Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer’s Graceful Entrance

This afternoon's berries waiting to be picked
It’s berry time at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  I’ve personally picked 12 pints of black raspberries in the past week and have the scarred arms and hands to prove it.  I’m not alone. Neal also comes by daily to harvest berries and Rayna is as excited about them as me (especially since she and her mother are the founders of our wonderful annual harvests by donating our first 9 bushes in 2009).  While I freeze mine for pies and cobblers, Rayna makes brandy and Neal eats his as snacks and over ice cream.  We blissfully received well over an inch of rain in the past week, and so most of our activities this week have focused on planting, weeding and harvesting. 
Yet more berries from this afternoon

Both of our WEP volunteers – Chris and Jason – came on Wednesday to help us out.  Jason focused on weeding the area along the alley, while Chris made a huge dent in taming the overgrown lot across the street.  Barb and Frank were so thrilled with his work that they wanted to make it easier and more convenient for him to volunteer by opening up other possible shifts (rather than simply relying on my availability).   Some neighbor girls stopped by to tend their plots and water their melons.  We had planned to harvest berries, too, but it began raining more than an hour earlier than anticipated.   Lea and Zion also got caught at the Garden during the rain, so I dropped them to their home.   I returned the next morning to harvest the berries after the night’s rain storm. 

Sadly, Chris discovered on Wednesday evening that someone has been stealing water from our cisterns again.  Despite all of the rain we’ve received, our tall cistern was empty.  So, the bibb locks are back on.

All of the rain has really caused the weeds to explode, so I returned Friday morning to weed my plot, prune spent daisies, and, again, harvest berries.  Then, on Friday evening, Charlie, Susan and I attended a lovely garden party for local community gardeners at the Community Garden campus at Franklin Park Conservatory.  There had been rain a couple of hours before the party, but then the clouds parted and a beautiful evening was had by all.  I was especially fond of the pesto pizza, but also enjoyed the salad and fruit cobbler.    

Will the City finish this project in 2014?  Stay tuned.
I saw and chatted with Trae from the Bexley Community Garden, Margaret Ann from Four Seasons City Farm, and Derek from Helping Hands Community Garden.  Trae and I joked about how much we had learned.  For instance, it's not necessary to plant every seed in a seed package.   I also saw Lindsay from Vineyard Church’s new pantry garden and Michael from Kossuth Street Community Garden. Of course, I ran into Bill Dawson who related how he is attempting to help Barb and Frank convince the City to finish the sidewalk improvement project by putting down some top soil and grass seed along the sidewalk.  I also was able to chat with Bill from GreenScapes, who as always, asked me what else he could donate to help us.  A picnic table perhaps?  I pointed out Charlie helped me to pick up the landscaping stones the GreenScapes donated to us in 2012 and laid our landscaping edging for our front flower bed.  It was nice strolling around the FPC grounds to see how their vegetables and other edibles are holding up in all of this rain.  I noticed that they also had an abundance of black raspberries.

I started extra early on Saturday because the earlier forecast called for heat.    Sadly, neither of our two WEP volunteers showed up or called off.  Sigh.   So much for getting the lawn mowed and more weeds pulled.     Neighbor Rose stopped by to chat in the morning and neighbor landlord Rick stopped by to chat as well.  There have been sighting of children eating our berries with the tell-tale signs of berry juice on their hands, lips and cheeks.  That’s what the berries are for.
I spread some Epsom salt, tied up my tomatoes and the tomatoes in the food pantry plot, pruned some flowers, created a terrace for the potatoes in the food pantry plot (to keep them from collapsing on a row of collard greens), pulled spent volunteer strawberry plants and replaced them with pole beans and sweet potatoes and pulled (and sometimes bagged) overgrown brambles before harvesting for our weekly food pantry donation.  I also harvested some produce (peas, kale, spinach and berries) from Mari’s plot to make a one-and-only home delivery to welcome her back from the hospital and rehab.  (I got to the food pantry with only 10 minutes to spare and aggressively hawked our berries and lettuce to the remaining clients so that they would not have to go into the refrigerator for the weekend).  

Susan stopped by to get an extra volunteer assignment for tomorrow and donate some romaine lettuce.  Rayna came to weed her plot, mulch her tomatoes, donate pounds and pounds of beautiful curly lettuce and pick berries.  Rayna also helped me to plug a gap in our fence caused by the near-death of two of our rose bushes from the polar vortex.  Neal came by to weed and pick berries.  He reported that someone stopped by and cleaned out the neighbor plot.  Oops.  They took the entire broccoli plant thinking it was  a collard green.  Oh well. 

Celess also came by to weed, transplant kale and, yes, pick berries.    This is Celess’ first garden and she has taken to it like a duck to water, although she got some bad advice at some garden centers about ornamental kale.   She wanted to join us last year, but waited too long to get a plot.  This year, she made a point of contacting me early.   I gave her some kale seedlings to put in her plot for her kale smoothies (with the hope that she'll share some recipes since I'm a newbie to the kale smoothie craze).
Everyone keeps mentioning how good everything looks this year.  That’s because we don’t have any slackers this year and we’ve had a lot of help from our WEP volunteers (when they show up).   We always have a couple of gardeners every year who took on more than they can hoe, but not this year.   (Knock on wood).

