Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks for SACG’s Volunteers

Before we enjoy our Thanksgiving feast of roast beast tomorrow, let’s remember to give thanks for those folks who made our feast possible, especially the volunteers at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  After all, where would we be without Cathy to haul me and our large items (like fruit trees) around, Frank and Barb to haul construction debris to the local dump, college students to carry, weed, harvest, plant, haul, Ezra to mow and water, Ken to lock up, Rayna to prune, and high school students to spread?  We should be especially thankful in 2015 for Amy Thompson who recruited volunteers, carried bags, saved places, picked up litter, planted trees, planted and pruned flowers, and unloaded trucks.  This is just a sample of all of the hard work she put in this year to be our Volunteer of the Year for 2015:

·        Brought monkey bread to refresh our volunteers on Opening Day and donuts on our closing day;

·        Transplanted raspberry bushes on our Opening Day and weeded our south flower bed without even having to be asked;

·        Saved my place in a long line of community gardeners at Franklin Park Conservatory so that I could quickly pick up our Earth Day celebration supplies and Scotts Miracle-Gro donations and then helped me to unload the truck back at the Garden;

·        Helped to unload a truckload of top soil from Kurtz Brothers that had been donated by the City;

·        Recruited an Earth Day volunteer and helped to plant a fruit tree and move our blueberry bushes and turrets from the north to the south side of the Garden;

·        Cleaned out the neighbor plot so that we could add new soil to it;

·        Pruned daisies and a lot of other flowers;

·        Helped me and some neighbors to unload the landscaping stones donated by GreenScapes in August and to load up the truck with construction debris to be taken to a local dump;

·        Weeded flower beds;

·        Weeded Kaci’s plot after she had abandoned it to tall weeds weeks earlier;

·        Cleaned out one of the kids’ beds and pruned our entire northern flower bed on our closing day and

·        Plans to help me plant spring-flowering bulbs when it gets cold next week J

While we value all of our volunteers, there’s usually one or two each year who do so much more than everyone else (before they burn out like the grumpy Garden Manager):

2009:  Dwayne Penny

2010:  Frank and Barb Cater

2011:  Charlie Kall

2012:  Cathy Alexander

2013: Sabrina Reynolds-Wing

2014:  Susan Tomlinson

We could not do all that we do without our hard-working, dedicated and reliable volunteers.  After all, as Kipling’s famous poem recognizes: Gardens are not made by singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Peace-Full End to Growing Season

Peace.  Peace.  That’s what Zion said to me as I dropped him and his mother off at their apartment after we finished our final work day for the 2015 growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  I couldn’t help but think later that no one could be so hopeless about the future or angry enough to randomly kill scores of peaceful strangers if you had spent the morning – as I had – with such a happy and energetic child.  Of course, what else could one expect when his mother’s email address is lovepeacenhappiness.  We worked really hard yesterday and got a lot done.  It was very quiet and very serious until Zion came and livened things up quite a bit with his contagious enthusiasm.

Earlier this week, when it was dry, I was running over to Capital University to bag shredded leaves for the Garden.  They have a nifty riding mower that fills three bins with grass clippings and shredded leaves.  I was fascinated by it when I saw the leaves being piled along the curb on Pleasant Ridge while I waited at the traffic light.  I called the Maintenance Department and asked if I could have the leaves for the SACG.  Of course, they said. We can even bring them. Beth Ann was probably joking, but your overworked and grumbly Garden Manager immediately accepted her offer.  Sadly, they were tied up this week with stringing holiday lights in gale force winds.  Because I wasn’t sure how many, if any, of the gardeners would want the leaves for their plots, I wasn’t sure whether I should wait until next week.   I asked the gardeners for help because my Jetta only fits two full lawn waste bags at a time.  Cathy volunteered her truck while she was a church conference in Memphis through last night.   Then, Frank volunteered to help with his truck.
I picked up rakes and loper pruners from the Tool Library on Thursday.  Sadly, too many of you read my last couple of posts and rushed over to take the rest of the 10,000 free lawn waste bags that the Tool Library was giving away for free.  Sigh.  So, no extra bags for our shredded leaf expedition.  

