Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Long and Productive Flag Day

To commemorate Flag Day, I put a flag pinwheel in my plot to act as a scarecrow.  I was at the Garden almost seven hours yesterday and think I must have been insane, but it was such a beautiful and balmy day.  Moreover, almost all the gardeners stopped by to help and we also had a great deal of help from a new WEP volunteer.  

On Monday, I stopped by to transplant some collards and kale (while simultaneously thinning two rows of them) in anticipation of the forecasted rain.    On Tuesday, I stopped by to side dress a few plants with fertilizer and prune some daisies and also finally recycled the stack of plant trays that had collected at the SACG and in my garage by returning them to Lowe’s on East Broad Street.  Celess was busy cleaning out her plot and doing her chores.  On Wednesday, the forecasted rain passed us by and so I stopped by to weed.  Our charming WEP volunteer Chris was supposed to come help as well, but he did not (either because he changed his mind or was reassigned).   
On Friday, I stopped by to meet with Frank and add another coat of varnish to our fading front gate sign. Neal stopped by to water his crops.  After I left, Curt or Charlie stopped by to weed their plot and harvest most of their early Spring crops.
Yesterday, our new WEP volunteer, Jason, beat me to the Garden.  I asked him to weed under the benches, and along the alley.  Instead, he started pulling large weeds from the food pantry plot (because Sabrina didn’t do her chores this week until this morning).  He couldn’t help himself.  I redirected him to mowing and cleaning out the weeds and overgrown raspberry bushes, weeding around our rain cisterns and weeding Mari’s plot.   After six hours, he had mowed our lawn and half of the vacant lot next door, had cleaned up the south/East Main Street side of the Garden and part of the west side and had made some progress weeding Mari’s plot.  The vining weeds on that side of the Garden tends to blur our fence and looks from the street as though we are covered in kudzu.    (Sadly, Jason inadvertently pruned our back rose bushes because they looked dead.  He did not realize they were a security feature to keep ne'er-do-wells from trespassing).  He also asked me if we had to pay to harvest rain water.  He had recently moved here from Nevada and in those dry states, riparian law (i.e., water law) is much different than here in the Midwest.   No one there has the right to harvest rain water and you have to get permission and pay for a permit because by harvesting rain water you are preventing it from reaching a stream and going downstream.   Good thing we don’t live there.  I sent him home with a bag of kale.
Lea and Zion stopped by to weed her plot, harvest and to plant some kale.   She also helped me out by weeding the raised beds next door.  Neal stopped by again on his way to a charity golf outing and we discussed the merits of Epsom salt and where to purchase it.  Apparently, there was a run on Epsom salts at CVS and they only had perfumed varieties remaining.   Epsom salts help tomatoes avoid blossom end rot when we have alternating wet and dry spells.  Rayna stopped by to weed and thin her plot.  Barb and Frank stopped by to fill their raised beds with compost from home.  I have included a picture of their construction project.  Krystle stopped by to weed, water and harvest.  She also helped me to thin the overgrown oregano plants in our herb garden.
I watered the new kale and collard transplants  and the neighbor and next door raised beds.  I picked up and returned the lawn mower.  Then I turned to deadheading and pruning the center flower bed and southern flower bed. I also saved a bunch of daisy seed heads for next year.   I occasionally helped Jason.  I staked some tomatoes and then mulched some tomatoes with straw.  I made our first food pantry harvest of the season, weighed it and dropped it off at the LLS food pantry Champion and Frebis.    I also did some light weeding and harvesting in my own plot before calling it a day.
Barb was still tending the flower plots across the street when I left.  She and Frank then returned to do some planting and to mow the block watch lots.
DeShawn and Tim stopped by to water their plot.  DeShawn asked for J’ayanna’s bed since she has moved to Mississippi, but I told them that she had partnered with other girls who are still here.   He then wanted to buy a plot but he’s six years too young and all the plots are taken.  Besides, he refused to get involved in April or May, so June is a little late to belatedly get the gardening bug;-)   They grabbed some strawberries and hit the basketball court.  Micayla and Mihala stopped by to water and then left.  Micayla came back with Kristin (aka Shae) to water, but then walked through one of the food pantry plots to hunt some black raspberries, stood on a cabbage seedling and have been banned from the Garden for the next week for violating one of our cardinal rules.  But But But . . .
Ms. Anthony stopped by and told me about her efforts to improve their building for a new tenant.  We also talked about a book drive to re-stock the SACG’s free little library since we’re low on books again.  She also told me that she’s had great success in discouraging groundhogs with a repellent she bought at Dill’s a few years ago.
I finally remembered to bring refreshments with me on Wednesday and Saturday, but none of the gardeners or volunteers wanted any.  The boys, on the other hand, were willing to eat me out of house and home.
Next week, I’ll continue pruning and deadheading daisies as they end their useful life and harvest many more black raspberries.  I hope to save some bachelor button seeds.  Hopefully, Jason will return and continue cleaning up the outer edges of the Garden before trimming the brush across the street in the Block Watch lot.  We will also continue to mulch with straw and tying up our tomatoes.   I’m a little skeptical that it will rain much this week, so we’ll probably also be watering again.
Our gardening issue of the week has to do with the white milk that leaks from lettuce when it is cut.  It’s supposed to get very hot (i.e., above 85 degrees) almost every day next week and lettuce grows best under 65 degrees.   When it gets hot, lettuce tends to bolt (i.e., forms stems, flowers and goes to seed). This is why it is a good idea to plant lettuce where it can be shaded by taller plants or structures, like tomatoes and cucumber trellis, etc.   You can also plant more heat resistant varieties, like oak leaf or red lettuces in the Spring and save the other varieties for the Fall.  Contrary to popular belief, the white milk is not a sign of heat distress or that the lettuce is inedible.   Lettuce gets its name from the latin word for that white milk.  It’s perfectly normal, but it is the cause of bitterness in lettuce.   Instead of focusing on the white milk, pay attention when the leaves get dull and the plant bolts.  At that point, the lettuce is probably not very good.

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