Sunday, August 23, 2015

Turning a Seasonal Corner

Well, we have turned a corner at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden this weekend.   The days are getting cooler and shorter and our weekly harvests will be getting smaller instead of bigger.     Of course, being us, we are still making plans and gearing up for capital improvement projects.  And, it’s time to evaluate my gardening experiments for 2015.  One of them worked (tomatillos) and one did not (celery).

On Wednesday, we received approximately two inches of rain.  In between the two downpours, I had to harvest ripe tomatoes and ripe green beans to keep the tomatoes from splitting and the beans from going to seed.  Ezra and Amy were busy weeding.    We've had to cut our Wednesdays by 30 minutes because it is getting dark by 8:30 these days. 
One of the biggest – and often overlooked benefits – of our almost constant rain this summer is that it washes bugs off our plants.  We’ve had fewer bugs on our beans and other plants than in any other year.   Heavy and hard rains wash bugs – like beetles and aphids – off of plants.  And, all of that rained helped the spinach and lettuce I had planted the week before to sprout.
There is still a giant praying mantis in our food pantry beans.  She stays on south side of the lattice when I pick along the north and then she crawls to the north side when I pick on the south side.  She's very smart.  (I know she's a female because of her red belly.   It will get bigger as she prepares to lay her eggs and spin a cocoon).   Then, I found another hanging out on one of my zucchini plants (which explains why I have never found any squash bugs or eggs on that plant).  Then, I found another on my bean teepee at home.  Those are very handy bugs.  I wish we had more of them.

On Saturday, I watered a few plants and Ezra celebrated his birthday by watering the food pantry plots.  We also had to re-tie the tomatoes in the neighbor plot because the rain had knocked them over.   I also finally weeded our strawberry patch, which had become overrun by mint and ground ivy.  Ezra also mowed our lot, mowed the large Block Watch lot, prepared the soil in the eastern food pantry plot, and planted some lettuce, kale, collards and cabbage.  If the seeds spout, I’ll transplant some to other locations when it comes time to thin them.  I also harvested carrots, greens, tomatoes, peppers, basil, parsley, dill, broccoli and beans.     However, our bean and tomato harvest was decidedly smaller than Wednesday’s harvest.

Every year I try something new and this year I tried (for the second time) to grow tomatillos and
celery.  I had tried tomatillos a few years ago, but don’t recall eating any of them and had never really cooked with them before this year.  I started them from seeds when I planted our tomatoes and they grew gangbusters.  I harvested my first batch too soon, but have learned that I need to wait until the papery husks are full and just starting to turn yellow/dry.    I seem to be having a bumper crop.  I’ve made two kinds of salsa and am beginning to freeze a quart to use this winter.  I tried celery a few years ago and was underwhelmed.  They are very fussy plants.  They are greedy for nutrients, and water should be mounded and tied (which I did far too late) and want to be grown out of direct sun (which is impossible at the SACG).  I planted in 3 different places.  One location got nice and tall, but then turned yellow.  The others were stunted because I planted them in between tall potato plants.    In any event, this experiment was a colossal failure.  

Next week, we will be again hosting OSU college students as part of the Pay it Forward program’s Community Commitment Day.  My niece is an incoming OSU freshman, but I can’t guarantee her a spot on the OSU team because the students sign up first-come-first serve at the kickoff breakfast next Saturday.   We have an abundance of projects for the students:

·        Weeding the food pantry plots, paths, around the raised beds, and along the alley and pulling the bind weed off the fences and raspberry bushes.

·        Watering the food pantry plots and the neighbor bed (since we’re not expecting any more rain for weeks).

·        Planting beets in a food pantry plot and harvesting produce for our weekly donation.

·        Picking up litter in the neighborhood.

·        Sand and stain our two benches.

·        Weed, move and reconstruct one of our compost bins to make room for a second neighbor bed.  Putting a sign on our neighbor bed welcoming folks to help themselves has pretty much resulted in it being picked over.  So, we need to increase the volume of available produce.  We used to have three neighbor beds, but lost two of them when we moved the compost bins from the south side to the north side of the Garden.  Now that we’ve moved the blueberry bushes from the south side to the north side of the Garden, we have room to move a compost bin to the east.

I’m also in the process of organizing a giant capital improvement project.  We received grant funds from the City to upgrade our “curb” along the alley.   The grant funds would pay to rent a truck and the dumping fees.  At present, we have lined over 70 feet of our northern border along the alley with concrete debris which we dug out of the Garden by hand over the years.  Some of those stones weigh over 30 pounds.  They are irregularly shaped and make it difficult to weed along the alley.    GreenScapes landscaping service has agreed to donate uniformly sized landscaping stones to replace the debris.  This new “curb’ will – like our debris curb – keep the Garden from washing away in a storm and keep cars from driving up or parking on our lot.   However, this project will involve a lot of heavy lifting which exceeds the abilities of the frail little ladies which make up most of our gardeners.  If we make progress on Friday with this project, I may have the OSU students reconstruct our curb.  However, there are a few Bexley high school groups who have expressed an interest in helping, too.  And, some burly neighborhood men have volunteered to help, too.

All of the following has to happen within a 24 hour period and the dump is only open during business hours and until noon on Saturday:

·        Pick up the rental truck and the landscaping stones and then unload the stones at the Garden (2 hours)

·        Load the debris (or at least all of the giant pieces) into the truck until we get to one ton (since I don’t want to break the axle).  The hard part will be to not scratch up and dent the truck.  (2 hours)

·        Drive the truck to the dump and unload it.  (2 hours)

·        Reconstruct a new curb from the landscaping stones (2 hours).

·        Return the truck. (20 minutes)

Conceivably, we could have several different groups handling each of the four major parts. I can’t leave the Garden this Saturday because of our OSU visitors, so I’m probably leaning towards organizing this on Friday/Saturday, September 11/12 unless Frank agrees to take charge of the truck unloading process this Saturday.    All of this hinges on having enough volunteers to accomplish 3 of the 4 major parts; the reconstructing of a new curb could be done gradually over a few weeks if it comes to it.

So, now I’m back to canning and freezing and eating my garden produce.   It’s already a big job, but then my brother-in-law made it even harder by presenting me with a dozen ears of corn on Thursday.  As though I don’t already have enough to eat . . . . . . J  I roasted and froze most of it.

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