Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Field of Daisy Dreams

We had a very productive weekend at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden (for a weekend where there was no rain).    However, everyone is talking about all of our daisies.  One of our new gardeners asked about where they came from and, believe it or not, I forgot.   The real story is that when I first bought my house in 1998, one of my neighbors behind me was growing daisies in her backyard.  I admired them, so she pulled off a few dead heads and put them in my hand with instructions to crush and sprinkle them where I wanted daisies.  I did and the next year I had tons of daisies in my back yard, too.  So, when I started the SACG, I brought over some daisy seeds to start our daisy patch.  Every June, I (and some of the girls) harvest dead daisy heads (to save seeds) in a paper wine bag.  Then, I spread them in the Fall, after our closing work day and sometimes in late February.  It’s that easy.  No planting required.

Of course, I also just toss a few dead heads in the beds during the Spring and I had a lot of volunteer daisies in my own plot this year.  We transplanted some of my volunteers into the flower beds in April (although it was touch and go for a while about whether they’d take root there until we finally started to get some rain).   The daisies in my plot will meet their end this weekend, though, because I have to dig them out to make room for my squash and cucumber patch. Nonetheless, they’ve given much joy as I use it for my personal cutting garden and filled my house (and my mother’s) with daisies.

The downside of the daisies is that they crowd out a lot of other flowers and then, when they die back in June, the flower beds look forlorn until the cosmos and sunflowers start to bloom.   I’ve tried to work in more Shasta daisies (with a later blooming schedule), coneflowers and black-eyed susans, though.  I’m also going to plant African marigolds (which I started from seed in March) where the daisies are to bring some yellow-orange color to those patches for the rest of the summer.   I’ve had great luck with those marigolds in my own plot for a few years and the plants get about 2-3 feet tall and almost as wide.

As for other happenings, Susan helped me out a lot this weekend by hoeing out the food pantry plot on Sunday.  Then, she brought a friend with her yesterday (on their holiday Vespa jaunt), who planted two rows of tomato seedlings in the food pantry plot while Susan watered her plot.  I then showed them both how to use our stirrup hoe.  Susan “pretended” to be a “new” gardener at the beginning of the season, but I have found her out.  She did an excellent job of weeding the food pantry plot and left behind all of the flowers and strawberry seedlings I asked her to leave (which means she can tell one plant from another).  Duly confronted, she admitted that she is an experienced flower gardener.   Had  I known, I would have put her in charge of our flower beds instead of assigning her a newbie chore this summer. . . . 

After Susan left, Lea and Zion stopped by to water their plot and then planted two rows of onions in our food pantry plot.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning, I watered the flower beds, my plot, the neighbor plot and the smaller food pantry plot (with the thought that we would receive a generous rain today).  Then, I finished planting tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in my plot before weeding it.  Then, I weeded the small food pantry plot and tried to transplant collards and kale, but I think it was too dry and hot for such a project and will probably have to try again tonight.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting much – if any – rain today.  I was telling Lea that – as a new gardener -- she would now begin to appreciate rain more than most people (who see rain as a black spot on a sunny day).    Lea will also begin to share our frustration with Columbus rain patterns because it will mean more work as she has to water her plot instead of letting nature do it for her.  I warned her to expect to hear my screams where she lives on Livingston as I watch rain clouds head west towards Columbus only to divide at the downtown heat island and go north and south – around the near East side – and regroup over  Reynoldsburg.    It’s become my top pet peeve.  Grumble grumble.

With all of the help I’m getting this year, I’ve had time to garden in my own yard and catch up with my own chores.  I and my neighbors thank you.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Everything’s Coming Up Daisies

Although we’ve only received about a smidgen of rain in the past week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, the wonderful rain we received earlier in the month has caused all of our daisies and irises to pop quite spectacularly.     We’ve also started to plant in earnest our summer crops, like beans, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.  Cathy stopped by on Thursday and remarked that this is her favorite time of the gardening season – when everything is still in nice neat rows.

A new gardener joined us this week.  She dived right in, completed her work equity (by cleaning out the raised beds next door), weeding her plot into submission and then fully planting it yesterday.  I was at the Garden with her on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Everyone has pretty much caught up with their chores.  The paths look spectacular, as though we had just spread the chips yesterday.

Neal has built some impressive trellises for his beans and cucumbers.  I've been using recycled fencing and construction wire fence.  Our strawberries are starting to ripen, which means that I will have to update my strawberry picking report next week.

