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: http://extension.umd.edu/growit/stink-bug-or-squash-bug-can-you-tell-difference#sthash.fBCTAM2k.dpuf

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.