That evening, I attended a book reading and signing at the Bexley Public Library by Amy's step-daughter, Jessica.  Jessica has a food blog, Sweet Amandine, which is much more polished and popular than this one.  After having a brain aneurysm (like the one which killed our neighbor Ms. D last March), she luckily survived and recovered her strength through the restorative power of cooking and baking.  This is recounted in her Memoir, Stir.  Of course, you can buy it through Smile.Amazon.com (where you can designate a tiny portion of each Amazon purchase you make at smile.amazon to benefit the SACG).  Or, you can try to catch Jessica on her nationwide book tour.

On Friday afternoon, I went over to the SACG to harvest the last of my Fall produce:  volunteer napa cabbage and bok choy, snow peas, snap peas, lettuce, arugula, kale, onions, and leeks.  My beets were pathetic.   I also emptied more water out of our large rain cistern until Frank arrived.  He told me to keep working so that he could mow our front lawn.   He was only wearing an oxford button-down shirt.  It made me cold just looking at him since the wind chill put us in the high 30’s with 20 mph winds.  He looked at me and agreed he should go home and get a jacket.  Then, we headed over and picked up from my garage four full bags of shredded leaves and headed to Capital.   There were so many shredded leaves that it was like shooting fish in a barrel.   It only took us about half an hour to fill enough bags to stuff the truck.  We probably should have gone back for more, but it was starting to get dark and it was still windy.  And I didn’t know that we would use what we had. 

Imagine my shock when I returned home to take a shower and process my harvest when I discovered what had happened in Paris.  I hadn’t been there in almost 30 years, but I remember how lucky we felt then that Libya had not engaged in more terrorist attacks after President Reagan had bombed that country.  There were very few Americans in Europe that summer because of a fear of terrorism.  We heard a lot about it from people we met along the way, particularly a security guard at the Sorbonne who lectured us that there was nothing to fear and Paris was perfectly safe.  I hope he realized that he was talking to the choir . . . . . but I remember thinking how crazy it was that one of my friends and his mother flew home out of Rome or Athens, because we heard that their airport security was not very good.   That was then . . . .  and here we are again.
Frank told me that Barb would not be coming on Saturday and he had to work.  I panicked.  How could we get anything done without Frank?  Our muscle!  Hopefully, Tom would come and be our muscle.  Frank saw my panicked face and then said that he would try to get up extra early and come to help us puny ladies out until he had to work.  Whew.  Considering that most of my hardworking gardeners had abandoned me months earlier, I seriously wondered (as I do every year) whether anyone would even show up.  The Kimball Farms ladies next door said that they had planned to finish up on Saturday, too, so I told my gardeners that they should come if they would like to meet them.  I promised them donuts and apple cider.  Anything to get folks to help.  Considering how cold it started off, I decided to bring hot chocolate instead of cider.  But then, half of it spilled in my car on my way to the Garden, ensuring that my car will smell like sour milk for the next five years.  Sigh.
When I pulled up, Rayna was already there and had pruned about 15 feet of the140 feet of our raspberry brambles along the south side of our fence.  Amy was trying to open the lock on the front gate.  Both had brought refreshments, including more donuts, cider, carrots, apples and popcorn.   Sabrina came and cleaned out the rest of her plot and cut back brambles.  She left Tom at home with her two boys because it was too cold for the baby.  Oh. Oh.  Rayna continued cutting back brambles and, after she finished cleaning out her plot, I put Amy on cleaning out one of the kids’s beds and then pruning the perennials and cleaning out the front 50 feet of flower beds.  I filled two buckets and emptied the big tank.  With the two buckets of water, I turned the decaying matter in the turning compost bin and then got it wet and turned it again.  Then, I bagged brambles that Rayna cut until I got to the shed.  Then, I pulled out the stakes, tomato cages and tarps and patio umbrellas, etc.  Then I cleaned out that area of items that could not be re-used, restacked the good stuff and covered them with the tarps to protect them from the elements.  

