Saturday, April 23, 2016

Branching Out With Earth Day Columbus 2016

After last year, I promised my crew at the  Stoddart Avenue Community Garden that we would not be undertaking any major capital improvement projects this year.  We were exhausted with planting three trees and our curb project last year.  Ha!  On our Opening Day, we literally moved two mountains with just our hands, shovels and wheelbarrows. Today, we doubled the size and accessibility of our strawberry patch (which we created as our Earth Day project in 2010) and deconstructed and mostly reconstructed a compost bin, planted another cherry tree, picked up litter, weeded and planted.  With a little help from our friends.   I took a lot of pictures, so I’m going to have to milk this story for all it's worth to have room to post even half of the pics.

Every productive work day begins with preparation.  Earth Day Columbus and Keep Columbus  Beautiful amassed and organized many supplies.  I picked up most of our supplies on Tuesday afternoon.  We had been told that more volunteer rewards had been requested than they had to distribute.  So, our selfless community garden community returned half of their rewards (i.e., free Jeni’s ice cream, Bubble Tea and Chipotle gift certificates).

On Wednesday, I visited the SACG to plant a little, water a lot and kibbitz.   In the last 12 days, we’ve only received .1 inch of rain.  Bill Kelly said it was the driest nine days since November 2012.  2012 was the driest year ever.  I still have nightmares.   Luckily our tanks were full.     I also made some minor repairs to our front gate sign.

On Thursday, I thinned and repotted my seedlings (i.e., tomatoes, peppers, kale, collards, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, basil, eggplant, and marigolds).  I pot them with compost from my bins and potting soil.  I had to stop when I ran out of potting soil.

On Friday, Cathy picked me up with her SUV and I contributed some items to Urban Connections annual Spring Garage Sale at First Alliance Church, 3750 West Henderson Road next Saturday.  It’s UC’s biggest annual fundraiser.   Cathy then took me to Strader’s to buy a cherry tree and some seedlings (because I could not help myself).  She wanted to give me some potting soil, but I insisted on buying some for myself.  This year, I decided to get a Meteor cherry (instead of another Montmorency cherry).  They are both sour pie cherries, both dwarfs and both self-pollinating.   But the Meteors were in flower and the Montmorency were all leafed out.  I thought it would be more fun for the volunteers to plant a flowering tree.  How’s that for logic?   On an amusing note, a Strader's employee tried to talk us into buying a tree with more lateral branches than straight branches because the lateral branches will make it easier for the kids to pick cherries as the tree grows taller.  Cathy and I laughed; the kids already eat all of the cherries and we're hoping that the adults get some someday as the trees get taller  . . . . .

We returned to the SACG and tried to hang our front gate sign.  Problem is, we’re both pretty short.  The ladder almost fell over with me holding the sign and the drill.   So, Cathy called Doug Hartman (who, although he is in my pictures with her, is her co-worker and boss, not her husband).   Doug is also the Executive Director of UC and much taller than us.  He got the sign up lickety split.   Cathy then baked brownies for today’s volunteers and I made no-bake cookies and repotted the rest of my seedlings. I then returned to KCB to pick up some extra supplies.

This morning, I made coffee and had to leave early because the local Elementary School was having a 5K race fundraiser that landlocked my house if I waited too long.  It was grey and chilly, so I wore three layers.  At least it's not spitting rain or windy like last year.   When I arrived at the Garden, a fellow pulled up and asked if I was by myself working.  Not for long, I told him.  He said he would return, but had to get coffee first.  Our lawn looked magnificent.  Stan had been there Friday afternoon and not only did he mow our lawn, he edged all of the beds and trees.  What a guy.

Stan shows up as I’m unloading my car (which he helped me to finish).  He also tasted my cookies.  The other fellow returns and has coffee for the two of us as well.  I thought that he was going to help us, but it turns out that he was planning to help our neighbor, Kimball Farms for their Opening Day for this growing season.  Drat!  I showed Stan the seed potatoes and onion sets he requested, before he left to find his nephew, Aaron.

We had 10 people sign up to volunteer at the SACG through the
Earth Day Columbus website.  Four of them arrived and I gave them their choice of projects.  Corrie picked the strawberry patch and Marcie, Sean and Lindsay picked the flower beds and vegetable beds.  Susan arrived and I asked her to supervise the vegetable beds, but the Sean and Marcie didn’t need any help in that department.  So, she helped with the strawberry patch and acted as Chief Morale Officer.  These folks weeded the flower beds and removed most of our invasive mint so that I can plant other flowers there.  Never fear, we left enough behind to make mint juleps and mojitos and I know that it will grow back anyway.   They also weeded the front vegetable bed and planted rows of beets, turnips, and lettuce as well as the cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprout seedlings I picked up.   Then, I had them dig up the overgrown garlic that Charlie planted three years ago and that Neal left in place.   I gave some to Cathy and Melinda at Kimball Farms, etc.  I also planted some in my plot.

