Sunday, May 3, 2015

SACG Works Hard During Derby Day and Derby Week

Frank -- the master of all he surveys
We’ve had a busy week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Our big tank has been raised by six inches (which makes it far easier to fill our watering cans) and we’ve been able to put some of our home-raised compost to use.  The weather has also warmed up enough for me to finally set up my rain gauge, which means I'll be able to start reporting on annual neighborhood rain fall starting next week.

Monday’s Work Day.  On Monday, we welcomed two new gardeners, Tony & John.  I recruited Tony in January while watching the Buckeyes’ national championship game (with my knitting) at Wing’s, east of Bexley.  (Wing’s is also where I recruited Neal a few years ago while watching Buckeye March Madness basketball).  As everyone knows, all I ever talk about these years is the SACG.  Wing’s has the nicest and largest public restroom in Columbus and is, by itself, worth a dinner at the restaurant just to check this out.  Neal eats at Wing’s virtually every week and takes his fresh produce there from the SACG so that Ken Yee (the owner) will cook or make him something special.  Ken, Tony and I kept an eye out for Neal on the television because, unlike us, he was at the game.  I’m giving Tony a hard time for not showing up for our opening work day, but he didn’t put 2 and 2 together (about us and the SACG) until we were celebrating Earth Day and he happened to drive by.  Neal tells me that Tony is quite the chef and used to own his own restaurant.   He wants a plot to have something to do with his kids.

John hard at work
Neal recruited John over brunch last Sunday.  John was going to start a vegetable garden at the side of his house, but was concerned about shade.  Of course, Neal convinced him to check out the SACG instead.  He and Tony also know each other (and live on the same street), so they have plots next to each other.

Tony and John helped me (with very, very close supervision by Zion) move the tank, put some large landscaping stones (which had been generously donated last week by GreenScapes Landscaping) on the platform and then reposition the tank.  Frank had fixed the spicket last week.  Before raising the tank, we could only fill watering cans half-full  while they were on their sides.  Being able to fill them to the top means fewer trips to the tank from our plots.   Even with only an inch of water in the bottom of the tank, it was very heavy.  Tony tipped it forward and a bunch of black gunk came out (showing how disgusting all of that bacteria and dirt is that gets washed into the tank with every rainfall over the past five years).  Tony and John then carried all of the remaining stones back to the alley, where we will use them to build our new curb.  Sadly, we have not gotten any measurable rain since Monday and it is still very empty.  Pray for rain everyone. 

Tony then turned the material in our western compost bin into the middle compost bin (and found several snakes in the process) and brought a half cubic yard of compost into the Garden for us to improve our plots.   John hoed a food pantry plot (which sounds easier than it was considering how dry the ground is becoming).   Neal stopped by and Lea cleaned out the rest of her plot. I helped two of the neighbor girls to start planting their raised beds, and assemble a pea/bean trellis (with help from Doug from Urban Connections and his tiny daughter).  I forgot to take a single picture.  Sigh.  

Saturday.  Despite my best efforts and organization, I made very little progress on my to-do list.  I know that none of you are surprised (because I never seem to make much progress). 
First, I discovered to my delight that Frank had reattached the repaired door to our
Free Little Library.  So, I immediately refilled it with books I’ve been hauling around in the trunk of my car. 

Second, I’ve declared war on bindweed.   This is the weed that virtually consumes our garden, paths, benches and our fences every year.  It’s a close relative of morning glory (with similar flowers and leaves).  It spreads mostly by its roots, so it’s advised to dig them out instead of just pulling the visible vine out of the ground.  It loves sun and climbs up our flowers, beans and tomatoes (as well as our fences) and covers our paths.   I circulated information about it from Penn State University to our gardeners last week.   I also weeded and watered my plot, where I discovered that my potatoes are already pushing through the ground.  I kinda weeded the herb garden.

