the Highland Youth Community Garden in the Hilltop. In the meantime, Urban Connections had organized a different group of volunteers to pick up litter along East Main Street in preparation for the Children’s Parade on September 8. For that matter, if you haven’t driven down East Main Street recently, you should see all of the new curbs and curb cuts the City has installed in our neighborhood this summer.
The hard-working Vineyard volunteers did such a nice job of weeding that I’ll be able to spend Labor Day weekend (next Saturday) planting lettuce and turnips for a November pre-Thanksgiving harvest. Many hands make light work:)

Friday, August 24, 2012

SACG Welcomes Second Rain Tank and Solar Pump

As earlier reported here, the City Land Bank has arranged to purchase and loan to community gardens rain tanks and solar-powered pumps through the Rebuilding Together Tool Library. This morning, Jonathan and Luke from Rain Brothers came to the SACG to install our new 300 gallon tank.

 As you may recall, when the SACG broke ground in 2009, Rain Brothers generously donated four rain barrels to our efforts. This enabled us to harvest and store 200 gallons of rain water. However, we would still run dry from time to time and have to bring water from home. Then, in 2010, the City provided us with a grant to purchase a 550 gallon rain tank from Rain Brothers. This was a game changer and we have always had sufficient water on hand for our needs until this year’s drought and water thefts. I mentioned to Leslie Strader in the Mayor’s office that we needed to increase our storage capacity to stay on top of the drought and the theft of our water. Later, I heard that the City was starting a new tank loan program and Leslie put me in touch with Rebuilding Together.

The nearby neighbor who lets us harvest rain off her roof was not willing to let us utilize a third downspout closer to Main Street. So, the new 300 gallon tank will replace the four neon blue rain barrels (with only a 200 gallon capacity). The new tank also has a smaller footprint than the four barrels and is much less of an eyesore for the St John's Baptist Church parking lot next door. Jonathan and Luke completely rebuilt the platform for the tank from the bricks and cinder blocks we had used to support the barrels.

The SACG is the first garden (and the pilot project) for the new tank loaner program. The tank is attached to a downspout so that when the tank is full, the water will simply continue to run down the downspout. In the winter, we unhook the tank and use a pre-attached plug to divert all rain down the downspout.

The solar-power pump will be used to transport water from our larger 550-gallon tank to the garden. Because it is not safe to leave the solar cell or the pump at the garden, I’ve put it somewhere safe to charge the battery. It comes with several hoses. We took the filter from the new tank to put on the pump.

As you probably know, we are not expecting rain for another week (other than a potential pop-up shower on Monday).  So, Rain Brothers is coming back to fill up our new tank -- courtesy of the City's tank loaner program. 

As for our trusty barrels, we’ve made arrangements with the Accurate Auto Center on East Main Street (which is next to the Block Watch flower garden), to let us hook up a gutter to the roof of its paint shop in order to capture rain water and to put a couple of barrels along the alley a/k/a Cherry Street behind the paint shop to store the rain water. These barrels will act as a back-up for the SACG and will support the Block Watch flower garden. As of now, SACG gardeners Barb and Frank have been transporting water twice a week from their home to keep the water garden hydrated.

We’re also thinking of loaning a barrel or two to another community garden in need. So, if you are such a garden, please contact me directly for more details.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Annual GTG Harvest Celebration

Aside from the lack of rain, I have loved the weather we have had the last couple of weeks. Last week, I attended the free Pro Musica concert at Franklin Park Conservatory and it was bliss. Tonight, I was back at the Conservatory for the annual Growing to Green Harvest Celebration and Awards ceremony. As in years’ past, the food was fabulous and the weather was amazing. This is always an inspirational event and a nice time to touch base with other community gardeners. It doesn’t hurt that it is catered by yummy City BBQ (which grills the chicken on site) and is supplemented by a potluck of dishes made with fresh garden produce. Like the last two years, it was held in a giant tent on the south lawn. The event is organized and executed by the detail-oriented Women’s Board of Franklin Park Conservatory. I was joined by Cathy, and SACG gardeners Kelly, Charlie, Barb, Marvin, and Mari. We were briefly joined by an old friend from my Actors’ Theatre days, Simon Dowd, whose wife manages the Gantz Road Community Garden (last year’s community garden of the year). I also ran into former fellow Actors’ Theatre Board officer, Roy Clark (who now manages the NNEMAP food pantry and was there to support the Good Samaritan Community Garden).

