Sunday, July 21, 2013

July Volunteers Have Gone Fishin’

It was too hot to do much of anything the past week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.   Our volunteers and gardeners seemed to have gone on hiatus for the month.  The grass has only been mowed once and there has only been light weeding in the food pantry plot.  After all the rain earlier in the month, weeds have taken over the flower beds, the benches and the potato and melon rows in the food pantry plot because Cassie hasn’t left her house to weed even once this month and Sabrina only once.  Those pernicious morning glory weeds are actually pulling our giant sunflowers down and suffocating other plants.   It’s like kudzu.   I’m quite anxious about what the Garden will look like for our tour in four weeks.  Since I had to spend an hour yesterday trying to weed and prune just one of the flower beds, once again I wasn’t able to mulch the flower beds. 

Yesterday was one of the only about three times in the past five years that I’ve been rained out of a summer Saturday.  I meant to get an early start, but convinced myself after waking that the local meteorologists were exaggerating how early the rain would start (since it wasn’t raining at daybreak as earlier promised).  I arrived at 9 and worked solidly by myself for two hours before the rain started. First, I tied up some of our leggy tomato plants in the food pantry plot and in Christen and Tyrese’s plots and tried to train Hope’s overgrown birdhouse gourd plant away from Christen’s plot.  Next,  I pruned some of the overgrown raspberry bushes on the southeast side of the Garden, harvested some cucumbers, a cabbage, a few beans and overgrown zucchini from my plot and then moved on to making the food pantry harvest.  I was able to pick beans, tomatoes, peppers, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers before it started raining.  I decided that a warm rain wasn’t worth fleeing and returned to get some basil for the pantry folks before calling it a morning. The turnips, beets, carrots and kale will have to wait another week.   I know I looked like quite the drowned puppy when I showed up at the pantry an hour before it opened.

By the time I had finished the pantry run at noon, it had stopped raining.  This is actually depressing because it hadn’t rained much in more than a week and we only received about a quarter inch of rain yesterday.  That means I have to return today to water my beans, greens, herbs and flowers.   However, with just a light rain to contend with, I returned to the Garden and spent an hour weeding and pruning the center flower bed.  Two neighborhood girls came by to exchange books, but sadly, they had already read everything in the trunk of my car at their third-grade reading level.  I’m out of chapter books!!!!

Our delicatta squash plants are in danger of taking over a good section of the Garden. (I only planted three or four, but they each take 60 square feet!).  I pruned a few of them back, but am otherwise letting them go until another gardener objects.  I’ve never grown them before and so conducted some research in the afternoon about how to tell when they can be harvested.

I planted a row of Southern cowpea California blackeye or Tiger's eye bush bean in the pantry plot.  They are half-runners. However, the bugs just love them -- while leaving the contender beans in the next row alone.  I'm going to let the rest of them dry because they do not seem very attractive as a fresh bean.   That's one experiment that has not gone well this year.
Two of our giant sunflowers are towering above the shed.  You can't tell how tall they are from this picture.  Sadly, my cell phone camera also failed to capture the several bees that were busily feeding on them, too.  But, you can see the sky temporarily clearing after the morning rain. 

When I visited the Garden on Tuesday, I exchanged books with some neighborhood girls.  DeShaun and his friends came by and insisted on my letting them water their plants and weeding (with trowels).  DeShaun even had to lecture them about the proper way to water (i.e., at the roots instead of on the leaves).   I was overjoyed that they put their tools away before leaving to play basketball with only one reminder from me.  Sadly, everyone reported that Antoinette and her tiny friends had broken into the Garden to steal more of Neal’s corn.  There was even a half-eaten corncob in her bed.  She and her friends denied it. But what am I to do with six different kids telling me otherwise?  Poor Neal has worked so hard on his beautiful corn and I’m becoming skeptical if he will ever get to eat any of it.   If the kids hadn’t told me and shown me the recently eaten corn cob, I would not have known that there had been a break in because there was virtually no other damage to the Garden.  I can’t figure out how anyone got in . . .  The boys tell me that she can still climb the gates because she weighs so little. They tried to demonstrate, but I’m not buying that.  Antoinette was happy to leave with her cabbage, DeShaun with a zucchini, his friend with a tomato and Tyrese with a bag of his collard greens.

On Thursday, I needed some exercise and was skeptical about getting any significant rain, and so I stopped by the Garden to water the neighbor plot and my tomatoes and peppers.  It only took an hour.  Orlando was there and promised to clean out his “man garden” to make a home for my extra tomato and collard green seedlings.   We shall see . . . .   Rose was in the middle of another self-made crisis, and decided to take it out on her radishes.  I was less than sympathetic and am discouraged that she huffed off before weeding and thinning her carrots.   The boys stopped by to water their plot, too, but left when I discovered squash bug eggs in their plot and went into my egg-hunting kill-those-damn things frenzy.   I also had to break it to them that they had inadvertently pulled out two of their sweet potato vines last Friday when they thought they were only pulling weeds.  They promised to return with Tyrese, but did not.   Oh well.

It looks like an excellent week for growing, ripening and harvesting is coming up.  If only we could get one heavy rain . . . . .

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