Saturday, April 26, 2014

Earth Day 2014: The Few and the Mighty

This morning’s brief rain shower apparently discouraged most of our volunteers.  However, several intrepid gardeners worked steadily all morning at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden as we celebrated Earth Day.  Of course, the sun came out after about an hour and it turned into a beautiful day.

Susan and Sabrina spent the morning weeding our strawberry patch (for the first time since opening day 2011).  We actually need to thin our patch as well, but I hate to pitch the plants and don’t have time to organize a fundraiser (like we did with our extra strawberry  seedlings in 2011).  So, if there is anyone out there who wants to buy some inexpensive strawberry plants or if you are a community garden that wants to start your own strawberry patch, please contact me asap so that I can hook you up with seedlings.  They like lots of sun and good soil (and, of course, straw).

Tom was really the hero of the day.  First, he carried to Mary’s plot several bags of top soil plot that had been donated by Ohio Mulch.  Next, he carried and spread bags of mulch (again donated by Ohio Mulch) around our peach and cherry trees.  Then, he weeded our food pantry plot and dug a trench for the potatoes.   But he wasn’t done.  He and Zephyr then picked up litter between the Garden and Main Street and in the Block Watch plot across the street.

Mari came to tend her plot.  Neal then came and weeded Celess’ plot and let the girls water their sprouting lettuce and spinach.  Frank and Barb worked earlier in the week and mowed our lawn.   I planted and transplanted flowers, weeded our flower beds and the neighbor plot, transplanted raspberries and daisies, watered in the flowers, planted cabbage, kale, broccoli, and endive in the neighbor bed, took my sick cat to the vet in Upper Arlington, dropped off a birthday card for my niece in Dublin, planted potatoes, greens, kale, cabbage and beets in the food pantry plot, planted some lettuce and herbs in my plot, weeded the blueberry bushes and watered everything in.

Before we left at noon, I distributed goodies provided to us Green Columbus.  Sadly, about 14 bags of the top soil donated to us on Good Friday by Ohio Mulch disappeared (aka were stolen).  I had hoped to use them to top off our raised beds to decrease their rapid evaporation. 

Some of the girls came by in the afternoon, but I was too busy to be entertaining and they quickly left.  They really want the combination to our shed, but that’s never going to happen.  They never remember to return their tools to the shed, so I can’t rely on them to remember to lock it when they are done for the day.

A number of gardeners intend to plant tomorrow before our week-long rain showers begin.   I may have to return, too  .  . . .
Our cherry trees are in full bloom as are the tulips in our garden and the Block Watch lot across the street.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Less Groundhog to Worry About

Although I do not mention it often, the neighborhood near the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has been overrun with groundhogs for a few years.   Truth is, they have been adorable to watch, move surprisingly quickly, and are not aggressive.   However, on the odd occasion that they made it into the Garden, they caused a lot of damage eating their way through our produce.  But that’s only happened a couple of times and I haven’t seen a single groundhog yet this season.  Our neighbors, however, tell us about more extensive damage that they have suffered and trapping them has become a common topic of conversation. (Eating them is also mentioned on occasion).    Groundhogs live under porches, especially of abandoned houses.  One even lived under our shed for a brief period.  One of their favorite hiding places was a large gap underneath the sidewalk across the street from the Garden which leads to the city storm sewers.   That gap was also alarming because it was big enough for a person to climb in and I put it on my list of places to hide with Tom Cruise in the event of a zombie or alien apocalypse.  Barb used to worry about skateboarding kids falling in.   Well, we no longer need to worry because the City repaired the sidewalk and filled the gap over our winter break.  This is a cause for celebration, (as is today’s overdue rain showers).

Tomorrow, the SACG will celebrate Earth Day by preparing our neighbor bed and food pantry plot, picking up litter in the neighborhood, mulching our fruit trees, cleaning out raised beds, transplanting more raspberry bushes, thinning and weeding our strawberry patch and planting flowers.  Last week, I picked up top soil and mulch from Keep Columbus Beautiful which had been donated to Green Columbus by Ohio Mulch.   I thought that I might be able to pick it up in one trip, but Ohio Mulch doubled its generous donation and I had to make multiple trips.   Green Columbus also arranged for the donation of Luna and Cliff bars to feed our hard-working volunteers, as well as gift certificates for a Chipotle burrito, Max & Erma dessert, Car2Go ride, Jeni’s, pizza, cookie, and a movie, as well as shopping bags, t-shirts and seed packets (i.e., peas, spinach, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, carrots, beets and collard greens).  Yesterday, I picked up litter grabbers and neon vests for our volunteers to safely pick up neighborhood litter.  Of course, we will need lots of volunteers to take advantage of all of these goodies and to help us to accomplish our ambitious agenda.