There was a brief mention of the FPC’s Hub Garden program. Christy Gale, VP and Branch Manager of the JP Morgan Chase branch at Polaris talked about the bank’s support of GTG and how much they loved the community garden they started for staff at the Polaris branch.

The main event are the community garden awards.  There were 30 gardens nominated this year.

Neighborhood Improvement Project of the Year was sponsored by JPMorgan Chase. This $250 award goes to the park, gateway, streetscape, school or other community beautification project that does the most to beautify the surrounding community. I should admit that I nominated the collaboration of the SACG, Block Watch and Urban Connections to clean up the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood and push for the demolition of our former neighborhood eyesore. However, the award went to 4th Street Farms in the Weinland Park neighborhood. SACG gardener Joey sometimes volunteers there on Saturdays and they have nice t-shirts.

Education Garden of the Year was this year presented and sponsored by the Keefe Family Foundation. This $500 award is given to a school or other organization that utilizes garden projects for educational purposes. It was given to the Highland Youth Garden in the Hilltop, which has approximately 300 children participating. This Garden started in 2009 and had previously won Community Garden of the Year in 2009 and Peggy won Community Gardener of the Year last year.

Paul B. Redman Youth Leadership Award is presented by the Franklin Park Conservatory's Women's Board and provides $250 to the youth (under the age of 18) for use for his/her community garden or his/her education in gardening. This year, it went to Justin, a volunteer at the American Addition Community Garden who helps the younger children learn about gardening. Justin, who lives in New Albany immediately donated the award to the community garden.

This was the second year for the Sustainability Award, which is sponsored and presented by the American Community Garden Association through its Executive Director, Beth Urban. This $250 award recognizes the garden that is utilizing sustainable community gardening practices, including community building activities, sustainable garden design, and green practices (such as rain barrels, etc.) that have proven sustainable over the long term. It also comes with a garden cart (valued at $250) donated by the Gardener Supply Company. Last year, it was awarded to the SACG and we raffled off the cart, which was won in November by Marge Telerski at the St. Vincent de Paul community garden (where I donated SACG tomatoes this morning). How ironic, then, that the St. Vince de Paul Garden won the Sustainability Award and the cart this year. Bruce Harkney mentioned the garden’s new greenhouse, which helps extend its growing season, and its new programs of providing garden plants and containers to the clients of the food pantry the garden supports. Marge, of course, mentioned that anyone who has been able to grow anything this summer deserves an award. Amen Sister. The SVDP garden has previously won community garden of the year and neighborhood improvement project of the year.

Community Gardener of the Year. This $250 award for the community gardening project (sponsored by GreenScapes Landscape Co.) was to be awarded on account of a person who is exceptionally dedicated to his/her neighborhood garden and/or the movement of community gardening in central Ohio. I have to admit that I thought this would finally be the year that Penny and Suzanna from the Evergreen Garden Ministries (which has six gardens in three counties and involves scores of children) would finally get well-deserved recognition. But I was wrong. This is the third year in the past four that it went to one of the gardeners of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Community Garden off Mill Run. Todd Marti received the award this year. Kelly Hern received it in 2009 and in 2010 it went to Glen Demott. They grew over 9000 pounds of food last year to support the church’s urban ministries and to support the Lutheran Social Services food pantries.

Community Garden of the Year. This $500 award (sponsored by The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company) was to be awarded to the top neighborhood gardening project for beautification and/or food production. This year it went to the Good Samaritan Community Garden. It is supported by Ascension Lutheran Church and supports, among other things, the local Bhutan immigrant community. It began as a way for the gardeners to grow food for the clients of the Helping Hands free clinic and then to support the NNEMAP food pantry in the Short North.

There was another new award this year. The Boyd W. Bowden, D.O. Garden Impact Award (sponsored by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation) was to recognize a garden that excels in Nutrition, youth education, promotion of culture and food projection. This was the least suspenseful event of the evening (despite Patrick’s protestations to the contrary). It went to Franklinton Gardens for all of the fabulous work it does on the near west side.  And their matching t-shirts.  Franklin Gardens won community garden of the year in 2010.

Nice night.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Corporate Partnerships Can Help Raise Garden Produce for Food Pantries

I am about to embark on my annual journey to my hometown to celebrate my Grandfather's 97th birthday.  Because everyone else is contributing high-carb foods to the potluck, I'll be bringing my Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw to add some color to the table.

Although it's in a rural area of the state, my hometown shares the problems of urban centers in supplying sufficient fresh and other produce for its food pantries (necessitated by high unemployment in my home county).  Therefore, a group of churches banded together to grow their own fresh produce for 20 area pantries.  Some churches had their own land and others grew produce (like potatoes, corn and tomatoes) on the land of their members.  However, in a different twist, one of the five acre pantry plots is on land owned by a manufacturing plant, Weastec.

Weastec is permitting the Hope Christian Alliance to grow beans on the five acres behind the local plant to raise food for area food pantries.  The biggest problem now -- as reported by the local newspaper -- is that they cannot find enough volunteers to harvest their very substantial crop.  I can certainly relate to that.  (My home county has been blessed with sufficient rainfall this year -- unlike the near East Side of Columbus).

Weastec's Senior Vice President said that the plant wasn't using the acreage for anything and had to mow it.  So, it hasn't been any problem for them to let the Alliance plow and plant it.  They considered putting an orchard back there, but they are concerned about deer and the delay in having a harvestable crop.  The company hasn't had any problems with litter, trespassing, etc.   It's just disappointing that not enough people or pantry clients have volunteered to help pick all of the beans being grown back there.

I think it's nice that a local employer has a creative way to give back to the community where it is located.   It's one of my favorite corporate-garden partnerships:  one that doesn't cost the company anything, but is a big help the community gardening movement.  (Just like the SACG's partnership with BTBO to let us harvest rain water off its roof).  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Peaches and Other August Events

You may recall how I am a bean freak. However, with the exception of my yard-long beans which are drought tolerant and reliably productive, the rest of my regular, Shelley and heirloom beans have pretty much all withered and died. Sadness all around. I’ve had a handful of green beans this summer. The black beans are hanging in there (which means there is soup in my Fall future), but there is no joy in 1/3 of my Garden plot this year. Since we received 2 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, I may try and plant some more tomorrow morning. Kroger’s has a good price for beans this week, but everyone else is charging about $1.50/pound.  I feel comforted that I am not the only one having a tough bean year.

Faithful readers may recall that I am also a peach freak. One of the SACG neighbors asked me to teach her to make and can jam. So, last week, I drove to Lynd’s Orchard Farm Market north of Pataskala to get peaches and bulk tomatoes. Pecks are $14; half-pecks $9 and a peck of seconds (which last week were just small white peaches) are only $7.  Peaches purchased from an orchard bear no relation in taste to what you can buy in a supermarket.  Trust me.  Mary and I learned this a few years ago when we bought peaches from Legend Hills Orchard at the Bexley Farmer's market.  Once you've had fresh peaches, you never go back.

I also got a peck of tomatoes last week for $9. Today, I got a half-bushel of tomatoes there for $9. (They also have pecks of pickling cucumbers for $9). Considering that my tomatoes are not a wildly productive in this drought, I wanted to make sure that I have enough tomatoes this year to get me through until next July.)

