Sunday, September 27, 2015

Welcome to Fall

This was the first weekend of Fall.  We are busy preparing for the end of the growing season at the
Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, while we try to decide whether to continue.   We had almost a small crowd at the Garden on Saturday morning, with Sabrina, Tom, Zephyr, infant, Frank, Barb, Capital University student volunteer, Nick, and his father.  While the temperatures are very pleasant, it is seasonably very dry; we’ve received less than an inch of rain in the past four weeks.

I’ll be making our last basil harvest within the next 2-3 weeks.  In order to have fresh basil over the winter, I transplant basil into a small pot that I keep in my kitchen window.   While you can dig a plant out of the ground, I don’t like bringing bugs into my kitchen.  Instead, I break off an entire branch of basil from the main stem and put it in water.  They generally (i.e.  75% of the time) will form roots.   I also generally pull off a few of the larger leaves since the plant will get a little stressed by the move.  When the roots get long enough, I pot the plant and give it lots of water.  I tried growing this under my regular grow lights, but I discovered last year that it grew better in my kitchen window.  It seems to stay warm enough and get enough light there.   This is also the time to be planting garlic cloves to have garlic bulbs last year.  While you’re probably advised to purchase planting garlic at a garden center, I’ve found that using regular garlic bulbs from the grocery can work, too.  Just make sure that there is some green in the center.  You want the plant to form some foliage before winter arrives.

On Wednesday, darkness came at 7:30, which barely gave me enough time to water the neighbor
beds, the food pantry plots and my plot before harvesting a bit from my plot.  I wanted to pinch the basil, but wasn’t in the mood and didn’t really have time.  Giovanni came by to check on her bed and pick up a few tomatoes.  She’s enjoying school and math is her favorite subject.  Some new neighbors stopped by while I was filling watering cans and were exploring Amy’s plot.  It was a mother and tiny little boy (who I think was stepping on Amy’s lettuce and beet seedlings while his mother was checking out her chocolate mint).  I explained that that it was Amy’s plot and I was getting ready to leave.  She admired the Garden and they stopped by our Free Little Library as they departed.  

This morning I was greeted by Nick and his father as I arrived.  After giving them a brief tour of the Garden, I set Nick on watering while his father mowed our lawn and the Block Watch lot next door.   (He hadn’t planned on staying, but enjoyed the Garden and Nick didn’t have appropriate foot wear).  He also picked up litter around the Garden.  Frank had already stopped by on Friday and got the weeds growing along the street curb. Nick also watered our new trees and the strawberry patch.  I had him water the blueberry bushes, too.  However, based on how quickly he worked, I suspect that he wasn’t watering as deeply as I do.  I also had him harvest tomatoes and beans for our weekly food pantry donation, but the beans seemed to do a good job of hiding from him.  He also spent some time weeding the strawberry patch since Neal hasn’t found the time to do so and also weeding the west side of the food pantry plot.    After I harvested the last of our food pantry plot pole beans, I pulled the beans and the trellis out of the plot.  Nick then cleaned it off so that it could be used again next year. 

While Nick was busy with his tasks, I weeded the neighbor bed and transplanted additional collard
and lettuce seedlings into it.  Then, I thinned the romaine lettuce growing in the food pantry plot and transplanted them as well.  I also watered the new seedlings growing elsewhere in the Garden and my own plot.   I also harvested greens, broccoli, herbs, tomatillos and peppers for our weekly food pantry donation, pinched basil, watered my own plot and harvested from my own plot.

Sabrina, Tom, Zephyr and their new infant stopped by to clean up their plot and harvest.  While Tom was busy harvesting and pulling spent plants, Sabrina, Zephry and baby walked around.  While we were getting water for my plot, a very friendly tom cat came by to touch noses with  Zephry and the baby.  I’ve never seen such a friendly tom cat.  I’m sure that he must be hungry and will try to bring food with me in the future for him.  He played with Zephyr for quite a while.  Sabrina and Zephry then helped me to harvest seeds from our African marigold and cosmos flowers.  Frank asked them if they planned to return next year, but they hope to buy a house and have their own vegetable garden out their back door.   (They had also hoped to be living in a different part of the state by this time, too . . . ). We were all admiring the kale tree in Rayna’s plot.  She obviously hasn’t harvested her kale in a while.  But the most extraordinary aspect is that the grasshoppers aren’t eating it like they eat our other kale.  How does she do that?

Barb and Frank then stopped by to pull out their tomato plants.  However, because their tomatoes are so small, I convinced them to hold off since they will continue to ripen until it gets a bit colder.  I’ve actually had cherry tomatoes in mild winters until almost Christmas . .  . It is a El Nino year after all . . . . .   Barb has recently started a new job and is adjusting to a new work schedule.  They were very happy that the Block Watch lot had been mowed and then went across the street to tend flowers.  

I finally locked up the Garden at 1 p.m. (When was the last time that happened?)  After dropping Nick at the Capital campus, I weighed our produce and delivered it to the LSS Food pantry, where they had lots and lots of tomatoes.    As reflected by the charts, our annual pantry donations to date exceed 400 pounds.   This has us on pace to reach 500 pounds, or more, by the end of the year. 

On Monday, I’ve been invited and will attend a fundraiser benefitting area community gardens and the Active Living Fund at the Columbus Foundation.   The Garden to Kitchen dinner will be at The Kitchen restaurant at 231 East Livingston beginning at 6:00 p.m.  Tickets are limited to the first 50 people to respond and are $100 each.  You can make a reservation by emailing Barb Seckler.   There will also be a silent auction: a grill package, Calphalon cookware and privately catered dinner, etc.  Starting a new community garden is often beyond the resources of many low-income neighborhoods.  They often need to buy a rain cistern, materials to build raised gardening beds, tools, a shed, gloves, etc.  Because a lot of these residents rent their homes, they do not own any of these items on their own to utilize or donate.   With the limited funding available to support local community gardens, let alone support the creation of new ones, Barb Seckler is trying to find additional sources of income for them.
I’ve explained to her about my current state of mind in light of the City Land Bank announcement that we would have to weigh all of our produce next year.  She tells me that none of them will be at the dinner.  I’m still fuming about it.  I bet that they cannot identify a single other Land Bank or public community garden program anywhere in the world with a similarly oppressive requirement.  Grrr.   
In the meantime, I've been busy trying to keep my cats from killing all of the praying mantises in my yard.  They seem to be converging on my patio and I've actually found them boxing with my kitten.  It's not really a fair fight. . . .   As I was telling Sabrina about it, Tom found a small praying mantis behind their former bean trellis.  Turning this into a teaching moment, Sabrina sent Zephyr over to take a look.  Poor mantis must have been terrified with 3-1/2 humans leaning over at it.
Going forward, we'll be watering, watering, watering, and pulling out more spent plants and trellises as we wind up for the year.

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