Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting It Done

Another year.  Another beautiful closing day.  Despite 30-mph winds and a chilly morning, our volunteers got a lot done during our closing work day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  I picked up donuts, apples and apple cider at 9 a.m. and then headed over to the SACG.   When I arrived and began unloading the rakes, pruners and loppers I had picked up on Thursday from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library, the Area Planning Commission was touring the BTBO site next door in connection with a zoning variance application to convert the site from a prison re-entry program to a day care.  I started to clean out the neighbor plot and transplant some kale seedlings in the empty spots. 

Sabrina, Tom and Zephyr arrived with home-made pear muffins and went to work.  Tom raked out all of the garden beds and composted the waste.    He then disconnected the smaller rain cistern from its downspout.  I turned to pruning and cutting back the middle flower bed and southeast flower bed.  Sabrina emptied the shed, cleaned all of the tools, organized the shed contents and re-filled the shed and then pulled all of the tomato stakes and cages and tarps and similarly reorganized and stacked them.  Not finished, she then pulled the bags of mulch and garden soil, and pruned back the invading raspberry bushes.  The shed area has never looked better. 

Mari arrived and finished pruning and cutting back the front flower beds and rose bushes.  She then turned to helping Rayna prune the raspberry bushes on the west side of the Garden.
Do you know what made this?
Rayna arrived with a home-made cake and was put in charge of pruning back the raspberry bushes.  Her time-proven method:  cutting back everything to the fence line and then cutting out any dead branches.  I then turned to bagging the brambles she cut out.  This was easier said than done because it was windy and difficult to get the brambles into the lawn waste bags without getting hurt.  I started to cut them down in manageable-sized pieces.  During this exercise, she came across two cocoons of mysterious origin.  We aren’t sure what bug created them or what to do with them.  Were they created by hungry praying mantises?  Protective garden spiders?  Destructive caterpillars?  Do tell if you know!

Barb then arrived and began pruning the south flower bed.  She and Frank had already removed the Garden sign earlier in the week and will be removing the gates in a few weeks.

I turned to transplanting raspberry seedlings that Rayna and Sabrina had cut out (when they left the fence line).   I filled in all of the empty places on our fence line, but still had many seedlings left over.   I filled a bucket so that any community garden may take some seedlings for their own edible fence.   Many seedlings went to the yard waste bags.   Please contact me asap if you’d like some seedlings.

Tom tried to flip our compost, but the bins were overflowing, so he tuned it a little.  He then poured the rest of the zoo compost around the flower beds.   Sabrina, Tom and Zephyr then headed out to an event at COSI, so the teen volunteers finished stacking the tomato cages and covering that space with tarps (to protect those supplies from the winter weather) and stacking our extra bags of soil and mulch.     Before they left, I gave Sabrina a picture collage of her volunteer efforts throughout the year which made her the SACG Volunteer of the Year.  In addition to our mandatory work days and performing her chores, she also came on many extra days to help me maintain the garden and single-handedly weeded the alley area and west side of the Garden.

Like last year, this is the weekend of the annual youth conference of the Church of God.  Last year, the theme was Collide.  This year, the theme was Impact – as in community impact.  Last year, we had a group of teenagers from Alliance.  Our teen volunteers this year were from Eaton.  (I’ve actually been there – near the Indiana border – because of the Neaton Auto plant).   They arrived after lunch and none too soon.

They also took over bagging Rayna’s raspberry canes and the flowers Barb had pruned while I turned to pruning the flowers that had been growing along the alley.  One of the girls joined me in making our last food pantry harvest for the season (although I might come back to harvest sage and chives since I had run out of bags). The youth adult volunteer supervisor went through the Garden to pull the plants after we finished our final harvest.   He was disappointed that our neighbors did not join us and I had to explain that most of our volunteers had been there earlier and left around lunch time.
Earlier this week, Charlie hand-sanded both of our benches.  Two of the girls then stained/weatherized them.

A larger group of teen volunteers was helping out Urban Connections.  Cathy stopped by to tell me that they completed four hours worth of projects in just two hours.  I suggested that they attack the litter in our alley, but she thought that they were burned out.  Instead, a group of young men came up and carried our 16 bags of yard waste (i.e., brambles) to the alley dumpsters for pick-up on Tuesday.

Everyone took off (pretty tired) at 2:30 (after getting some cake and donuts) and I drove directly to the LSS Food Pantry to get there before it closed.  Then it was home to rake seven more bags of leaves from my own yard before sundown.  And some vacuuming and unpacking.

