Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lonely on the Range

It’s been a little lonely at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden the last few weeks – as it is every April.  The mornings are cold and the skies cloudy.   However, our cherry trees looked SPECTACULAR a few weeks ago and attracted lots of bees.   I look a lot of photos.  Little cherries, strawberries and raspberries are already forming – a little early in my book.  Our berries do not look as thick as in past years and I’m a little concerned that this might not be the best year to have a berry festival in early June as a fundraiser.  We may have barely enough berries for ourselves;-)  Our peach trees looked to have survived the March freeze, but when I was staking two of the leaning trees today, I noticed some freeze damage on the leaves.  Sigh.

Last Saturday, I left on time and didn’t do that much.  I planted some onions, lettuce, leeks, beets, turnips, cilantro and parsley, watered everything, and transplanted a some coneflowers (from my backyard) and a few perennials that I picked up during the annual DeMonye’s perennial sale.   (I really need to pick up some cat mint and, darn it, didn’t write it down and bought a couple of everything else . . .).   I didn’t assign any chores for April (because we had two groups of volunteers), but the grass was looking a little tall.  Heroic Ken (in addition to donating a brand spanking new green gas mower) also donated an older reel mower (which I sharpened a few weeks ago and put in our shed).  I took it out and tried to mow our lawn.  Darn that Stan.  He did such a fabulous job aerating and tending our lawn over the last two years that the grass was too tall and thick for me to easily mow it.  It took me forever to mow just the front lawn and I didn’t even try to do much of the side yard (aka Block Watch lot). 

On Wednesday, I watered some more.  The rest of the country (and state) may be getting plenty of rain, but the drought has started early on the Near East Side.  We haven’t gotten at least an inch of rain per week in several weeks.  Alexi and Isaiah came by.  Alexi made the mistake of asking if there was anything I needed.  Since you ask . . . . . (which I’m certain that he’ll never do again), I asked him to mow the lawn.  It was looking pretty shaggy.  He agreed and started by mowing the Block Watch lot next door.  He had met Block Watch Barb earlier in the week and she told him how the Block Watch (i.e., mostly her and her heroic husband Frank) mow the two corner lots most weeks.  I had planned to only stay about 45 minutes, but I could hardly leave while he was still mowing.  (We stow the mower in a neighbor’s shed and I have one of the only keys).   Meanwhile, Isaiah started preparing the soil in their plot (by digging out the ever present bricks that we are still digging out by hand NINE years after breaking ground) and planting some seedlings and seeds.   Since I had to stick around, I planted some more flowers from the flats I purchased at the DeMonye’s sale.   I also weeded a few of the flower beds. 

Little Jaden from across the street then came over to start planting in his own bed (now that he's finally six).  His older sister Micayla has gardened with us since she was his age, but decided that she is now too cool to get dirty.  So, he picked one of the platform raised beds (which did not have any weeds in it) and only wanted to plant fruit.  It's too early for melons, but against my better judgment, we transplanted a row of some volunteer strawberries (from outside our patch).  I also talked him into carrots and beets.  His father likes peppers, so we'll plant some of them eventually.  He vetoed lettuce and greens. Then, he watered everything in three times.  (Most kids like to water, but a full watering can weighs almost as much as he does).   Amy also stopped by with her husband to water her seedlings.  Finally, when I got home at dusk, I mowed my own yard with my reel mower.

On Friday, Seth from the City Land Bank, sent us all a hateful email threatening to terminate lot licenses (aka leases).  As I have heard over the years, some community gardens are not as conscientious as we are about keeping their lawns mowed.   Seth had inspected most of the gardens on Friday and was freaked out by the height of the grass at many of them.    I emailed him that we had just mowed on Wednesday (THANK YOU ALEXI) and had actually mowed it four times already in April.   He emailed back that the SACG was also one of the few to have already broken ground for the season this year.  (Most community gardens don’t break ground until Mother’s Day weekend because their volunteers are not excited about cold weather gardening and don’t care too much about losing out on cold weather crops like potatoes, spinach, bok choy, lettuce and peas that should really be planted in March and April).

