Friday, July 10, 2015

Knee High By Fourth of July

You all know the saying: corn should be knee high by the Fourth of July.    Well, with
all of the rain and mild temperatures we’ve had this year, our corn (as well as the corn throughout Ohio) was more than six feet tall by last weekend’s holiday.  But shoulder high by Fourth of July doesn't sound quite the same, does it.  That’s just crazy, right?  Of course, just because the plants are crazy tall doesn’t mean that it’s maturing more quickly.   The corn cobs themselves are on schedule and are tiny to non-existent.   We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this year, unlike the entire west coast.  We’ve had perpetual clouds and almost perpetual rain.  Everyone in Central Ohio is suffering from Seasonal Affectation Disorder even though it’s summer.   Our weather has been so cloudy for so long that I’ve formed empathy for the folks around the world who experienced similar weather (i.e., climate change) during the massive eruptions of the Pacific Ocean volcanoes  Tambora and Krakatoa (which caused world-wide famine and has even been blamed for the plague and the Mongol invasion of the west) when its volcanic ash caused similarly perpetual clouds all over the world.   Some people might just say our weather is typically British (which is why everything is green). Our beans are just now starting to flower.  Our tomatoes have giant plants, but have barely flowered, let alone set fruit.  Some peppers are doing great and others are rotting in the Garden.   It’s a little concerning.  Happily, I read in the paper this morning that meteorologist Chris Bradley is predicting El Nino to strike any week, which would cause a drier and warming Fall and Winter.   I will be starting my Fall crops a little early this year. 

Our squash bugs are back!!!!!
We’ve been blessed this month with two WEP volunteers.  Willie came on July 1 and mowed our grass and picked berries for our weekly food pantry donation.   However, he was also chased by mosquitoes and hasn’t been back since.   Ezra came on Wednesday (despite a full day of rain) and helped Rayna prune back our black raspberry bushes now that the berry season is over.  The Work Experience Program is funded by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services administered by the Franklin county Department of Job and Family Services through its Employment Opportunities Program.

 Since my last post, I’ve also pruned raspberry brambles in my and the food pantry
plots.  Rayna pruned them around the kids’ beds.  My potatoes are looking poorly, which I’m blaming on the weather.  In contrast, the food pantry potatoes look so much better than mine and I planted them from the same seed potatoes and at roughly the same time.  Our onions are falling early this year and rotting in the ground, which is obviously also attributable to the weather.  I’ll probably harvest all of them this Saturday so that they can dry out a bit.  The leeks, on the other hand, love this rain and cloudiness.   I finally put in my sweet potatoes (about a month late), but they have taken off with all of the rain and mildness.   I spent the holiday helping with the Bexley parade instead of gardening, so I conducted our weekly food pantry harvest on Sunday afternoon and ran it down to Faith Mission (which is open on  Sundays).  Sadly, while I was at the Garden on Sunday, I discovered the squash borer moth on my  zucchini.  I couldn’t remember if it was the borer or the wasp which eat them, so I left it alone until I could check my computer pictures.  It was the borer.  Curses. 

Neal continues to entertain us.  He had a bumper zucchini crop last week and shared one with me.  This week, he painted his giant rock bench (which he dug out of his plot this summer) a bright blue.  Where does he find the time?  Rayna has fabulous zinnias and mine are only three inches tall because I have failed to thin out our dill forest.  I will bit the bullet on Saturday so that I can have cut flowers eventually this year.

I attended July’s meeting last night of the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition.  It 
Stan's zucchini is not match for a squash borer

was held at the Old First Presbyterian Church (at Ohio and Bryden), which is also the home of one of the oldest pantry community gardens in Columbus: Four Seasons City Farm, which broke ground in 2004.   Earlier in the afternoon, Straders’ Garden Centers donated a hundred flats of begonias to the GCGC and they were waiting for us.  They donated a similar amount of petunias and geraniums on Wednesday at New Life Church (off East Broad Street in Whitehall) and wave petunias and other flowers on Tuesday at Grace Church on Shady Lane.  

OSU Extension is organizing a tour of local community gardens for Local Foods Week in August.  Community  gardens all over Columbus will be open for tourists on Sunday, August 9 from 1-4 and on Saturday, August 15 from 9-1.  I signed us up for Saturday since I’ll be there anyway.   Right now, the following gardens will tentatively be open for the Local Foods week tour on Sunday, August 9: Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden in Linden; Redeemer Lutheran Community Garden on James Road; The Linden Garden Association; and the Fireman's Flower Garden  in Linden.   On the following Saturday, August 15, the following gardens are tentatively scheduled to be open:  St. Vincent De Paul Family Life Garden off Livingston and Wellesley; Highland Youth Garden  in the Hilltop; Peace & Plenty Comm. Garden off East Broad Street in Whitehall; the Arawak Garden, the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden in Linden and the SACG (here).
GCGC is still trying to hold a community garden tour in Cleveland on Saturday, August 1.  The cost of $35 covers the round bus trip from Columbus to Cleveland to view several gardens there.  Peggy wants us to see how much more money the City of Cleveland spends on its community gardens (compared to Columbus) and how this would improve the quality and number of our gardens here with a similar investment.  They need 35 people to sign up immediately to proceed with the tour, but so far only have 12.

Four Seasons City Farm gave a brief history of their garden.  The one next to the church has a hoop house (which was funded by a grant from Scotts and the Columbus Foundation back in 2007).  They used wood, which is now showing its age.   They grow almost everything: tomatoes (with three kinds of trellising), greens, etc.  What amazed me is how many fruit trees they have so close together and how much fruit is on them.  They have apples and peaches (which our neighbor kids always eat a month before they get ripe).  They also have a fig tree.  Sadly, the polar vortex in 2013 killed all of the branches, but then shoots came up the following summer.  However, last year’s January freeze similarly killed off the saplings, which again, have resurrected this summer.  They are hoping a mild winter will bring the tree back to full vigor for next year.  Before the polar vortex, their fig tree had been 12 feet tall.  They are investigating other types of fruit trees to add as well.    Their BIG garden is at Carpenter and Mound.  Much of that produce gets stolen every year because they do not have locked gates.  They are trying to grow different varieties of tomatoes that will not be as attractive to thieves and hope to start selling salsa to economically sustain their efforts.

We also had a presentation from a jam maker who sells his goods at the Franklin Park Conservatory’s Farmer’s Market every Wednesday afternoon.  His niche is that his jams are infused with herbs.  He explained to us how he got into making and selling jams.  He has named his business after his mother.   We were all able to sample his products and he invited us to join with him in his endeavor by supplying him with produce and herbs.   (I, of course, welcomed him to help himself to our considerable mint and black raspberry crops).   Everyone should try his jarred gluten-free cheesecake.  Oh my.  That's a moneymaker. The “crust” is made from coconuts and walnuts.  It’s topped with his jam.

By attending GCGC, I had to miss another event.  Gardener Amy emailed me earlier in the day to invite me to a book reading at the Easton Barnes and Nobel by her step-daughter, Jessica.  Jessica has a food blog, Sweet Amandine, which is much more polished and popular than this one.  After having a brain aneurysm (like the one which killed our neighbor Ms. D last March), she luckily survived and recovered her strength through the restorative power of cooking and baking.  This is recounted in her Memoir, Stir.  Of course, you can buy it through (where you can designate a tiny portion of each Amazon purchase you make at to benefit the SACG).  Or, you can try to catch Jessica on her nationwide book tour.

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