Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FPC Women’s Board Visits the SACG on Bastille Day

This morning, the Women's Board of Franklin Park Conservatory visited the SACG as part of their annual tour of area community gardens. It was a much larger group than I expected and they were extremely nice – even giving us a Lowe's gift certificate. (Yea!) Keyante, Dionte and their cousin Daequan stopped by to answer questions about their work at the SACG and their family's plot and pose for a few pictures. Nykkel arrived in time to answer a few questions, pose for some pictures and show off her plot, too. Then, Orlando stopped by (all dressed up in a suit) and was able to tell Bill Dawson about the raised bed "man gardens" behind the BTBO office (as well as the women's garden next to the BTBO office).

Of course, most of the SACG gardeners worked very hard over the weekend and on Tuesday evening to spruce up their plots and the garden for the tour. Barb put extra effort into cleaning up the front flower bed; Frank mowed and Jeff moved the extra mulch and compost. Mari, Nykkel and I weeded and pruned last night. It's been tough finding time to garden when we have received 4-1/2 inches of rain in the last five days.

The kids explained the challenges in getting their peers interested in helping with the garden and thought the heat and weeding were the hardest part about working at the SACG.

The principle quality that makes the SACG special (in my opinion) is how we have recycled debris we dug out from the Garden and other items which were donated to the garden (like lumber, pallets, wood chips, etc.). I also told them about how the SACG had benefitted from the generosity of a number of businesses and volunteers:

Several of the ladies were concerned about our benches and wanted to think of a way that we could preserve them better (such as using wood conditioner and a stain to protect them from the elements). We welcome their suggestions and help!!! :-)

Of course, the Women's Board members commented how charming our garden was. They were especially enchanted with Rayna's birdhouse gourds which seem to be taking over the entire western fence (and forming a pictureque back gate area). Unlike a lot of community gardens, we actually plant in the soil instead of relying exclusively on raised beds. I cannot overstate how much work was involved in digging out by hand (using only shovels and our fingers) all of the debris left behind when the former apartment building was demolished on our site. I pointed out our make-shift curb of concrete debris – all of which was carried down to the alley/Cherry Street by the gardeners (especially Dwain). (In fact, if memory serves, Keyante was the one who lined up all of the debris we first dug out of the garden on April 4, 2009 and it was 70 feet long by April 18, 2009). We also had enough debris left over to build platforms for the rain barrels, a platform for the tank (which is also supplemented by cement blocks), and line the paths in the Garden. There is still a lot of debris left in two of the plots and there is some debris left in all of them. I fear we may still be digging out bricks for another five years;-) However, I think our garden benefits from planting directly into the soil because we have a gazillion worms. It also lets us grow bushes and to use the fence as trellises to support beans, gourds, and melons. I also had the soil tested last year for lead to ensure that it was safe to grow things here.

Before coming the SACG, the Women's Board had visited the Growing Hearts & Hands Community Garden on Oak Street (which they had staged a work day a few months earlier). After visiting the SACG, they then visited the Franklinton Gardens and the Highland Community Garden on Highland Avenue (in the Hilltop area and which won Community Garden of the Year in 2009) before having boxed lunches at the Community Garden Campus at the FPC.

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