Before I mulched it yesterday
When I arrived yesterday morning, I was SHOCKED that the dandelions in the Block Watch lot that Alexi mowed just days earlier were already up to my calves.  The grass was short, but those darn weeds ruined the whole look.   Luckily, I had killed most of the dandelions in our front lawn a few years ago, so we still looked tidy.  But, I mowed our front lawn and part of the side lawn with the reel mower anyway.  The grass and the yellow flowers got cut, but not much else.  Sigh.     I had meant to refill Urban Connections gasoline can (since we have used it the last couple of times we’ve mowed, but I forgot to bring my gas can.  I went home to get it and discovered that it was almost empty.  So, I’ll refill it tomorrow). 

Yesterday morning, I hung the Chore Chart and the Garden map in the shed.  Then, I tied up two of the leaning peach trees to help them grow straight.   Next, I transplanted a bunch of raspberries and then trellised the berries in my plot to keep them from growing over my spinach, bok choy and pea crops.  I transplanted more flowers and weeded most of the flower beds.  I also watered the neighbor plots, the newest fruit trees, the food pantry plots, and my plot.  I planted a  food pantry plot of my remaining cold crop seedlings and added a row (and then some) of onions. I weeded more in the flower beds, the blueberry turrets and the food pantry plot and transplanted some volunteer cosmos flowers and holly hocks.   I finally mulched the newest fruit trees and the round tulip/lilly bed south of the Garden before calling it a day at 4 p.m.   Herschel Craig stopped by to visit Kimball Farms next door (which was supposed to be having their major work day this morning), but no one was there.  They must have been at their other site.  

After 2 p.m. Taylor and Alyssa came by to water and plant some more.  They decided to plant potatoes this year, so we had a chat about that.  (I’m not planting them for the first time this year because they take so much space).   We also talked about interplanting onions in various spaces.   It is recommended, for instance, to plant onions between rows of lettuce.  They have different root systems and the onions will continue to grow after your lettuce has been harvested and bolted with the summer's heat.  Also, planting onions and garlic between them will supposedly deter aphids (not that I've ever had an aphid problem before August).  Planting carrots between lettuce rows is also recommended.  I've even seen a recommendation to plant lettuce (in the fall) in each space left by a harvested onion. I explained that I'm not a big fan of planting onions next to tall plants because they tend to get shaded out (with as close as we tend to plant at the SACG).   After Taylor left, Carly and Ashley (or Rachel) came by.

Joy decided that it was not enough to share a plot with Rachel.  So, she put in 3 hours of work equity by turning some of our compost and picking up litter in our neighborhood so that she could ALSO have her own 100 square foot plot. 

Block Watch Barb stopped by to tend their flower beds.  They had apparently also mowed that lot yesterday (with their electric mower).  I stuck some Earth Day volunteer rewards under her windshield when she wasn’t looking.

My day was not yet over.  I turned my own compost bin , repaired and ran a soaker hose from one of my three rain barrels, and mulched my front flower beds with 10 bags of mulch.  I had been slow cooking white beans all day (to make soup), but was too tired to cook.  So, off to Chipotle to use my Earth Day volunteer rewards.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

We Dig Ohio: 2017 Urban Agriculture & Community Gardening Summit

Welcome guest columnist Sabrina (the SACG's 2013 Volunteer of the Year) who is relating her experience from last month's conference at the Conservatory.   Sabrina applied for and received a scholarship in exchange for sharing what she learned.   However, despite my best efforts, she did not take pictures, so I'm sharing some of my photos from the event.

On March 25, 2017, the We Dig Ohio Summit took place at the beautiful Franklin Park   Lucky to receive this opportunity via scholarship, I was more than thrilled and slightly nervous, not knowing what to expect.  Upon arrival I quickly realized The Wells Barn was full of an assortment of individuals ranging from novices to experts, which was reassuring. 

The itinerary for the day was full of choices and deciding which sessions to attend was tough.  But my main goal for the day, learning as much as possible to benefit SACG, made these selections slightly easier.