 At this point, Sabrina asked about our new stakes.  At some point this summer, about 50 new tomato stakes showed up next to the shed.  It looked as though someone had re-purposed the stakes that Columbia Gas had been using to mark water lines during their gas line replacement projects on the East Side.    It was a mystery.  However, she admitted that she had brought them from her new job and could get us more if we needed them.  Although they are a little shorter than our typical stakes, I used them to reinforce trellises and to support leaning sunflowers.
Susan drove up.  Yea.  She still wasn’t well enough to help us, but she brought our travelling gnome trophy which goes to the season’s tidiest gardener (i.e., Amy).  She also brought us a carafe of fancy Starbucks coffee and cream.  This lead to jokes from our heathen gardeners about their politically incorrect holiday cups.   Need I mention that no one tried any of my hot chocolate?   Sabrina and I caught up with Susan, who has been greatly missed this year.
Meanwhile, Brandy – the german shepard next door – got out again, walked into the Garden and growled at Sabrina.  Oh. Oh. I went next door and knocked on the door and told Rose that the dog was out again.  She asked me to get her. Luckily, since Tom had corralled Brandy earlier this year, I knew that she was a friendly dog.  She came when I called her.  Then, I opened up their back gate and she sauntered right in.  Well done, says Amy.    I explained that I am generally afraid of dogs, but Tom had showed me earlier that Brandy was a nice dog, even though she barks a lot.

Rose came out on her front porch and I invited her to help us.  She was very excited to do so.   Lea arrived with Zion and I paired them with Rose to help bag the raspberry brambles that Rayna was cutting back.  Rayna found some ripe white rapsberries and explained that they were not getting enough sun behind the turning compost bin.  She suggested that we transplant them somewhere with more sun.  I’m already tired and can’t imagine taking on another project.  Next Spring, I say.  Let’s do it in the Spring.  When we know it will rain again. 

Frank arrived.  Yea.  I asked him to prune brambles on the north side of the Garden and to weed the strawberry patch.  Lonely work considering that everyone was on the south side of the Garden.  Lea and Sabrina then huddled quite a bit because Lea just found out that she’s about to have another baby next July.  Sabrina just had her second boy in June. 
We were running out of lawn waste bags to collect the brambles that Rayna was busily cutting.  So, Frank and I began emptying leaves into the plots to create new empty bags.  Then I tasked Frank (and later Zion) to spread the leaves with rakes and then till them in with my cultivator.  I sometimes helped.  I took pictures and started our final food pantry harvest.  However, I was very unhappy with the quality of our kale and collard greens.  Bugs – and particularly aphids – had been going to town on them.  Sabrina started to help me. Like me, she will eat and cook with almost anything, but even we have our limits.  When we started to throw some of the kale into the yard waste bags and compost bins, another gardener protested because she was willing to wash them when she got home and use them in smoothies.  Ok with me.   Sabrina and I talked about possible remedies for aphids.  She had heard that vinegar water can kill them (although it can also kill the plants).  I’ve heard that soapy water can suffocate them, but I haven’t had great luck with it at home.  The best way is to hose them off with a water hose, but we don’t have one of those at the SACG.  Sigh.

Sabrina was also having a funny conversation about cabbage and sour kraut.  She can’t eat cabbage right now because it gives the baby gas.    Tom planted A LOT of cabbage in their plot and was determined to use some of it.  He tried to make sour kraut.  I couldn’t stop laughing because the process of making home-made sour kraut is completely disgusting.  I wanted to make my own, too, but when I read the recipe I got sick.    I’ve made kim chi, but I’ll never, ever make sour kraut.  They had a similar disaster and no one would even taste it.  I had to laugh.
I hadn’t seen Zion since April or May.  He is always a bundle of energy.  However, that energy really exploded after I gave him a donut.  He ran around like a wild beast.   There’s no harm from that at the Garden at this point because everything’s been pulled out.  Go at it, dude.  Too bad that Zephyr wasn’t there to play with him, too.   He really wanted to water or plant something.  There’s nothing to water, dude.  I guess that I could have let him plant some daisies, but I didn’t bring any seeds and didn’t want to mess with it.