The weather was perfect on Saturday and everything is growing very well.  There were even crickets chirping last night. A graceful end to the first day of Summer.  

Editor's Note:  I returned on Sunday afternoon to get more berries (for me and for Faith Mission) and some more lettuce from Susan (who was calling it an afternoon after making some progress in pruning our dying daisies).  As I was pulling away, I noticed that someone sneakily filled our Free Little Library with books when I wasn't looking and I even think I saw a dictionary.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  Tears in my eyes there were.    This is the third time this year we've been blessed with an anonymous donation.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gardeners Can Donate a Portion of the Fresh Fruits of their Labor to Area Food Pantries, Shelters and Soup Kitchens

On Saturday, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden made its first (albeit small) food pantry donation for the 2014 season.  Even small donations can add up to hundreds of pounds after 22 weeks.     In addition, if all of the approximately 250 community gardeners in Central Ohio donated fresh produce every week, we could make a significant dent in the need for fresh produce.  As faithful readers know from posts in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013,  many Central Ohio food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters are thrilled to receive fresh garden produce to feed their clients. In fact, sometimes, I don’t even make it to the pantry door because I’m intercepted between my car and the pantry when their clients see fresh greens walking down the street.    In addition to my annual posts, and as I noted in 2010, the Ample Harvest website can also direct local gardeners to area food pantries that accept fresh produce donations.   

The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was enacted in 1996 and provides that donors of “apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product” cannot be held liable if the donation was made in good faith unless someone is hurt or dies from an action or omission that constitutes “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.” 42 U.S.C. § 1791. This includes gleaners or gardeners who donate fresh produce. It pre-empts any inconsistent state laws.
At the SACG, we encourage our gardeners to donate a portion of the produce they grow as a reflection of the blessing we have received, but other community gardens donate all of the food they raise.  Other community gardens do not have an organized donation program at all.   Any gardener can donate produce, whether they belong to a community garden or not.  Just scan the list below for the closest pantry, soup kitchen or shelter and drop off the produce during the listed hours. 

I tend to deliver produce to the closest pantry or shelter that is open while I’m harvesting on Saturday afternoons because I have no refrigerated place to store the produce until another day.  If I run late on Saturday, then I take the produce to Faith Mission, which is open until 5:30 every day.   Because I occasionally drop by the SACG on other days or due to anticipated bad weather on a Saturday, our produce sometimes makes it to other nearby pantries (as reflected by the chart of our 2013 donations).

Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry – South.  1460 South Champion Avenue. (There’s an automatic sliding door at the side of the building on the Frebis Avenue side where there will be less chance that you’ll be confused as a client and asked to wait in line by the constantly revolving volunteers who staff the pantry. I always go in the side door). They have refrigerators available to store any excess.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays 11a.m.-3:00 pm. I do not recommend stopping by during the lunch hour because the paid staff may be gone and you could be told to wait until they return or to come back later for a receipt.  I generally make the SACG donations on Saturday afternoons, which is why this pantry gets most of our produce. 
Will take anything, but eggplant has not been particularly popular with their clients.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but is not required. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt. They have a large scale on site in the back that you can use if you’re very nice about it.
Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. If they run out of receipts, you can have them sign your own. In that case, it's quicker if you bring two copies of your pre-prepared receipt so that they can keep one and you can take one. However, they have a copier there. They also like you to sign their donation book.
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available.
For more information: Call Manager Dave Drom, Assistant Manager Amanda or Saturday Manager Gene at 443-5130.   Their voice mail is inoperable, though.  You can also reach Dave by email: They served 7000 families last month.  They are currently running short of personal care items, like shampoo, soap and toothpaste.

Faith Mission. Donations can be made at two locations.
1) 599 East 8th Avenue near the fairgrounds. Go to the front door.
2) Remember:  The downtown Shelter has moved from Long and Sixth Streets downtown to 245 North Grant Avenue. From Broad Street, turn north onto Grant Avenue from Broad.  Go through 3 lights (at Gay, Long and Spring).  Drive past the Hill’s Market, First Link n/k/a Hands On Central Ohio, and Buckeye Sanitation and into the next alley/driveway on the left (which then loops to the right -- i.e., around back) and park by the two dumpsters.  There is a loading dock with a door bell on the left.  This is the only place in town serving three free meals a day to anyone who walks in. 
Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Will take anything. 
Sorting: Preferably sorted. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt.
Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. They have their own forms that they will want to fill out while you wait. They sometimes (i.e., usually) run out of receipt forms, so it’s a good idea to bring your own to have them sign.
For more information: Ask for Mike Vell or any cook in the kitchen at 774-7726.   However, Mike’s voice mail is sometimes full.

Salvation Army. 966 East Main Street, Columbus, Ohio 43205. You should park on the west side and go to the front door. The pantry is just to the right of the front door. It is very, large, sparkling clean, and relatively empty.
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except between noon and 1).
Will take anything.
Sorting: No need.
Provides tax receipts upon request at the front desk.
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available.
For more information, call Case Worker Melissa 358-2626 at or Director Krista Ross at 437-2151 and leave a message, because no one ever seems to answer a phone there.

