Sunday, May 10, 2015

More Good News/Bad News

This has been a week of ups and downs at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  It’s been hot and dry, but two new gardeners joined and we had visits from old friends.  My home azaleas are in bloom and the unseasonable heat is causing other flowers to bloom early.  Even my bok choy is going to seed early and it's only about three inches tall!

On Sunday, Kaci and Stan began putting in their work equity to join the Garden with Rayna there to help and coordinate.  They turned more compost from our bins, demolished the former wood chip pile, stacked the mulch bags, rolled up the old fence, watered the fruit trees and blueberry bushes, watered, and picked up litter.     Kaci brought her sister to help.  I built a compost sifter at my house in order to sift the decomposed compost from the sticks and un-decomposed leaves, etc.  Frank and Barb had built one to sift the soil in their plot back in 2009 and I’ve always wanted one.  I brought it with me Saturday.

What's left of the wood chip pile
On Monday, I rode over the Garden on my bike.  John had spent the afternoon preparing his plot and planting.   He left a cigar crater in Tony's plot to mock him for not making any progress in his weedy plot.   Contrary to what I reported here last week, John did remember to take mint home with him for a Kentucky Derby celebration (where mint juleps are the drink of choice) and Ken Yee at Wing's made a mint mash of them for juleps all around.   Meanwhile,   Frank had dropped off two of our old rain barrels for our new neighbors.  I got into the shed to get the hoses and other supplies and dropped them off.   Because I was already there, I also watered.  I got home just as it was starting to rain.  Happily, the rain was a slow drizzle, which is great for seeds and seedlings.  Sadly, we only got a half inch of rain and it was barely noticeable in the rain tank or my rain barrels.

The 2015 wood chip pile in March
On Tuesday, I dropped by the Garden to see if the rain made a dent in the big tank (which it hadn’t).  However, Charlie had dropped off my old rain barrel and I dragged it from behind our shed to the west side of our new neighbors.   He thought the Garden “looked great.”  He loved our new rolling composter and noticed that we had moved the blueberry bushes and added new fruit trees.   He's been volunteering to help Marge at the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden near the intersection of Livingston and James Road.

On Wednesday, Kaci finished her work equity with help from her friends Angela and Ruby. They prepared a row for planting and watered the food pantry plot.   Kaci’s mother lives in the neighborhood and told her how to join after seeing our lawn sign (making it a good investment). When they were finished, they sorted through our seed stache to see what she should grow.  I prepared a bean trellis for the food pantry plot and planted some kale seeds in that plot.  I also weeded and watered in my plot and the food pantry plot.  Amy was there aggressively weeding the southeast flower bed.   (You can always tell a real gardener from a pretender by how aggressively they weed;  real gardeners are compulsive and cannot help themselves.  You can see them bend over and pull weeds no matter where they are).   Neal stopped by to weed his plot again even though he really hasn’t planted anything yet.

On Thursday, I attended the monthly GCGC meeting, which was at the Fulsome & Pine nursery near Orient.  GCGC members could purchase a flat of any 12 3-packs for just $12.  I picked up a flat for myself (of mostly flowers, like impatiens, petunias, and portuculas) and flowers and vegetables for the Garden.  Dr. Darraugh from CLC Labs was our featured speaker.  Dr. Darraugh speaks to the GCGC every year about the importance of good soil to growing plants.  In fact, he was the featured speaker for the very first GCGC meeting I attended back in 2011.  CLC Labs tests soil from all over the world for nutrients, etc and helps landscapers, homeowners, cities, farmers and gardeners improve their soil for its intended purpose.   CLC gives a price break to area community gardens, will speak with you personally about the test results and recommendations and generally reviews test results of a few gardens at the GCGC meeting.   Sadly, we didn’t have access to an overhead projector, but he made a few educational points for us:

·       There is such a thing as too much compost.  In addition to providing valuable nutrients for the soil, compost helps soil retain moisture like a sponge.  If there is too much compost, the ground stays too wet.  Of course, I doubt that there is such as thing as too much water for most tomatoes . . .

·       Soil should be 25% soil, 25% compost and 50% air.  Roots need oxygen and if the soil is too compact or wet, the plants will suffocate.  Half of the air pockets (i.e., 25% of the total) will create space for water so that the soil will eventually be 25% each of soil, air, compost and water. Clay soils are too compact to create air spaces and should be improved with compost.

·       Over fertilizing plants with phosphorous  and potassium can result in plants being unable to absorb other valuable and necessary nutrients.  So, less can be more.

·       Many folks confuse manganese deficiency with iron deficiency. 

·       Com-Til is a great fertilizer is you are worried about lead contamination from prior demolition of houses or buildings which had lead paint or pipes, etc.  The sewage component of this compost apparently binds up the lead.  Lead is a naturally occurring element, but is elevated in urban gardens because of lead paint and car exhaust, etc.  As a result of potential lead contamination, many urban gardens use raised beds.  You can also get the soil tested for lead (which costs more than a nutrient test, but is not prohibitively expensive, like arsenic tests).

