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)

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