Stan the Man drove up since his work project ended prematurely.  I put him on the project of weeding the strawberry patch and pulling out as much of the volunteer spearmint growing along the alley as he could get to.  I also asked him to help carry the yard waste bags over to the dumpsters since Rose said that the City will pick it up from there.  That will save me a trip back on Monday to carry all of the bags to the curb.  Yea! When Frank announced that he had to leave for work, I corralled everyone for a group picture.  While Sabrina and I harvested, Rose worked on cleaning out our flower pots and pulling out giant stems we left behind.  
Amy had to leave for work as well since there was a Bexley High School musical rehearsal.  Then, Mari walked over and I put her to work helping Sabrina harvest kale.  (We had a lot of kale).  Sabrina worked on spreading leaves in her plot (which, by then, Zion had “claimed” for himself).   We talked about where to get more shredded leaves so that we could spread some on Mari’s plot.  Mari was amazed at all we had gotten done before she arrived.   She also asked how many years we had been doing this.  This was our seventh growing seasons and Mari has been there for all seven (as have Rayna and Frank).  She said this year would be her last, but I can tell that she’s already reconsidering that since she wanted to get shredded leaves for her plot . .  . .   Sabrina had also indicated that she didn’t think she would return because they wanted to buy a house with its own lawn, but she also wanted to be sure that her plot was covered with leaves.  Lea isn’t sure that she should come back since she won’t be able to do much next year and she’s not sure that he partner will help out as much as he has promised.  But maybe her old, small plot.  Susan said she wanted her old, small plot if she’s well enough to comes back. 

Rayna and I continued our annual struggle about how far back to cut the brambles.  I think that she cuts them back too much and they are always puny on the north side of the Garden in April and May.  So much so that thieves crawl over the fence over there because we do not have enough thorns to protect our fence.  She doesn’t care.  She wants healthy bushes and lots of berries (not that she eats them).   Because she’s the one cutting them (and is the gardener who started our raspberry patch), I always end up leaving it to her.  But I protested more this year than I usually do.    She even went back and cut back areas that Frank had already pruned because she wanted them pruned back even farther.  Sigh.  However, she was impressed how much better the alley looked with our new curb.  This was the first time that she had been to the Garden since August.  She also reminded me that we need to remove the western fence by the kids’ bed next Spring.  The brambles crowd the kids too much over there and we no longer need it now that the superior Kimball Farms fence has been installed.

Sabrina needed to leave, but she tidied up our shed first.  Neal has a bad habit of returning tools to the shed in a horizontal position, instead of vertically.  This makes it impossible to get anything out of the shed.  Grr.   It also makes it seem fuller than it is.   You would be amazed at how much empty space there seems to be in our shed after Sabrina has organized it.  We discussed trying to create some sort of rack in there to hang tools.  The problem is that the shed is pretty short  and some of our handles are pretty long.
Speaking of Neal.  Who didn’t come to our closing work day for the third year in a row?  Attorney Neal Barkan.  His time is apparently so much more valuable than my time or any of the other gardeners’ time.   He doesn’t call off.  He never offers to do extra work to make up for his absence.  He just doesn’t show up.  He leaves it to the rest of us.    At least he mostly cleaned out his plot.  Sigh.   He should not wonder why I’m always giving him the evil eye. 
Well, once Mari loaded up my car with all of the bags of produce, I weighed it, recorded it and took it to Faith Mission (because it was, by now, 2 p.m.).   I had left Stan and Rayna at work as I drove away at 1:30.  Rayna was working on finally cleaning out her plot and Stan was still cleaning up the alley.  I discovered that not all of the Tool Library tools were back in my trunk, so I returned to the SACG to see if they were in the shed.  However, I couldn’t get in because Rayna took the key with her.  Sigh.  I’ll get it today.  Hopefully, I won’t be as sore today as I was last night. 

As Lea, Zion and I were driving through Bexley, we noticed that all of the leaves that had been on the Capital campus at Pleasant Ridge WERE GONE!  Frank and I had just be bagging them the day before.  Where was I going to get another bag of shredded leaves for Mari's plot?!  When has the City of Bexley ever picked up leaves on a Saturday?  Sigh.    It's a good thing that I had Frank to help me on Friday. 
I’ll be returning to the SACG before Wednesday to till leaves into my plot and add nitrogen to the shredded leaves (to help them decompose and replace the nitrogen that their decomposition will sap from the soil).  Frank and Barb plan to return to remove the front gate and sign.  They will also shred and bag the leaves on the Block Watch lot across the street.   Mari's thinking about transplanting some of our volunteer daisies into the center flower bed.   Then, next month, Amy and I will return to plant donated flowering bulbs (like tulips and daffodils), which will greet us when we return in the Spring.  We are all looking forward to a warmer winter.  I think my rosemary may also overwinter in my backyard herb garden, like it does on occasion.   But, I’m sure that I’ll hedge my bets. . . . .