This is also the time we bestow the travelling gnome trophy for the tidiest plot.  However, Neal did not show up for the work day to receive the trophy.   We put it in his lonely, but very tidy, plot.    The trophy has spent a year in Charlie’s plot and on Frank and Barb’s back porch.    It almost seems to be a curse because the tidiest plot often seems to go to the weediest plot the following year:-)

We started the day in the 30’s and ended it at 60 degrees.   That’s November.

A job well done.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Be There or Be Square for SACG's Closing Day on Saturday

2012 Closing Day
Remember how concerned I was about the weather forecast for our closing day on Saturday?  As always, no worries.  The forecast changed the next day and now we are only looking forward to blue skies and sunshine.  It will also be much warmer than today.  This is also when we give the awards for tidiest plot and volunteer of the year.

Halloween Damage
Last week, I discovered to my horror that Halloween's storm knocked some branches out of the black walnut tree above the rain cistern we have borrowed from the City and those fallen branches broke the spicket on the cistern (emptying it in the process).   When I notified the Tool Library on Monday, they assured me that they had funds in their grant to repair it -- which will be done by Rain Brothers.  Yea!

This Saturday, we have a full agenda for those of you who want to get your last piece of gardening in before it snows next week:

·        Disconnecting the smaller rain cistern from the downspout;
2011 Closing Crew

·        Pruning the black raspberry bushes;

·        Transplanting black raspberry bushes to the empty places along the exterior fence;

·        Pruning our rose bushes;

 ·        Pruning our four flower beds;

·        Mowing the lawn;
·        Tidying up the shed and cleaning off the tools;

·        Stacking and covering with a tarp our tomato stakes and cages;

2010 Closing Crew
·        Harvesting Fall produce for the food pantry/Faith Mission;

·        Picking up litter and emptying the trash cans;

·        Turning the compost/garden waste in our compost bins;
  • Staining/weatherizing a bench; 
·        Cleaning out the neighbor plots; and

·        Cleaning out the raised garden beds.
2009 Closing Day Crew
I picked up lots of tools and trash bags (donated by Home Depot) from the Tool Library. 
We need lots of help.  The morning crew will start at 9:30 and hopefully finish by lunch, when we are anticipating a crew of teenagers to help us finish up the rest of the work by 3 p.m.  (by which time I will be ready to collapse).  I'll be bringing  apple cider and donuts.
Be there or be square!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Countdown to Season’s End

With only 11 days left in the growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, more and more plots have been cleaned out for the winter. The kids and I are still trying to grow some Fall crops, but the unusually dry Fall has stunted their growth.   I am pleased to report that our recurring thieves did not make another appearance in the last week, so I didn’t have to spend my limited time at the Garden this weekend on repairing their damage.

I have pulled up the sweet potatoes from my and the food pantry plots.   I also made Tyrese harvest his sweet potatoes, which were enormous.  The other boys asked him to share, but I pointed out that he was the one who raised them.  They put them into Tim’s backpack and ran them around the neighborhood to show the other kids.  I have to wonder how many of them made it back home to his kitchen. 
Tim and Teyvian were the only two kids to show up on Sunday.  They wanted to water their Fall crops.  I should have watered mine as well and will have to return this evening to fix that so that my crops can take full advantage of our Indian Summer.  I gave them branches from my Thai pepper plant.  I warned them about how hot the peppers were, but, of course, they had to test my warning.  They were so excited about the pain caused by eating them, that they stuffed the branches into Tim's backpack and ran around the rest of the afternoon showing them off.  Boys.

I also harvested a bag of chili peppers from the food pantry and my plot for our last pepper donation of the year.  I cleaned out all of the summer crops from my plot.  Nothing is left but perennial herbs, Fall crops and some flowers which are still in bloom.  Sadly, the marigolds have not enjoyed our cold snap and have died back a little early this year.

Our food pantry donations are way up this year, but it still makes me very sad that we could have donated another 75 pounds of kale, greens and peppers if those plants had not been vandalized and stolen over the past two months. We will be making additional food pantry deliveries over the next 2-3 weeks.  The last time I was at the LSS Food Pantry, the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Community Garden had just delivered approximately 100 pounds of beets.  (They grow a lot of food in the field next to their Church.  I can’t help but envy their large debris-free field where there is virtually no crime and where they have lots of volunteers who are not afraid to visit their Garden).

I was also able to make my final visit to Lynd's Orchard last weekend (because my niece's soccer game in Pataskala) to grab some Melrose apples and a large box of hot banana peppers.  I canned apples last week so that I can bake apple crisps in a snap over the next few months.  My next door neighbor is a big fan of Trader Joe’s spicy red pepper jelly, so I made a version of my own with the red banana peppers, a couple of cayenne peppers, a couple of red jalapeno peppers, one roasted red bell pepper and a half-cup of chopped apples (which I had left over from the night before).  I was extremely pleased with the result. 