·       He is not a fan of pulverized top soil because, among other things,  it does not leave enough space for air pockets.

·       Limestone sand and many types of compost raise the pH of the soil, while peat moss and silica sand (like for swimming pools) will lower the pH.

Dr. Darraugh will be returning for the June GCGC meeting as well.  This time, there will be a projector and he will review with us the results of recent community garden soil tests and discuss more common improvements that can be made to the soil.  Sadly, the meeting ran late and I missed the few minute of The Black List.  Grumble.

On Friday, I mowed and planted flowers at my house.  I tried to reach our newly assigned WEP volunteers without luck.  Frank and Barb installed tree boxes around the peach and other trees on the Block Watch lot next to us.   They also mowed all three lots, even though it wasn't their turn at the SACG (due to my being able to reconfigure our chore chart with the addition of FOUR new gardeners).

On Saturday, I arrived a bit later than usual and found Amy and Sabrina already hard at work.  Amy again rode her bike to the Garden and weeded the northeast flower bed.  She told me that thieves had returned to the Garden to steal our bagged mulch (donated by Scotts) and there was a bag laying by the compost bin.  Before I left for the day, I carried the bag over and mulched part of a flower bed.  I also reinforced the fence in Kaci's plot (where brambles are not very thick and the thieves have been breaking bushes and fence to climb over).   The heat has freaked out our flowers.  They think it's June and have started to flower early even though their growth has been stunted from the time of year and lack of rain.  So, we will have short purple salvia and daisies.

Sabrina told me that her husband was not being transferred (which would have meant they would be moving out of the county and leaving the SACG).   Sad news for them, but great news for us.  She was weeding and watering the food pantry plot and picking up litter around the Garden.  We're all having trouble with our lettuce crops because of the heat.  The only lettuce which is doing well is the lettuce I planted at home in March (or volunteered) and transplanted from seedlings I started in March.  I almost wished I had picked some up for them from Fulsome & Pine.  No worries. Tom picked up some for their plot at DeMonye's.

I planted pole beans, and mustard greens in the food pantry plot.  I also planted asparagus beans in my plot and prepared two rows for cucumbers and squash (using my new compost sifter).  When Tom and Zephyr arrived, we borrowed the Alexander’s heavy ladder to check the gutters next door and put in downspout/gutter strainers.  Daniel told me last week that he thought the back gutter needed cleaned out (since we could see things growing out of it and it was still leaking/dripping water days after the last rain) and he would do that.  So, we kept the ladder until he and Melinda were to arrive at noonish so that they could use it.  

Pastor Brown saw the ladder and wondered where it came from.  He loves our new picnic table and asked where we got it.  Home Depot -- Courtesy of the City and Rebuilding Together.

Susan stopped by to donate some children’s books for our Free Little Library.  She was recovering well from her surgery and getting mentally prepared for a summer of additional treatment.  She was delighted how well the Garden looked and missed being with us.  Next Year!!!  We went to see Ms. Dee’s kitten, Cookie, who needs a new home, but Cookie wasn’t feeling very social.

Another fan of the Garden stopped by to retrieve our extra raspberry seedlings.  I hate to see them go to waste and have already killed a dozen because we didn’t have anywhere to put them.    Only one of them had flowered (showing the berries that he could have this year), but the rest will grow and give him berries next year. 

Melinda and Daniel arrived to build their rain barrel platforms and water their seedlings.  Daniel decided it would be easier to clean the back gutter from the roof and didn’t need the ladder.  I went home to cool down a bit (since it was excruciatingly  hot when the sun was out) and planned to return after they finished building their platforms so that we could return the ladder to the Alexanders.    However, the ladder was gone when I returned and I couldn’t initially find Daniel.  Panic!  It turns out that Jason noticed I had left and came back to retrieve his own ladder.  Oops. 

Neal had been back to again weed his plot.  Neal always comes at the hottest time of the day because he loves to be outside when it’s hot.  However, it was too hot for even Neal, so he left.

I planted flowers in the flower pots that St. Vincent de Paul pantry donated to us in 2011.   I then watered a few things in.   It was bearable when we arrived this morning because of the cloud cover.  However, with the sun bearing down, I found myself with sunburned arms and legs and a sun damaged face.    Ugh.  Then, Mother Nature has mocked me several times as thunder storms have tracked just a mile or so east of us last night and AGAIN this morning.  No rain for you SACG or Bexley!   There was wet pavement and even rain puddles on the Alum Creek bike trail this morning.   Grrrr.   We desperately need rain to fill our tanks and barrels and water in our seeds.  Seth emailed us this week that the City will give us one free fill-up, but I’d like to save it for the dry and dog days of summer if we can . . . . .

This week, after the cold front passes on Thursday, we will be planting our tomatoes and peppers, etc. I also hope that we can pick up our Kurtz Brothers top soil donation from the City and will be exchanging our dead Montmorency cherry tree at Straders.  It never leafed out like our other new trees.   Our first Montmorency tree looks unbelievably healthy and farm girl Rayna has volunteered to prune it.   Over the summer, we will need volunteers to help stain our picnic table and raised platform bed and paint our shed.

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