Saturday, April 6, 2013

Buckeyes Pay It Forward on SACG’s 2013 Opening Day

We had a long and productive opening day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden today, despite a few hiccups.  We were joined by dozens of OSU students as part of the Pay-It-Forward program.  We never would have accomplished as much without them.  We signed up four new gardeners today and had help from Brenda, one of the Franklin County Master Gardeners who helped us out so much during last year’s drought.

A successful day always begins with planning and supplies.  On Monday, the City Forestry Department dropped off a giant load of wood chips for our main activity on Opening Day.  (We then mysteriously received another truck load later in the week).   I picked up six free garden rakes and six shovels from Rebuilding Together’s tool library on Thursday.   While there I met the garden manager for City Farm who was dropping off and/or picking up supplies.   On Friday, I then picked up free water, a cardboard recycling container and trash bags, and  borrowed litter grabbers, neon vests and work gloves from Keep Columbus Beautiful (courtesy of a grant from Keep America Beautiful).  
Near the end of the day, I learned that 30 OSU students would be coming to help.  I was a bit panicked because I had only expected 5 to 20 and hadn’t planned on feeding that many folks. So,  I ran to pick up extra refreshments courtesy of the East Main Kroger’s store.  Then, even later in the day, I learned that our rototiller was not working and began a mad dash to obtain a replacement while the ground was still dry and tillable. (The tool library was closed until the next morning).  The president of the Franklin Park Civic Association tried to help and I made a few calls and sent some emails, but Saturday morning came without a replacement.  In the meantime, I sawed down some cedar boards to improve our compost bins, baked brownies, brewed some iced tea and made a few dozen chocolate no-bake cookies.  Finally, I packed up first-aid and other supplies into my car.

I was not the first to arrive at the Garden on Saturday.  Rayna and new gardener Sabrina were already there.  We unloaded my car, rounded up a few wheelbarrows and started spreading chips on the paths.  Gardeners began straggling in, including new gardeners Cassie, Neal and Chelsea.  Brenda then delighted us by coming to help, too.  Charlie helped us out a lot by strapping my wheelbarrow to the roof of his car and bringing it over to help us.   Mari came and dug up volunteer raspberry bushes, which we then transplanted along the new fence at the end of the day.

A large van of OSU students arrived.  The OSU students went to work on a few projects.  One group repaired a vandalized compost bin, then flipped the compost we had started last Fall and consolidated the compost into two (from three) bins.  Another group picked up litter around the Garden, another in the alley intersection near the Garden and another picked up litter in the Block Watch lot across the street (including cutting out some old wire fence with my bolt cutters).  One student took some Indiana limestone triangles donated to us last year by GreenScapes Landscaping Company and built a half-moon and full-moon inlay in the front Garden paths.  (I’ll have to post a picture later).  One group helped us to move the raised beds we built last year from the annex to the northwest corner of the Garden.  The rest of the group helped us to shovel wood chips and to spread them in the new raised bed plot, along the paths, along the fence line and in the space between the alley/Cherry Street and the Garden.  They also helped to dig up compost left from last year’s compost bins and transport it to the relocated raised beds.   A police officer even stopped by to express appreciation and encouragement for all of their hard work.

Frank and Barb came with another wheelbarrow, more litter grabbers and our ill tiller.  One of our new gardeners is married to a mechanic, who valiently tried to repair our tiller without success.  I had called the Tool Library first thing in the morning and it had a tiller on hand, but it was first come, first served.  We tried to call at this point, but kept getting voice mail.  Frank drove over to the library and returned with a giant tiller.  Success!  Then, Charlie, Frank and our new mechanic took turns tilling the Garden.  We have such great soil.

Neal ran over to Bexley to pick up four pizzas generously donated by Bexley Pizza Plus.  We gobbled silently because we were all pretty tired and sore by this point.  One of the neighborhood girls wandered in to help shovel chips. Then, some folks from the Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden stopped by on their way home from their annual meeting (which had been held at Central Community House).  They admired our hard work and progress that morning and hoped to return to share in our bountiful supply of seeds.  They also generously offered to share Alvis House volunteers with us to help get our soil amendment donations (from Scotts Miracle-Gro) delivered later this month.

Most of the first group of OSU students left and were replaced around 1 by a second group.  Part of this group focused on picking up litter along Stoddart Avenue.  It was very surprising how much litter had gathered since our last work day in the Fall.  Another group focused on spreading wood chips along the fence and moving soil into the raised beds.  Some of the ladies helped me to improve the compost bins (by leveling one, adding slats and improving the gate).  They enjoyed learning to work with a drill.   Another group of us detatched the fence from the Annex and moved the posts and fence back to their original positions with a sledge hammer.  Then, some of the students helped to replant and transplant raspberry bushes. We moved and then put back  our twirling compost bin.  After realizing that not all three of our raised garden beds would fit in the northwest plot, we moved the last one to the northeast corner of the Garden.  Then, this group of OSU students had to leave.

At 3, I pulled bags and bags of last year’s Botanical Interest seeds donated to us so that the volunteers and gardeners could help themselves.  Marge from the St. Vincent De Paul Community Garden then stopped by to share in our good fortune.   We kibitzed a bit about grants, weather, volunteers, etc.

Barb packed up the shed and I packed up my car.  Kenaya and her brother Antoine then helped Barb and I measure and mark out the plots for the gardeners.  The kids desperately wanted to use the sledge hammer and carried it around the garden like it was a teddy bear.    A few neighborhood fellows then stopped by to share in our refreshments.

Most of us were very tired and sore by the end of the day.  One by one, the adult gardeners begged off.  The kids, however, were anxious to start planting.  Maybe tomorrow:-)   I still had to unpack my car when I returned home and will return borrowed tools on Monday. 

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