Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fighting the Dog Days of Summer at the SACG

We are into the dog days of summer at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and nary a rain drop in sight (with our rainfall several inches below normal this year).  The squash borers (not the bugs I complain so much about) have wiped out all but three of the squash plants in the entire Garden and, I suspect, our neighbor’s squash crop as well.  Cathy even found numerous of the borer moths mating in the raspberry bushes at Urban Connections today.  Gross.  (Never fear.  I’ve planted more summer squash and zucchini).    Most of my beans are mysteriously stunted this year, but I’ve started to harvest some edamame – which have been exceptionally prolific this year.  I’m usually not a cucumber kind of girl, but my cukes have been very productive, although Neal’s have not.  Most of my basil has died, but Neal’s is kicking butt and taking names.  Go figure.  Finally, the grasshoppers are eating the leaves off the beans (and my basil)  and I have no stray cats to hunt them down.  
As I mentioned previously, one of the neighborhood landlords chopped down a tree which contained a bee hive.  I told my neighbor, but they didn’t seem to want it.  I then ran into that landlord and asked him for it.  (I planned to use volunteers who were supposed to be coming Thursday (but then cancelled on Wednesday) to put them behind our shed for the time being).  He pulled that portion of the trunk over to the Garden by the neighbor beds while Sabrina was there.  She didn’t like leaving the bees in the sun like that and contacted someone (I think at the Bexley Boy Scouts who are tending a hive for the Bexley Community Garden).  Then, within 24 hours, Dave Nobel, the beekeeper at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, contacted me and generously visited the SACG the following evening when I was there. He inspected the hive wearing little more than a tank top because busy bees don’t really care about people.  He pulled out some combs (pictured) and  found that the hive was pretty much dead.  There were very few bees left and the bee beetles had already invaded it.  (The larvae were eating bee pupae and otherwise creating havoc).  Baby bees were being born and were starving because there wasn’t any honey, etc.  Sigh.  It was very educational.   Then, another bee guy heard in Orient about our problem and contacted me on Thursday and also volunteered to put me in touch with Dave.   It’s nice to see so many people concerned about bees.   I found a different neighbor landlord on Saturday (who was dealing with the problem of two burst water pipes) and he hauled the log back to its breathern across the alley (because I’m too puny for such work).   What would I do without my neighborhood landlords, I ask you?

One of the neighbors pulled out half of the crops by the roots from the neighbor plot (probably because they didn’t recognize them or know how to properly harvest them).  You just pull the outer leaves; kale and collards will continue to leaf out as long as the center stem remains intact.

Last night, I grabbed a few of the neighborhood kids to coerce them to harvest their tomatoes and to weed and water their beds.  It was pretty hot, but not as humid as it has been.  Sabrina’s been coming to help me a lot the last few weeks, like she used to do when she first joined the Garden.  It’s her down time away from the men in her life.  She reported that neighbor Rose (who took in Ms. D’s beautiful black-and-white cat when she suddenly died in March 2015) now had three kittens.  Sabrina took one and someone else took another.  Rose wants to find a home for the last kitten and Ms. D’s cat (or to at least get her fixed).  I passed on information about area cat shelters, etc.  (I already have two cats and can’t take in another). 
Our food pantry donations are head of where we were this time the last two years and on pace for where we were in 2012 and 2013.  Our tomatoes have come in on time, but we have been inundated with blossom end rot and with split tomatoes from sudden rain storms following extended heat waves.   I thought that I had been watering my tomatoes enough, but apparently not. 
Our neighbor Kimball Farms just got their own 550 gallon tank, so they no longer need our rain barrels.  I took mine home and my next door neighbor may add it to her collection.  I put one behind our shed (to collect rain from that tiny gutter) and hope to paint it this weekend so that it doesn't look quite so conspicuous from Main Street).  I have no idea where we can store the last one.  Contact me if you need a rain barrel for your community garden or want to rent it for a nominal fee for your home.

We cannot finish the strawberry retaining wall without the City vouchers
As for the ongoing saga with the City trying to coerce us into weighing all of the produce from each and every plot, the Land Bank emailed us last week that they "have not received the Crop Diversity and Garden Outreach forms from many people."  What a shock.  I've told them repeatedly that it's too much work to keep track of how much we grow.  While I keep track of what we donate, I don't keep track of what I grow, let alone what the other gardeners grow.  I  often can't even get them to do their chores or weed their own plots.  Why on earth would they start keeping track of what they grow so that I can compare it to what we donate in order to report a percentage to the City? It's not like we're getting paid for any of it like real farmers and have to know the pounds, etc. in order to charge for it.    Asking us to "estimate" under those circumstances is tantamount to asking us to make up a number in order to receiving funding and that is blatant fraud.  No wonder hardly anyone has responded.  

Also, the questionnaire creates a disincentive for us to donate any food because it would be easier to say that we just keep all that we grow.  Flower gardeners don't have to report that piece at all, but still get their $250 voucher.  In fact, I turned down a donation of wildflower seeds because it would be too hard to estimate what flowers we are growing with a wildflower mix, n'est pas?  With all of the hot, unpaid, dirty work that we do, we should not be treated like this.   I don't think that someone who has no actual community gardening experience should be able to blackmail us like this.  But that's just my humble opinion.  I certainly don't want to imply that I think these people are evil; just seriously delusional. Anyway, Keep Columbus Beautiful (which is part of the City) helped us out last week by donating a stack of lawn waste bags so that we can cut back our spreading raspberry brambles.  KCB also has extensive gardening supplies for anyone who may need something (like seeds or fertilizer, etc.).
Finally, the canna lilies which the Kossuth Community Garden donated to us in June are starting to bloom.  Whoo hoo!

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