Thursday, August 2, 2012

SACG Faces Dog Days of August

Block Watch and SACG on August 1, 2012

The dog days of August are upon us. Traditionally, August is one of the wettest months of the year, so I am not particularly dreading the next couple of weeks because the humid heat also generally brings late afternoon thunderstorms.

Demolition Update. The demolition of the next-door eyesore is finally complete and the back hoe is gone. The crew removed all of the bricks and foundation stones from the old building and filled it with dirt and top soil (some of which had some stones). However, gardening next door will not be nearly as back-breaking as cleaning out our current two lots (which are riddled with construction debris, old sidewalks, driveways and foundations). The crew spread grass seed and topped it with straw. Sadly, the seed is unlikely to germinate anytime soon in this drought. The crew also replaced our cherry tree, but used peat moss (instead of Scotts tree soil) to plant it, so I’ll be properly replanting it this Saturday morning. After watching us work steadily in the high heat for the past month and watching all of the kids come and go, the crew began to appreciate all of our hard work and planted two more cherry trees in the newly vacant lot (since it looked so lonely with only straw). It was kinda sad to see them try to water the new trees on Monday evening armed with only gallon jugs of water. (I let them use water from one of our barrels).

The Block Watch has asked the City to lease the lot for another flower garden and has begun to water the new trees, but we haven’t heard anything back from the City. . . . . .

The new president of the Franklin Park Area Association (i.e., the neighborhood civic association) is so impressed with the improvements that have been made over the last year that he wants us to put a marker on the lot designating it as the southern gateway to the Franklin Park neighborhood. Of course, he also wants us to raise the money for the marker . . .

Super Stoddarts. Our youth program continues to meet on Monday evenings. Although no one came last week (with the 93 degree heat at 6:30), we had a couple of girls come this last Monday. Root Barb read them a fairy story and sent them home with their own book to read for the rest of the summer. I then showed them how to make a rain gauge out of a two-liter bottle. Over the summer, we have read a few chapters from Seed Folks, learned about different irrigation techniques, garden safety, seed structures and types, and the basics of rooting. We have five beds being tended by youth gardeners this year. Unlike past years, the kids have been very good about weeding their garden beds, but they have not been as reliable in watering them.

FCMG Intern Volunteers. Last week’s rain made all our plants double in size, including the weeds. Thankfully, four new interns from the Franklin County Master Gardener program came last night to help me weed and water. They watered and weeded our food pantry pepper and bean plots for about 90 minutes and one stayed even later to water and weed the center flower bed. They were obsessed with properly composting the weeds. The peppers perked right up and the bean plot looks respectable again.

Second Umbrella. Anne from the Women’s Board of the Franklin Park Conservatory donated a patio umbrella to us to provide us with more shade during these hot and sunny days. The kids feel very special playing in the sand box when it is covered with an umbrella and always ask us to put it up for them. If I could only get them to clean up after themselves before they leave for the evening . . . . .

SACG on March 31, 2012 Pre-Demolition

Drought Tips. While our plants (particularly our beans) are not as prolifically productive this year as last year, several of us had had a decent harvest and I’ve already started to can tomatoes again. We’ve even had corn and my eggplants have loved this dry and hot weather. While we usually do not utilize fertilizer at the SACG because of all of the compost we’ve invested in our soil, this year fertilizer has made a huge difference in helping our plants to thrive in the drought because they cannot absorb enough nutrients when the top few inches of soil are dry. Those of us who regularly water our plants have been more fortunate than the gardeners who are trying to survive by only watering once every 7-10 days. Not only are our fruits larger, but the regular waterers have avoided the worst of the cracked tomatoes and blossom end rot (i.e., the black bottoms on tomatoes). Our peppers are also bigger. My bean crop has shockingly shriveled up. This is because I didn’t water it much – if at all – in May. However, the beans I planted in mid-June or later are doing ok. Indeed, my half-row of asparagus beans (also known as Chinese beans or yard-long beans) are drought tolerant and I’ve already harvested several pounds of them. I should have planted more of them.

SACG on August 1, 2012 Post-Demolition

Finally, I've put an end to the continued theft of our water by placing bibb locks on the spickets of our tank and one of our barrels.  These are pretty nifty. (You screw a plug onto the spicket that keeps water from escaping and then put a bibb on top of it which is then locked).   The expensive brass bibb does not come with a lock, but I purchased an extra combination lock to use.  The less expensive model comes with a small key-lock, but there are only three keys and I never remember to bring one with me to the Garden.   You can get them at Zettlers on East Broad Street or on Amazon.

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