 Best Practices for Safer Urban Soil
Presented by: Cheryl Rice, NRCS and Jessica Wilbarger, Lucas Co. SWCD

This session appealed not only because SACG is located in an urban environment but also because this is something I am personally interested in.  Do people starting community gardens, consider land use history, or forget about community gardens, what about families who just want to grow on their own property?  The environmental contaminants of the past, unfortunately are still a problem of today and unless someone knows otherwise, it is never given a second thought. 

To begin, what is soil?   It may seem irrelevant but the components of soil and the ratios, in which they are found, help to determine if a soil is healthy.  Ideally, it will be composed of 25 % each of air and water, 45% soil material, and 5% organic matter.  A healthy soil benefits plants by storing and cycling nutrients, which in turns make them less susceptible to uptake of pollutants. 

How do you know if your soil has a problem?  Test it!  But sending a soil sample to a lab, with no idea what your looking for, is like going to the doctor and not giving the doctor any symptoms you are experiencing.  This is where land use history research becomes important, highlighting possible contamination points on the land and specific suspected chemicals.    There are many resources available for free including:  historical photos, old city directories, Sanborn fire maps, just to name a few.

The take away is don’t just blindly plant things you or someone else is going to consume.  Get some site history, test if there is something suspicious, and maintain a healthy soil.  If there are areas of concern, put a storage shed there, make walk ways close to roads, and if all else fails raise your growing medium above the soil profile.

Plant These Too! How to Add Variety to an Edible Garden
Presented by: Pam Bennett, State Master Gardener Volunteer Program Director

The SACG plants a wide variety of vegetables and personally I will eat any vegetable, but was there something we were missing?  This session provided insight to some less common vegetable, tasty varieties, and addressed issues that curse certain families of plants. 

When I said SACG grows a wide variety, I meant it.   The one oddball, watercress, just wouldn’t survive due to thriving in wet areas.  But, there are a whole host of special varieties that I now will keep an eye out while seed shopping: Dragon Tongue Arugula, Flashy Trout Back Lettuce, and Pork Chop Tomato.

Even more helpful, many tips and tricks for growing.  Here are a few I learned.

1.)   Carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, and parsnips do better in a sandy soil.  Possible solution for clay soils, raised beds with a specialized growing medium. 

2.)   Hybrid corn is available for growing in containers; produces smaller ears, but works for limited space. 

3.)   Consecutive plantings for beans can save on the quantity coming ripe at once. 

4.)   Curly kale is more resistant to flea beetles. 

5.)   Lettuce can be grown in the shade, especially helpful during summer. 

6.)   If your not a fan of okra, try it pickled. 

7.)   Brussels sprout, kale, broccoli and other Brassica family members are susceptible to White Moths, which have 3 life cycles in a year.  Use row covers.

 The main point of this presentation was don’t be afraid to try new things.  If you find something you like great, write it down, and grow it again.  If not, chalk it up as an experience. 

Garden Gurus: Fun and Simple Gardening Activities for Kids
Presented by: Hannah Halfhill, Youth Educator with Toledo Botanical Garden

The choice to attend this session was an easy one to make.  SACG has a great number of children who participate every year.  It never fails at the beginning of the year everyone is eager to plant.  But as the sun gets hotter and the chores more mundane, interest can be quickly lost.  What better way than to have a bit of fun during those days to keep them coming back.  So, the participants rolled up their sleeves and got to experience some fun activities to keep children engaged.

Creating a worm bin is a great way to get children to keep coming back to the garden.  They can participate in creating the bin, maintaining it, bring kitchen scrapes from home, playing with the worms, and using the compost.  The possibilities for scientific explanations are endless and it is an ongoing fun activity to participate in throughout the summer.

Another simple but effective way to engage children at the garden is to germinate seeds in a bag, glove, or something else.  This is a great opportunity to see on a small scale the method of seeds sprouting, plant parts, greenhouses, etc.  Plus it gives the children something to take home and possibly continue to spark their curiosity.

Soil makes it all possible, right?  Why not educate children on the components of soil through relating it to food.  Plus who doesn’t like a sweet snack?  Two buckets: first filled with just sand, silt, and clay (the primary components of soil) the second with sugar, flour, and salt (the primary components for cookies).  Two more buckets: one with actual soil (sand, silt, and clay, plus water, bugs, rocks, leaves, air) the second with actual cookie dough (sugar, flour, and salt plus water, oil, vanilla, chocolate chips, brown sugar, and of course gummy worms).