I wasn’t able to come to the SACG last Saturday as planned.  My 98-year old grandfather died last week and his funeral was Saturday.  He was a WWII army air corps veteran, life-long farmer and coon hunter.  (Yes, he was still hunting at 94 years of age).  He lived on his own farm and drove his own truck until June.   He could still squeeze the breath out of me at his last birthday in August.  He was much loved and will be very missed.  While I was on my way to his visitation, I drove through the middle of my home town on my way to the funeral home.  I could not believe that near the probation department was a Free Little Library, much like our own.  I jogged back there the next morning to take a couple of pictures.  I then learned that the ladies’ club which built and placed this had all of their substantial book collection burned in fire (set by arson) a few months ago in a warehouse just a few blocks away.  When I returned to the SACG, I inspected our Free Little Library and noticed that it was running low on books (particularly adult DIY and cookbooks, Martha Stewart magazines, and small children’s books).   My brother said he had some extra he could donate, but my father refused to part with a single book from his vast library.  Sigh.
I will return to the SACG on Saturday afternoon to make more headway on cleaning out the food pantry and abandoned plots.  I can always use more help.

On Saturday, November 9, 2013, we will be closing the Garden.  Right now, the extended forecast is showing rain, but I’m hoping that will change since we’ve always had glorious weather for our closing day.  We will need help with the following:

·        Draining the rain cisterns;

·        Disconnecting the smaller rain cistern from the downspout;

·        Pruning the black raspberry bushes;

·        Transplanting black raspberry bushes to the empty places along the exterior fence;

·        Pruning our rose bushes;

·        Pruning our four flower beds;

·        Mowing the lawn;
·        Tidying up the shed and cleaning off the tools;

·        Stacking and covering with a tarp our tomato stakes and cages;

·        Harvesting Fall produce for the food pantry/Faith Mission;

·        Picking up litter and emptying the trash cans;

·        Turning the compost/garden waste in our compost bins;

·        Cleaning out the neighbor plots;

·        Cleaning out the raised garden beds;

·        And finishing whatever other projects I’ve forgotten.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Flowers and More Desolation

While some gardeners might not appreciate the free-for-all flower beds at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, they cannot deny that we have colorful perennial flowers in bloom from March to November.  That is not an accident. While I wish the beautiful cosmos bloomed earlier and were not quite so tall, I look forward to them and their ferny foliage every year.  We have volunteer cosmos in a few plots (like mine and Sabrina’s) and some that Micayla and I planted in the various beds.  I save seeds from them every year to ensure that we will always have cosmos in bloom every year.  Our purple asters are near the end of their blooming time.  My African marigolds are still going strong.  Dozens of bees every year decide to die in their blooms each Fall.  I finally remembered to save lots of seeds from them this year and am amazed that I have a number of volunteer marigolds coming up in my cleared out beds.   I might try to rescue a few and bring them inside for the winter.   Our rose bushes usually stay in bloom until mid-November.  The beds looked a lot better this week because Mari finally weeded them.

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks because I’ve been livid over a recent theft.  Someone broke into the Garden (over the back fence) last Saturday around dawn and robbed us almost blind.  They destroyed a good portion of the pepper beds in the food pantry and my plots.  They cleaned over virtually ever collard green and kale plant in every single plot in the Garden.  They ripped quite a few pepper and kale plants out of the ground – killing them.  They threw pimento, jalapeno, chili and other peppers on the ground.  It was heart-breaking.  They easily stole around 50 pounds of produce (mostly kale, tomatoes and bell peppers).  They destroyed plants that would have given us another 50 pounds of produce by the end of the season.   It’s not as though they couldn’t have signed up for their own plot and done their own work to raise their own food.  I added a third layer of fence and more stakes in that corner to deter additional thefts.  This week, it looks like someone came over the front gate area again (but this time to the south of the gate), so I reinforced it last night.  Sigh.  We've had more significant thefts of produce this year than all prior years combined.    I cannot describe how angry I am that freeloaders are taking our food -- all of which requires cooking (so I know it's not homeless people).   Of course, Neal's car was vandalized and robbed this week in Bexley, so it's not just a Near East side thing.
Like the other SACG gardeners, I’ve spent most of my visits the last two weeks in cleaning out plots.  I pulled all of the tomato plants from the food pantry and my plots last week.  This week, I’ve pulled tomato plants from Cassie’s old plot, from around Rose’s bed and started on Chelsea’s old plot.   (Tamara helped me last night). Last night, Shae pulled the tomato plants from her plot (but them just threw them into the compost bins still attached to their green tomatoes, stake and ties.  Three big no-nos.  I had to fix that this morning. Neal cleaned his tomato plants out (and shoveled up all the dropped ones). 

DeShaun's Plot This Morning
After I told DeShaun last night that he had the worse and most overgrown plot in the Garden, he, Shae, Tim, and three other kids pulled everything out of his bed and then hoed and hacked it with new child-sized gardening tools donated by Doug and Suzy Adams.  DeShaun was soooo excited about how many large sweet potatoes he pulled from his plot.  He could not have been more excited.  I think Neal was mystified by the mess they made and their excitement; they didn’t compost or dispose of any of the tomato plants or weeds they pulled.  (I cleaned up their mess this morning). The kids didn’t have school yesterday and so were desperate for something productive to do . . . . I gave them lollipops before they left.   Barb and Frank cleaned out a row of their tomato plants, too, and Sabrina was there this morning in the rain pulling her tomato plants out (with help from Zephyr).   (They didn’t get candy;-)

We still have some Fall crops coming up, but not as much as we have had in the past.  The boys have been pretty good about watering their crops, but the girls have not.   Last night, the kids – particularly Shae – wanted to plant more crops.  Yes, we could have planted garlic, but I’m in no mood.  (Who knows who will have that plot in the Spring.  They might not want garlic).  The Garden is closing in three weeks and the kids seem oblivious to the fact that winter is coming – even though I told them that it might actually snow next week.

Almost all of the sun flowers have been chopped down and put in lawn bags.  There are still some blooming in the front bed, so I left them another week (for the finches).  I still need to clean out Chelsea’s old plot.

Last week, I also pulled virtually all of the basil out of the Garden to satisfy our barter arrangement with Bexley Pizza Plus (just in time for the Taste of Bexley on Monday).   Our harvest was 9% less than last year -- mostly because I hadn't realized in time the adverse effect the shade from my volunteer sunflowers had on our herb garden).

I’ll probably be back at the Garden early Wednesday evening and again next Saturday morning.  The big food pantry plot could stand to be weeded.  I noticed that we have some lettuce and beets coming up where Sabrina planted them a month ago.  Anyone who wants some free sunflower, cosmos or marigold seeds should stop by to help for a few minutes . . . .
This afternoon, I'll be enjoying the rain by cleaning house, doing laundry, canning tomatoes and making soup . . . . .

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stink Bug or Squash Bug - Can you tell the difference?

The local media is obsessing over stink bugs.  They look like our detested squash bugs, but they are different.  While squash bugs eat squash and cucumbers, stink bugs will attack tomatoes. I conducted some research and the difference is very obvious in the nymphs.  Squash bug nymphs are white and stink bug nymphs look like weird ladybugs.  I've seen them and didn't know I should kill them.  Now and I do and so will you.  Here's a very useful article from the University of Maryland:

Many of us have at least a few squash or pumpkin plants in the garden which means most of us have encountered squash bugs. Some gardeners are seeing this pest but believe they are brown marmorated stink bugs. Here are four photos to help you learn the difference in the appearance of the adults, egg masses, and recently hatched immature forms of these pests. In any case- SQUISH, STOMP, and KILL! (Read more about squash bugs)
Adult brown marmorated stink bugAdult squash bug
Adult brown marmorated stink bug Adult squash bug
BMSB eggs and nymphsSquash bug with eggs
Brown marmorated stink bugs eggs and nymphs (photo by M. Raupp)
 Squash bug eggs and nymphs
 For more information on squash bug see our [U of Maryland]  plant diagnostic website and the pest section of this website.  Find out more about brown marmorated stink bugs on the HGIC website.
- See more at:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thank You Muirfield

Sometimes I think it would never rain in Central Ohio but for the Muirfield Golf Club.   We can be having the driest May and then the Memorial golf tournament starts and you can bet your last dollar that it will rain during play.  Why am I thinking of that now? Because until the President’s Cup started at Muirfield this week, we’ve been having an extraordinarily dry Fall.  Between August 9 and October 2, we had only received 4.5 inches of rain at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Since Thursday, we have already received two inches and are expecting about that much more over the next 36 hours.    Whoo hoo.  While that’s not particularly great for the end-of-season tomatoes (which will undoubtedly crack and burst), it’s fabulous for all of the other green things still growing in our Garden.

The kids have continued to tend their Fall crops and are excited to see that everything (peas, turnips, lettuce, spinach and carrots) have sprouted.  They wanted to water their plots yesterday, but in light of the abundant rainfall this weekend, I kyboshed that idea and tried to get them to weed and help me tidy the Garden.  Only Tim took my advice and weeded his plot.  He and Travyon also harvested some tomatoes and peppers from their plot.  The girls focused on searching for sunflower seeds in the spent sunflower plants I was cutting back.   They brought some girls with them from South of Main (a first).   I’m still growing zucchini, but the squash bugs found one of the plants and I sent it to the growing plot in the sky. Like Neal, I also started cutting out and pulling out neglected tomato plants and harvesting for Faith Mission.   I also weeded the small food pantry plot and thinned the turnips.
Barb and Frank have been MIA for a few weeks because they are busy with their new jobs.  However, a very tired-looking Barb stopped by to mow the Block Watch lot across the street and pull some spent flowers.  She told me to help myself to her overgrown beans and tomatoes.  I pulled all of the pole beans I could, saved seeds from the ones that had gone to seed and donated the rest to Faith Mission.  Antoinette and Mihayla also helped by pulling some of the tomatoes.  
We're still being regularly visited by thieves who have been stealing much of my kale as well as peppers, and who knows what else.  I'm positively furious.  I had thought that Hope's freakishly large birdhouse gourd plant was making it easier for them to enter because it protected the thieves from the raspberry bush thorns.  However, after she removed her plant, there was very little raspberry bush underneath it.  (I then transplanted some bushes in that corner to stop that from being an issue next year).  In any event, Hope ended up having an abundant gourd harvest.  Sabrina and I each got one that had been growing into Chelsea's old plot.  This is a pictures of the rest of the gourds Hope harvested.  Her mother, Cathy, has no idea what they will do with them.  It will another six months before they have cured enough to use in an art or birdhouse project. 
In the better late than never category, I have an update on the raised beds built at the Ohio Avenue Elementary School.  Faithful readers may recall that we obtained some donated cedar (which I cut down) from Trudeau Fencing for a raised Garden project at the School.  Our Board member Cathy (from Urban Connections) built and filled the beds.  The teacher and her students planted them during the final week of school last May.  When school re-opened in August, the teacher sent Cathy a picture of their Garden project in all of its glory.  Neat, huh.
Newly built bed in May

We’re expecting cooler nighttime  temperatures this week, which will not be good for our basil.  I may harvest most of the rest of it tomorrow for Bexley Pizza Plus.   This has not been a particularly great year for some of our basil.  Our abundant sunflowers provided too much shade over herb garden this year and that reduced our yield.  And then our recent drought and cool nights have wrecked its havoc as well. 

I’ve been busy cooking to make use of all of my produce.  Last night I made a Rick Bayless recipe for shrimp with passilla peppers and a recipe for green rice (with poblano peppers and cilantro).    Yum Yum.  Tonight will be hippie –stuffed eggplant and maybe fennel chicken with mushrooms.  Later this week, I’ll have sausage stuffed peppers.   Gardening’s not all work.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good Bye Summer

September is traditionally the driest month of the year and this year has been no different at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  In the past seven weeks, we’ve only received 4.5 inches of rain, including the two inches we received 10 days ago.  That has made for an interesting dynamic and reduced yields at the Garden (and, I think, will affect the brilliance of the Fall foliage for the next three weeks).  Fortunately, we’ve had almost perfect Napa-like temperatures with warm days and cool evenings.  All of that is scheduled to change at the end of this week when we will finally start getting “real” Fall temperatures with cool days and even cooler nights.

The day after my last post, someone broke down the fence next to the front gate again and stole food out of the Garden – mostly my kale and green tomatoes from Cassie’s old plot.    Somehow, someone is still getting in and taking peppers, etc., but at least they are not pulling my kale plants out of the ground like those fools did.  Sadly, the Block Watch can’t seem to make time to review the video of the theft even though there are now cameras pointed at the Garden and I was able to give them a pretty narrow window of when the theft occurred.  I spent Sunday afternoon properly fixing the fence and have been giving some serious thought to making this my last year at the SACG (as the leader or a gardener).
Travyon watering the new boys' plot
Some neighborhood boys (mostly Timothy and Joon-Joon) have been pestering me for months about getting their own plot.  With Cassie gone, I told them they could have her plot.  As you may recall, however, Tim decided to play basketball instead of hoeing.  Shae and Mihayla jumped at the chance for some hoeing, but didn’t get very far.  However, that changed and three boys (Travyon, Tim and Joon-Joon) returned and hoed and weeded most of Cassie’s plot. While I was there harvesting produce for Faith Mission one Sunday, they hoed and planted turnips, lettuce and spinach.  They were disappointed that someone had stolen the tomatoes, but there is still kale and basil left. Three new girls then cleared out enough room in Chelsea’s old plot to plant three rows:  peas, turnips, lettuce and spinach.   Because it had just rained the previous day, I told them to hold off watering until I returned on Wednesday.   None of them returned the tools to the shed.  Grumble. 
DeShawn in front of his plot
One of the new girls, Brandy, objected to my helping them prepare their soil because she didn’t want to share any of their produce with me.  (I can’t make this stuff up).  I explained to her that I didn’t need her produce because I had my own.  The other girls then had to explain who I was and that I was just helping them.   Sadly, only Travyon returned the following Wednesday to do any work, so I taught him how to properly water.  DeShawn stopped by to grab a tomato from his plot, but didn’t feel like watering or weeding. 

