Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Second Five Minutes of Fame for the SACG and Victory Gardens Everywhere

Although I was still giddy over the lovely article published about the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden on Monday by The Columbus Dispatch, yesterday Neal told me that there had been an official editorial about us published on Friday.  It was, of course, wonderful.  It lauded community gardens everywhere.    Entitled: Victory gardens grow with pride, it begins:

Walk into any of the dozens of community gardens in the city, and it quickly becomes clear that what is being tilled and tended and harvested isn’t just locally produced food.  It’s neighborliness. It’s pride.  It’s a reminder of the good things that can bloom when people set their minds and muscles to it.

Of course, I’m not sure the community garden run by the Redeemer Moravian church will appreciate being referred to as a garden club.  (Compared to the SACG, it’s giant).  Also, I don’t understand why the editorial needed to publicize my age.  That being said, I think readers can take heart that if I can do it, they can, too.

People have been sweet.  One of Mari's neighbors brought her some tomato seedlings for the Garden.  A new Stoddart neighbor stopped by just before it started raining to thank me for our efforts.  One of my neighbors mailed me an extra copy of Monday’s article and the Chair of my church stewardship committee (on which I serve) plans to post it on a bulletin board.  A college friend particularly loved the reference to my stubbornness.  (Since everyone knows my age, you can figure out for yourself how long he has known me).   It reminds me of how Cathy described me last year when we were campaigning for the demolition of the building next door. 

Anyway, this has been a fun week at the SACG.  Sunday night I went over to water and pick some berries.  But you know what they say about best laid plans.  While Barb was tending the Block Watch flower garden, she happened upon a dispute of some sort between a working girl and a large gentleman (who, I was later told, was really intervening on behalf of two other neighborhood working girls).  Barb called 911 and felt compelled to stay with the first girl until they arrived, but she had been on her way somewhere else.  I told her that the girl could come with me to the Garden while we waited on the police.  One of the two other girls felt compelled to tell me – in the nicest possible way --  that I was helping a prostitute (like I couldn’t figure that out on my own).   She also felt compelled to warn the first girl – again in the nicest possible way – that the other girls were carrying weapons and would really mess her up.  When one of them started over to talk to her in the Garden, I had to explain that I didn’t want any trouble and would feel more comfortable if they did not have converse any further.  The police came and I had to explain what I knew, etc.  They finally drove off with her (hopefully to her home on the south side).  For conversation in the meantime, I suggested – as nicely as I could – that there are safer ways to make a living.  She said that she needed to earn money because her child’s father had been injured in an industrial accident.  Barb and I are now waiting for the shoe to drop by way of revenge vandalism from the guy and/or two other girls.   Or maybe not.  We feed everyone, including them, at some point in the summer.

Some neighborhood kids came by and wanted to plant tri-colored carrots in Christen’s plot.  So, we had to dig through the seed container until we found the correct package of seeds.  Then, we marched over to the kids’ section of the Garden and planted and watered the carrots.   That task completed, Christen and I turned to picking berries. Rose came by with more popsicles, but nothing will deter me from picking berries and you cannot do that with one hand.  Christen, on the other hand, is a kid who doesn’t turn down popsicles on hot evenings.  She began to think better of her choice when she saw how far behind me she was in picking berries.

Also, our OSU student gardener, Chelsea, came to weed her plot back into some normalcy.  It’s been hard for her to keep up with the weeds while she’s working two part-time jobs and completing an unpaid internship with Nike (that’s in Oregon, folks).   She was explaining to me that she might be gone for a week if she’s called to Oregon again this week. 

On Tuesday, DeShaun and his cousin came to water his plot.  He seemed pleased with its progress.  Micayla stopped by to water her plot and admire the carrots growing in her bed.  We had an extended conversation about all of the volunteer sunflowers I’ve left to grow in place near the front gate.  Micayla then showed the other girls where she helped me transplant sunflowers in the front flower bed and where we planted cosmos flowers.  But mostly, the kids focused on picking and eating berries.  That’s what they are there for.