We all want to be engaged and have fun, but even more so with children.  If you take just a small bit of time and dedicate it to educating youth on all the wonders of gardening, imagine what legacy we can leave to our future generations.  So take a deep breathe, get creative, and have a little fun.

 Wildlife Fencing
Presented by: Peter Huttinger, Community Garden Program Director of Turner Farm and Joshua Jones, Community Garden Manager of Turner Farm

Every year, it never seems to fail, that a groundhog finds its way into the SACG.  We pay the price with our produce.  This session was a must if we want to keep critters from taking our prized tomatoes or mowing sweet potato leaves.  The method presented is a DIY step-by-step, tried and true fence for preventing deer, groundhogs, and many other critters from coming in. 

The cost is proportional to the size of the area needing fenced, but yet still more cost effective that conventional fencing and durable.  Materials needed are readily available at home improvement stores.  In addition, the sample fence can be customized to suit the areas specific needs.  For an example, at SACG we do not have deer and therefore do not need conduit or galvanized fence wire.

How it works: the corner wooden posts are configured as a 3 corner with braces, the use of triangles gives the structure stability.  These post also need to be set in concrete, below the frost line with gravel at the base for support as the soil shifts.  Then T-Post are set every 10 feet till half the length of the fence is meet. At this mid-point, another wooden post is set below the frost line with a gravel base in concrete.  Once again, the T-Post continue every 10 feet till desired length, where another corner brace will be formed.  This pattern is continued till the garden is not outlined.

To encompass the area with 200,000 PSI tensile wire are few tools to ease the job are necessary: Jenny Fence Wire De-Reeler, wire cutters, crimping tool/bolt cutters, aluminum chain link fence ties, ratchet style tensioner with handle, and galvanized barbed staples.   Use the staples to fasten the wire to the wood post, set a gap approximately 8 inches between wires, tighten with tensioner till a slight twang is reached, and then use chain link fence ties to fasten wire to T-Posts. 

 The last important step to ensuring those burrowing critters stay out is using 48 inch tall vinyl coated chicken wire.  A trench along the outside of the fence is dug approximately 18 inches deep and the chicken wire is buried facing outwards.  The remaining top 30 inches is adhered to the tensile wire with hog ring fasteners.  This keeps critters from digging their way in.

Finishing touches include adding gates, which can be purchased or created.  To ensure it is also a preventive measure from critters coming in, chicken wire can be used to secure gaps.  This method is super customizable by using materials you may have on hand or adapting the framework to meet your garden needs.  And nothing can beat fencing with a long life and stability.   

 In conclusion, the summit was well organized and kept the participants engaged the entire time.  By the end of the day, I was fulfilled with new ideas and good conversations.  One improvement point I would like to see in the future is to have access to the information presented in the other sessions.  It was truly difficult to choose which ones to attend and access to information covered in other sessions would have been much appreciated.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Slow and Steady Progress at the SACG to Celebrate Earth Day Early

Earth Day is not until near the end of the month, but the Easter holiday next week seems to have motivated Earth Day Columbus to move up the work days and festivities.  Accordingly, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden – like many other area community gardens – celebrated Earth Day yesterday.  The day started off with a freeze warning and seemed to have scared off most of our regular gardeners and Board members, but we achieved most of our goals nonetheless with help from some new neighbors, Amy, Rayna and Earth Day Columbus.

We’ve missed Robert Seed from Keep Columbus Beautiful who has always kept supply distribution very organized and highly communicative.  With his medical leave of absence following the brutal attack on him in February, the remaining volunteers have been scrambling.   I picked up our supplies on Friday morning and heard that he was planning to stop by KCB around noon to wish them well.  (That's great news, isn't it).   While we received all of the mulch (donated by Kurz Brothers) that we had requested, we only received a few litter grabbers, 3 lawn waste bags and one safety vest (which I declined).  There were no bus passes this year (which I generally use throughout the year for volunteers and to assist some of our economically challenged neighbors).   But, we got a bag of luna bars (for our volunteers and to occasionally pass off to hungry neighbors) and free Jeni’s ice cream.

