Sunday, June 8, 2014

Every Little Bit Helps

It was another beautiful day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden on Saturday.  We were basking in the 2.5+ inches of rain we received in the past week (and had the weeds to prove it).    Our daisies are still gorgeous, but some are a little battered after Wednesday’s storm.  They look even more eye-catching next to the purple salvia and newly blooming bachelor buttons and in contrast to the  pretty purple cat’s mint.  Sabrina and Susan beat me there on Saturday in order to perform some detailed weeding in Mari’s plot.  We also had much help from our WEP volunteer, Chris.

I had spent parts of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening at the Garden triaging and weeding Mari’s plot, helping the kids to plant beans in the food pantry plot and their own beds, to cut daisies out of my plot and to plant basil in our herb garden.  The beans were finally starting to crack the soil on Saturday morning.  I promised the kids that we would plant sweet potatoes and melons this weekend. 

A 500 gallon cistern showed up in the block watch lot across the street.  Barb and Frank are delighted to not have to keep transporting rain in barrels to the lot on the back of their truck.  I’m still trying to figure out how they plan to fill it, though.  Are they going to hook up gutters to the nearby auto paint shop?   Stay tuned.

Strawberry Picking Expedition.  Lea, Sabrina, her friend Angie, Zephyr and I travelled on Friday morning to Hann’s Farm in southern Franklin County (on Lockbourne Road) to pick strawberries.  There were plenty of berries to fill our baskets, although Zephyr seemed more interested in eating them than putting them in his basket.   Sabrina and I then turned to quickly make some jam and I was kicking myself when I found a new recipe for strawberry jam (using some balsamic vinegar) after I canned my jam (which uses blueberries to replace powdered pectin).  I guess I spent too much time trying to figure out if I wanted to try and make preserves again. There’s always next year.   I also froze 3 quarts of strawberries and, for grins and giggles, canned 2 pints because I had never done it before.  I would never do it again because the strawberries lose some color.   Of course, I saved a couple of pints to eat fresh this week on shortcake (with whipped cream) and in spinach salads.

Sabrina’s already talking about going back to pick more because she wants to make more jam.  They ran out this year (because she gives so much away) and she doesn’t want a repeat in 2015.

Saturday’s Work.  When I arrived yesterday, Susan, Mari and Chris were pulling out the tiny weeds that had grown up in Mari’s onions, spinach, beets, sole okra plant and where I had put tomatoes and peppers (where the three solitary corn plants had been).   Sadly, Susan didn’t recognize the eggplant I had planted with the beets and pitched them.  I always can find more and put 2 new eggplant plants in with the peppers and tomatoes.  I had weeded a bit earlier in the week, but I’m not the kind of gardener that gets on my hands and knees to pull weeds (which is what the three of them were doing).

Susan’s back couldn’t take it, so she was off. Sabrina planted some cabbage and had some donated carrot seedlings.  So, she spent some time transplanting them into Lea’s plot because her carrots never germinated during the two-week mini-drought we had in May.  Tom and Zephyr stopped by to harvest some spinach.

I then turned Chris into cleaning up the area around Mary’s old raised bed (which is now full of chard, collards, lettuce and cabbage).  He raked up the chips, pulled the weeds (all the way around) , dug out giant and smaller stones (which still turn up weekly even though we broke ground SIX years ago), and prepped the soil to plant cabbage (which I picked up from GCGC’s Thursday meeting) and tomatoes.  He then watered Mary’s old bed and the raised beds next door.  I had planned to have him mow our lawn or the lot next door, but Frank and Barb beat us to it.   Of course, I instructed him to harvest and eat any strawberries he found before pulling the volunteer strawberry plants growing there.  He prefers sweet to tart.

Chris is very sociable and did a great job weeding.  His father is an expert gardener.  He stopped by before I got there and was so delighted with the SACG that he came back a few hours later with a woman from a Linden area church who wanted to start or improve a new garden and wanted to know how they could also get a WEP volunteer like Chris.  I showed them both around and he knew every bit as much as I did (if not more) about growing food and saving seeds.   She liked our daisies and so I told her to take as many of my discarded daisies as she wanted.  (I never let anyone take our community daisies because they exist to beautify the neighborhood and I don’t know how I would ration them among everyone who asks for them).   I also sent her away with some chive seeds and raspberry seedlings.   She’s supposed to come back for more when I have more time.
I weeded my own plot and dug out most of my daisy plants to make room for my summer and winter squash and cucumbers.  I also continued planting tomatoes, cabbage and squash in the raised beds behind the old BTBO offices, which Chris then watered in.  I also watered the neighbor plot.