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Blustery End Predicted for the SACG’s Closing Day


2009
In just a few days, we will be calling it a year on the 2015 growing season.   On Saturday, we will be putting the rest of the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden to bed for the winter.  Because of the early freeze, I’ve already started on pruning back the flower beds and some of the raspberry brambles, cleaned out most of the food pantry plots, emptied the tall tank and lowered the water level in the big tank.  On Saturday, beginning at 9:30, we will be addressing the following:

2010
·        Cutting the raspberry brambles back to the fence (and removing the dead branches completely).  Put the brambles into lawn waste bags.  Keep an eye out for praying mantis cocoons so that we can put them somewhere safe to hatch next Spring.  Hopefully, no one will cut the brambles on the outside of the fence back too much because we will need those brambles in the Spring to keep thieves from climbing over the fence.   We’d like the Garden to look somewhat tidy while we’re gone over the winter.

·        Pruning back the flowers.  Put thick stalks into lawn waste bags.  Annuals (like petunias and marigolds) can be pulled out of the grounds, but perennials should just be cut back to a couple of inches above the ground.

·        Cleaning up the herb garden plot (by cutting back oregano, etc.)

·        Cleaning out the remaining two kids raised beds.  One of them (with tomatoes) can be bagged.  The other (with kale and greens) should be harvested for our food pantry
2011
donations.

·        Mowing the lawn

·        Taking down the front gate sign and gate

·        Taking two buckets of water and pour them in the turning compost bin on the south side of the Garden.  Turn the bin a couple of times to mix everything up.

·        Spreading shredded leaves over some of the plots.  Capital University has granted me permission to take the shredded leaves that they have deposited on their curbs.  We could use 30+ bags.  If someone brought a tiller, we could till the leaves into the soil.  Some of the plots have lost their organic component and the soil has become very hard.  Working in shredded leaves will improve the soil for next  Spring.   Because we are not predicted to get much snow this winter (which protects the soil from erosion), a layer of shredded leaves and/or straw could protect the soil as well from blowing away during the freeze and thaw cycles over the winter.  If you have a bagger on your lawn mower, please use it to shred leaves, put them in bags and bring them to us on Saturday morning.  All leaves are good (except for walnut tree leaves), but maple leaves are the best because they are very thin).  Do not bring them after noon on Saturday because no one will be around to spread them.

·        Emptying the remaining water out of the big tank. 
2012

·        Pulling any obvious weeds and cutting back any weed trees (like mulberry and Chinese elm)  that are growing in our fence rows.

·        Harvesting kale, lettuce, collards, parsley, chives, mint, cilantro and sage for our final food pantry harvest.  We’ll also pull the older plants out of the ground and put them in the compost bins.  There are some smaller kale and collard seedlings that we’ll leave for the mild winter.  They’ll likely live through the winter and start growing again in the Spring before we return.  Last year, we harvested and donated about 50 pounds of fresh greens and herbs on our final work day.  We’ve become infested with aphids in the past few weeks, so I don’t think we’ll have quite that much on Saturday.

·        Picking up and disposing of litter that has blown onto our lot.

·        Tidying up the shed.

·        Pulling out the stakes and cages on the north side of the shed, discarding the rotten ones,
2014
locating the box of trash bags that I think Ezra buried over there, restacking the stakes, putting the cages on top and covering it all with the blue tarp to protect it from the elements over the winter.

·        Pull the mint and other weeds out of the strawberry patch.

·        If we have time, we could transplant some perennial flowers to better spots and divide some of the overgrown mint and asters, etc. 

This is a lot of work and will take all of our effort.  It will be sunny and dry (but a little cold and windy, so dress appropriately).  I’ll bring donuts and
2013
apple cider and some extra tools (from the Tool Library). Feel free to bring some treats of your own as well as pruners and rakes as well as any friends.  With any luck, we will finish around lunch time (or at least by 1 so that you can watch the second half of the OSU game).   Many hands make light work.  The more the merrier

I’ve attached copies of group pictures from some of our closing work days in the past for grins and giggles.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November Still a Busy Month for Community Gardeners

Even though the growing season is winding down and our Indian Summer has departed, it has been an extremely busy and eventful week for community garden in Central Ohio.   The Wells Barn opened at Franklin Park Conservatory.   Rebuilding Together’s Tool Library is giving away lawn waste bags to encourage recycling.  GCGC had a meeting.  The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and next door Kimball Farms are cleaning out our gardens and donating fresh produce.