When I returned on Thursday, Christen and I continued talking about school.  She’s a straight A student.  I promised to bring her some new books to read, but the only interesting ones I felt I could safely give her from my own library (i.e., no s-e-x or b-a-d language) were The Madman the Professor and Miss Manner’s Guide to Raising Perfect Children.  She has started Madman and likes it.  None of the other kids in the neighborhood have books to read this summer and I could really use more books appropriate for kids between the first and fifth grades. 
Saturday was a long day. First, I could not get into the Garden because the locks were busted. One of the area landlords came by and helped me open the back gate, but was a little put out when I wouldn’t give him the combination.  If he doesn’t have it, he can’t be a suspect now, can he, if something goes wrong.   None of us were able to open the front lock, so I’m going to need help cutting it off.  In the meantime, Rose came by with more popsicles, but I was too distracted with the lock situation to eat.

After all that, I got a late start with weeding, fertilizing tomatoes and blueberry bushes, trimming the alley weeds and volunteer weed trees, and composting the flower beds.  Derek, the manager of the Helping Hands Community Garden in Clintonville, was in the area and stopped by.  His garden raises produce for the food pantry at the Clintonville Resource Center.   I gave him a brief tour and encouraged him to borrow (on an indefinite basis) one of our extra rain barrels.  He explained that he didn’t have time to dig up some extra black raspberry seedlings for his garden because he was getting married that evening at 7.  ( I hope the weather cooperated for him).  However, when he saw how many extra wood chips we had, he said that he would make time to fill up a trash can with those to take back with him.  Cassie came by to weed and cut back her bolting spinach.   When Neal came, we repurposed some old fence from the demolished building next door into a trellis for his tomatoes.  His father turned 91 on Saturday and he was off to a celebration.  Meanwhile, Cassie’s sunglasses fell of her head while she was weeding and we couldn’t find them.  I told her I would come back to help her look after I delivered our food pantry harvest because the pantry closed in about an hour.

When I returned, Cassie was gone, but Neal was there with his parents and girlfriend.   Neal is very proud of how well his plot is growing.  He probably wishes he had gotten a bigger plot at this point.  Earlier this week, he took my suggestion and planted pole beans around his corn (which is taller than I am).  We are considering pruning back some of the stalks . . . .    His cucumbers are crowding out his new lima bean seedlings.

I knew that I was forgetting something when I finally left around 3.  It was not until it began raining last night that I remembered failing to replace the bibb locks on the rain cistern.  So, back to the Garden in the rain I went.  Once there, I discovered that the gutter was blocked and was not re-filling  our now-locked tank.   One more thing to take care of this week . . .  

All that being said, I’ve harvested tons of berries, kale, bok choy, spinach, and lettuce, 3 cucumbers, 2 zucchinis, some peas and some beans in the last few weeks.  Not bad.  Time to make some bread and butter pickles and edge my back yard before heading back to Dublin to teach my niece how to drive . . . . . . This will be the scariest thing I do all week.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food Pantries Are Berry Grape-ful for Donations of Fresh Produce from Gardeners

As you have read here in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012,  many Central Ohio food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters are thrilled to receive fresh garden produce to feed their clients. In fact, sometimes, I don’t even make it to the pantry door because I’m intercepted between my car and the pantry when they see fresh greens walking down the street.  Although it’s more problematic to store and display, fresh food is healthier to eat because canned food has a lot of salt and other preservatives. In addition, gardeners can receive a tax deduction for your donation – which will be handy next April.

The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was enacted in 1996 and provides that donors of “apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product” cannot be held liable if the donation was made in good faith unless someone is hurt or dies from an action or omission that constitutes “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.” 42 U.S.C. § 1791. This includes gleaners or gardeners who donate fresh produce. It pre-empts any inconsistent state laws.

Here's the most current list:

Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry – South.  1460 South Champion Avenue. (There’s an automatic sliding door at the side of the building  on the Frebis Avenue side where there will be less chance that you’ll be confused as a client and asked to wait in line by the constantly revolving volunteers who staff the pantry. I always go in the side door). They have refrigerators available to store any excess.
Hours: Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays 1-3 pm. I do not recommend stopping by during the lunch hour because the paid staff may be gone and you will be told to wait until they return or to come back later for a receipt.
Will take anything, but eggplant has not been particularly popular with their clients.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but is not required. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt. They have a large scale on site in the back that you can use if you’re very nice about it.

Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. If they run out of receipts, you can have them sign your own. In that case, it's quicker if you bring two copies of your pre-prepared receipt so that they can keep one and you can take one. However, they have a copier there. They also like you to sign their donation book.
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available, unless quantities are limited.

For more information: Call Manager Dave Drom, Assistant Manager Amanda or Saturday Manager Gene at 443-5130.   They served 8,411 families last month.

Faith Mission. Donations can be made at two locations.
1) 599 East 8th Avenue near the fairgrounds. Go to the front door.

2) New:  The downtown Shelter has moved from Long and Sixth Streets downtown to 245 North Grant Avenue. Turn north onto Grant Avenue from Broad.  Go through 3 lights (at Gay, Long and Spring).  Drive into the driveway between the second and third building (i.e., around back) on the left and park by the two dumpsters.  There is a loading dock with sliding doors.  If no one is there, ring the bell on the left.  This is the only place in town serving three free meals a day to anyone who walks in.  Last month, Faith Mission served over 22,000 meals.  
Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Will take anything , but don’t need cucumbers.  They would love to receive more red and yellow peppers.
Sorting: Preferably sorted. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt.
Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. They have their own forms that they will want to fill out while you wait. They sometimes (i.e., usually) run out of receipt forms, so it’s a good idea to bring your own to have them sign.
For more information: Ask for Mike Vell or any cook in the kitchen. Phone: 774-7726 or the front desk at 224-6617.

**Salvation Army. 966 East Main Street, Columbus, Ohio 43205. This is the closest food pantry to the SACG that I know of. You should park on the side and go to the front door. The pantry is just to the right of the front door. It is very, large, sparkling clean, and relatively empty.
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Will take anything.
Sorting: No need.
Provides tax receipts upon request at the front desk.
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available.
For more information, call Case Worker Jerry Salmon at 358-2626 and leave a message, because he almost never answers his phone.

Bishop Griffin Center---St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, 2875 E. Livingston Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43209 -- one block west of James Rd. at the corner of Wellesley Rd. and Livingston. There is parking along Wellesley Road. This pantry is very, very small.
Hours: 9 a.m until noon on Wednesdays and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays
Will take anything
Sorting: Does not have to be sorted or bagged.
Provides tax receipts upon request.
For more information, contact Marge at or at 237-0720.
**Community Kitchen. This is the first soup kitchen in Columbus. Donations can be made at the rear of the building at 640 South Ohio Street.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Will take anything except eggplant, unusual herbs, peas, chard, and turnips. They prefer bulk amounts so that they can make a whole dish out of it. Smith Farms regularly donates food here.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but need not be bagged.
Provides tax receipts.
For more information: Ask for Marilyn Oberting at 252-6428.

Holy Name Soup Kitchen. Donations can be made at 57 South Grubb Street (off West Broad Street). Go to the front door.
Hours: Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Call from the parking lot after 12:30 because that’s when the doors are locked.
Will take anything they can get.
Sorting:  Please do because they do not have a lot of volunteers.
Provides tax receipts. Can be provided if you wait or it will be mailed to you (if you provide names and addresses).
For more information: Phone: Sharon Wing at 461-9444.  Serving 25 families each day (i.e., 150 people). That’s 900 meals/day for the pantry and 390-400 people/day in the soup kitchen.

***Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Donations can be made at its relatively new location at 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City. Take I-71 South to the Stringtown Road/Exit 100 and take the very first right after you leave the exit onto Springtown Road onto Marlanne Drive. You will pass Brookham Drive to the left and then turn left past the large Agency sign. Pull up to the four garage doors and go into the regular/entry door to the left of those doors to tell them that you have a produce donation. They will help you unload your car, weigh your produce and give you a receipt.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but they prefer that the food be delivered in banana boxes (which you can get from your friendly local grocer) or empty copy paper boxes.
Provides tax receipts. MOFB will weigh your donation on the spot and give you a receipt.
For more information: Call Lori Coleman at 274-7770.

Lutheran Social Services West Side Food Pantry, 82 North Wilson Road.  This is in the Great Western Shopping Center.
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00 until 4:00 P.M.
Will take: anything and everything
Sorting: Not necessary
Provides tax receipts: Yes
For more information: Call Jan at 279-4635.   They serve 80 families every day.
**Our Lady of Guadalupe Center. This is a food pantry at 441 Industry Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43204. This is a little tricky because there is no street sign. It is located in the Valley View Commerce Park of office buildings. It is a one-story, long white building across the street from the ODFJS West Opportunity Center.
Hours: Wednesday– Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Preferably sorted and bagged separately.
Provides tax receipts. You’ll have to fill out the receipt yourself, so it would be a good idea to weigh your produce before dropping it off.
For more information or to schedule a drop-off: Call Alma Santos at 340-7061. The population served by the Center is mostly Latino and Hispanic.

LifeCare Alliance a/k/a Meals on Wheels a/k/a Groceries To Go a/k/a Cancer Clinic a/k/a Project Open Hand. Life Care Alliance has recently consolidated the food pantry operations of the Cancer Clinic and Project Open Hand (which serves the HIV community). It also runs Congregational Dining Centers and Carrie’s CafĂ© for ambulatory senior citizens (who do not yet need meals on wheels). Donations can be made 670 Harmon Avenue. Use the pantry entrance between the two handicapped parking spaces. It’s best to call ahead.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (There are staff there on Tuesdays, but they are usually stocking shelves and unloading trucks).
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but helpful and they prefer that it be washed
Provides tax receipts. Will mail receipts. At drop off, donations should be identified by donor's name and address, product being donated and weight of each product.
For more information: Contact Maurice Elder or Chuck Walters at 670 Harmon Avenue, Columbus, OH 43223 at 298-8334.

NNEMAP Food Pantry. 1064 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio. (In the Short North. In an abandoned Church at the corner of High and Third). It is in the basement of the same building of Directions for Youth. When coming from the parking lot (which is on the north side of the building), you can take a door to the basement on the east side of the building which does not have a number or butterfly on it. There is a white bell on this door on the east side of the building which you can ring for assistance, but you should come down to the basement on the west side of the building).
Hours: Monthly 1st-19th: M-W-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Monthly 20th-31st: M-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Will Take: anything. Eggplant moves slower than most items.  Corn, cucumbers, peppers, carrots and tomatoes move quickly.
Sorted: Not necessary, but it would be nice to have it bagged and sorted.
Provides tax receipts: Upon request. Please have value ready to be inserted.
For more information: Contact Roy Clark (an old friend) at 297-0533 or They served about 11,000 families last year.  They have a MOFB employee come twice/week to sign up new families for government benefits.  Right now, they have a special need for hygiene items (like toothpaste) and baby food.
**Broad Street Presbyterian Food Pantry, 760 East Broad Street (at the corner of Broad and Garfield -- about 2 blocks east of I-71. There is parking in the back).
Hours: 9- noon Monday through Friday (but arrangements can be made to open at 8 a.m.) and on Saturdays from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Will take: anything, especially greens and tomatoes
Sorted: not necessary
Provides tax receipts upon request
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available.
For more information: call Cathy at 203-2544. The pantry serves approximately 700 families/month (which is an increase over 2011).

Neighborhood Services, Inc. 1950 North Fourth Street (at the corner of 18th Avenue).
Hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Will take: anything
Sorted: not necessary, but is helpful
Provides tax receipt: yes
For more information: Contact Martin Butler at 297-0592 or This pantry served 237 families (i.e., 451 people) last month.  They are adding another zip code to their service area in July (i.e., anticipate about a 12% increase in families). Families can take as much fresh produce as they want.   Martin is a square foot gardener and will try to make arrangements to be there for off-hour donations if you call his cell at 565-2399. He really, really wants fresh produce for his clients.

R.J. Hairston Community Outreach Pantry. 1441 Brentnell Avenue.
Hours: 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on  second and fourth Saturdays.
Sorted: Not necessary.
Provides tax receipts upon request.
For more information, call Michelle Moody at 252-6228.