**Bishop Griffin Center---St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, 2875 E. Livingston Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43209 -- one block west of James Rd. at the corner of Wellesley Rd. and Livingston. There is parking along Wellesley Road. This pantry is very, very small.
Hours: 9 a.m until noon on Wednesdays and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays
Will take anything
Sorting: Does not have to be sorted or bagged.
Provides tax receipts upon request.
For more information, contact Marge at or at 237-0720.

Community Kitchen. This is the first soup kitchen in Columbus. Donations can be made at the rear of the building at 640 South Ohio Street.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Will take anything except eggplant, unusual herbs, peas, chard, and turnips. They prefer bulk amounts so that they can make a whole dish out of it.

Sorting: Preferably sorted, but need not be bagged.
Provides tax receipts.
For more information: Ask for Marilyn Oberting at 252-6428.

Holy Name Soup Kitchen. Donations can be made at 57 South Grubb Street (off West Broad Street). Go to the front door.
Hours: Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Call from the parking lot after 12:30 because that’s when the doors are locked.
Will take anything they can get.
Sorting:  Not necessary.
Provides tax receipts. Can be provided if you wait or it will be mailed to you (if you provide names and addresses).
For more information: Phone: Sharon Wing at 461-9444.  Serving 30 families each day in the food pantry (i.e., 150 people) and 400 people/day in the soup kitchen.

Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Donations can be made at its relatively new location at 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City. Take I-71 South to the Stringtown Road/Exit 100 and take the very first right after you leave the exit onto Springtown Road onto Marlanne Drive. You will pass Brookham Drive to the left and then turn left past the large agency sign. Pull up to the four garage doors and go into the regular/entry door to the left of those doors to tell them that you have a produce donation. They will help you unload your car, weigh your produce and give you a receipt.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but they prefer that the food be delivered in banana boxes (which you can get from your friendly local grocer) or empty copy paper boxes.
Provides tax receipts. MOFB will weigh your donation on the spot and give you a receipt.
For more information: Call main number at 274-7770.  MOFB serves 20 counties and over 550 partner agencies.

Kroger Community Food Pantry is physically attached to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.   Donations can be made at the MOFB’s location at 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City. Take I-71 South to the Stringtown Road/Exit 100 and take the very first right after you leave the exit onto Springtown Road onto Marlanne Drive. You will pass Brookham Drive to the left and then turn left past the large agency sign. Donations can made at the pantry entrance on Saturdays (through the fancy doors) when you ask for Jessica, but the rest of the week, you can deliver them to the garage doors as long as you tell the MOFB volunteers that the donation is for the Kroger Community Pantry instead of the MOFB.
Hours: Donations can be made 9-5 M-F and Saturdays 9-1.  The pantry is open Tuesdays 12-3 and 4-7:30; Fridays 9-2; Saturdays 9-1.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary.
Provides tax receipts. MOFB will weigh your donation on the spot and give you a receipt.
For more information: Call
the main number at 274-7770 and ask for Jessica Wright. 

Lutheran Social Services West Side Food Pantry, 82 North Wilson Road.  This is in the Great Western Shopping Center.
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00 until 4:00 P.M.
Will take: anything and everything.  Could use some more jelly, hamburger and tuna helpers.
Sorting: Not necessary
Provides tax receipts: Yes
For more information: Call Jan at 279-4635.   They serve 60-75 families every day.

**NNEMAP Food Pantry. 1064 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio. (In the Short North. In an abandoned Church at the corner of High and Third). It is in the basement of the same building of Directions for Youth. When coming from the parking lot (which is on the north side of the building), you can take a door to the basement on the east side of the building which does not have a number or butterfly on it. There is a white bell on this door on the east side of the building which you can ring for assistance, but you should come down to the basement on the west side of the building).
Hours: Monthly 1st-19th: M-W-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Monthly 20th-31st: M-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Will Take: anything. Eggplant moves slower than most items.  Corn, cucumbers, peppers, carrots and tomatoes move quickly.
Sorted: Not necessary, but it would be nice to have it bagged and sorted.
Provides tax receipts: Upon request. Please have value ready to be inserted.
For more information: Contact Roy Clark (an old friend) at 297-0533 or

***Broad Street Presbyterian Food Pantry, 760 East Broad Street (at the corner of Broad and Garfield -- about 2 blocks east of I-71. There is parking in the back).
Hours: 9- noon Monday through Friday (but arrangements can be made to open at 8 a.m.) and on Saturdays from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Will take: anything, especially greens and tomatoes
Sorted: not necessary
Provides tax receipts upon request
Distribution: Clients can help themselves to as much of each type of produce as is available.
For more information: call Kathy at 203-2544 or 461-4557.