Wells Barn Opening.  On Sunday, I visited the new Wells Barn at Franklin Park Conservatory.  I had been hearing since Spring that FPC was building a new barn.  Big deal, I thought.  I’ve been in lots of barns in my life.  It’s a giant storage shed, really.  However, when I attended the Taste of Bexley a few weeks ago, I had to park near the new barn and saw that it was not an ordinary new barn.  It was beautiful.  I then realized that this was not really a barn inside, but it looks like an old fashioned barn on the outside.  FPC has held a number of parties to celebrate the completion of its new barn and I attended an open house on Sunday.

Aside from being beautiful, it has a great meeting/party space inside and classrooms downstairs.  It has its own parking lot.  There is also a great demonstration kitchen inside.  There were volunteers making butternut squash and carmelized onion tarts for us to taste.  Bill brought a vermiculture demonstration (i.e., worms).  We talked about all of the mischief we got into inside barns (and their haylofts) when we were kids.  (Sadly, there is no hayloft in the Wells Barn where kids could build forts and tunnels).  There was also going to be homemade grilled pizza, but I was too hungry to wait because I came too early. 
Instead, I took a tour of the community garden campus to see which plot holders I knew and what they were still growing (lots of kale).  There were also demonstration cold frames.  I wish my own cold frame folded like this one.  Instead, I use a stake to prop up an old single-paned (i.e., inefficient) window.  It’s either up or down, I can’t have different levels of up and down like this one. 

Tool Library.  On Thursday, I planned to check out a mulching mower to mulch my neighbor’s magnolia leaves which had fallen on my lawn.   However, my car battery died.  A different neighbor had expressed envy watching me mulch leaves last week and she drives an SUV.  So, I decided to suggest that she drive me to the Tool Library and then she could join and mulch her own leaves (from my oak tree which drop on her lawn).  She didn’t have time today to mulch, but she still drove me over and filled out a membership application.  While there, I discovered that they also have leaf blowers.  AND they are still giving away free lawn waste bags so that everyone in Columbus can rake up their leaves, bag them, let the City pick up the leaves (every other week) and then turn those leaves into mulch and compost at its Jackson Pike facility.    When I returned the mower, the RTCO folks were busy loading a truck with supplies for their Veteran’s Day service project (with 5/3 Bank) on Friday – to fix up the home of a veteran. 

GCGC.  That evening, I went to the monthly GCGC meeting, which this month was at Redeemer Lutheran Church on James Road.  It was too dark to see their adorable pantry garden in the church’s courtyard.  There was no program scheduled, although Peggy announced that the 2016 meetings would all have a program and requested that the gardeners list which programs they would like to see.  Also, next month’s meeting would be at Franklin Park Conservatory and January's meeting would be at New Life (i.e., Old Broad Street Baptist) on East Broad Street.  The December GCGC meeting is usually in the community garden campus building, but we’re all hoping that this year it will be in the new Wells Barn. 
 
Peggy also announced that next year GCGC would be giving out several $200 community garden grants to those gardens that are unsuccessful in obtaining a City or Scotts grant.  And GCGC will provide scholarships to the Conservatory's We Dig Ohio, community garden summit on March 12, 2016.  (Thank you Bill and Fiona for moving the date up a month so that it will not coincide with the SACG's Opening Day).    Admission is $60 and includes lunch and snacks.

We then opened the meeting to gardening questions so that we could share gardening tips with each other.  I also shared African Marigold seeds that I had saved from the prior week. One of the early questions was about the difference between urban farming and community gardening because she had recently visited a "farm" that was smaller than some community gardens.  My take:  real farms aim to make a profit; gardens do not. 

Various gardens discussed how they are putting their gardens to bed for the winter.  SVDP said that they cover their beds with the soil amendments donated in the Spring by Scotts Miracle-Gro and then with straw to prevent erosion.  We used to cover our beds with compost so that it could seep in the cracks with the winter heaves and thawing.  Now, we pull all tomatoes out of the ground and leave the bean roots (which fix nitrogen).  Peggy mentioned that they were covering Highland Youth with shredded leaves and horse manure.  They are no longer composting their garden waste because of a concern with vermin like rats. 