The Earth Day volunteers were extremely organized this year, which was attributed almost entirely to Danielle Allison.  Green Columbus volunteers spent two whole days at KCB in order to distribute supplies (which were already organized and segregated by work site).   Don’t they look busy?

    Another blessing this week is that Linda Duerk from Christ Lutheran Church also donated another giant bag of Botanical Interest seeds on Good Friday.  This year’s donation had lots of bean and lettuce seeds, but there were dozens of different varieties of seeds (including, for the first time, sprout seeds).   A few of us had much fun on Saturday going through the seeds for our own plots.  
For that matter, Rayna weeded her entire plot before Susan and I showed up last Saturday and then she planted lots of onions, garlic and lettuce.  Susan planted peas, lettuce and onions and I went to work weeding my bed, too, before planting a row of potatoes, transplanting a new yellow rose bush and helping the kids to plant.   Miss Mary came by and was joined by her son-in-law Kevin and a grandson to help her clean up around her raised bed and plant some collard greens.   On Sunday, Neal cleaned out his plot and let the kids water their beds again.  On Monday, Mari and John popped by in the morning to weed their plot and plant potatoes.  Curt and Charlie have completely planted half of their plot with their Spring crops.    Lots of work has been done and we haven’t even been open two weeks.

We will start working at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and will quit when everyone is too tired to continue.  That will probably be around lunch time.     I anticipate that we will have extra strawberry plants and raspberry seedlings (as well as seed packets) to reward our volunteers.  If other community gardeners show up around lunch time, I will be able to also share our seedlings and seeds and wood chips with you for your own gardens. 

 Be there or be square.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting Down to Basics

The recent freeze was not kind to my tiny asparagus patch, but everything else seems to be hanging in there.  Susan was looking for study materials before she started planting and brought to my attention a new phone app and website called Sprout It with lots of gardening tips and information.   As for books, I referred her to my post from 2009 about my favorite gardening books (and will bring most of these books with me on Saturday morning for her and the other new gardeners to peruse).   Also, I posted information in 2011 about how to know when to plant what.

Yesterday, my cousins Krystle and Eric helped me to return the wheelbarrows and tools we borrowed from Rebuilding Together’s Tool Library.  We then headed over to the SACG so that she could put some of her seedlings into the ground.  We built a make-shift trellis for her peas from the bent-up fence that was replaced last Saturday. (We love to recycle at the SACG).   I also showed her and Eric some of our tools.

Many of the neighborhood kids came running over and wanted to plant as well.  So, they partnered up to share raised beds and began planting carrots, lettuce, and cauliflower.  I had to stop them from planting tomatoes, peppers and beans because it is still way too early.  Now, if I could just train them to return their tools and gloves to the shed . . . . .  When I told them that Eric flies Blackhawk helicopters, only Joon-Joon was interested . . . . It’s very hard to impress these kids.
As we were leaving, Susan popped over on her cute Vespa to see if we needed help.  That's when I found out that Krystle also has a Vespa.  So, I left them there chatting about all things Vespa.

On Saturday, I’ll be there to plant potatoes and weed my plot, as well as help the new gardeners get started.  I noticed that our final yellow tea rose seems to be dead, so we’ll probably have to replace it next week when we celebrate Earth Day.  On Saturday, April 26, we’ll also be thinning our strawberry patch, raking up brambles and planting perennial flowers. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kickin’ Butt and Takin’ Names at the SACG

God gave us a tremendously successful opening day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Words cannot adequately describe what beautiful weather we had.  To think that Cathy and I picked this date on January 21.  We had only two gardeners not show up after signing up (as well as three volunteers who had indicated they were coming).   We had lots to eat and lots of neighborhood kids come to visit.  And we added new gardeners who showed up for the first time today.

A.M. Photo
On Friday, Cathy texted me that the City had dropped off a truck load of wood chips for us to spread on our paths and around our fence lines.  “Your wood chips arrived,” she wrote.  That was an understatement.  The City’s Forestry Department doubted that we could use an entire truckload.  I insisted.  They turned out to be right.  This was a freakishly large truck load and is larger than my car.  However, we used over half of the chips.  Some of our neighbors and Urban Connections indicated that they could utilize the rest of them to keep down weeds.  With any luck, the entire pile will be gone by the end of the month.   Unlike last year, Zephyr wasn’t here to play king of the hill, although Curt threatened to do so if I turned my back. 
P.M. Photo