Rayna and I worked hard this morning planting tomatoes and peppers and helping the girls do the same (as well as creating trellises for their peas).  I’ll be back on Monday morning to finish my planting and start on the summer crops and transplanting/thinning for the food pantry plots.   I’ve actually had time this year to dig deep holes for my tomatoes so that I could bury them up to the first level of leaves with compost (from my home bin) and then use the soil from the hole to form a volcano rim (to focus the water around the plant).

We had a very pleasant surprise last week.  Charlie showed up to find a brand new Black & Decker shovel, rake and hoe laying next to the shed -- delivered by an anonymous benefactor.  For the rest of us, they mysteriously showed up in the shed and have been put to good use almost every day since (although the shovels a little taller than me).
Of course, not everything is perfect.  I haven't seen a single honey bee.  My purple salvia is a reliable bee magnet, but not this year.  Today I had a couple of bumble bees, but not a honey bee in sight.  In addition, half of our rose bushes suffered significant damage from the polar vortex and our peach trees did not bud.  Also, our forth WEP volunteer failed to show up today.  I keep my fingers crossed that we will eventually have someone to help mow, weed and water.

With any luck (and with the Memorial Tournament about to start), we’ll get some rain this week.  My home rain barrels are running low.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

So Much Rain, So Little Time

We’ve having a very strange Spring at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  The Muirfield golf tournament hasn’t even started yet, but it’s been raining buckets for weeks.   This has really cut into our gardening time, since we were rained out last Saturday and Wednesday.   I am NOT complaining.  It's so much more work to have to water everything -- like we did in 2012 and even last year -- during May.  If I had know that we were getting so much rain, I would have planted some more fruit trees, though.

 It’s also been uncommonly chilly this month.  While May 22 is the historical last frost date, it’s unusual for it to still be in the 40’s at night this late into the month.  As a result, only two of us have been brave enough to plant tomatoes and peppers.    My patio greenhouse is popping at the seams with seedlings waiting to find the ground.

So, I’ve spent my time weeding, planting beans and transplanting volunteer sunflowers and cosmos.   My green beans and edamame are now poking through the soil, so I hope our next two cold nights don’t do them in.   It was too wet this morning to plant my last two bean rows (of calypso beans), so maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow. I let my chocolate mint get out of control and have spent most of the month digging it up in order to make room for beans and to plant some near where my squash patch will be (in order to deter the infamous squash bug).

I spent this morning mulching three of the flower beds – which is about a month ahead of my usual schedule (since I haven’t been able to do much planting).  We had two geese visit us for over an hour.  The beds look so much better.  The irises are blooming and the daisies are starting to pop.  Betty's clematis, of course, have also been in bloom.   

I also had time today to research when I should be pruning our typically floppy asters (so that they flower out with shorter branches this Fall).  The University of Illinois has a great website for this type of information.  These were the suggestion:

·        Beebalm can be cut back by half in early to mid-May (which will delay blooming by two weeks).  One suggestion was just to cut back the front half in order to stagger growth height and extend the blooming season.

·        Phlox can be pinched/cut back by half in at the end of May or early June

·        Asters should be cut back by half in early June (or pinch a few times before Independence Day).

The polar vortex damaged our rose bushes, but they are finally starting to show signs of life.  Our cherry trees, strawberries and raspberries are also forming fruit.  Some of our lavender is even coming back.  We’ve had an unusually high number of volunteer flowers this year and anyone wanting some sunflowers should stop by Tuesday evening or next Saturday morning if you would like to liberate a couple for your own garden because I will have to compost them soon.  

The girls’ beds are growing fabulously.  In fact, it’s time to thin out the lettuces and cabbages.  A few stopped by this morning and had a nice baby spinach harvest.  However, grandma nixed making a salad, so they returned the leaves to me (which means I’ll be having a spinach and mushroom omelet for breakfast tomorrow).

It’s been a challenge to keep up with our grass lawn.  However, the front lawn was mowed this morning, but the back looks like we will need a scythe to catch up.  Most of the gardeners are keeping up with their chores, but not the guys assigned to weed the paths and around the raised beds . . ..

We’re supposed to have a WEP volunteer this summer (which has been a very exciting development for me since I hope to catch up on all of my overdue projects).    However, despite three different assignments, not a single one of the guys has shown up yet.   Sigh.

By this time next week, I expect that we will be heavily into summer planting and I’ll soon be able to pack up my greenhouse again for the season and reclaim my breakfast room.

Our free little library has been hugely popular.  Almost too much so.  We’re half-empty and I’m out of books (both for the kids and other neighbors) from restocking the library so often.   So, if you have extra magazines (DIY, cooking, homemaking), children's books, or young adult books, please, please send them our direction so that they can have a new home.