A vacant lot on Stoddart Avenue provides a place to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables of the gardener's own choice. (The garden is 4 blocks west of Alum Creek Drive/Bexley and 1/4 block north of E. Main St.). All gardeners are encouraged to donate a portion of their produce to a local food pantry. (See 7/7/11 Post: Plant a Row to Feed the Hungry By Donating Garden Produce to Food Pantries). To participate, contact the Garden Manager. Also see the FAQ at the bottom of this site.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Feelin’ Alright with Buckeyes Paying It Forward at the SACG
-- just because I
asked nicely). The price of cedar
planks has tripled in the last few years. I also made a couple dozen chocolate no-bake
cookies and a batch of brownies Friday night to keep my OSU volunteers in a
cheerful frame of mind. The weather was
supposed to be pleasant, but turned out to be oppressively hot and humid. No matter, we accomplished almost all that we
set out to do and re-visited a few projects from last year to take them to a
higher level. Our modest improvements
from year to year are how we got to where we are now.
When I arrived Saturday morning wearing a scarlet and grey tie-died t-shirt, Cathy and her mother were
attempting to enter the Garden with posts for our raised garden bed project. As
usual, she overdid herself. I only
needed two posts and she brought four and an additional piece of wood that we could
cut down if necessary. That Cathy. She was busy with family obligations today
and a funeral for a former Urban Connections youth who was mysteriously murdered
with her husband in Linden two weeks ago 10
days after giving birth to her first child.
Cathy’s had a lot on her plate
the last 10 days with sitting vigil with the family at the hospital, helping to
raise money to pay for the funeral and baby items for Grandma who is now
raising the newborn, taking care of her own kids and family, and she still made
time to get me some posts this morning.
That Cathy. She also drove to Menards to get us some fox urine to scare our cute but destructive groundhog. That Cathy.
Rose and neighbor South (because he is from, duh, the south) were hanging out as I was unloading my
car. They both offered to help, so I put
South to work unloading the landscaping stones that I had picked up on Friday from
Lowe’s, courtesy of a joint program between Lowe’s and the City of Columbus to
benefit land bank community gardens. I
then set up the patio umbrella on our picnic table (and had drilled a sizeable
hole in the table just before painting a rain barrel). This would be the only shade the kids would
find at the SACG.
Sabrina, Tom, Zephyr and Finn also stopped by to pick up
some tomatoes from their plot before visiting family in northwest Ohio. Like me, she had harvested tomatoes on
Wednesday and found slim pickings this morning.
So I gave her a few orange ones from my plot. (She had shared some of her fabulously
tasting tie-dyed heirloom tomatoes a few weeks ago, so it was the least I could
Then, Amy rode her bike from the Short North to help me
coordinate the OSU Volunteers. I put her in charge of the youth gardening
area. The OSU students generally arrive
between 10 and 10:30, but I had been told that they might now show up until as
late as 11. I expected them to leave
around 12 or 12:30, but they said that they planned to stay until 1 (which made
me wonder how they would get to the dining halls in time for lunch. Never fear, Pay-It-Forward planned to have
pizza waiting for them when they returned).
Nonetheless, after doing a little weeding, watering and squash bug
hunting in my plot, I got restless waiting for them to show up. So, I put big-and-strong Sy to work with the
post digger. We needed to sink the sign
posts two feet into the ground.
Meanwhile J. Jireh’s litter volunteers from Life Vineyard Church on Alum Creek Drive began arriving, parking in
front of the SACG and wondering over there.
They left at noon while we were still in the thick of things.
About 10:45, an OSU busload of bright-eyed and enthusiastic college students showed
up and I oriented them in the shade of the Block Watch lot across the
street. Our priority project was to get
the sign up. Three fellows went over
to help and take over from Sy. They
finished digging the holes, removed the old screws from the sign bracket,
reinforced the bracket and then assembled the pieces to be sure that everything
was straight before raising it in one piece (and checking it with my level as
they backfilled the holes).
Perfection. The day could have
ended right there and I would have been pleased as punch.
Four sassy ladies took on the project of picking up litter
along Stoddart and in the alleys between Morrison and Fairwood (as well as our
lot and the Block Watch lots).
Because classes have only been in session for four days,
none of the kids were eager to volunteer to mow our and the Block Watch lots (which had last been mowed
just a few days earlier). It probably
hasn’t even been a week since they last mowed their parents’ lawn. However, one gentleman agreed to do it and
the group’s leader agreed to finish it (even though she had never mowed a lawn
in her life before today). I wanted a tag-team in light of the heat index because one can easily become dehydrated and overheated mowing for over 30 minutes. Sadly, we
could not get the SACG mower to start, so I borrowed Urban Connection’s brand
new and still-shiny mower.
Another group of engineering students was tasked with
building a raised bed with the donated
cedar and posts. Last year’s OSU group had put together our
second neighbor raised bed where anyone passing by can help themselves to
whatever is growing there. I had thought
that it would be enough that it was set off from the alley by a two-layer row
of landscaping stones. I had not
foreseen that wood chips (which rob the soil of nitrogen as they decompose) would creep in there
when they were spread around our fence lines each Spring. So, I decided that this bed should be set
off like its sibling with cedar planks.
These budding engineers were not entirely familiar with power tools and
were extremely precise with assembling the bed.