My cousin Krystle came early this morning to pick up from my back yard my wheelbarrow and table, and the wheelbarrows and extra tools which we had picked up from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library on Thursday.  (The Tool Library was concerned that only two community gardens had made reservations so far for tools for Earth Day.  They don't want to get backed up when dozens of gardens show up simultaneously to borrow tools).  Of course, Rayna was already at the SACG and digging out raspberry seedlings to transplant.  Curt and Susan were also there promptly.  Celess arrived shortly thereafter. I put Rayna to work repairing the weak areas in our fence.  The rest of our volunteers focused on spreading the wood chips.  Neal came and helped Rayna with the fence before helping spread chips.
Urban Connections also had a work day today to rehabilitate a neighborhood house.  They were there when I arrived and were still there working when I left.  They had so many volunteers show up that they sent me three strong teenage boys from the Dover, Ohio Alliance Church.  They spent most of the day spreading wood chips.  The chips are so thick around our gates that I had trouble shutting the gates.  The boys then dug out the sun flower stumps, helped clean out Mary’s bed, reinforced our platform raised beds with cement blocks and carried down excess stones from the Garden to our alley curb.  And they thanked me for putting them to work.
We had lots to eat.  Although I messed them up and ate quite a few for quality control, I made chocolate no bake cookies last night.  Rayna baked several dozen peanut butter – oatmeal – m&m cookies.  Krystle baked brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  Then, on Thursday, I picked up from the Lane Avenue Whole Foods its donation of jugs of water, juice, dozens of bananas, granola bars and cheese crackers.  I added some carrots.   At noon, Hannah and Isaiah came and put on a one-hour nutrition and cooking demonstration on our front lawn.   First, they made a kale salad (always a favorite with me).  Then, there was vegetarian stir fry.  The kids were transfixed and some neighbors even stopped by out of curiosity and listened for a while.  By the time we left for the day, every single banana had been eaten, as well as a few jugs of lemonade, a container of pineapple and all of my bottled water.  Rayna took her extra cookies to the hard-working Urban Connection volunteers on Morrison.

I dug up and transplanted raspberry bushes.  Mari and Krystle weeded the front flower beds and transplanted volunteer daisies.  Barb pruned the rose bushes.  (On Thursday, she and Frank had installed our sign, replaced the shed’s rain barrel and mowed our lawn).  Ben came and spread chips and edged our front flower bed.  He also spread peat moss in the blueberry bush turrets and around our garden plots.
This week hasn’t all been smooth.  The spicket on our main rain tank was cracked and leaked out all of the rain which we tried to collect on Tuesday.  Frank explained to me how to fix it, so off to Lowe’s I went for a replacement.  Rain Brothers fixed the spicket on our other tank on Friday and also hooked the tank up for us to boot.  Now, I have to hope that the gutters don’t get blocked before the tanks fill up on Monday.  The lock on the front gate also froze up.  I recruited a young man from the neighborhood to cut it off with my bolt cutters.  No success.  Frank thought that we’d have to get a special electric saw.  However, I borrowed the giant bolt cutters from the Tool Library.  Giant -- as in almost as tall as me -- giant.   I then recruited a neighbor guy walking down the alley to cut off the lock.  Success!  I also spent about an hour in line of traffic to pick up books donated by Half Price Books and restocked our Free Little Library.
It was almost too warm this afternoon.  Some of us were walking around in a daze and it seemed to take three times as long to pack up my car as it had taken this morning.   After I unpacked my car, I then headed back to the Garden to start preparing my plot for planting.  I also dug up volunteer coneflowers in my back yard to transplant at the SACG next week.
It was an exhausting day, but a very good start for the season.  Lots of kids came by.  They had already been through the new books in the Library and they wanted to make sure that there was space left in the Garden for them to have their own gardens this summer.   As of today, we should have the same amount of space as we had last year for the kids.
We will meet again in two weeks to finish what was not completed today.  For instance, we will need to weed the blueberry bushes, strawberry patch, and neighbor beds.  We’ll also plant some flowers and vegetable seedlings. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

T-7 to SACG’s Opening Day

Although it may not look like it now, the weather forecast is showing sunshine and blue skies for the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden’s Opening Day next Saturday, April 12, 2014.   That’s just one week from today.  We still have 2 plots left for new gardeners (and six raised beds).   We always have gardeners show up unexpectedly on Opening Day and a few people always seem to drop out or not show up.  So, it’s all good.  (If no one takes the plots, one will be dedicated to growing food for pantries/shelters and the other for the neighborhood kids).   Although Opening Day is not for another week, that does not mean that it’s been entirely quiet at the SACG.

Whole Foods Market on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington will be donating refreshments for our Opening Day volunteers this year, so we will be sure to eat well.   Even better, they are coming at the end of our work day to conduct a cooking/healthy eating demonstration (which means more free food and samples).