There are scores of varieties of peaches.  Who knew?  I'm starting to learn that they do not all ripen at the same time. Peach varieties are categorized by color and pit.  There are white or yellow peaches.  Then, there are cling and freestone peaches (which refers to whether the flesh clings to (or not) the seed pit).    My favorite varieties are yellow peaches.  The easiest to can are the freestone -- which ripen in late July through September.  Because of the heat and drought, the harvest is a few weeks ahead of schedule (like everything else).  The peaches are also smaller (and maybe sweeter) than usual.  I'm usually not a fan of white peaches, but the white peaches I bought last week were quite tasty and looked very cute in the jars.

In years past, I've made what I call a fuzzy navel marmalade (i.e., peaches and naval oranges). However, I seem to be the only person who likes it. Last weekend, I tried a new recipe -- from Martha Stewart’s website – for peach rosemary jam. Oh boy. Is it good, or what. I never would have thought of that all by myself. (I did, however, add pectin). I’ve been eating it on crackers all week. I added triple sec to one jar just for grins and giggles.

This weekend, I’m going to try and teach Cathy to make jam and to can her preserves. I bought more peaches and perused a new Better Homes and Garden canning magazine that I picked up a few months ago. I’ll be making three peach jams. One with ginger. One with triple sec or cointreau. And then I have to chose between jalapeno, basil, white wine or bourbon. Oh the decisions.

Shockingly, my friends who receive my gifts of jams generally forget to return the jam jar so that I can refill it for them. (My mother is never so negligent. She ensures herself of refills every year). I had to go shopping for jam jars this afternoon since I am close to running out. My favorite are the 8 oz jars I found a few years ago at the Giant Eagle in Reynoldsburg. My next favorite are the half-pint quilted jelly jars. Wal-Mart had loads of them, but charges more for them than pint jars. Go figure. Then, the really fancy ones (i.e., short and wide-mouth) are about a dollar a jar and can be found at Target, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. For that matter, the East Broad Street Lowe’s had absolutely everything you could possibly need (except quilted jelly jars) to can tomatoes or peaches near the back door in aisle 32. One cannot truly be a home food preserver without owning at least one copy of Ball’s Blue Book, which you can get at Lowe’s for about $6. I usually wait until late Fall to buy jars on sale or really early at Big-Lots. However, there are peaches that need me now, so what’s a girl to do?

With the peck and a half of peaches that I bought last weekend, I made 3 pints of jam and canned 10 pints of peaches. I don’t need to can any more peaches, so this weekend will be devoted to making jam, making and canning a pasta sauce, and then canning tomatoes for the rest of my winter cooking. I might even freeze a few peaches to use in smoothies and margaritas.

For those of you new to this, the University of Georgia has the best website for jam recipes, etc. If you mess up your jam, you can start over or use it as a syrup or meat glaze. I have some blue and blackberry jams from years’ past that are pretty hard, but now I know that I can use them to glaze chicken or pork in a slow cooker over the winter.   I can't wait.

While I am weeding, planting and harvesting tomorrow morning at the SACG, Cathy and her kids had planned to be picking peaches at Legend Hills Orchard near Utica (and probably having Velvet ice cream). (I love Legend Hills, but it’s farther away than I can conveniently visit every week). Cathy and I will be experimenting with peach jam recipes on Sunday afternoon. Hopefully, I will find time before then to mow my grass, vacuum the living room and mop the kitchen . . . .

Thursday, August 2, 2012

SACG Faces Dog Days of August

Block Watch and SACG on August 1, 2012

The dog days of August are upon us. Traditionally, August is one of the wettest months of the year, so I am not particularly dreading the next couple of weeks because the humid heat also generally brings late afternoon thunderstorms.