Third, Melinda and a friend from next door came by to liberate some of our overgrown strawberries.   We started on the strawberry plants outside of our bed and worked our way in to thin out our strawberry bed.  They then took these seedlings to their new community garden next door to start their own strawberry patch.  We always need to thin our strawberry patch every year and have taken this opportunity to help other community gardens (like Highland Youth, Morrison Hill and Growing Hands and Hearts) start their own patches.  They also planted carrots.  I also sent them a few clumps of chives.    In return, Melinda gave me a bag of coffee grounds (which are very high in nitrogen and are welcome in compost bins everywhere). 
However, their water source has not been solidified yet.  We barely have enough water to maintain the SACG from our two tanks.   We’ve run dry twice since the 2012 drought (when we ran dry several times and I still keep a lawn waste bag in the shed and in my garage holding dozens of liter and gallon jugs so that I can bring water from home if needed).  We ran dry in May 2013 (when I arranged for our one free fill-up from Rain Brothers that came with our loaned rain tank from the City) and in September 2014 (i.e., just last Fall), when Seth arranged to put 200 gallons in our big tank to tide us over until it rained again.  

As faithful readers know, we started the SACG with four rain barrels donated by Rain Brothers in 2009.  We moved them to the west side of the building when we bought our first rain tank in 2010 (with a grant from the City Health Department).  When the barrels proved inadequate during the 2012 drought, the City loaned us our 350 gallon rain tank.  In turn, we loaned one of the rain barrels to Healthy Hearts & Hands community garden and put one behind our shed (to collect rain water off the shed).  We had been storing the remaining two under the BTBO back porch, but moved them to the Carters’ for storage when Ms. Anthony put her building up for sale.  (One of the barrels used to be behind the shed and has a broken spicket, which Frank intends to replace).  We’ll be loaning them to our new neighbors until they figure out whether they will tend their garden with the city water spicket on the east side of their building (like all of the other church-sponsored community gardens I know) or get their own tank which can share our downspout or one of the other two unused downspouts on the building).   This is a bad time of year for any garden to be without water.

Fourth, John came to prepare his lot for planting.  He hoed it and worked in some soil amendments (donated last week by Scotts Miracle-Gro).  He had volunteer pansies in his plot, which he rescued to replant at home.  I also sent him home with chives to replant.    We've got more chives, oregano and mint than we know what to do with.
Fifth, John also helped me to reinforce our fence with extra fence stakes, which Rayna liberated last week when she removed part of our fence running parallel to our neighbor’s new fence.  Disappointingly, someone had tried to break into the Garden over the last week and steal our donated mulch and soil amendments.  They pushed the fence down along the alley (near the compost bins) and broke some of our raspberry brambles and a wooden fence stake in the process.  John pounded a large steel stake in that area and reinforced another one.  I weaved more brambles into the fence to make them think twice before trying to climb over it.  We similarly reinforced the fence in the front where the thieves had pushed it down last year over the flower bed.  I encouraged John and everyone else to take some mint home to make mint juleps while watching the Kentucky Derby.  I think he forgot . . .   I'll be pulling and composting a lot of that mint because it is taking over the flower bed . . .

Barb and Frank stopped by.  They have built wooden edging for all of the fruit trees and installed the first three with our sour cherries.   I noticed that someone has broken off the lead branch off of our newest Montmorency cherry tree!  The nerve!  Why???   Barb and I have very different gardening styles.   She’s very neat and likes neat lines while I am not.   They also expressed appreciation for Kinte (who can be reached at 406-9528)  stopping by to mow our grass and part of the lot next door so that he could give something back to the community.
Fifth, I planted two rows of cabbage, broccoli, herb and lettuce seedlings in our food pantry plot and herb garden.  I started the seedlings at my house in March.  No one seemed interested in them at the SACG, so they’ve been put in the food pantry plot.  I used our new compost to improve the soil in those two rows.

I also chatted with Ms. Dee's landlord.  He is trying to find a home for her 14-month old adorable black and white female kitty, named Cookie.  She's beautiful, short-haired, housebroken and very smart.   Let me know if you can give her a loving home.

Broken tree branch -- Why???!!!
I finally left just after 3.   Another potential new gardener contacted me on Friday about joining.  Rayna agreed to help her put in her work equity hours today (Sunday) since I was unavailable.   While I was thinning the strawberry patch, a neighbor on Morrison drove by and asked about also joining.  He was too busy to stay then and put in his work equity, but said he might be able to do so Sunday, if I called and reminded him.  So, hopefully, he will be helping Kaci this morning. While this is good news, I’m a little stumped whether I can create six hours of projects on short notice.   With two new gardeners, our food pantry plots will go from 400 square feet to 200 square feet.    Less work for me . . . . .

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