This list is not exhaustive and will be updated as additional information is provided. Feel free to let me know if you have information about other organizations which take garden produce and I will add them. You can find additional Central Ohio pantries on the Ample Harvest website.
** means I have not been able to reach anyone to update the information since 2012.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The SACG’s Five Minutes of Fame

Yesterday, The Columbus Dispatch printed a lovely article about the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and our Stoddart Avenue neighbors, called Garden of Hope.  One complaint some of the neighbors express from time to time is that the only time the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood gets mentioned by the local media is when there is a shooting and/or murder.  That’s not very good advertising for people trying to sell their house on the street or in trying to attract nice people to invest and/or reside here in one of the many boarded up houses or rehabbed apartments.   As many of you know, there have been three shooting deaths close to the Garden on Stoddart Avenue since we broke ground in 2009. The press coverage of the first shooting mentioned that it was close to the Garden, but the other stories have omitted us.  When covering the latest shooting last month, Jim Woods, a Dispatch reporter, noticed the Garden and contacted me to see if there was a story there about something positive occurring in the neighborhood.

If you only read Garden of Hope on the internet, you’ve missed what readers of the hard copies were able to see.  The article was preceded on the front page of the Metro & State section by a story about how poorly Ohio’s children have fared during the recession.  A third of Ohio children live in a home where neither parent has a full-time/year-round job.  A quarter live in households with annual incomes of less than $20,000.   Another story discussed criminal rape allegations against a local attorney.   On the second page, the Garden of Hope story was preceded by a story about how culinary classes offer felons a fresh start.  Our story must have been popular because our East Main Street Kroger’s sold out of them before dinner. (I bought the last one for Christen and had to drive to Eastmoor later to get copies for Cathy and D).    No one was more excited about the story and picture than Rose. I ran into Rose’s family at Kroger’s and they said they would buy one for her.  In the meantime, I let Rose and D read Christen’s copy before I delivered it.
I am extremely glad that the story highlighted all of the hard work that Barb and Frank Carter have contributed to improving the neighborhood. The Garden tends to soak up all of the attention and community support, but they have done a lot for the neighborhood, too.  They've been members of the Garden from the beginning and Frank made our beautiful gates (with cedar lumber donated from Trudeau Fence Company).   I think they are burning out this year because they've been behind in planting in their plot this year.  Also, I think I should point out that aside from loaning us their pick axe (which was extremely necessary), neither Carter helped to plant the cherry trees.   Nonetheless, they are out mowing grass in the lots surrounding the Garden and tending the Block Watch flower gardens week in and week out pretty much by themselves in all kinds of heat.  During last year’s drought, they even filled and transported by truck their own rain barrel several times each week to the Block Watch lot in order to water the flowers and keep them alive for another season.  It’d be great is someone – anyone – could spare some time to help them mow from time to time.

I personally cannot complain about the Dispatch article.  It makes me sound like superwoman.  Although I worry about the publicity because of Matthew 6: 1-4, I sent a copy of the article to almost everyone I know and my mother tells me that she did likewise. (It’s always a plus to make my mother happy because she worries about the amount of time I spend at the Garden and my father worries about how I can possibly make a living with such a divided focus).   I already talk about little else beside the Garden in my daily life.

It’s also a little embarrassing because – as faithful readers know – we have received A LOT of support from scores of people and organizations.  We haven’t been this successful for this long without lots of prayers, divine intervention, generous souls and buckets of sweat.  I was pretty much a walking commercial during the interview about each individual and/or business who contributed to each issue we discussed.  For example, Betty Weaver went door-to-door with me to recruit gardeners that first year and planted the purple clematis in the picture of Rose.  Lowe’s and Scotts Miracle-Gro donated the materials that built the raised bed where Rose is watering.  A lady (aka a former president of the Christ Lutheran congregation in Bexley) from my knitting group donated the seeds for most of the vegetables and flowers at the Garden, etc.  Nonetheless, I recognize that an article with lots of names would not have been as interesting to many as the one that Jim wrote.
Urban Connections also is an unsung hero in the neighborhood.  They work week in and week out with the neighborhood kids, which has always been one of the best things about living and growing in the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood.  UC has recruited adult mentors from the suburbs (mostly UA and Hilliard) for most of the kids, provided tutoring, fed them once a week before age-appropriate bible studies and provided a basketball court and vacant lot where the kids can play in peace.   While their efforts are not as visible and photogenic as the Garden’s work, they are invaluable.

I also worry about what the City will think.  While Dan did suggest that I should start the Garden much farther north (which would have involved driving a bit up I-71), he has been unfailingly supportive since we broke ground.  That support has not waned since Dan passed his community garden duties off to Intern Seth.  The Mayor’s office – through Leslie Strader – has also been supportive, as has Development Director John Turner and Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson.  We have no complaints about the level of city support we have received – particularly this year when they have made arrangements to ensure that we don’t run out of water again like last year.

Because I am a chronic worrier, I also worry about what other community gardens will think about the article.  Not a single one of them have said anything about it to me and I know they read every article about community gardening.  There are approximately 250 community gardens in Central Ohio.    Some have more kids.  Some have more space.  Some raise more food. Some donate more food.   Some have more social interaction.   Our niche has apparently become being a magnet for shootings.  While maybe the most obvious, it was not exactly the rep I was going for . . . .
One of the most challenging aspects about our Garden and also one of its greatest strengths (IMHO) about our Garden is the marvelous diversity of our gardeners.   You may have guessed from the pictures and stories that I post from time to time that some of our gardeners do not live in the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood.  However, we are diverse in ways beyond race.  This year, we have gardeners from Bexley, Berwick, Eastmoor and the OSU area.  We’ve also in the past had gardeners from Whitehall, Grandview and German Village.   Some of them are professionals. Some are unemployed. Some are trade union members.   Some are retired.  Some are college students or recent graduates.  Some are young.  Some are older.  Some are experienced gardeners and others are brand new.  

When I started the Garden, some people suggested that I should focus on social justice issues with gardening as a pretext.  However, I did not start the Garden as an anti-poverty program, social club or church mission.  I just wanted to grow my own food and work with like-minded people who wanted to do the same.  Those people come from all walks of life from all over Central Ohio, regardless of race, income, education, religion, neighborhood, age, faith, mental health or employment status.   The Stoddart Avenue neighborhood has welcomed us all (as well as our frequent guests and itinerant volunteers) and tolerated our sometimes shagginess and growing pains in the process.  While I wish more of our neighbors gardened with us, I understand that different people have different priorities in how they spend their time and maintain a work/life balance.  I also understand that some people do not want to spend as much as I do covered in dirt and sweat or in a cranky/grumbly mood.
I hadn’t expected maintaining the Garden to be such relentlessly hard work.  However, it has become a bonding process when we have gardeners who share in the hard work.  We have discovered that gardeners who do not attend our opening work day at the beginning of each growing season never stay long with the Garden (if they even break ground in their plot).   There is something about working hard with someone on a community improvement project that creates a bond between the gardeners and with the Garden itself.  Nonetheless, we don’t require that level of commitment throughout the growing season because it would be too much of a burden on the individual gardeners.  Regardless, our opening day work equity requirement has discouraged a number of people from joining the Garden.  That concerns me, but not enough to waive the requirement.  Otherwise, I end up doing even more work than I already do.  

So, in short, I hope people know that our Garden is like many other community gardens in Central Ohio.  We grow food and flowers, pick weeds, swat bugs and wilt in the heat like everyone else.  We have many of the same problems as other community gardens in recruiting volunteers and gardeners.   And we overcome them like other community gardens.  We also create opportunities for gardeners to meet, join and solve other problems that they collectively face – like other community gardens.   We also help teach an appreciation for gardening and hard work to the next generation, just like other community gardens.   We are also appreciated by our surrounding neighborhood, like many community gardens.   Maybe this is not as interesting or flattering a story as Garden of Hope, but I don’t have to feel guilty or worry as much about it after the fact.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

It’s Been A Berry Good Week at the SACG

Ah.  Our black raspberries have again been abundant this year at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Speaking just for myself and just for the past week, the berries have been eaten, frozen, donated and baked into a pie (which I ate by myself in 24 hours).  Sabrina has been freezing some as well.   Of course, my arms are completely scratched up.  This year, the neighborhood kids have decided to collect the berries, smash them and drink the resulting smoothies. They cleaned us out of berries on Tuesday evening, but more continue to ripen every hour.  Unlike last year, the  kids have been bringing their own bowls this year.  They're learning  . . . So, it's days like this when I'm thankful that the mother of our Board President went out into the woods near her farm to dig up 20 baby raspberry bushes for us in 2009 and that her daughter planted them in the wood chips surrounding our fence so that we could have abundant berries every June.