I crabbed at them a bit about the time it was taking them to build the
box because I was terrified that the bus would return to retrieve the students
before the sign got put up. (The bus
ended up being 45 minutes late, which was 75 minutes later than I thought I had
this group of volunteers). I only
brought one drill and I had two groups that needed to use it; poor planning on
my part. I should have borrowed Cathy’s drill while I had her attention and
then I would not have stressed so much.
While the bed-building team waited on the sign-raising team, I had them
weed the neighbor plot and the area along the alley. They were good sports and among the hardest working team in a group of hardworking students.
Another group was tasked with trimming and bagging raspberry
brambles, which have a tendency to spread out several feet from our fence each
summer. They were surprised to learn that the branches will form roots when they reach the ground (thus having roots at two ends). They were pretty aggressive in pruning our fence line and
filled lots of bags. Some groups are intimidated by our thorny brambles, but not this group. I also asked them
to trim around our tree boxes and blueberry turrets because our extraordinary
volunteer gardener Stan-the Man has not edged them in a while.
Two of the ladies with prior gardening and/or farming
experienced were tasked with harvesting tomatoes, beans, peppers, kale, collard
greens and Brussel sprouts from our food pantry plots for our weekly
donation. I gave them a brief orientation and showed
them how to harvest kale. They managed
to find twelve pounds of ripe produce to harvest. Because we received two inches of rain on
Wednesday night, they did not need to water the Garden, which would have taken
a four person team at least two hours to finish.
Another group was tasked with finishing off the strawberry
bed with landscaping stones and the south flower bed (which Stan had cannibalized
for the strawberry patch project in July).
They finished that in short order and joined the teams trimming bushes
and weeding the Garden paths and along the alley.
I hadn't gotten any volunteers to help Amy with cleaning out the youth gardening area. One lady was a good sport and then volunteered for that project
(which had become overrun with bindweed since it was last cleaned up in
July). We still haven't dug out the raspberry bushes growing back there because I wanted to give the kids the option of having raspberries there. But last night I realized that the best solution would be to move the kids beds up against the fence (which can act as a trellis) and create more walking space between the rows of raised beds. So, anyone who wants some raspberry bushes should stop by the SACG on September 17 because digging out those bushes will be one of the tasks for our Capital student volunteers.
Next, I grabbed all of the big
and burly men (except for the raised bed project team). Our platform raised beds look as though they
have been sinking because the benches are only about a foot above the path. Of course, they have not been sinking. But, over the years we keep adding wood chips
and those chips have gotten to be very thick.
So thick, in fact, that our cute and destructive groundhog has moved in
underneath those beds. Amy saw him
scurry under there and disappear, so last week, I
threw around ammonia (which is supposed to approximate the
smell of predator urine), used a hoe to fill in the burrow with wood chips and threw a cement block over the hole for good measure). Nothing like a clogged burrow hole to tell
you that you are not wanted. I had hoped
that the guys would be able to carry the raised beds a few feet so that we
could properly dig up the burrows and then place the beds on top of the chips instead of in them. However, the beds were too heavy (when
filled with soil). All we could do was
lift each corner one at a time and put a brick under the leg to keep it from
sinking. Then, one of the brave guys
crawled under the bed to place a cement block to support the center of one of
the beds. I couldn’t ask him to perform
the same task with the other raised bed because (1) there are watermelons growing
underneath that bed and (2) some poison ivy is growing near those same
melons. It was the best we could do
without emptying the beds (and killing the vegetables growing in them).
Finally, a team was tasked with planting lettuce where the
food pantry potatoes had been. My
butternut squash plant has taken over a large portion of the Garden along the
south fence, so I haven’t been able to yet harvest the potatoes under it, but
hope to do so in October or November when the squash ripen and can be donated.
I showed them how to do it by planting one row and then letting them plant the
other before watering both rows in.
As the various teams finished their projects, they gathered
at our picnic table for cold water, cookies and brownies and to rest. Just moving in direct sun when it is as hot
and humid as it was today can zap anyone’s strength. I’ve managed to push through it this summer
because I’m used to it. They weren’t. I suggested a few other weeding projects (which did not thrill any of them) and managed to convince them to pull the weeds
out of the platform raised bed next to the picnic table when I started to do it myself. Maybe when the Capital University student
volunteers come on Saturday, September 17, we will plant something in that bed
now that there is a rain barrel near it to make it possible to water it.
As always, I took group pictures. A couple in front of our sign and a one in front of the front gate.
And then we waited a long time sitting on the curb across the street (in the shade) for the bus to pick them up
and take them back to campus for pizza. I told them stories about the Garden and kidded them about being lucky not to come upon any snakes, like Sabrina did last week (with a loud scream).
An OSU bus drove by on Main Street and didn’t stop. And then another.
So, we chased after it en masse going west
on East Main Street. I say chase, but we
really just walked because it was too hot to really chase anything. It circled back and picked up the very happy
students on Main Street.
I had already packed everything up and locked anything worth
locking, so I drove home, weighed and recorded our donation as always and
dropped it at the Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry. I’ve posted a copy of a chart showing the
distribution of our donations by type of produce so far this growing season. I then returned to the SACG to harvest from
my own plot.
As I walked up to my car to
finally leave for the day around 3 p.m., there was a preying mantis on my front
driver side tire. I can’t believe that I
noticed it. Lucky for it (and me) that
I did. I took a photo and then easily coaxed it onto my cell phone before taking it to my plot where it gleefully jumped
off to hunt for the evil bugs putting holes in a some of my tomatoes. Happy hunting fellow. Please find some of those pesky squash bugs while you're at it. (My preying mantis at home resides in my bean teepee and has made short work of the beetles).