Sunday, June 14, 2015

Busy without the Bees

I’ve been too busy at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden (and with my other non-gardening life) to write for three whole weeks.   My, how time flies.   However, it also indicates that we’ve had a lot going on.   I would say that we've been busy little bees, but I've seen very few of them around . . . .

Water.  Water remains our biggest obstacle.  The downspout strainer clogged AGAIN.  Despite a nice rain at the end of May, we only had 200 gallons and they were gone in a blink.  John found transporting my ladder to be too much of a hassle, so Barb and I walked down the alley with her ladder to the SACG so that I could clear the strainer again.   Until the tank refilled on May 31, Barb also loaned us water from the Block Watch tank across the street. With Friday night’s rain, our tank was full to the brim again, so I turned off the diverter.  However, the other tank still only has 150 gallons in it, which makes me think that something is wrong with the diverter . . . . .  The garden next door – Kimball Farms Community Garden – is making due with three of our old rain barrels and they fill like clockwork now (after a few spits and starts), although I hope they do something soon about covering them (to keep mosquitoes from invading).

Seedlings.. It seems that it’s almost impossible these days to give seedlings away.  I always grow enough for everyone, but hardly anyone wants any of my seedlings.  I can cope, because I can find room for the non-tomato ones in the food pantry plots.  Strader’s Nursery has been exceedingly generous to GCGC this year and donated thousands of tomato and flower seedlings and hundreds of pepper, melon, lettuce, cabbage and cucumber seedlings.   I put some of the melon seedlings in the kids’ melon plot and Stan made use of many of the rest.   I also spent quite a bit of time one Saturday planting donated annuals (and a few transplanted perennials from my yard) into the flower beds.  Our daisies have started their seasonal die-back and the annuals will give us a tiny bit of color until other flowers bloom.

Kids.  Four of our kids’ raised beds have been taken by groups of neighborhood kids.  Some boys (and one of their fathers) came on the last Wednesday in May to plant in a bed.  Sadly, they haven’t returned to harvest or water.  Their lettuce is crowding their carrots and beets . . . .    When the girls assigned to the fifth bed didn’t return for weeks and weeks (after cleaning it out and helping around the Garden), I finally relented to turning it into a melon plot so that all of the kids can share cantaloupe and watermelon.

Donations.  With my non-gardening issues prevailing on my time in May, we were a little tardy in taking advantage of some important donations.  The City donated some premium top soil from Kurtz Brothers, but we had to pick it up ourselves.  No one would volunteer to do that, although I had volunteers to help unload. Then, Franklin Park Conservatory donated some compost (which we never have enough of).  So, I took a day off work (when my sister drove my father from OSUMC to my hometown), rented a truck and picked up the compost from the Conservatory.  Barb helped me to unload it while Frank mowed the two block watch lots.  After a brief lunch, I then went to pick up the top soil from Kurtz Brothers in Groveport and Amy helped me to unload it (which was much heavier than the compost) and sweep out the truck.  It was very hot.  Even though she was on vacation with her family in the nation’s capitol, Cathy helped us by letting me hose out the truck before returning it. 
I then rushed back to the SACG because a nice lady, Brenda, had stopped by as I was leaving the prior Saturday, for help in learning to grow food.  I told her I’d show her some things if she met me at 6 on Wednesday.  I got there 10 minutes before she did.  I showed her some things and used our abundant pepper donation to give her some practice.  Then, she went to work hoeing out Tony’s old overgrown plot (where Stan also decided to put his excess squash plants.  She came back the following Saturday and told me that she’d like to have a plot with a friend.  So, Wednesday, she was back to start putting in her work equity by staining our new picnic table (with help from the neighborhood girls).  However, neither she nor her friend returned on Saturday to complete the project or perform other work . . . . . . sigh.