Sadly, we’re in for another hot and dry week, which will not help our peppers or tomatoes set fruit.  Our abundant lettuce is wilting and bolting.  Sabrina has raised the nicest and largest lettuce I’ve ever seen and this is her first year.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for our beans.    

I think the deer have finally found our Garden as well.  I know that they come as far east on Main Street as Cup O’Joe’s and now they seem to be coming west from the railroad tracks.  I think this because something (or maybe someone) has cut the unbloomed flower off almost every single bee-balm flower in our front flower bed.  Maybe a surreptitious tea maker cut them off for home-made Earl Grey tea. But I’m betting on deer.  They also seem to like our Russian sage.

After some light weeding and watering on Tuesday, I took a flat of impatiens donated by Straders and planted flowers in front of the rental house of one of the youth gardeners.  She was very much into pulling the weeds out of what had once been a landscaped flower bed.  However, flowers haven’t grown there in years.  Someone laid down plastic to keep the weeds down, but that didn’t work.   We then took turns digging holes in the plastic to reach the dirt and then planting the flowers.  She then watered them in with her mother’s pitcher and turned to pulling weeds out of an abandoned flower bed next to the house.  Since it was getting dark, I had to call it a night.  I need to go back to fertilize, put down some mulch and plant in the side flower bed.  I’m hoping other neighbors will let us plant flowers in their front yards to cheer up the area.  (Or maybe I should engage in some guerilla gardening in front of some of the boarded up houses.  Just kidding.  That would be illegal.).  Unfortunately, I only have impatiens at this point.

Urban Connections had a work day for the kids on Tuesday evening.  Barb came by to help, too, and then turned to dead-heading and weeding the Block Watch flower garden (when she was supposed to be studying for her medical coding certification exam).   Cathy was able to get some more of the flowers planted in front of the ministry house that Straders had donated.  Several of the kids came and weeded and watered their plots.  However, I was not able to help any of them as much as they wanted because there is only one of me and many of them. As it was, I left Sabrina there by herself to keep an eye on the kids while I planted flowers down the street even though she had come to the Garden for some respite from her own child . . .   

On Thursday evening, I watered quite a bit.  This morning, I arrived early (at 8:30) in an attempt to beat the heat.  I weeded, pruned spent daisies and roses, and harvested.  Rose came by and gave me the best strawberry popsicle I’ve ever had.  Ever. I engaged in some one-handed gardening (i.e., deadheading the tickseed) while I enjoyed it.  I pulled my peas to replace them with asparagus beans.   Sabrina and Tom came by and helped to water the front flower bed and the cherry and peach trees.  Kenaya came with Antoinette to water Antoinette’s bed and pick a few berries before disappearing with other small children and a wagon.  Neal stopped by to water his plot and take a picture of his plot’s progress.  I showed him our abundant berry crop.  Then, we discussed how to keep his cucumbers from taking over his peppers and new lima beans.  Next week, I’ll help him create a trellis for his overwhelming tomato plants and teach him how to harvest greens and turnips so that he can help me in the future.

Sabrina and Tom saw World War Z last night and loved it.  It reminded me that I need to ask the Board to approve an amendment to our Garden Rules to include zombies in the following:

 . . .. For that matter, you probably should not leave anything in the Garden which you cannot live without.   Because the Garden is cheap, there is no budget item to pay for Blackwater or other security guards to keep out vandals, raccoons, terrorists, or space aliens. . . .

I guess I could also add “white walkers” for our Game of Thrones fans.

We’ve had some unusual guests this month.  A reporter and photographer from The Dispatch have come by a couple of times and spoken with some neighbors and some gardeners.  They brought rain with them the first time.   I hear that an article should appear (with pictures) on Sunday or Monday.  We’re excited to have some positive news about the neighborhood, but a little nervous about which of our many weaknesses might also be highlighted for the entire world to see. . . .

Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 10.  We’ve been invited to participate as a tour stop on the second annual community garden bike tour sponsored by Yay Bikes! and Local Matters.  

Finally, I arrived at the LSS food pantry around 2 this afternoon.  So far, we’ve donated four times as much produce as we had this time last year.  Now if it would just rain again . . . . .

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Trellising and Berries

I’m starting to accept the fact that we might have normal weather this growing season.  After a dry May, we received a boatload of rain this week and everything tripled in size.  Cassie was not prepared for everything to ripen and grow so quickly after she had planted it.   Our giant black raspberry crop is also ripening, to the delight of your youthful neighbors.

Tuesday, I pruned some of our fading daisies and entertained some guests.   Micayla came to watch me thin her carrots and then to pick berries.  Hope, Ben and Cathy came to pick berries.  Then, Gio and Cristen came to finish planting their bed.  However, they could not agree on what to plant because Cristen changed her mind and insisted on planting a name garden (with a word in flowers).  I insisted that Gio be permitted to have a cucumber plant and Cristen agreed that watermelon would be agreeable.  Otherwise, she spelled out her nickname with pink assylum.

Then, Neal stopped by to check on his plot (and later planted some lima beans in the large bare spot).  His corn is coming up nicely and I need to remember to suggest that he consider the three-sisters gardening:  planting pole beans around his chest-high corn and then some zucchini.  Tom, Sabrina and Zephyr then stopped by.  Tom carried to our make-shift "curb" along Cherry Street the 36-pound giant rock that Sabrina and Neal had dug out last week.  Zephyr watched Cristen plant her name garden and then started crying when I insisted that she take home some of her kale to her mother because he wanted it.  (Sabrina tells me that he is a huge fan of kale chips.  He's three.  Go figure.)  After I teased Neal about his ill-guided decision to not grow any lettuce, Sabrina gave him a bag of lettuce from her own plot to take home.  We all had to skedaddle when it got dark.

Yesterday, I arrived around 9 a.m. and spent the first two hours weeding the food pantry plots, the flower beds and my plot.  Then, I spent an hour or so pruning our fading daisies and spent rose blooms, saving daisy seeds, tying up tomatoes, and planting more pepper seedlings that I suspect Sabrina scavenged from a generous donor.  Mari came and I helped her transplant some of my kale and sweet potato seedlings into her plot.   Antoinette stopped by for the first time in a few weeks to examine her garden bed.  She was delighted with its progress and with the ripening berry crop, but couldn’t stay because she was babysitting her exceptionally well mannered two-year old niece.   Rose stopped by to check on her plot and weed along the alley.  Then, Cassie stopped by, but had forgotten all of her items.  So, she harvested and planted basil.  Frank came by to mow the two Blockwatch lots, mow our lot and grumble about the abundant chicory weed (aka the blue dandelion).

I then spent the last two hours harvesting berries, harvesting turnips, carrots, lettuce, dill, kale and greens for the food pantry and then various spinach, lettuce and kale from my plot. I finally got to the food pantry around 2:30 and was about to drop.   My kingdom for a Mt. Dew!  I should not let my blood sugar and caffeine level get so low, but I hadn’t anticipated it getting so warm or being there so long.  After I got home, I then had to return to the Garden to harvest my peas.   I accomplished very little with the rest of the day.

This week, I noticed that Sabrina had constructed a neat trellis for her pole beans that is slightly different than the trellis she constructed for her peas.  I use a wire trellis myself for peas, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.  (You’ll notice Charlie’s weedy plot in the background.)  We grow our raspberries along our fence (which works as a trellis) and prune the berries back every Fall.  A neighbor a few blocks from my house constructed a very cool tri-pod trellis for his cucumbers and so I took a quick picture.  Of course, we trellis our vegetables in order to save space for other things.  We can grow more food if we allow the vining crops, like cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, watermelon, squash, etc. crow up instead of sideways.  I also use my trellis to shade my tender lettuce, and spinach crop from the hot sun (thus, prolonging its growing season).