Monday, February 27, 2017

SACG Prepares for Its 9th Growing Season


The Board of Trustees for the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden met yesterday at the Table Restaurant in the Bexley Giant Eagle to plan for their 9th growing season.  The meeting was attended by Priscilla, Rayna, Mari, Cathy, Sabrina, Amy, Susan, and Ken.  Frank had to work.

Treasurer’s Report.  Priscilla reported that the SACG began 2016 with $445 and ended with $371.  We spent over $445 last year, principally on filling up the tank when it ran dry for a second time (and the City had not yet re-commenced its free refill program), a new fruit tree, soil,  new gate locks, and having the City's donated Com-Til delivered.  We had $120 in plot fees, $80 from Krogers and $150 in donations.  We also have a $50 gift certificate to Oakland Nursery from the Conservatory Women’s Board which will be used to purchase grape vines for the trellis and possibly a new fruit tree.  Frank reported that the Block Watch is ok with us planting another fruit tree on that lot. 

Operations.  Priscilla reported that she had renewed our annual land bank license for $10.  Earth Day Columbus moved up the work days to April 8 and 15.  Easter is April 16.    We're now registered for the April 8 work day.   Capital University has offered student volunteers for April 1.  The City will again provide a $250 Lowe’s voucher.  Priscilla would like to add a picket fence to the front (but can likely only purchase half the necessary length with $250).  We could also plant more rose bushes.  The Board liked the idea of the picket fence to coordinate with our new trellis.  Sabrina suggested that we could buy half this year and half next year and then install it next year.  Ken asked about the length of the fence (and looked like he was trying to figure out how much it would cost him to build one.  Hmmm).  The south fence would be 25-27 feet and the north section would be 20-22 feet.

GCGC increased their annual membership dues from $10 to $40 this year.  That is how we get most of the free flats of flowers and vegetables (courtesy of Strader's Garden Centers).    Few of the gardeners take either, but we’ve used them to fill in our flower beds and the food pantry plots.  The vegetables usually come at the tail end of the growing period.  We don’t really need the materials, but we try to make use of them.  They don’t like us to sell them because that could be diverting business away from Straders.  The Board decided to not renew our membership.

Priscilla meant to update our bylaws (particularly regarding our annual members meeting), but forgot.  Our annual meeting is generally on our Closing Day, but too few people have been attending and it should probably be moved to a better attended date.  Maybe Opening Day.  We’ll deal with this later.

Priscilla shared announcements from the Conservatory and OSU that were shared at the Land Bank Community Garden meeting in early February.   One of the issues that came up was about area food pantries not being able to meet the demand for fresh produce.   St. Stephens Community House has its own community garden, but still sent a representative to beg for more produce donations from the land bank community gardens.  The City responded by sending around a generic list of area food pantries, without checking whether any of those food pantries take and distribute fresh produce.  Most pantries only take canned goods. 

Fundraising.  The Board discussed possible fundraising ideas.  We haven’t had a fundraiser since 2012 when
we raffled off a garden cart (which we won) and raised $350.  In 2010, we raised $110 selling strawberry seedlings.   It would be nice to get some other “big ticket” items donated that we could similarly raffle off or have a silent auction at a black raspberry festival in early June.  We talked about selling seedlings, but the pots by themselves cost more than the seedlings and have to be nurtured.  Highland Youth Garden has an annual butterfly bush sale based on the inexpensive seedlings they purchase from DeMonye’s annual perennial sale.  That’s something we could consider for our side of town.  The Board liked the idea of a berry festival where we could encourage a u-pick berry day to bring people to the Garden for a fundraiser.

The Board liked the idea of planting another fruit tree, but no consensus on what to plant.  Priscilla would like to diversify to plums, but the neighbors had expressed an interest in another peach tree.   The cherries are also very popular.

An OSU class is focusing on community gardens.  A group of students have contacted Priscilla about the SACG being their group/class project.  They want to meet with the gardeners next Saturday at 11.  Several Board members agreed to come. 

Rayna noted that our blueberry bushes look a little peaked and wondered if they required some extra TLC.  Priscilla noted that they were not being watered regularly enough, but that will hopefully improve now that we have a rain barrel back behind the shed.  She also added some more peat moss and garden soil to those beds in September with the Lowe’s voucher.  And, two of the bigger bushes were damaged by two different people falling into them (and breaking some branches).  