 Crime.  Crime has continued to be a problem.  Much of our mulch was stolen again, even though we had it inside our locked gates.  The thieves have been damaging the fence in Stan’s plot to get it.  It hasn’t helped that he unwisely cut back the raspberries back to the fence on the inside of the fence.  The thieves stomped down the brambles and then bent down the fence.  Surprisingly, they did not step on a single one of Stan’s plants.  They also attacked our shed and tried to pry of the latch (without much luck the first time).  Although initially unsuccessful, they damaged the wood and broke one of the window-type latches.  I knew they’d be back and they were – just five days later.  This time, they broke the latch (but not the combination lock).  I expected that they would steal all of our tools and watering cans.  Instead, they took our gardening gloves and seeds – ALL OF OUR SEEDS  - - and the container they were stored in (which has SACG written on it).  So much for fall planting . . . . . and new gardeners . . . .  They also mysteriously left us a box of trash.  I’m too creeped out by this to inspect what is inside.   I had to drop everything, check out the damage, buy and install a new latch and, because we hadn’t initially found the old lock, bought a new lock, too.   Sigh. 

Bugs.  The squash bugs are back.  I knew that I planted my squash too early, but I couldn’t help myself and wait until now to start planting.

Poison Ivy.  For the first time in my memory, I have a nasty case of poison ivy.  I pulled some near my patio and at the Garden’s front gate.  Then, I carelessly carried it in my uncovered arms to the compost bins.   It is very unsightly.  After a few days, I finally tried a remedy that I should have implemented the first day because it reduced the swelling and itching almost immediately:  Off label-use of Preparation H.  Think about it.  It’s supposed to reduce the swelling and itchiness of another itchy tissue and does the same for poison ivy and bug bites.    Just sayin’ . . .

Soil Improvement.  The beginning of the month saw another very informational presentation at a GCGC meeting by Dr. Darrah from CLC Labs.   I could write a full article just on what he covered during that presentation, but I’m a little pressed for time.  He wanted to cover how much of what to apply to your soil and when to apply it. 

He’s not the biggest fan of organic gardening, simply because it’s too expensive and complicated.  There are perfectly natural minerals which perform the same task with far less weight and cost.  For instance, to improve the nitrogen in the soil, you could apply urea or blood meal, but it would take 20 times as much of those materials as the mineral ammonium sulfate (which, unlike the others, won’t attract wild life to your garden).  It’s the efficacy of the organic ingredients which makes them more expensive because it takes a lot more of an organic substitute to achieve the result just a tiny bit of the mineral can achieve.  Also, the organic materials still need to break down into a mineral form before they can be used by your plants.   However, when it comes to lawn care, you are far less likely to burn your grass using organic materials because they are absorbed slower.  For phosphorus, he recommends turf soil starter fertilizer, bone meal,  or poultry manure.  For postasium, he recommends sulfate of potash or green sand.

 He also noted that vegetation compost (like leaf mold) has less nutrition for plants than manure compost.  I’ve noted before that he has warned about using too much compost or sifted compost in your garden because, when the soil becomes water-logged like this morning, it will suffocate the plant roots without air pockets to get oxygen.  He likes to leave twigs and such in his compost to give roots breathing room.  Other than pine bark compost, most vegetative composts are alkaline and you will need to acidify your soil in order to obtain a favorable pH.    (Thank you Donley Complete Tree Care for giving us pine bark wood chips this year to protect the pH of our soil!)

He explained that the limestone soils which are common in this area want to remain alkaline.  Most soils will go acidic over time as rain washes away calcium and magnesium.

Upcoming Projects. Well, when it stops raining every day (or between rain drops), we will need to put on a second coat of stain onto the picnic table.  We will also repaint the shed (to cover the damage caused by the thieves) and to make it look a little brighter after five years of wear.  We’ll also try to finally mulch the flower beds, clear out the spent daisies and put in the rest of the basil. 

Since John dropped out this morning, we have two beds available.  Brenda indicated an interest in one and Stan’s sister, Linda, in the other.  However, I want this matter settled once and for all this weekend so that I can compost my extra tomato seedlings and reclaim my patio.  If those plots aren’t claimed and cleaned out, I’ll turn them into food pantry plots and fill them with tomatoes, squash and peppers.  So there.

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