Although I hadn’t planned on returning this last Saturday, I changed my mind when my niece’s soccer game turned out to be in Circleville instead of Dublin. (Note to Circleville:  no one is going to drive from Columbus to Earthelmas Park for a morning soccer game when you advertise a lack of parking on your website and do not suggest nearby alternative parking and we don’t know our way around).  I watered my and the food pantry plots, tidied and watered the neighbor plot, watered the blueberry bushes, continued pruning the slowly dying sunflowers, bagged a pile of sunflower and corn stalks the girls had pulled out of Chelsea’s old plot, weeded a bit, and then harvested for the LSS food pantry.  Charlie took a break from moving into his new house and stopped by with a friend to harvest his very ripe tomatoes and peppers.  (I had been pestering him). I showed them our resident praying mantis, which was now residing in Sabrina’s plot next to the front gate.  Neal stopped by on Wednesday to harvest, but it’s apparent that none of the other gardeners have been harvesting their produce in quite a while, which is very sad and, frankly, wasteful.  Grumble.  Grumble.  Mari also has failed to tend the flower beds again this month.   The kids also did not stop by to water their gardeners.  Sigh.

A neighbor stopped by and offered to help.  However, after I gave him a tool and gloves to start on the flower beds, it came out that he was expecting me to pay him.  When I explained that I never carry money at the Garden, but could give him food, he respectfully left.

After making the food pantry delivery, I decided to return to the SACG for a few minutes to pick up some fennel seeds.  (I had started drying herbs like savory, thyme and parsley the day before and realized that I had not topped off my fennel seed supply).  This was supposed to be a five minute trip, but a few girls came running over and wanted to water something – anything.  So, I unlocked the shed and tank and let them water all the gardens being tended by girls (3 raised beds and one new garden).  None of the three boys’ beds got any water.  The turnips we planted last week have sprouted, as well as Shae’s radishes.  Neal had apparently stopped by in my absence and started pulling some of his grape tomato plants (which is prudent).

Speaking of fennel, my fennel and dill plants attract a very pretty, but highly destructive caterpillar – both at home and at the SACG.  My squash-bug concoction kills them.  However, I haven’t had any concoction readily available for a while. (And, yes, I am still harvesting zucchini this year, which is blowing my mind).   I decided to kill one of these caterpillars at home, but sevin had no affect. Neem oil by itself did not seem to have much of an affect either.  Finally, I just dropped a few drops of dishwashing soap and that caused it to drop off the plant and crawl up my basil plant (which is not a food it likes).  It died hanging onto a stem.  After I killed it, I decided to research what butterfly or moth I had prevented.   Turns out, these are the caterpillars for the black swallowtail butterfly (which are very pretty).  They look very much like the caterpillars for monarch butterflies, but these eat dill, fennel and parsley and those only eat milk weed).  They are highly indigestible to birds and seem to have no natural predators.  
There was an article in the Dispatch recently that some gardeners grow dill and fennel among their flowers simply to attract these butterflies (which will then lay eggs for these very destructive and hungry caterpillars).  Craziness.   You can read more about these caterpillars and butterflies at the University of Florida and  Texas A&M University websites.

 With 4-6 weeks left in our growing season, we have broken last year’s record year of 500 pounds in produce donations.  Yea team!   I’ve included a few charts of what kind of produce we’ve donated and where we’re taking it . . . .

Going forward, I’ll be cutting down the remaining sunflowers, pulling out dying tomato plants and spent bush beans, watering, etc.   And, of course, continuing to harvest produce.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Slow Wind Down

We are finally preparing for Fall at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and rejoicing that rain finally remembered where we grow.   On Monday, I finally got some of my fall crops (cabbage and bok choy) in the ground, pulled out a row of my bush beans and planted a row of kale and turnips in the small food pantry plot.   Antoinette planted her fall crops as well.