We then discussed hauling yard waste to Ohio Mulch or Kurtz Brothers (for free) and I mentioned that the Tool Library was giving away lawn waste bags and that we put non-compostable items (like tomato vines, stalks, tomatoes, etc.)  in those bags so that they can be turned into compost by the City, Ohio Mulch or Kurtz Brothers.  Someone said that they didn’t know what we meant by Kurtz Brothers (which, frankly, floored me).  You see, area municipalities have been taking the leaves they gather from our curbs (and from our lawn waste bags) and putting them in giant (i.e., house sized) piles so that they can be composted.  The City has its own composting facility at Jackson Pike and they treat the lawn waste with filtered human sewage (which amps up the nitrogen content) and sell it as Com-Til.  It is not strictly organic, but it does magic things with plants.  Golf courses use it and the City used to give it away to area community gardens.  When the SACG started, the City used to give 15 cy.  The next year it was 10 cy.  Then it was 5.  Now it is nothing.  The City also used to let us drive to Jackson Pike and buy Com-Til at wholesale prices.  We could load our pick up trucks or fill buckets or bags (which they would weigh).  Not anymore.  Now, we have to buy it in retail bags from Ohio Mulch or Kurtz Brothers.    We can still buy leaf mold and compost at wholesale prices from Ohio Mulch or Kurtz Brothers.    When the SACG broke ground, Kurtz Brothers donated 20 cy of compost so that we could spread three inches of compost on all of our plots.   This made a huge difference for us in having a wildly productive garden.  Later, they donated huge piles of it to FPC to distribute to area community gardens.  Ohio Mulch has a similar donation program.

Commercial composters can create giant piles of compost, which generate the amount of heat necessary to kill microbes, diseases and seeds.  We cannot do that with our small compost bins at the SACG.  The heat from compost piles can generate enough heat to warm greenhouses in the winter.  In fact, the Dispatch is running a video about how a Granville high school senior ran water pipes through their compost piles to heat the water that they use in the greenhouse to raise tilapia (a tropical fish) to feed the students in the cafeteria.
We also discussed saving seeds and where we could get great seeds for our gardens since Livingston Seeds has been acquired by another company that is cutting back on seed donations.  We will probably have a program on that next year.  Gardeners also asked for a program about how to start seeds in the Spring so that we do not have to wait and see what Straders will be able to donate based on what it is unable to sell during peak planting season.

Paula Penn-Nebrit announced that TELOS is having a community gardening conference at The Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith at1200 Brentnell Avenue on December 12 from 7 until 4.  It is only $10 to attend.   They have an amazing day planned including:

·        Speaker Jason Brown, the former NFL player who left professional football to farm

·        Speaker Professor Frederick Douglas Opie about cooking recipes, remedies and simple pleasures

·        Panel Presentations: (1) Communities, Churches & Colleges;  (2) Diversity, Inclusion, Responsibility & Respect-from Food Pantries to Gardens; and (3) Help, Support & Funding Partners

·        Workshops on (1) Design, Construction & Water Conservation; (2) Insects, Pests & Weeds: What’s Organic?; (3) Sq. Ft. Gardening & Companion Planting; (4) Organic STEM in the Garden; (5) Pollinators & Bird Watching; and (6) Entrepreneurship and Communal Economics.

·        Breakfast, Lunch and snacks are included in the $10

·        Screening of the 2015 documentary Can You Dig This, produced by Ohio native and internationally known performer, John Legend, at Easton.  (We are keeping our fingers crossed that Mr. Legend may appear since he has attended church here in the past with his Auntie).  As reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, this documentary, while not breaking new ground, “makes persuasive points about the transformative value of growing your own food, for individuals and neighborhoods alike.”


Kimball Farms.  Melinda and Susan returned to Kimball Farms on Saturday morning next to the SACG to begin cleaning out their raised beds.  This turned out to be a bigger task than they had imagined and they will return next week.  Also, many of their pepper plants seemed to have survived last month’s killing freeze completely unscathed.  It was a miracle.  They also harvested over 20 pounds of produce (90% of which were peppers).  They offered it to J. Jireh’s new food pantry, but Melinda carried most of it to my car so that I could deliver it with our weekly food pantry donation that afternoon.   They don’t have a proper compost bin yet, but they’ve been working a compost pile in the northwest corner of their lot.  Melinda told me that she made some walnut brandy with the fallen black walnuts next door.  (Everyone seems to know how to make brandy, except me.  Sigh).