Neighborhood Services, Inc. 1950 North Fourth Street (at the corner of 18th Avenue).
Hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  by appointment by calling Martin.  Martin is a square foot gardener and will try to make arrangements to be there for off-hour donations if you call his cell at 565-2399.
Will take: anything
Sorted: not necessary, but is helpful.  They’ll take anything that is edible.
Provides tax receipt: yes, but you should weigh it before you come because they do not have a scale.
For more information: Contact Martin Butler at
565-2399 or or This pantry served over 378 families last month.  Families can take as much fresh produce as they want.  

**Our Lady of Guadalupe Center. This is a food pantry at 441 Industry Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43204. This is a little tricky because there is no street sign. It is located in the Valley View Commerce Park of office buildings. It is a one-story, long white building across the street from the ODFJS West Opportunity Center.
Hours: Wednesday– Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Preferably sorted and bagged separately.
Provides tax receipts. You’ll have to fill out the receipt yourself, so it would be a good idea to weigh your produce before dropping it off.
For more information or to schedule a drop-off: Call Alma Santos at 340-7061. The population served by the Center is mostly Latino and Hispanic.

**LifeCare Alliance a/k/a Meals on Wheels a/k/a Groceries To Go a/k/a Cancer Clinic a/k/a Project Open Hand. Donations can be made 670 Harmon Avenue. Use the pantry entrance between the two handicapped parking spaces. It’s best to call ahead.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (There are staff there on Tuesdays, but they are usually stocking shelves and unloading trucks).
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but helpful and they prefer that it be washed
Provides tax receipts. Will mail receipts. At drop off, donations should be identified by donor's name and address, product being donated and weight of each product.
For more information: Contact Maurice Elder or Chuck Walters at 670 Harmon Avenue, Columbus, OH 43223 at 298-8334.

**R.J. Hairston Community Outreach Pantry. 1441 Brentnell Avenue.
Hours: 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on  second and fourth Saturdays.
Sorted: Not necessary.
Provides tax receipts upon request.
For more information, call Michelle Moody at 252-6228.

This list is not exhaustive and will be updated as additional information is provided. I attempted to reach all of the pantries near the SACG, but not all of them responded to my messages or emails.   Feel free to let me know if you have information about other organizations which take garden produce and I will add them.  You can also find additional Central Ohio pantries on the Ample Harvest website (although I do not know how often that information is updated).

 ** means I have not been able to reach anyone to update the information since 2013.
***means I have not reached anyone to update the information since 2012.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Long and Productive Flag Day

To commemorate Flag Day, I put a flag pinwheel in my plot to act as a scarecrow.  I was at the Garden almost seven hours yesterday and think I must have been insane, but it was such a beautiful and balmy day.  Moreover, almost all the gardeners stopped by to help and we also had a great deal of help from a new WEP volunteer.  

