Sunday, May 8, 2016

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Derby Day is always my longest day of the year at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and this year was no exception.  The day started with the Great Tulip Dig at the Franklin Park Conservatory, which planted 70,000 tulip bulbs last Fall (instead of its regular 10,000 bulbs) and needed to dig them up in order to replace them with summer flowers.  FPC welcomes the public to help in the big dig and keep their bounty.   Digging them up – even with a hundred other gardeners – was like shooting fish in a barrel.  This week also included the annual soil lecture by Dr. Darrah from CLC Labs for the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition.  Finally, more of the gardeners are into the thick of planting at the SACG.

I had never heard of the FPC’s big dig before, but saw it mentioned on NextDoor and decided to google it.  I then found an article in OSU’s Lantern.  After I confirmed it with FPC (even though it was not mentioned on its website), Barb confirmed it at the GCGC meeting and invited us all to attend.   I scoped out the various tulip beds to find the ones with my color scheme.  Although it would not be a free-for-all, we would be required to dig in groups so that they could ensure that all of the bulbs were dug up. She said that it might take 4 hours.  That made me a little nervous because I didn’t want orange or yellow bulbs.   Cathy decided to come with me, but told me that she had heard it would be a zoo.   We parked at the caretaker’s cottage and walked over.  It was very orderly and friendly.  The FPC staff told us which beds we could dig from at that particular time and told us roughly the color scheme (because the petals had long since dropped).  

The soil was so perfect that you almost didn’t need a shovel.  We each brought bags, but some crafty and better prepared gardeners brought crates.  Cathy wanted yellow and so we started filling a bag for her.  I dug and she pulled and bagged.   We were extremely efficient and had filled 3-4 bags within 45 minutes.    We got bulbs for ourselves and for the SACG.  Then, when I returned to the SACG, Amy was there tending her plot and weeding our flower beds.  I gave her a few bags of tulips to start planting and we decided to create a bed where there was still a pile of top soil from last year (which was challenging to mow and filled with broadleafed weeds.   With Stan's help, we dug out the weeds and then dug a deeper hole where we could place the plants (because we kept the foliage intact) and back fill them with dirt (while leveling the prior mound).  She then watered them in and then – and this is what I love about Amy – edged the bed all the way around.    I may cover it with grass seed, but she prefers that I fill in the bed with donated annuals.  (I don’t want to water them . . . . . ).  After I planted some at my own house later in the day, I returned after 4 p.m. to plant the rest in the new tulip bed.

I spent most of Saturday weeding, planting, watering, transplanting raspberries, and helping Stan and Colonia plant their plots.  I even planted my first two tomato seedlings – called Nepal because they originated in the Himalayas (and I suspect can tolerate some cool Spring nights).   Our bindweed is back.  So are volunteer sunflowers.  Our daisies are also starting to expand and pop, as are the chives. Stan and Aaron also worked on leveling our eastern cinder block compost bin.  The sun finally came out around 4 p.m.  However, I don't mind because plants prefer to be transplanted on cloudy days.

On Thursday, Dr. Darrah gave his annual soil lecture at GCGC (which was at the Old First Presbyterian Church).  First, I’d like to apologize for misspelling his name for most of the past five years. (I’m rarely on time for meetings and always missed the first slide of his powerpoint presentation).  These are the points he makes every year and I’m glad that he repeats because it’s so much information that it’s hard to absorb (let alone take notes) all in one sitting:

·        Yellowing trees – particularly oaks and holly – is probably a manganese (Mn) deficiency instead of Iron (Pb).

·        Magnesium is found naturally in Epson Salt

·        Peppers require more nitrogen than tomatoes

o   You can find nitrogen to supplement your soil in Ammonium sulfate and nitrate of soda (as well as various urine sources).  Alton talked about how they used to use a soap source to fertilize their plants in the south (other than watermelon because you could taste the soap in the fruit).  It was funny.  I wasn’t sure whether to believe him, but there it was on Dr. Darrah’s list

·        Phosphorus sources:  super phosphate and bone meal and turf seed starter.   Com-Til is also an excellent source of phosphorus, however some gardeners expressed reservations for using it – like we do – in a vegetable garden.  Dr. Darrah agreed with that, but noted that the heavy metal content of Com-Til is well below the EPA limits.

·        He discouraged us from over fertilizing because it can bind up the plants’ receptors for other micronutrients.  For instance, too much phosphorus can inhibit the plants’ absorption of iron.

·        He talked about what nutrients you can and cannot get from plant compost (versus manure compost).   You need manure compost to get sufficient nitrogen. . . .

He obviously imparted much more information during his hour-long lecture, but I’ve relayed a lot of that here in the past.  CLC Labs will test community garden soils at a discounted price.  I dropped off a soil sample from the SACG at CLC on Wednesday because I think our nutrient content is out of whack and want to see what a scientist says. 

       We’re a little dry for this time of year and barely received an inch of rain the past week.  My plot is doing fine, but I can’t say the same for everyone (who haven’t been watering enough). 


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