On Saturday morning, I added cedar to the sides of our Free Little Library, whose walls were starting to warp.  Sadly, I could not find any leftover red paint.  Then, I filled three yard waste bags (which had been donated to us last Spring by Keep Columbus Beautiful) by pruning perennial flowers and raspberry brambles.    I also filled the large pocket on my barn jacket with cosmos seed pods.
Stan the Man came by to clear out his plot and admitted to being the evildoer who put tomatoes and tomato plants in our compost bins.  While he fixed his mistake, I also had him remove the dead tomato plants in our neighbor plot (and he cleared off the trellis, to boot).  He donated some of his beautiful broccoli before pulling and composting the plants.  I followed suit by harvesting the last of our broccoli and composting those plants.  Too many of our collard greens and kale had been overtaken by aphids, so I pulled and pitched them.   Should I compost plants covered in aphids or put them in yard waste bags?   I then harvested a couple bags each of kale and greens, and then a bag each of lettuce, swiss chard, parsley and chives to add to our weekly food pantry donation.      I also worked on lowering the water level in our big rain cistern, but it ended up creating a marsh where Susan and Melinda were trying to work.  Who knew that the water would flow south instead of north down the hill to the alley?  I also emptied the last of Kimball Farm’s rain barrels and screwed the diverter to the downspout so that water will be diverted from the foundation to the walnut tree. 

Old friend Orlando Anthony stopped by Kimball Farms and I could hear his voice all the way at the other side of SACG.  He’s a very popular guy and I still remember when we built raised beds at the step-over homes operated by Build a Bridge (to help ex-offenders re-acclimate to society) and their volunteers didn’t want to work until he came to make it fun.  (Veronica and I aren’t all that much fun; dedicated, but not fun).    I waived and said HEY and he popped over to catch up.  I don’t think I had seen him in over a year.  He told Melinda and Susan about the “man gardens” we built behind their building in 2010 with grant funds from Scotts Miracle-Gro and that he and another man from Build a Bridge tended.  He is still trying to garden at home.  However, he told me that he was disappointed with his tomatoes this year.  So, were a lot of people dude;  you weren’t alone.  Of course, we had tons of tomatoes at SACG, but don’t ask me why or what we did differently.  We’re just blessed.

I returned home and raked up six bags of leaves and then filled two bags of with shredded leaves that had been sitting along a curb nearby since Thursday.  Shredded leaves make an excellent mulch for roses over the winter and to put around flowers and other plants in the Spring and between vegetable rows in the summer.  They decompose much faster than unshredded leaves and I’ve already added several bags to my own compost bins and two of the bins at the SACG.  When it comes to putting vegetable beds to bed for the winter, it is also recommended that they be tilled into the soil and topped with some nitrogen (like manure or grass fertilizer).  When plant material decomposes in soil, it adds valuable nutrients to the soil (and helps it to retain moisture), but it also robs the soil of nitrogen (which is why it is important to add extra nitrogen to counteract that).  The nitrogen also helps the leaves to decompose even faster so that the soil will be ready to plant in the Spring.    I’ll probably use them to mulch my roses and work some into raised beds.  Then, I have to decide whether to work the shredded leaves into a few plots at the SACG (and then top with some nitrogen) or store them to use instead of or along side straw to mulch my vegetable rows next Spring).   
Bill Kelly from Fox/ABC is predicting a warm and dry winter, with less than two feet of snow for the entire season.  That also means that we’ll have greater than normal erosion because a snow blanket helps to keep our precious soil from blowing away with winter wind.  So, covering our gardens with shredded leaves could be a good idea.  But they will also create places for bugs to hide and there will not be a polar vortex to kill the bugs like we’ve had for the past two years.   Decisions.  Decisions.  . . . .
Next Saturday is our final work day.  It will be sunny and nippy.  Our biggest task is to prune the raspberry brambles and perennial flowers.  Our strawberry patch needs to be weeded and our big rain cistern to be emptied (and hopefully cleaned out).  Frank and Barb will take down our sign and hopefully mow our lawn.    I’ll bring donuts and apple cider.