On Monday, I stopped by to transplant some collards and kale (while simultaneously thinning two rows of them) in anticipation of the forecasted rain.    On Tuesday, I stopped by to side dress a few plants with fertilizer and prune some daisies and also finally recycled the stack of plant trays that had collected at the SACG and in my garage by returning them to Lowe’s on East Broad Street.  Celess was busy cleaning out her plot and doing her chores.  On Wednesday, the forecasted rain passed us by and so I stopped by to weed.  Our charming WEP volunteer Chris was supposed to come help as well, but he did not (either because he changed his mind or was reassigned).   
On Friday, I stopped by to meet with Frank and add another coat of varnish to our fading front gate sign. Neal stopped by to water his crops.  After I left, Curt or Charlie stopped by to weed their plot and harvest most of their early Spring crops.
Yesterday, our new WEP volunteer, Jason, beat me to the Garden.  I asked him to weed under the benches, and along the alley.  Instead, he started pulling large weeds from the food pantry plot (because Sabrina didn’t do her chores this week until this morning).  He couldn’t help himself.  I redirected him to mowing and cleaning out the weeds and overgrown raspberry bushes, weeding around our rain cisterns and weeding Mari’s plot.   After six hours, he had mowed our lawn and half of the vacant lot next door, had cleaned up the south/East Main Street side of the Garden and part of the west side and had made some progress weeding Mari’s plot.  The vining weeds on that side of the Garden tends to blur our fence and looks from the street as though we are covered in kudzu.    (Sadly, Jason inadvertently pruned our back rose bushes because they looked dead.  He did not realize they were a security feature to keep ne'er-do-wells from trespassing).  He also asked me if we had to pay to harvest rain water.  He had recently moved here from Nevada and in those dry states, riparian law (i.e., water law) is much different than here in the Midwest.   No one there has the right to harvest rain water and you have to get permission and pay for a permit because by harvesting rain water you are preventing it from reaching a stream and going downstream.   Good thing we don’t live there.  I sent him home with a bag of kale.
Lea and Zion stopped by to weed her plot, harvest and to plant some kale.   She also helped me out by weeding the raised beds next door.  Neal stopped by again on his way to a charity golf outing and we discussed the merits of Epsom salt and where to purchase it.  Apparently, there was a run on Epsom salts at CVS and they only had perfumed varieties remaining.   Epsom salts help tomatoes avoid blossom end rot when we have alternating wet and dry spells.  Rayna stopped by to weed and thin her plot.  Barb and Frank stopped by to fill their raised beds with compost from home.  I have included a picture of their construction project.  Krystle stopped by to weed, water and harvest.  She also helped me to thin the overgrown oregano plants in our herb garden.
I watered the new kale and collard transplants  and the neighbor and next door raised beds.  I picked up and returned the lawn mower.  Then I turned to deadheading and pruning the center flower bed and southern flower bed. I also saved a bunch of daisy seed heads for next year.   I occasionally helped Jason.  I staked some tomatoes and then mulched some tomatoes with straw.  I made our first food pantry harvest of the season, weighed it and dropped it off at the LLS food pantry Champion and Frebis.    I also did some light weeding and harvesting in my own plot before calling it a day.
Barb was still tending the flower plots across the street when I left.  She and Frank then returned to do some planting and to mow the block watch lots.
DeShawn and Tim stopped by to water their plot.  DeShawn asked for J’ayanna’s bed since she has moved to Mississippi, but I told them that she had partnered with other girls who are still here.   He then wanted to buy a plot but he’s six years too young and all the plots are taken.  Besides, he refused to get involved in April or May, so June is a little late to belatedly get the gardening bug;-)   They grabbed some strawberries and hit the basketball court.  Micayla and Mihala stopped by to water and then left.  Micayla came back with Kristin (aka Shae) to water, but then walked through one of the food pantry plots to hunt some black raspberries, stood on a cabbage seedling and have been banned from the Garden for the next week for violating one of our cardinal rules.  But But But . . .
Ms. Anthony stopped by and told me about her efforts to improve their building for a new tenant.  We also talked about a book drive to re-stock the SACG’s free little library since we’re low on books again.  She also told me that she’s had great success in discouraging groundhogs with a repellent she bought at Dill’s a few years ago.
I finally remembered to bring refreshments with me on Wednesday and Saturday, but none of the gardeners or volunteers wanted any.  The boys, on the other hand, were willing to eat me out of house and home.
Next week, I’ll continue pruning and deadheading daisies as they end their useful life and harvest many more black raspberries.  I hope to save some bachelor button seeds.  Hopefully, Jason will return and continue cleaning up the outer edges of the Garden before trimming the brush across the street in the Block Watch lot.  We will also continue to mulch with straw and tying up our tomatoes.   I’m a little skeptical that it will rain much this week, so we’ll probably also be watering again.
Our gardening issue of the week has to do with the white milk that leaks from lettuce when it is cut.  It’s supposed to get very hot (i.e., above 85 degrees) almost every day next week and lettuce grows best under 65 degrees.   When it gets hot, lettuce tends to bolt (i.e., forms stems, flowers and goes to seed). This is why it is a good idea to plant lettuce where it can be shaded by taller plants or structures, like tomatoes and cucumber trellis, etc.   You can also plant more heat resistant varieties, like oak leaf or red lettuces in the Spring and save the other varieties for the Fall.  Contrary to popular belief, the white milk is not a sign of heat distress or that the lettuce is inedible.   Lettuce gets its name from the latin word for that white milk.  It’s perfectly normal, but it is the cause of bitterness in lettuce.   Instead of focusing on the white milk, pay attention when the leaves get dull and the plant bolts.  At that point, the lettuce is probably not very good.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Every Little Bit Helps: Shop for Father's Day to Benefit the SACG

Readers of our website have probably noticed that we have an icon on the right column linking them to a special portal at called 

Donate by Shopping

Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Inc
It's the same old, but if you shop at this site and designate the SACG as your charity of choice, .5% of every purchase you make is donated to the SACG.   In addition, on special events, Amazon sometimes makes an extra donation.  This week is one of those times.  For every SACG supporter who purchases something at through Sunday, an extra $5/person will be donated to the SACG.  Considering that we only have about $411 in our bank account, this will come in handy to help us purchase more compost and fruit trees.
These are the details of how it works:

To celebrate Father's Day, from now through 6/15/2014, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate an extra $5 for each customer who makes an eligible purchase at in support of Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Inc. This is in addition to the regular donation of 0.5% of the purchase price.
In honor of Dad, shop at AmazonSmile through 6/15/14 and Amazon will donate an extra $5 to Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Inc. Click here to get started:

Promotion details

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Every Little Bit Helps

It was another beautiful day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden on Saturday.  We were basking in the 2.5+ inches of rain we received in the past week (and had the weeds to prove it).    Our daisies are still gorgeous, but some are a little battered after Wednesday’s storm.  They look even more eye-catching next to the purple salvia and newly blooming bachelor buttons and in contrast to the  pretty purple cat’s mint.  Sabrina and Susan beat me there on Saturday in order to perform some detailed weeding in Mari’s plot.  We also had much help from our WEP volunteer, Chris.

I had spent parts of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening at the Garden triaging and weeding Mari’s plot, helping the kids to plant beans in the food pantry plot and their own beds, to cut daisies out of my plot and to plant basil in our herb garden.  The beans were finally starting to crack the soil on Saturday morning.  I promised the kids that we would plant sweet potatoes and melons this weekend. 