Priscilla reported that Frank had told her that the Block Watch has observed an influx of investment in the neighborhood and renovations.

Priscilla also relayed about the vicious attack on Robert Seed, our guardian angel at Keep Columbus Beautiful.

Opening Day.  Priscilla suggested opening on April 8, but the Board wanted to open as soon as possible.  So, April 1 was chosen (which is approximately when we opened last year). 

Priscilla relayed the Old Farmer’s Almanac weather forecast (which, so far this year, has been on the mark for precipitation, but not the unseasonably warm weather).  It is predicting a normal Spring, a cold and wet June (so get planted early), a normal and dry July and August (so plan on a lot of hand-watering), a normal and wet September and a cool and wet October.

The Board reviewed and approved the annual newsletter, Garden Agreement and Rules of Conduct.  The Garden Agreement this year added that gardeners should tell the Garden Manager if they are going to be AWOL for 10+ days so that their produce can be rescued and taken to a food pantry instead of rotting.   The Rules add that gardeners should stay on top of the squash bug problem in their plots so that the Garden Manager does not have to inspect every one’s plots twice each week.

The Opening Day materials should be distributed in the neighborhood March 4 if we are opening on April 1.  Several members volunteered to help distribute the materials.    Sabrina agreed to inventory and organize the seeds and to let Priscilla what we are short on.  She’ll also be in charge of leading the Capital volunteers.

Our tasks on Opening Day include:

·         spreading a ton (literally) of wood chips with wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels along our paths and along the fence line;
·         topping off the kids’ raised beds with potting soil;
·         measuring and marking off our plots;
·         mowing our lawn;
·         rebuilding a compost bin;
·         turning our compost;
·         restocking our Free Little Library (which can always use some more books);
·         hanging our sign;
·         plant grape vines along trellis;
·         picking up the litter which has blown onto our lot over the winter;
·         hooking up our rain cisterns;  and,
·         if there is time, may start planting Spring crops (like lettuce and kale) in our food pantry and neighbor plots. 

We do not know Stan’s status.  However, Priscilla observed that someone had been working with the western compost bin recently, so she thinks that he’s still around.  We may need some additional pallets to rebuild that bin.  Sabrina volunteered to have her husband Tom pick up a few from work.  Priscilla will let her know how many we need.  Of course, we could also use a different (and more attractive design), but Priscilla’s always liked repurposing materials.

We have a lot to get done between now and Opening Day.   Priscilla looked for volunteers to research and pick up our grapes and new fruit tree.  Cathy and Ken volunteered their trucks (since a tree does not happily fit in the back of my jetta).  Ken also volunteered to help me pick up our Earth Day supplies so that I do not have to make 4 trips to carry mulch in my jetta.

We ran out of time.  Susan picked up the entire tab for our refreshments and donated all of the cash left by the other members to the SACG. 

In a few days, I'll be posting here all of the information which gardeners will need to join the SACG for our 9th growing season.   We've had a number of gardeners drop out and will need to focus on recruiting more new gardeners.

Before the meeting, I started a flat of cold crops (kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lettuce, etc.).  I planned to start my peppers and eggplants after the meeting but was out of the correct potting soil.  Peppers are finicky and prefer the Miracle-Gro Organic Choice potting soil (over peat moss), but Lowe's was not carrying it this year!!!! Aggghh.  I knew that the orchid mix was the next most preferred for peppers, but the only bag available was too chucky in which to start seeds (so I mixed it with regular potting soil and will keep my fingers crossed).  In addition to Italian and Asian eggplant,  I started bell, jalapeno, cayenne, tabasco, pasilla peppers.  I seem to be out of pablano and giant Chinese pepper seeds, so I need to find some soon (seeing as how -- gasp -- Lowe's was not carrying any of those this year either).    I do not plan on planting potatoes this year and so will also not be starting sweet potato slips this year.   I never seem to have enough room for all of the heirloom beans that I like to grow and potatoes are relatively inexpensive at the grocery. . . . .   Next week, I'll start tomatoes, herbs and flowers.  They do not take as long to germinate.