I arrived bright and early at the SACG on Saturday.  Unlike last week, we had brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies.  At least our pictures would be better!  Alexi quickly arrived with his garden agreement and plot fee and I immediately put him to work unloading our mulch.   He then moved on to edge the front flower bed and reconstruct the edging along the strawberry patch.  

Then, neighbor Cameron arrived and was willing to do anything.  Dirtier the better he said, so I put him to work flipping compost from one bin into our new western bin.   He was such a good and willing worker that I tried to recruit him for the Garden, but he’s apparently moving to Brazil in six weeks to work on an organic commercial farm.  (What a sense of adventure!).  He then mowed our lawn and the large Block Watch lot and then weeded the kids’ beds and one food pantry plot before calling it a day.

 I removed and bagged the brambles from the other compost bins, pruned our fruit trees, transplanted a peony bush and pruned some spent perennial flowers in the beds.  Despite the prior night’s freeze, our fruit trees seemed unfazed.  The peach blossoms were still blooming and the cherry blossoms were starting to appear.  I then started planting cold crop seedlings (kale, collards, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and brussels sprouts)  in our neighbor plot along the alley and watering in the new transplants.  I also had to again clean out our Free Little Library because someone keeps putting perishable produce in there!  Ugh.  Today, it was cucumbers and apples.

Danielle (from Earth Day Columbus) stopped by with her husband David to pass out free Chipotle gift certificates for our volunteers.  They then returned and helped us out a lot.  First, they planted two grape vines for us along our new trellis.  Then, they transplanted a poorly placed hosta, dug out a weed tree growing in the fence line and spread mulch in our flower beds.  (This is one of my least favorite jobs because the mulch sticks to my clothes and runs up my arms.  A few years ago, my legs and feet were attacked by ants that had been living in the bag.  Ouch!).

Amy arrived and I put her to work cleaning up our herb garden.  The chives and oregano really take over.  She expressed interest in the  cherry branches I had pruned.  What a good idea, so I took the branches that she did not want.  We have so many chives (and they are so pretty with their purple flowers when in bloom), and she could not bring herself to dig out more than one bunch.  She put them in a flower pot in the hope that someone would take them home.   She also helped Alexi with the flower bed.

As seems to happen every year, Alexi, Danielle and David left before I remembered to pass out the volunteer rewards (other than luna bars).    I know that I’ll see Alexi again soon, but I wasn’t so sure about Danielle and David.   I finally remembered them as Amy packed up to leave.  

I wanted Cameron to remember Columbus while he is in Brazil, so I gave him our extra Earth Day Columbus t-shirt to wear and advertise our event on another continent.

Rayna and her niece Sarah then arrived to volunteer.  Sara weeded the strawberry patch and liberated a few for the garden at Stewart Avenue Middle School where Rayna works and helps her class raise food.  I had Rayna spread mulch in the herb garden and plant cold crop seedlings that I had brought in our food pantry plot.   I finally got around to planting another two rows of cold crop seedlings in my plot.  Later in the afternoon, I drove down to Dill’s Greenhouse to purchase some onion sets.  Once I put in a couple of rows, I’ll share the remainder with the food pantry and neighbor beds and then with the other gardeners.

In the small world category, Alexi lives a few houses down from the Garden and moved into the neighborhood within the last couple of months.  However, his partner, Isaiah, had visited the SACG a few years ago when, as an employee of Whole Foods, he gave us a cooking demonstration during our 2014 Opening Day and motivated all of us to plant lots of garlic by telling us about all of the garlic he grew for himself in his backyard.    Now, he’s one of our gardeners. 