A 500 gallon cistern showed up in the block watch lot across the street.  Barb and Frank are delighted to not have to keep transporting rain in barrels to the lot on the back of their truck.  I’m still trying to figure out how they plan to fill it, though.  Are they going to hook up gutters to the nearby auto paint shop?   Stay tuned.

Strawberry Picking Expedition.  Lea, Sabrina, her friend Angie, Zephyr and I travelled on Friday morning to Hann’s Farm in southern Franklin County (on Lockbourne Road) to pick strawberries.  There were plenty of berries to fill our baskets, although Zephyr seemed more interested in eating them than putting them in his basket.   Sabrina and I then turned to quickly make some jam and I was kicking myself when I found a new recipe for strawberry jam (using some balsamic vinegar) after I canned my jam (which uses blueberries to replace powdered pectin).  I guess I spent too much time trying to figure out if I wanted to try and make preserves again. There’s always next year.   I also froze 3 quarts of strawberries and, for grins and giggles, canned 2 pints because I had never done it before.  I would never do it again because the strawberries lose some color.   Of course, I saved a couple of pints to eat fresh this week on shortcake (with whipped cream) and in spinach salads.

Sabrina’s already talking about going back to pick more because she wants to make more jam.  They ran out this year (because she gives so much away) and she doesn’t want a repeat in 2015.

Saturday’s Work.  When I arrived yesterday, Susan, Mari and Chris were pulling out the tiny weeds that had grown up in Mari’s onions, spinach, beets, sole okra plant and where I had put tomatoes and peppers (where the three solitary corn plants had been).   Sadly, Susan didn’t recognize the eggplant I had planted with the beets and pitched them.  I always can find more and put 2 new eggplant plants in with the peppers and tomatoes.  I had weeded a bit earlier in the week, but I’m not the kind of gardener that gets on my hands and knees to pull weeds (which is what the three of them were doing).

Susan’s back couldn’t take it, so she was off. Sabrina planted some cabbage and had some donated carrot seedlings.  So, she spent some time transplanting them into Lea’s plot because her carrots never germinated during the two-week mini-drought we had in May.  Tom and Zephyr stopped by to harvest some spinach.

I then turned Chris into cleaning up the area around Mary’s old raised bed (which is now full of chard, collards, lettuce and cabbage).  He raked up the chips, pulled the weeds (all the way around) , dug out giant and smaller stones (which still turn up weekly even though we broke ground SIX years ago), and prepped the soil to plant cabbage (which I picked up from GCGC’s Thursday meeting) and tomatoes.  He then watered Mary’s old bed and the raised beds next door.  I had planned to have him mow our lawn or the lot next door, but Frank and Barb beat us to it.   Of course, I instructed him to harvest and eat any strawberries he found before pulling the volunteer strawberry plants growing there.  He prefers sweet to tart.

Chris is very sociable and did a great job weeding.  His father is an expert gardener.  He stopped by before I got there and was so delighted with the SACG that he came back a few hours later with a woman from a Linden area church who wanted to start or improve a new garden and wanted to know how they could also get a WEP volunteer like Chris.  I showed them both around and he knew every bit as much as I did (if not more) about growing food and saving seeds.   She liked our daisies and so I told her to take as many of my discarded daisies as she wanted.  (I never let anyone take our community daisies because they exist to beautify the neighborhood and I don’t know how I would ration them among everyone who asks for them).   I also sent her away with some chive seeds and raspberry seedlings.   She’s supposed to come back for more when I have more time.
I weeded my own plot and dug out most of my daisy plants to make room for my summer and winter squash and cucumbers.  I also continued planting tomatoes, cabbage and squash in the raised beds behind the old BTBO offices, which Chris then watered in.  I also watered the neighbor plot.

Some of the neighborhood girls showed up and sang Frozen for me in harmony. They want to hire me as their agent.  We then turned to planting melons.  I instructed them to study the mounds in Lea's plot (that she spent so much time creating last week) where cantalope and watermelon had sprouted and then to each create their own similar mound in the melon raised bed.  (They initially said they also wanted cantaloupe, but none of their girls ended up planting any).   We also ended up planting two pumpkin hills.  To finish, they tried to harvest as many of the ripe strawberries from the volunteer plants in our food pantry plot (because they had already cleared out our too-small strawberry patch).  This lead to harsh reminder from me about walking in plots without permission.  Nothing gets my dander up than the kids tramping through plots oblivious to the newly emerging or planted seedlings that I have spent hours nurturing from seed.  

Barb and Frank are building something very new in their plot and we are all eagerly waiting the completion of their construction and planting to see what it will eventually be.  I should have taken a picture and maybe I will later today.

GCGC.  I attended  Thursday’s meeting of the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition at Grace Church of Christ on Shady Lane.  They have a large community garden, which consists of a number of fenced-in raised beds.  Their bane are the neighborhood deer, which have no fear of humans.  Their five foot fence had been woefully inadequate, so they added another two feet.  Still not enough.  The added another foot -- to eight feet -- that seems to have done the trick.   Humorously, shortly after Alton finished speaking, a deer appeared on the church lawn.  He also discussed the food pantry they run year round at the church which is supplemented by the fresh produce from their garden.   The Grace folks provided us a cook-out feast of grilled hamburgers (instead of venison), spinach salad and watermelon.  The weather was perfect.
Mike Hogan from OSU Extension was the featured speaker. OSU’s Extension Program turns 100 this year.  Yoo Hoo!  OSU had finally realized that there is a lot of interest in urban agriculture and has tasked Mike to become OSU’s version of Bill Dawson from Franklin Park Conservatory.   Just don’t expect too much yet because he just started on Monday.  OSU already sponsors a hugely popular Master Gardener program which focuses mostly on flowers.  They offered a similar program in Urban Agriculture last winter and expected maybe 30 registrants.  They ended up with 85 and could only accommodate 70, so a repeat program will begin in October.    He spoke about how much farther ahead the cities of Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee are of Columbus in urban agriculture.  He talked about the urban agricultural activities OSU has been spearheading (with Godman Guild) in Weinland Park.  He’s also purchased the rights to show an urban agriculture documentary throughout Ohio.  Just ask to show it to your group. There will be a free showing at OSU on June 27.   He also discussed how popular the school garden program was and how it needs to be expanded so that regular community gardens can incorporate youth education into their activities.  Amen brother.

Grow Your Food books were passed out and I grabbed on for Lea.  I love the sections on companion and succession planting.   I’d like to get one for Susan, too. 
There were cabbage, tomato, pepper and flower seedlings donated by Straders and OSU.  I also donated a flat of extra tomato and eggplant seedlings that I was tired of watering on my patio.  They were snapped right up.  I also explained that the SACG had just donated (on Tuesday) a paper grocery bag of vegetable and flower seeds to the Rebuilding Together's Tool Library and they should hurry over on Saturday morning if they needed any.  East Baptist Church was looking for corn seeds and so we chatted about where they could buy them in bulk (like Dill's or Zettler's downtown).

All of the gardens introduced themselves.   There was a nice mix of established and new gardens.
Finally, they raffled off a brand new rototiller.  Driving Park Community Gardens won it.

Next month’s GCGC meeting is likely to be in Canal Winchester.

Seeds. The daisies are starting to die back.  So, if anyone wants some daisy seeds, just stop by and catch me at the SACG and I'll send you home with some seed heads to start your own daisy patch for next year.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 Strawberry Pickin' Season Options

The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has its own strawberry patch and volunteer berry plants that have creeped into a few plots.  Our berries have been ripening in waves for the past two weeks.  I’ve had a couple.  Typically, the neighborhood kids eat most of them.  The adult gardeners who are interested in bulk strawberries drive to a local u-pick farm for our strawberry fix.  Unlike 2012 (when the strawberries ripened two weeks early), the strawberries this year appear to be running ever so slightly behind schedule this year.

a. Hann Farms 4600 Lockbourne Road has u-pick strawberries this year at $1.79/pound (still the least expensive option in Franklin County). This is the closest u-pick farm to Bexley and your least expensive option by far, but the trip there is a little tricky (through an industrial district in Obetz, etc.). You can pick 10-6 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. You must pay with cash or check, so come prepared. Call 491-0812 for more information.   We’ll be dropping by there tomorrow morning.

b. Jacquemin Farm, (between Plain City and Dublin), $2.05/pound (a slight increase over last year). I visited here several years ago with my nieces and it is very quaint and very close to Dublin and Sports Ohio. They are typically open weekdays 8-5.  They will not be open for strawberry picking tomorrow because they are picked out.   They recommend that you come early on Saturday because the anticipated number of expected visitors.  They also have a program for organized groups of 10 or more young children.  The strawberry field trip costs $4 per child and includes 1 quart of strawberries (picked by the children, of course), and an ice cold slushee to cool down with after the picking is done. Please call the farm for more information regarding a field trip and to set a date.  Call 873-5725 for more information.
d. Doran Farms, 5462 Babbitt Rd. New Albany, I've never been there, but have heard good things about it. They closed early today because they were picked out of berries and need to wait until more ripen.   When they are open, they begin picking from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day until the strawberries are gone (with temporary suspensions while the ripe strawberries catch up with the pickers). Their berries are $1.99/pound.   Call 855-3885 for more information.

e. Circle S Farm, 9015 London-Groveport Rd west of Grove City. I went here a few years ago with my oldest niece and it's a nice, large farm, but is way, way out in the country. Their u-pick berries are $2.49/pound.  Their u-pick hours start at 8:30 a.m. and they have chicken and noodles for lunch if you are there then.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Full House Saturday

Although we have been tragically short of rain over the last two weeks at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, the beautiful day yesterday and Friday brought out virtually all of our gardeners.  I was kicking myself all day for forgetting the bag of refreshments in my kitchen that I meant to bring.  They would have come in useful.

On Friday, I stopped by to cut daisies out of my plot (with the thought I would be digging them out on Saturday to make room for squash).   One of the neighbor girls stopped to water and I gave her a bouquet.  After I left, Celess and Neal stopped by to plant, weed, and water.  I now have daisies in almost every room in my house and still had enough to give a bouquet to my neighbor.

