Sunday, June 21, 2009
Are Those Pumpkins Growing Out of Piles of Rocks at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden?
When I first envisioned the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, I intended to have an urban farm that utilized every square inch of growing space on the then-vacant lot. However, Farmer Bill pointed out to me in February that I would need to leave about six feet as a perimeter or my landlord -- the City of Columbus -- and the EPA would have my hide when the rain washed the topsoil down the Garden's hillside and into the City's storm sewers and into Alum Creek. Besides, the 6-10 feet along the northside of the Garden (otherwise known as Cherry Street) was essentially solid concrete and brick from an abandonned sidewalk or driveway. What to do? What to do?
My friend, Mary, from Lousiville had a great idea. She suggested that I plant squash or pumpkins since they spread quite a bit and -- best of all-- the fruit prefer to sit on concrete instead of dirt. It occurred to me that dogs and some drunks might urinate on whatever grew in the alley (or Cherry Street), so I didn't want to grow anything that people might eat (and forget to wash). It also seemed to me that the neighbhorhood kids might enjoy a pumpkin patch of their own come October (and Halloween). An idea was born.
One challenge turned out to be that there wasn't even an inch of dirt above the bricks/concrete. So other than the first/easternmost pumpkin, the rest had to be planted in raised beds. I'm not made of money and didn't want to spend more money than I had to on this project. This turned out to be another opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.
One of the most irritiating things about gardening in this Garden is the freakish overabundance of construction debris (like blacktop, bricks, concrete chunks bigger than my head, etc.) and we've been placing the debris along Cherry Street (as a makeshift curb) until we could figure out what to do with it. (As many faithful readers know, we used most of the bricks to build the platforms for our five rain barrels. I also used four large stones to create the raised base of our first compost bin. Alysha and I have also been lining the Garden path with the hand-sized stones.). It then occurred to me that I could put much of the remaining debris to good use by building half-moon-shaped (or turret-shaped as I often think of them) raised beds. They are not square or round because I figured the slope of the ground would keep most of the dirt leaning downhill towards Cherry Street. This left me more stones and rocks to build more raised beds. I refer to them as my Maginot Line of Pumpkins.
I started a number of pumpkins from seed at home. Although the first plant died from thirst, the pumpkin seeds I planted in that bed with it sprouted and spread. The rest of them are hanging in there. Alysha also started a giant pumpkin from seed at her house and it's growing gangbusters. It requires more water, of course, and is pictured here. I used top soil from Sunderlands in the beds and added horse manure compost (which I obtained in April from a horse farm in Westerville) to most of the beds.
I've never grown pumpkins before, so we'll see how it goes. (Some volunteer pumpkin plants occassionally sneak out from my compost bin, but they've never born fruit). I added water bottles to each bed to permit deep watering (and this is the first year I've ever tried that). Feel free to water them if you walk by. I water them on Wednesdays and Saturdays (unless it rains).
Like the original Maginot Line, I've learned that they are facing the wrong way and/or have been misplaced: They seem to be growing toward the Garden instead of northward toward Cherry Street. I'm hoping that they can be convinced to spread northward instead of into the plots being gardened by Betty, Mari, Melissa, Beth and Mike. Maybe next year I'll have to move the beds a few feet to the north:)
at 3:16 PM