Monday, July 28, 2014

The Little Garden That Could

This was an eventful week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  There were highs and there were lows and there was fresh food and fresh flowers.  I’ve included some pictures of the flowers I cut from my plot  and put on my kitchen table.  What there wasn’t a lot of this week was rain or sunshine.

New Neighbors.  Ms. Anthony contacted me to make introductions to our new neighbors.  J. Jireh Ministries is moving into and possibly buying the building formerly use by Build the Bridge of Ohio where our rain tanks are connected to their downspout.  I related some highlights (and lowlights) about the Garden and our Free Little Library and Norman Brown told me about the various activities his ministry has organized in the area south of Main Street and west of Nelson Road.  They recently started their own community garden behind the Rock of Faith Baptist Church across the street.  He was happy to relate the success of their cucumber crop.  Way to rub it in Pastor Brown.  Here we are about to enter August and I have yet to harvest a single cucumber myself.  (Neal's been lukcy with cucumbers, but not me).  Thank goodness for Lynds’ Farmer’s Market.   The important part is that they are ok with leaving our rain tanks alone.  As he explained, he has more important things to worry about.

On the prior evening, a crew finally showed up to clean up the abandoned lot caddycorner from us on Morrison Avenue.  The weeds were taller than me.  So, it’s a good thing that they came and cleaned up most of the lot.  (Mysteriously, they did not clean up the north side of the back lot).   When this crew showed up last year (in August), our Garden started to experience massive thefts of our produce.  So, I kept a keen eye on them.

Neighborhood Crime.  As I was driving home from my meeting about J. Jireh, my cell phone beeped with an email.  I restrained myself until I got home to look at it.  Sadly, it was from one of our gardeners who reported that someone had pushed in the fence by the back gate.  She tried her best to prop it back up.  I immediately rushed back to check on the Garden.  Although the trespassing thieves kicked apart the knock-out rose bush by the back gate, I couldn’t notice that anything was obviously missing.  However, one of my gardeners told me on Saturday that some of her tomatoes had disappeared.  I returned again that evening and tied the fence back up.  Frank screwed it into the back gate on Saturday.

However, about two hours later, the news got worse.  There was a shooting a half block away – at the intersection of Cherry and Morrison.  This is a reputed hot spot of prostitution.  Two of our Board members were nearby – one in the Garden and one at home.  Luckily, no one died from this shooting, but it’s never good news.

Food Pantry Donations.  This week, our little garden reached a milestone of sorts.   We have donated over one ton of fresh produce from our garden to area food pantries and Faith Mission since we broke ground in 2009.  We don’t keep track of produce we donate to our neighbors, but I try to keep track of everything else.   As I’ve mentioned before, some gardens donate a ton (or even tons) every year, but because we are a plot garden, we grow most of our food for ourselves and our families and share with the pantries the same produce we grow for ourselves.  

Since 2009, I try to reserve one plot to grow produce for our Plant a Row Program, but some years we have more gardeners sign up than we have space.  When gardeners quit or are expelled from the Garden (which happens every year), the produce in their plots is typically diverted to our food pantry donations.    While we can’t keep up with communal gardens – many of which are larger than us, I think we keep up just fine with other plot gardens – particularly urban ones.

The "Everything Else" category includes broccoli, cauliflower, peas, eggplant, radishes and okra.   The "other" pantries listed include the Fruit of the Vine pantry operated by Vineyard Church of Columbus and the Path Ministries on Seymour Avenue (across the street from the SACG).

Departures.  My cousin Krystle announced that she and Eric were moving back to Denver.  What a bummer.   However, I get her eggplant and the rest of her produce will go to our food pantry donations.  Luckily, her plot has been well weeded. She came on Monday to try and catch up with her chores (which had been neglected this month).  She got a lot done, but didn’t get to the paths.  I guess packing took more time than she anticipated.

Bees.  We’ve noticed fewer honey bees this year, but as the Dispatch reported this week, there are a wide variety of bees and many of them are pollinators.  OSU has released a publication showing the different types of bees and how to recognize them.  Margaret Ann from Four Seasons City Farm reported to us last month that the Stratford Ecological Center is expanding its bee hives to put one at their large garden.  So jealous. . . .  I'd love to have a hive if we had someone to manage it and someplace to put it.  My paternal grandfather raised bees.    If only there were bees that killed squash bugs. 

Kids.  Kristin (aka Shae) came by and harvested several pounds of large carrots from her plot.  She said that she wanted to plant more crops in the vacant half of her plot, but decided to ride her bike instead.  Miciya finally picked her beans and took them home.  She's done a great job this summer of regularly watering her plot several times each week.  Since J'anaya left for Mississippi, her bed has not been watered very often and it shows.  The boys have essentially abandoned their plot.  There were weeds past my waist, so I just gave to another set of girls -- particularly since the pole beans are about to pop and the tomatoes have been turning red.  I helped her bag up a bag of lettuce to take home, but apparently her parents didn't want it.  Sigh.  

We planted melons and pumpkins in the back corner plot and, unsurprisingly, the pumpkins have swarmed it and are taking over a couple of the kids' beds, too.  We have at least two pumpkins forming and we're just keeping our fingers crossed that they ripen before the squash bugs destroy the plants.  In the meantime, Miciya is diligently watering her cantelope in the hopes that it survives being smothered by the pumpkins.

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