I thought that the strawberry patch would be the biggest project of the day.  And it was.  But not the way I thought.  I had picked up lots of top soil, most of which we ended up not needing.   Susan and a volunteer raked back the wood chips, dug a new trench for the border and moved the landscaping stones north and west.   We then emptied bags of soil to fill in spaces and spread around some com-till that we had piled there two weeks ago.     While we were doing this, Stan was re-straightening our alley curb and then turned to deconstructing our leaning tower of Piza (otherwise known as the middle compost bin) and digging out the foundation beneath it in order to flatten out the slope.  In doing so, he found lots of landscaping stones from the raised vegetable bed that used to be there.  Susan and Rayna repurposed those stones to the strawberry patch.  We still have a few missing stones, which I will pick up from Lowe’s once our City voucher comes through.   I also picked up some volunteer strawberries that had grown into the Kimball Farm’s path from the strawberries that we gave them last year to start their own patch.  (I also gave them volunteer raspberries that we dug out as we proceeded in our projects).

Then, Rayna had the idea that we should make paths in the patch so that the kids don’t stomp on all the plants while searching for strawberries and then, later, black raspberries (as they do almost every year).  But, I say, it’s so dry and it might not rain again for another week. If we disturb our good plants, they might die or lose berries before they get established again.  I don’t really want to dig out any berries if we can avoid it.  I always lose these debates with Rayna.   She had even brought a bale of straw with her for the strawberries.   So, we grabbed the extra bricks laying around the Garden and installed two paths through the strawberry patch.  I split the back of my 25-year old jeans in the process.  Sigh.

Last December, OSU’s Pay It Forward program called to ask if I could use volunteers in April.  Of course, I say.  The latter in the month the better.  I took them this week because I knew that we would likely have an Earth Day project.  On Monday, they called to confirm and told me that they had a wait list.   They had promised 10 kids, but sure, I could probably keep 15 busy.  Then, I found out final exams are next week, so I worried that no one will come.  But, we got six Spanish exchange students who did not dress for the weather.  I put two of them to work digging a hole for our cherry tree (and they unearthed six bricks in the process).  I assigned the rest to emptying the middle compost bin with garden forks.  (Anything to keep warm).     It was leaning so much that I had to borrow a drill from Cathy's husband, Jason, to remove the latch on the bin’s gate.   Then, Stan returned and took charge of that project and it took on a life of its own. 

Marcel and Zion arrived and were put to work picking up litter on Stoddart Avenue.  The OSU students then joined them.   Then, the volunteers started to tire out and moved on to other projects. Surely, they said, you have a second shift of volunteers coming.  Ha!  Nope.    Just us old ladies.   No worries.   Marcel eventually returned and then weeded the blueberry turrets and the south side of the Garden and Zion helped us to water in the transplanted strawberries.  Then, Mari came back to help us weed and tidy up.  We all took a sugar break.  I made sure that all of the SACG gardeners saw our seed stache.  We have two new gardeners who are really into community gardening (after all of three weeks).  They have colored plant markers and everything.  (Rayna used to do that, too).   Well, apparently, they got bored this week.  They organized the seed stache and even put in labeled divider tabs.  I could not stop laughing.  I took a picture and then walked our seed bins around to everyone to show them.    And then I’d laugh again.  You cannot imagine how far down my priority list this was.  Sweet.   I clearly need to assemble and distribute the chore chart before the thrill goes away.  [Editor's Note:  I was informed on Sunday that it was not our new gardeners who organized our seeds, but veteran  SACG gardener and new mommy Sabrina.  Oops.]

Another surprise that we had was a spontaneous donation of two cartons of soda.  The house at the corner of Morrison and Cherry has a new owner, who has been diligently making repairs and improvements for the past six months or so.  He and his crew were over there working on Saturday, too.  Then, early in the afternoon, when it was just us SACG gardeners left, he stopped by and donated two cartons of soda for us to thank us for all of our hard work.    It's always nice to be appreciated.

As the SACG gardeners faded away, Gio and Micayla came by to plant in their plot.  I had to carry the top soil from the strawberry patch back into the Garden.  My back is really feeling that now.    The girls like emptying bags of soil, so we put three bags in their plot, discussed what they wanted to plant this year and put in a row of carrots and lettuce.    Off they go.  Ten minutes later, a group of four girls came and wanted their own bed.  So, we repeat, put 3 bags of top soil in their raised bed and plant a row of carrots and lettuce.    Off they go.  (Truth is, they wanted to plant strawberries and peaches.  Sigh).   There I am by myself.  Even the Kimball Farms folks and Stan are gone.  I pack up the shed and my car and return home at 4 p.m.

Kimball Farms was busy today, too.  They weeded their raised beds and planted cold season crops and expanded their strawberry patch.  They also removed their baby pool farm and replaced it with more giant raised beds (which had to be filled).  Then, they spreaded mulch between all of the raised beds.  And, they had a mini bulldozer to distribute their half of the com-til pile among the raised beds and to the area where they plan to have a tall hoop house along their north fence.   Melinda commented that she couldn’t believe that we moved our half of that pile with just shovels and wheelbarrows.  Indeed.   It was a long day.  They were not as lucky as we were this year with getting volunteers through EDC’s website, but she recruited even more through her Facebook page.    All morning long, people were coming up to me to volunteer only to find out that they were at the wrong community garden.  Sigh.

When I finally left the Garden, I wondered if I could fix my jeans.  I hate to ruin another pair gardening . . . .    But the sun was out and I had stripped two layers down to my t-shirt.  Time to mow my own lawn  . . .   My coffee was still in my thermos.  I never had time to touch it.  But now, a shower, glass of wine and half-pizza later, I must bring in my seedlings because it will be too cold for them tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment