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. . . . .

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More About Free Little Libraries, like the one at the SACG

Three Words About Litter – Pick It Up

 Starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 7, 2013, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden will be joining Keep Columbus Beautiful (the City’s community improvement program), Mayor Coleman, the United Way of Central Ohio and other Central Ohio non-profit organizations in launching the first community-wide litter campaign Three Words About Litter…Pick It Up!   The campaign is designed as a call to action to empower ordinary citizens of any age to create a clean neighborhood through social responsibility.  (At least that’s what they told us when we were invited to participate). 

Most people know the act of littering is wrong. When asked to provide 3 words about litter, people will immediately respond with 3 words that describe litter-such as dirty, trashy and messy. But the simple 3 word, call to action “PICK IT UP!” puts the ownership of litter back on the individual.

Many of our neighbors know that the SACG has organized litter pick-up events before.   As in the past, we will have refreshments for our volunteers and neighbors who wish to join us.  (Feel free to contribute to a refreshment potluck). 

We have been threatened with bad karma if we are not finished by 11 a.m. when the Children’s Parade starts on its route to the Hot Times Festival in Olde Towne East.   We also will not interfere with the OSU football game.

Even if you have not gardened with us this year, please join us in making this a better place to live, visit and volunteer by picking up a little litter.  The more the merrier. 
And bring some gardening books.  Our gardening collection in our new free little library is out of gardening and DIY books.