Sabrina at work turning compost
I stopped by the SACG last week to get the lay of the land and see what work needed to be done.  Believe it or not, there is spinach growing that the boys planted last Fall.  I also ordered and checked on our wood chips and made some arrangements for our opening day.  Our 2013 volunteer-of-the year, Sabrina, then unexpectedly reached out and reported that she would be returning to garden with us this year after all.  However, she and her family had planned to spend the weekend learning about earthships near Yellow-Springs and she wanted to get a jump on satisfying her work equity (instead of waiting for our make-up day on April 26).  So, she showed up this morning at 9 a. m.  and began the arduous task of turning the compost in our three bins.   That’s tough work, so it’s a good thing that it’s a little nippy.  She also wanted to clean up the beds.
She also helped me to repair the downspout and hook up the big rain tank.  I would have liked to have hooked it up before the three inches of rain we just received, but we are supposed to get more rain on Monday.  Hopefully, it will be enough to fill the tank before our Opening Day.  Then, we measured and marked off plots on the south side of the Garden.  We had to spread out the plots on that side last year when Beth & Mike left and no one wanted such a large plot.  That turned out to be too much work for some of our gardeners.  So, Sabrina and I marked them off to fit her in on the south side.  She had hoped to start planting this weekend, but the ground is too wet and cold.   She’s very glad that we will not be tilling the Garden this year because she thinks it’s too hard on the ground. We found a worm while moving some of the border stones.
Sprouting potatoes

I also conducted a brief inspection of the Garden to identify work projects for next weekend.  I then ran to Dill’s Greenhouse (off I-33 just north of Canal Winchester) to pick up some supplies, like seed potatoes (red, Yukon gold and Kennebec) and onion sets (red, white, yellow and Vandalia).  In my opinion, Dill’s always has the best bargain on seed potatoes and onion sets.  A half-peck of seed potatoes is $3.99.   Two cups of onion sets are just $1.29.    I’ll spread out the potatoes in a single layer in a shallow box lid and put them in a sunny and unheated room in the basement.   They will begin spouting in short order.  Then, I cut them in halves or thirds and wait a day for them to harden off before I plant them in a trench.    A half-peck is way more than I can grow for myself, so I always have enough to share with other gardeners.  Sabrina is going to pick up some purple seed potatoes from Lowes to exchange with me.
Dill’s is also having a perennial flower sale this week and had lots of cold-season crops (like cabbage) for sale.  Their perennial sale is 10 for $10 for 4 inch pots.  Of course, the monster perennial sale will be next weekend at DeMonye’s Greenhouse (near the airport).  I’ll go on Friday morning to get the best selection.  They will have a crazy number of varieties to choose from, including popular herbs like thyme and lavender, and a ton of flowers.  A full flat will be $15.99. 
2009 Opening Day Volunteers

Half Price Books is also donating children’s books this Wednesday to replenish our free little library at the northeast corner of our lot.
We will have our work cut out for us next Saturday at the SACG starting at 9:30 a.m..  Many hands make light work.  This is what we have to complete: 

2010 Opening Day Volunteers

               1) Spread wood chips (donated by the City of Columbus) on our paths, around the fence rows and in the space between the Garden and the alley aka Cherry Street (to keep down weeds).   If Krystle can help, I’ll pick up extra wheel barrows, rakes and shovels from the Tool Library on Thursday so that we’ll have capacity for capacity for extra volunteers.   It would be good if someone can maintain our half-moon stone patterns near our gates.

               2) Repair the fence in the northwest corner of the Garden and reinforce the fence around the Garden.  Again, if Krystle can help (with her hubby’s truck), we’ll pick the fence up on Thursday.

               3) Repair and reinforce some of the raised beds.
2011 Opening Day Volunteers

               4) Transplant raspberry bushes along the fence line.

               5) Clean out the flower beds and neighbor plot.

               6)  Hook up the smaller rain tank;

               7) Pick up litter around the Garden and in the neighborhood (i.e., along Stoddart, along the north side of East Main Street and in the alleys).

               8) Possibly mow the grass.

               9) Prune our rose bushes

2012 Opening Day Volunteers
               10) Plant some perennial flowers that I will inevitably pick up at DeMonye’s.

               11)  Possibly plant some cold crops (like kale, collard greens and cabbage) in the neighbor plot.

               12) Repair/replace the rain barrel by the shed.

               13) Smooth out the wood chip pile;

               14) Possibly start cleaning out our own plots.

               15) General tidying of the Garden area before the weeds and grass obscure everything.

 Be there or be square.  The more the merrier.