I’m trying to convince David and Danielle to return.  They cannot grow anything in their condo . . . . . .
We were not the only ones in the neighborhood who were busy.  J. Jireh had a crew picking up litter along East Main Street.
There are always a few more tasks to be addressed, and so these are some of the tasks which will still need to be addressed this month:

1)    Maybe extending the alley curb in front of the western compost bin

2)    Picking up litter in the entire neighborhood and alleys
3)    Straightening up our leaning benches of pisa. (or at least lifting them out of the wood chips because the seat is only six inches above the ground at present) 
4)    Touching up the paint on the shed’s rain barrel
5)    Transplanting some volunteer raspberry bushes to empty spots

Saturday, April 1, 2017

College Students’ Hands Make Light Work at SACG’s 9th Opening Day

Where were all of these kids last year?  That’s what I heard from my gardeners today as we kicked off our ninth growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Last year, we spread several tons of compost on all of our plots and wood chips on our paths and around our fence lines.   Last year, it was just us gardeners, some members from the Reynoldsburg Alliance Church  and some neighborhood kids (who all got pizza for helping).  This year, we had three groups of college students from nearby Capital University and The Ohio State University.   Many hands make light work.  The college kids spread the wood chips, planted a plum tree and rebuilt a compost bin.  Us gardeners focused on weeding and transplanting daisies (and probably won’t be as sore tomorrow as we were last year).    While it was rather cool (especially to the volunteers who did not wear coats or enough layers), it was also rather cloudy, which means my photos are not quite as cheery or prolific as usual.

Tree King dropped off a ton (or, according to Ken, much more than a ton) of pine wood chips that smelled just swell.   Sadly, they also took up half of the alley, so Cathy sent her two children down with shovels to move enough of them so that cars could drive through.  They worked hard until one of their shovels broke in the process.  While they did that, John Sunami from Nimbus Illustrated and Graphic Design printed us out a new sign cover (that he designed for us in 2012) and I less than perfectly attached it to our sign (an old table top that Charter SACG Gardener Dwayne Penny painted into our original sign).    I was pleased that I at least got it centered.    On Thursday, I also picked up some shovels and garden rakes from Rebuilding Together’s Tool Library.  On Tuesday, I had lunch with Lindsay who will be creating an education garden at Eastgate Elementary School.  While we scoped out locations, I told her that I would try to get some donations of materials and services from some of my contacts. 

When I arrived this morning, Rayna was already there surveying the work to be done.   The rest of the gardeners showed up in pretty short order.  We unloaded my car and started on transplanting volunteer daisies from the paths to the flower beds.  Sabrina also unpacked everything from the shed.  Amy weeded the front southeast flower bed.  We had a group of Capital University students arrive as part of a leadership development class.  They looked cold, so I put them to work shoveling wood chips into wheelbarrows and dumping them around the raised beds, along our paths and along our fence lines.   The chips smelled really good.   Taylor was there to supervise.  Where were these kids last year when he shoveled for almost six straight hours?  I didn’t spend any time checking on their work because they seemed to be making great progress and there were no misapplied wood chips this year.  Sabrina even took our extra wood chips to put around our fruit trees  and she and Rayna insured that our blooming daffodils did not get buried.

I tried to tidy up and clean out our Free Little Library (which is sadly short on books).  A local homeless person has been using it as his food pantry and storing perishable food items and other random items in there (and then tying it shut to keep everyone else out).  A small group of OSU students showed up from a social studies class studying community gardens as a class project.  They brought some children with them.  We retrieved some wheelbarrows from Cathy’s house (as well as an extra drill in case we needed it to rebuild a new compost bin).   These students then helped Rayna weed the center flower bed and then began weeding various garden plots. (I shooed them out of mine because I have all sorts of odds and ends growing there, not just weeds).   Some of them helped me to retrieve bags of potting soil which we purchased last year with our Lowe’s voucher as part of the City’s Land Bank community garden program.  We emptied these bags into the kids’ raised platform beds (after first weeding the beds).

Ken showed up with lots of tools and such.  He had spent the last month attempting to fix our lawn mower.  (He also donated a reel mower which I need to sharpen).   It was quite an ordeal.  I was going to devote a whole blog day to his almost daily blow-by-blow accounts of what he had tried and what seemed to work (and didn’t work).  He told me that we would have a working mower today.  Then, two days ago, it didn’t work.  So, he bought one (which also didn’t work).  So he bought another one and brought it today.  When I saw it, I was like.  Wow.  Did you repaint ours too because I remember it being red and not green.  It’s so shiny.   He just laughed and told me what happened.  I was like – oh you didn’t need to because we just would have used the reel one and Urban Connections’ mower.  But now, we have our own and won’t need to feel guilty borrowing someone else’s mower.  Jeremey from Capital ended up mowing our lawn and the two Block Watch lots.  (He looked really cold weeding one of the raised beds, so I suggested that he mow instead to keep warm).   He didn’t think that anyone could notice that the lawns had been mowed, but we really could. 