Some of the neighborhood girls showed up and sang Frozen for me in harmony. They want to hire me as their agent.  We then turned to planting melons.  I instructed them to study the mounds in Lea's plot (that she spent so much time creating last week) where cantalope and watermelon had sprouted and then to each create their own similar mound in the melon raised bed.  (They initially said they also wanted cantaloupe, but none of their girls ended up planting any).   We also ended up planting two pumpkin hills.  To finish, they tried to harvest as many of the ripe strawberries from the volunteer plants in our food pantry plot (because they had already cleared out our too-small strawberry patch).  This lead to harsh reminder from me about walking in plots without permission.  Nothing gets my dander up than the kids tramping through plots oblivious to the newly emerging or planted seedlings that I have spent hours nurturing from seed.  

Barb and Frank are building something very new in their plot and we are all eagerly waiting the completion of their construction and planting to see what it will eventually be.  I should have taken a picture and maybe I will later today.

GCGC.  I attended  Thursday’s meeting of the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition at Grace Church of Christ on Shady Lane.  They have a large community garden, which consists of a number of fenced-in raised beds.  Their bane are the neighborhood deer, which have no fear of humans.  Their five foot fence had been woefully inadequate, so they added another two feet.  Still not enough.  The added another foot -- to eight feet -- that seems to have done the trick.   Humorously, shortly after Alton finished speaking, a deer appeared on the church lawn.  He also discussed the food pantry they run year round at the church which is supplemented by the fresh produce from their garden.   The Grace folks provided us a cook-out feast of grilled hamburgers (instead of venison), spinach salad and watermelon.  The weather was perfect.
Mike Hogan from OSU Extension was the featured speaker. OSU’s Extension Program turns 100 this year.  Yoo Hoo!  OSU had finally realized that there is a lot of interest in urban agriculture and has tasked Mike to become OSU’s version of Bill Dawson from Franklin Park Conservatory.   Just don’t expect too much yet because he just started on Monday.  OSU already sponsors a hugely popular Master Gardener program which focuses mostly on flowers.  They offered a similar program in Urban Agriculture last winter and expected maybe 30 registrants.  They ended up with 85 and could only accommodate 70, so a repeat program will begin in October.    He spoke about how much farther ahead the cities of Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee are of Columbus in urban agriculture.  He talked about the urban agricultural activities OSU has been spearheading (with Godman Guild) in Weinland Park.  He’s also purchased the rights to show an urban agriculture documentary throughout Ohio.  Just ask to show it to your group. There will be a free showing at OSU on June 27.   He also discussed how popular the school garden program was and how it needs to be expanded so that regular community gardens can incorporate youth education into their activities.  Amen brother.

Grow Your Food books were passed out and I grabbed on for Lea.  I love the sections on companion and succession planting.   I’d like to get one for Susan, too. 
There were cabbage, tomato, pepper and flower seedlings donated by Straders and OSU.  I also donated a flat of extra tomato and eggplant seedlings that I was tired of watering on my patio.  They were snapped right up.  I also explained that the SACG had just donated (on Tuesday) a paper grocery bag of vegetable and flower seeds to the Rebuilding Together's Tool Library and they should hurry over on Saturday morning if they needed any.  East Baptist Church was looking for corn seeds and so we chatted about where they could buy them in bulk (like Dill's or Zettler's downtown).

All of the gardens introduced themselves.   There was a nice mix of established and new gardens.
Finally, they raffled off a brand new rototiller.  Driving Park Community Gardens won it.

Next month’s GCGC meeting is likely to be in Canal Winchester.

Seeds. The daisies are starting to die back.  So, if anyone wants some daisy seeds, just stop by and catch me at the SACG and I'll send you home with some seed heads to start your own daisy patch for next year.

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