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.

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