Demolition Update. The demolition of the next-door eyesore is finally complete and the back hoe is gone. The crew removed all of the bricks and foundation stones from the old building and filled it with dirt and top soil (some of which had some stones). However, gardening next door will not be nearly as back-breaking as cleaning out our current two lots (which are riddled with construction debris, old sidewalks, driveways and foundations). The crew spread grass seed and topped it with straw. Sadly, the seed is unlikely to germinate anytime soon in this drought. The crew also replaced our cherry tree, but used peat moss (instead of Scotts tree soil) to plant it, so I’ll be properly replanting it this Saturday morning. After watching us work steadily in the high heat for the past month and watching all of the kids come and go, the crew began to appreciate all of our hard work and planted two more cherry trees in the newly vacant lot (since it looked so lonely with only straw). It was kinda sad to see them try to water the new trees on Monday evening armed with only gallon jugs of water. (I let them use water from one of our barrels).

The Block Watch has asked the City to lease the lot for another flower garden and has begun to water the new trees, but we haven’t heard anything back from the City. . . . . .

The new president of the Franklin Park Area Association (i.e., the neighborhood civic association) is so impressed with the improvements that have been made over the last year that he wants us to put a marker on the lot designating it as the southern gateway to the Franklin Park neighborhood. Of course, he also wants us to raise the money for the marker . . .

Super Stoddarts. Our youth program continues to meet on Monday evenings. Although no one came last week (with the 93 degree heat at 6:30), we had a couple of girls come this last Monday. Root Barb read them a fairy story and sent them home with their own book to read for the rest of the summer. I then showed them how to make a rain gauge out of a two-liter bottle. Over the summer, we have read a few chapters from Seed Folks, learned about different irrigation techniques, garden safety, seed structures and types, and the basics of rooting. We have five beds being tended by youth gardeners this year. Unlike past years, the kids have been very good about weeding their garden beds, but they have not been as reliable in watering them.

FCMG Intern Volunteers. Last week’s rain made all our plants double in size, including the weeds. Thankfully, four new interns from the Franklin County Master Gardener program came last night to help me weed and water. They watered and weeded our food pantry pepper and bean plots for about 90 minutes and one stayed even later to water and weed the center flower bed. They were obsessed with properly composting the weeds. The peppers perked right up and the bean plot looks respectable again.

Second Umbrella. Anne from the Women’s Board of the Franklin Park Conservatory donated a patio umbrella to us to provide us with more shade during these hot and sunny days. The kids feel very special playing in the sand box when it is covered with an umbrella and always ask us to put it up for them. If I could only get them to clean up after themselves before they leave for the evening . . . . .

SACG on March 31, 2012 Pre-Demolition

Drought Tips. While our plants (particularly our beans) are not as prolifically productive this year as last year, several of us had had a decent harvest and I’ve already started to can tomatoes again. We’ve even had corn and my eggplants have loved this dry and hot weather. While we usually do not utilize fertilizer at the SACG because of all of the compost we’ve invested in our soil, this year fertilizer has made a huge difference in helping our plants to thrive in the drought because they cannot absorb enough nutrients when the top few inches of soil are dry. Those of us who regularly water our plants have been more fortunate than the gardeners who are trying to survive by only watering once every 7-10 days. Not only are our fruits larger, but the regular waterers have avoided the worst of the cracked tomatoes and blossom end rot (i.e., the black bottoms on tomatoes). Our peppers are also bigger. My bean crop has shockingly shriveled up. This is because I didn’t water it much – if at all – in May. However, the beans I planted in mid-June or later are doing ok. Indeed, my half-row of asparagus beans (also known as Chinese beans or yard-long beans) are drought tolerant and I’ve already harvested several pounds of them. I should have planted more of them.

SACG on August 1, 2012 Post-Demolition

Finally, I've put an end to the continued theft of our water by placing bibb locks on the spickets of our tank and one of our barrels.  These are pretty nifty. (You screw a plug onto the spicket that keeps water from escaping and then put a bibb on top of it which is then locked).   The expensive brass bibb does not come with a lock, but I purchased an extra combination lock to use.  The less expensive model comes with a small key-lock, but there are only three keys and I never remember to bring one with me to the Garden.   You can get them at Zettlers on East Broad Street or on Amazon.