When I arrived on Saturday morning, Susan and Curt were already there weeding.   Sabrina then shortly joined us and weeded along the alley before weeding and watering her own plot.  She announced that while at DeMonye’s Garden Center, another community gardener gave her a flat of lettuce, which we distributed among the food pantry and other gardener plots.  

I spent the first few hours watering.  (We’ve only received .2 inch of rain in the past two weeks and the ground is rock solid.  This made it extremely challenging to dig and sink stakes).  Lea and Zion arrived to water and then to plant zucchini, watermelon and cantelope.   Zion finds it a bit challenging to not walk and dig in other people’s plots and finally settled on a book to occupy him while his mother weeded and watered.   Krystle arrived and apologized for not having time to water her plot.  Very little had sprouted, so we filled it with tomato, pepper, eggplant, lettuce and kale seedlings.   

Barb and Frank stopped by to water the Block Watch flower beds across the street and explain the construction project in their plot.   They are building a raised bed out of cinder blocks for their squash plot.  They can plant mint and other scented herbs and flowers in the block holes to deter squash bugs without worrying about the roots taking over.

I transplanted kale, collards, pepper and tomato seedlings into the food pantry plots.  Then, I turned to transplanting eggplant and tomatoes into raised beds next door.  Then, I started weeding my plot and planting two sweet potatoes.

Tim and Tyrese stopped by to plant watermelon.  However, there has been a change of plans.  Hope and Ben decided not to have a pumpkin patch this summer, so we will be cleaning out their bed and planting melons instead for all of the kids to share.  They watered the boys bed and moved on to basketball.  Many of the girls stopped by to slightly water their raised beds.  J'ainna has raised magnificent spinach, but her family won’t eat it.  Just more for me.
Neal joined us in the afternoon to finish planting out his plot (which is still well weeded).  However, Susan is likely to be stiff competition this year for tidiest gardener of the year.

Strawberries.  Everyone grabbed a few of our volunteer strawberries.   I will be digging out the plants in a few weeks to make room for beans.    I called around to u-pick strawberry farms this week and, so far, only Hann Farms is open for picking.  They are charging $1.79/pound.  The other farms intend to open this upcoming week.  So, we are planning our annual SACG strawberry expedition on Friday morning.  Contact me asap if you’d like to join our little caravan. So far, it will be me, Lea, Sabrina and Zephyr.

I sent daisies home with Susan and Krystle before I packed up at 2:30.  I also have volunteer “daisies” of another sort in my home garden:  chamomile.  I generally plant some every year, but have been unreliable in past years in harvesting the pretty, tiny flowers to dry and use for tea on sleepless nights.  However, this year, I’ve made a point of harvesting blooms every day.

Bexley’s Little Free Library.  We were not the only busy garden on Saturday.  The Bexley Community Garden commissioned their Little Free Library on Saturday.  Unlike our Free Little Library (which we installed last August), theirs is officially sanctioned and numbered by the charter organization (which involves a fee that is not in the SACG budget).    Their little library is a project of the Friends of the Bexley Public Library.   I imagine this will make it easier for them to keep it filled with books.  I have found that to be challenging.  Yesterday, before I went to the Garden, I hit a few yard/garage sales that my neighbors were holding.  They all had books for sale and I encouraged them to donate them to our library if they had any left at the end of the day.  I guess none of them did.  Sigh.   However, one of them was giving books away, so I took two and left her three eggplant seedlings for her backyard garden.

I love the message board at the Bexley Community Garden.  It’s so handy to share information with the gardeners.  All I can do is staple certain notices inside the shed.

Gardening Tips of the Week.   My cilantro is starting to go to seed in this heat.  One way to delay this process is to pinch the plant back every time flowers start to form.  Or, you can prune the plant back by half (and then, as I did last night, wash, pick and dry the leaves before tossing them in a freezer bag to use later).   At some point, though, you will want to let the plant go to seed.  The seed heads are the coriander spice and are helpful (if you store them) to use as cilantro seeds next Spring.

Also, if, like us, you missed out on all of last week's rain, remember that your plants are stressed.  Not only will they need water, but a little fertilizer would help them quite a bit, too.  Sabrina was administering dried organic fertilizer around her plants before watering them yesterday.  This means that you sprinkle it on the soil and scratch it in a bit (so it won't all wash away when you use your watering can).

Finally, when planting thirsty seedlings in a dry summer, it pays to build an earthen cone around the plant to trap the water and help it to go down into the earth instead of spreading horizontally along the ground.

Upcoming Projects.  Since we started planting a little later than normal (with the cooler May temperatures), we're a little behind.  I still need to clean out the herb garden area (of weeds and grossly overgrown oregano), and plant basil. There are beans to be planted in the food pantry plot, back gate roses to be weeded and fertilized, a front gate sign to varnish, additional tomato and pepper seedlings to plant, squash to be planted, the kids' melon/pumpkin patch to be cleaned out and planted, and Mari's plot to be weeded and planted (since she's under the weather and not expected to return for a month or two).  Whew!  Volunteers are welcomed!