Thursday, June 23, 2016

When One Day’s Rain Equals the Entire Growing Season to Date

Last night, we received around 2.5 inches of rain in one morning.    Other areas northeast of us received as much as six inches.    However, as of midnight last night, we had only received 2.9 inches of rain since May 1.    Compare this to 2015 and 2014 when we had received over 9.5 inches of rain during the same period.  (Our neighbors still remember that it rained 21 out of the first 24 days in June last year).   During the 2012 drought, we had received 1.3 inches in the first three weeks of June alone (since I wasn’t measuring rain in May back then).  Both of our giant rain cisterns have gone dry twice this year and it’s only June.  We just paid over $100 (which was almost a third of our cash on hand) to get 550 gallons delivered earlier this week.  As I kibbutz with other community gardens, I know that they are struggling with this drought as well and gardens much farther south of Main got much less rain last night than we did. 

I’m pretty freaked because it’s hard to grow plants when it’s dry and hot.  Some of my newish gardeners have had to replant crops a few times when the first batch didn't germinate or quickly died.  We prioritize our vegetables and fruit over the flowers.  Other than the early daisies, phlox and bee balm, none of our flowers (including our giant sunflowers) are more than hip high and most are shorter than that.  Our berries have suffered as well.  They are smaller and scraggier than normal.  They plumped up a bit after the half inch of rain that we received last week and I expect that our few remaining red berries will now plump up nicely as they ripen in the next few days.   Our cherries were not affected much, but our peaches have appeared pretty small.  (I’m hoping that they will plump up now as they ripen over the upcoming month).   I’ve included a picture of the cherries on our new Meteor cherry tree.  We also had a lot of cherries on our Montmorency Cherry trees, which ripened a week earlier.   Sadly, I've had to spend so much time watering this June that I haven't had a lot of time to pick berries and many of them have gone to waste.

The City usually gives us one free tank refill (i.e., 550 gallons) each year, but we haven't needed it in a while.   Sadly, its new accounting system is being blamed for the delay in starting this valuable resource this growing season.  I am reliably informed that it should be operational again in July.  That's none too soon for us.    September is  usually the driest month of the year.
I am pretty critical of the coverage of our weather by Fox/ABC WTTE/WSYX because they have been routinely acting as though this dry and hot weather is great.  A few days ago, Bill Kelly even conducted the forecast from a golf course.  They act as though everyone is thrilled to have Arizona weather and almost never mention the rain deficit (or act as though the rain we received in February is relevant to our lawns or gardens).  Accordingly, there are brown lawns all over the East Side because our tv personalities didn’t think it was relevant to mention that we were not getting enough rain.  (My lawn, dear readers, is fine because I measure the rain every morning and use a sprinkler accordingly).  So, this emoji morning approach to weather has lost them a fan here.

June has not been an entire loss.  I have made way too much strawberry jam (and I don’t even usually eat bread).  I found lots of interesting recipes and bought lots of cute jam jars this year.   I made a batch with balsamic vinegar, a batch with thyme, a batch with tequila, lime juice and triple sec, and a batch with lemon peel (i.e., a strawberry-lemon marmalade).  Yumsters.  These will make it into gift baskets in December.

I also visited the Columbus Arts Festival downtown again this year.  I’m too frugal to pay a lot for parking, and so I found a parking meter near the community garden operated by the Franklin County Juvenile Court which is tended by youth offenders. 
In the past two weeks, Straders Garden Centers has recommenced making massive plant donations to the members of the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition (GCGC).  We’ve gotten a flat of sweet peppers and several flats of petunias, salvia and begonias to replace the dying daisies and to create a new flower bed (where I added some canna lilies donated by the Kossuth Community Garden).    Many GCGC members showed up to help unload these donations at Grace United Church on Shady Lane and the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden.  I’ve included some pictures.  It’s almost like having our own garden store.  These flowers go a long way to beautify the community gardens and their neighborhoods throughout Columbus.

I’ve been very busy planting these flowers at the SACG and have been spending more than six hours every Saturday at the SACG (and several hours on a few evenings during the week).  Amy helped to prepare a new flower bed.  Sabrina helped by tending the food pantry plots and, with Zion, picking berries for our weekly Faith Mission donation.   Stan also extended our flower bed edging all the way to the alley and is anxiously waiting for the City's Lowe's voucher program to re-start so that he can finish one of our compost bins.  This was on top of their regular chores. 

Another piece of good news this month has been that the The Woda Group informed the Franklin Park Civic Association that the tax credits needed to proceed with the proposed Fairwood Commons a block east of the Garden have been approved by the state.  We are delighted that it looks like we will have a wonderful new neighbor that will likely to lead to other improvements in the neighborhood and provide necessary housing for our older residents. 
I also finally got around to trimming the garlic scapes off of my garlic crop this year.   I probably waited a wee bit too long.  You are supposed to remove them so that the plant's energy can focus on increasing the size of the bulb below ground instead of on the flower.  Rumor has it that these stems are edible, so I'm planning on a stir fry or something this week.   I've pulled a few recipes and have a lot of scapes to work with.

Well, I’m hoping that both of our tanks are full and am grateful that I won’t have to water anything for the next week.  Of course, all of this rain means that the weeds (which have mostly suffered, too) will be growing with a vengeance.  This weekend, I will hopefully finish planting in the food pantry plots and putting in the rest of our donated flowers.   Then, it will be back to focusing on capital improvement projects.  We received a beautiful trellis through a donation to GCGC and need help installing it.   We may even replace our front gate with it.    Then, we will plant some grapes to grow up its sides.  We also have had a groundhog spotted in the Garden and will need to take steps to deter it from returning. . . . . . . There’s always something.   If only I could communicate with it so that it could dig our four post holes where we need them for the trellis. . .  Where’s Dr. Doolittle when you need him?

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