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.

No comments:

Post a Comment