A giant bus creeped down between the parked cars on Stoddart.  It was our group of OSU students from the Pay It Forward Program’s Spring into Service event.   We split them into two groups which were both supervised by Ken.  One group helped him to deconstruct an old compost bin and then build a new one.  The other dug a large hole to plant our new (self pollinating) plum tree.    I then set them loose on weeding.  I had packed a bunch of yard waste bags, but couldn’t find them, so we had to put the weeds into plastic bags.    The neighborhood dumpsters were already full, so Ken took them to dumpsters near his office.

I had reattached the spicket to the large rain cistern on Thursday, but I had my doubts about it.     When I checked it last night, it was leaking.  (At least it was filling up, unlike our experiences last year).  The tank was also full of some sort of gunk or white mold.  So, I plan to add a couple of gallons of bleach to it asap to address that new development.  Our gallant hero Ken had the supplies to fix the leak, but we first had to empty the tank (which created a small lake at Kimball Farms).  While he did that, I grabbed an OSU student to help me reattach the tall rain cistern to the downspout on the west side.

We had a number of new gardeners show up and help.  Almost all of them were recruited by Alyssa and one of them even drives a truck -- always an added bonus.    Some picked up litter; some shoveled, some spread chips; some weeded.  Some helped me and a student reattach our sign to its posts for group pictures, etc.   Some helped to repaint the shed’s rain barrel, the chipped paint on the Free Little Library and to varnish our neighbor plot sign.  Rayna then took charge in leading the attack on the weeds in the strawberry patch.  Alyssa, Taylor and the new gardeners then went next door and weeded two of their long raised beds.
I had made dozens of dark chocolate no-bake cookies and brownies and brought tangerines, bananas, cheese sticks, donuts and bottled water for refreshments.  Eventually, each group migrated to our picnic table on the south side of the Garden to refresh their blood sugar.  

Sabrina lead the effort to put everything back in the shed.  There’s enough room left to fit our new reel mower once I sharpen it.  Ken then reconfigured our gate latches so that we can shut our front gate (and eventually lock it when we have food growing inside). 

Ahmed, the new President of the Kimball Farms Civic Association, stopped by to give me his number if I needed any help.   I’m really determined to take it easy this year, but then started thinking that maybe he would want to help build a new picket fence up front.  Ken really shouldn’t get all of the fun . . . .

We have lots of plots left for interested gardeners who sign an agreement, pay their $10 and put in their three hours of work equity.   We have a voluntary work day this Saturday, April 8 to celebrate Earth Day (early this year because of Easter).  This is what we have planned to do this Saturday for folks who want to help out:

1)      Planting red and white grapes along the trellis

2)      Weeding what didn’t get weeded today (including the kids beds)

3)      Cleaning up the front flower bed edging and replacing some of the landscaping stones that got disturbed today

4)      Maybe extending the alley curb in front of the western compost bin

5)      Picking up litter in the entire neighborhood and alleys

6)      Cleaning the brambles out of the compost bins and putting them in the newly found lawn waste bags

7)      Planting seedlings (collards, kale, cabbage) and seeds (lettuce) in the western neighbor bed

8)      Planting a couple rows of lettuce and couple of collards and kale in the food pantry plot

9)      Straightening up the leaning benches of pisa.

10)  Touching up the paint on the shed’s rain barrel

11)  Maybe turning some compost (depending on whether any extra volunteers show up)

12)  Maybe thinning some strawberry plants and sharing with Rayna and the neighbor next door

13)  Pruning the fruit trees and maybe staking a couple of the leaning ones.

14)  Transplanting some volunteer raspberry bushes to empty spots

15)  Probably mowing our lush lawn again with our NEW mower (thanks to Ken)