Sunday, April 15, 2012

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: SACG Expansion Proceeds

For the second year in a row, Central Ohio has had a gloomy and damp Earth Day work experience. Last year, we picked up litter in the neighborhood for 90 minutes before we were flooded out in a deluge. This year, while Bexleyites were picking up litter, etc., we planned to expand the Garden to accommodate some new raised garden beds. Although Friday was beautiful and tomorrow is predicted to be so as well, the weather forecasters were predicting doom and gloom with intermittent showers for Saturday. They understated the matter.

But first thing is first. We have been blessed over the years to have the support of the Home Depot store in Canal Winchester. It was Home Depot which made it possible for us to have such a fabulous fence around the Garden to keep out rascals and to support our raspberries, peas, tomatoes and pole beans. So, when earlier this Spring, we had gardeners for all of our plots, we had a waiting list, I was thinking about assigning our food pantry plot to a gardener, and we realized that we needed to expand to accommodate raised garden beds, I again turned to Home Depot to help us out and it did not disappoint. Yesterday, I picked up 50 feet of fence and enough fence stakes to permit us to push out the Garden another 575 square feet.

Also, we are very fortunate to be located so close to the Rebuilding Together Tool Library (at Fourth and Morris). On Thursday, I headed over there to borrow – for free -- a 10 pound sledge hammer and fence cutters. We’ve had trouble in the past with driving the fence posts into the ground and I wanted to improve our chances.

However, as the weather forecast became increasingly pessimistic, I started to hedge my bets. I let everyone know we would proceed with the work day unless it was raining hard. A little mist or sprinkle wouldn’t hurt anyone who dressed appropriately. We weren’t going to plant, so there was no chance of hurting our plants or soil. Nonetheless, even though I stocked up on refreshments for the volunteers, I decided not to bake brownies like I always do because I did not want to get stuck with all of those calories if there were leftovers. I also decided that I would wait to see how far we got on the fence project before bringing over the lumber to build one of the raised garden beds that I and Mike had sawed on Friday.

When I got up on Saturday, I did not know whether anyone would show up to help me with the fence. Two new gardeners had told me that they would be coming, but then one of them emailed me in the middle of the night about a change of heart (or, rather, a change in priorities). Two of the gardeners from last year missed our opening work day and only one of them – a grandmother -- had told me she would be coming. Several of the gardeners who had already put in hours and hours of work over the last two weekends said they could not come, but then another told me on Friday afternoon to my surprise that I would see him. When I arrived to an empty garden and a grey sky, I started to plant cabbage seedlings in my plot.

But then, Tom arrived. Yea! We started to attack the gigantic wood chip pile in order to clear the way to move the southwest fence. Then, Betty came and joined us. Although it rained for about 15 minutes at 10:10, it quickly stopped and we continued working. However, Tom needed to leave and I did not think that Betty and I could alone move the old fence (i.e., pull out the fence posts, dig up the raspberry roots, drag the old fence 90 degrees to the west, re-install fence posts and bury the roots of the bushes). I was thinking about maybe planting flowers instead when Mr. Reliable himself, Charlie, arrived to save the day.

It turned out that moving the fence was relatively simple. Charlie removed the fence posts and I dug up raspberry bushes. Then I pulled the fence over and Charlie banged the posts in with the handy sledge hammer. I pulled our new fence out of my car and unrolled it. Betty held up the fence up while I held the post and Charlie banged the fence post in. After about six of these, I finally remembered a viewer trick I saw on This Old House: Use the handle of a shovel to steady the post while the other person bangs it in with a sledge hammer so that you don’t risk getting hurt if the hammer misses the post. You just put the shovel handle over the post and slide it down. (Imagine the handle is the needle and the post is the thread).

At some point, a neighbor (who helped us pick up litter this weekend last year) came over to ask advice about starting a flower bed and unclogging a gutter downspout. Then, it started to rain in earnest. This was no scattered shower; it rained steadily for most of the rest of the day, which is a blessing. Then Betty had to go and I moved to bury the roots of the raspberry bushes and check on the rain barrels. Charlie went through seeds and came over to show me something new. We returned to the tools to the shed and called it a day just before 1 p.m.

Of course, since some of our new gardeners did not show up for either work day, we now have two plots available. (No work; no plot; no excuses about how much busier you are than the rest of us). One is 10 x 10 and the other is 6x8. A new neighbor indicated that she might be interested in one and Charlie would like me to turn the other into a shared plot (particularly for corn) that the rest of us could share. Nothing is set in stone yet, so interested gardeners should contact me as soon as possible if they want to join. I’ll find something positively gruesome for you to do to make up for missing all of the hard work we’ve put in so far this year.

We have several big projects coming up the first week in May. Scotts has generously donated over a hundred bags of mulch and soil that we need to pick up from Franklin Park Conservatory on May 3 or 5 and get back to the Garden. We also will be building and then filling some raised garden beds in our new annex on May 5. I have a couple of volunteers for the second project. Barb and I are still working out the details for the first project. Stay tuned.

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