It rained ¾ inch on Wednesday and another .6 on Thursday.  That night, I planted some lettuce and beets in the food pantry plot and we replanted in Mihaila’s plot (because, again, the crops she had planted wilted in the dry heat when she missed a few weeks of watering).

This morning, Sabrina beat me to the Garden.   I was straightening up our Free Little Library and she called my name.  She came just to help me out. And she brought me some home-made apple butter.  So, I turned her loose in the big food pantry plot to chop out our aphid-filled greens and to plant lettuce, beets and snow peas.  She also did some light weeding. I pulled out the rest of my bush beans and planted lettuce, escarole, beets, carrots and some bulbs.   I was also able to harvest most of the rest of my potatoes and – yes believe it or not – some zucchini.   The turnips and kale I planted on Monday had already  sprouted.  Yippee.

Frank and Barb stopped by to drop off two heavy bags of tomatoes for the food pantry.  Barb then told me the totally grossest story about tomato horn worms.  It gives her nightmares.  It will give me nightmares and now you will have nightmares.  I tried to dissuade her from telling me the story, but she would not be deterred.   You see, Barb grew up on a tomato farm.  Bo may know football, but Barb knows tomatoes.  When she was at the end of her teen years, their field was attacked by horn worms.  So, she was assigned to frisk two rows of tomatoes that were each the length of a football field.  She found at least 500 of them and squished them all under her boots.  Totally gross.

As Sabrina was packing up, most of the neighborhood girls came by to water their plots.  Kristin hadn’t been here in a month and so all of the seeds she had planted in August had died.  (She only came this morning because it was a bye week in football; she’s a cheerleader).  So, she replanted some carrots and decided to try some unusual radishes.  She and her sister, Gio, then helped me to harvest tomatoes for the food pantry.  Kristin misses gardening in the ground (because I gave her a raised bed this year in light of the fact that she is very busy with other extracurricular activities and does not keep up with her weeding) and helped to start hoeing out Cassie’s old plot.  One of the neighborhood boys said he wanted it, but then left to play basketball instead of hoeing.  Mihaela came by to help Kristin and they hoed away until I had completed harvesting for the food pantry.  The grass is so thick that they didn’t get very far.  Kristin has joined the band this year and is learning to play the violin.  This girl doesn’t lack for ambition or work ethic.  But even better from my perspective is that I no longer need to help her plant or tend her plot.  She can pick her own seeds, dig her own trenches, plant her own seeds and water them in all by herself.  (Ok, maybe I still have to point out that certain seeds won't ripen in time for Thanksgiving and point her in another direction from time to time:)

Neal came by to harvest tomatoes and brought a farmer friend with him.  Sabrina had told me that she and her family will be moving away at the end of the school year and won’t be back.  Don’t worry, Neal says, he has several friends who want to garden with us next year.  He’s having fun.  He’s the only gardener I have who is getting to know the other gardeners.  He planned to finally remove his cucumber trellis (since the plant has been dead for a while) and possibly plant his own fall crops.  He also entertained some of our new young neighbors.

I weighed and delivered our food pantry donation for the week.   I finally got home around 3:30 and then spent the rest of the day doing yard work.  Although I divided my asters last year and transplanted a number of them at the SACG (where you can see them in bloom right now), I still have a veritable forest of asters in my back yard.    Let me know if you'd like some when I try to divide them again in another month.

Sabrina planned to return after eating to harvest from her own plot.   Neither she nor I will be there next Saturday morning.  In fact, I probably won’t be back on a Saturday morning until October 12 because my nephew is playing football and his sister is playing soccer.   I haven’t decided whether to garden on Saturday or Sunday afternoons and will probably play it by ear.  I’ll be starting to pull out worn out tomato plants and cleaning out the sun flowers, etc.  Although I personally love these cold nights, I need it to stay above 50 for the sake of our basil.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

SACG Picked it Up Today

Today was a busy day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  First, the gardener assigned to water and weed the food pantry plot for the month of September announced to me yesterday that it was inconvenient  for her to do that this week with her active social life and all.  Apparently, it was also too inconvenient for her to weed and water the flower beds as assigned in July.   So, she’s history and I had to come early this morning to water the food pantry plot.   It has only rained just over an inch in the past month and our soil is bone bone bone dry.   Even the peppers are looking peaked.  I don’t know why I get a few gardeners every year who think the chores are optional.  They are not.  We only have two rules: Be a good neighbor and don’t create any extra work or problems for me.  She violated both for the second month this season and I am not very tolerant of laziness.  As I explained to her, the plants would not be alive by the time it became convenient for her next weekend.  I’ll either take over her weedy plot for the food pantry or let a different group of the new neighborhood kids take it.

I had warned a different gardener that she was about to lose her plot if she didn’t come last weekend to weed and harvest.  The weeds in her plot were up to my chest and her food was rotting.  She didn’t come and so two neighborhood girls spent Wednesday evening weeding it, hacking out dead corn stalks (with rotting ears of corn) and thinning out the dying sunflowers.  They each took home a bag of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for their efforts.   They were very excited. One of them had moved into the neighborhood too late to get her own bed or plot and had been pestering me virtually every week to let her garden with us.  Now she can.

But not all was ugliness this weekend.   We participated in the PICK IT UP litter pick up with the rest of the City this weekend.  Most of our gardeners and three of the young men in the neighborhood walked up and down Stoddart Avenue to pick up litter.  Charlie also picked up litter in the alley between Stoddart and Morrison.    I fed them with lollipops donated by Christ Lutheran Church’s youth program and beet red velvet chocolate cupcakes that I baked last night with a beet from my SACG plot.   We also had water donated by Keep Columbus Beautiful.  I told them that they only had to pick up litter for 30 minutes to qualify for refreshments, but no one wanted to stop.  Even after we picked up all the litter between Main Street and Bryden.  I had to make them stop because I had too much work to do at the Garden (with watering, harvesting and hopefully beginning to plant fall crops).  There wasn't nearly as much litter to pick up as there had been last Spring.  That's nice. 
Except for Charlie, all the SACG gardeners stayed behind to garden.  Tom harvested potatoes.  Mari pulled out dying squash and aphid infested kale.   Neal mowed the grass last night and harvested tomatoes today.  He’ll be back tomorrow to clean up DeShaun’s plot and plant some fall crops.  Neal’s so funny.  This is his first year growing ever and he’s had a lot of luck.  He is also such a bachelor.  He apparently does not cook.  Instead, he takes the food he harvests to Ken Yee at Wing’s Restaurant just outside Bexley (where we met during March Madness last year) and Ken cooks him up something fabulous for Neal and his guests.   This is killing me.  We should all have such friends.

Zephyr found a screw driver today
Charlie gave Neal a bunch of his special peppers.  Apparently, Charlie didn’t realize that his chores last month included taking out the trash.  Sadly, I didn’t either and had inadvertently lead Neal to believe that was part of his chores.  So, I suggested that Charlie might want to share some of his peppers with Neal to make up for our collective failure to review the chore chart.  He didn't have to do it, but Charlie's a good guy and very generous about sharing his produce.

Antoinette stopped by to water her bed (where we had planted some fall crops on Wednesday).

I made our food pantry donation and then returned to harvest my own produce and do some planting.  The new girls across the street stopped by to watch me garden this afternoon.  The oldest was cheering at her first football game this morning and her entire family went to watch her. I still had a lot more work to do, but the OSU football game had already started and I still haven’t had anything for lunch. 

We were lucky to have three of the neighborhood boys help us pick up litter this morning.  Today was the day of the Children’s Parade, which Cathy from Urban Connections (and our Board) organized with Courtney from Central Community House.  Burt (from U/C) took a slew of the neighborhood kids (on bikes Ioaned by U/C) to the Parade.  So, the kids couldn’t help pick up litter.  They march from Miller/Keton to the Hot Times Festival in Olde Towne East.  However, two of the boys who helped us planned to go to Delaware County to some place with indoor trampolines and therefore couldn’t march in the parade.  Sounded fun.  The third had planned to march in the Children’s Parade, but had arrived too late.  We almost drove him, but . . . .

Somehow, someone is still getting inside the Garden to steal produce.  I haven’t figured out how yet.  Someone else took landscaping stones from one of our compost bins and threw four of them into our neighbor plot.  I can’t even begin to imagine why they would want to kill the kale and collard greens.  Then, someone pulled off all of the birdhouse gourds growing on our fence and bashed them into pieces.  Again, I cannot imagine why.   This was all very disappointing.  But overall, this has been a good week, so I’m not obsessing.

Well, I’ve run out of things to type.  I needed to write a lot so that I would have a reason to post all of the pictures I took this morning.  

I told the LSS Food Pantry that they might not see me for a few weeks.  My nephew has started playing football for Dublin Coffman and his games are usually on Saturday mornings.  His sister has also returned to playing soccer on Saturday mornings.  So, I have to go be a supportive aunt and put my gardening off until the afternoons for a few weeks.  Luckily, it’s Fall and it will be cooler. . . . and Faith Mission takes produce donations until 5:30 p.m. . . . .