Monday, October 24, 2016

Leaving Havoc and Devastation in Their Wake

Usually, by this time of the growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, we would have started putting the Garden to bed (and wouldn’t have much choice after our first hard frost).   We had a hard killer frost a week earlier by this time last year and I regretted my procrastination in pulling out summer crops (because it’s not fun having to garden when it’s cold and windy).   Not to repeat my mistake this year, I danced a gig when the Gamma Phi Beta sorority at OSU contacted me last month about wanting to volunteer this last weekend.  No one ever wants to volunteer in a community garden at the end of October (when there is so much unglamorous but necessary work to do).  I assigned them the tedious task of pulling out our extensive collection of tomato plants from our food pantry and abandoned plots. 

This week, we set some heat records during our late Indian Summer.  Even the trees have delayed turning yellow and red.   On Saturday, Sabrina, Zephyr and I spent a cold morning pulling tomato plants out of our own plots.  This involves pruning them cutting them from around their trellises and cages, saving what tomatoes can still be turned and/or eaten and tossing the rest.  We filled many lawn waste bags.  I then conducted our regular food pantry harvest (but didn’t have enough plastic bags with me to get everything that was available).  When cleaning out the melon patch, I found almost 15 pounds worth of watermelon.  Stan also stopped by after feuding again with his neighbor to fix the rain cistern, but wanted me to buy an additional part so that he didn’t have to clean it out.  Oh well.  He put most of it back together so that I could finish the job next week. By 4:30, I decided that I had saved all of the tomatoes from my plot that could be saved and the rest of the vines and cages could be addressed the following week.  After all, I had to return on Sunday morning to meet with the ladies of GPB.    I found a large preying mantis in the food pantry tomatoes and advised it to find a more secure home by the morning (and warned the ladies not to hurt it if it had failed to move along).

I asked the ladies to delay starting until 9:30 because I knew that I would be tired from watching the OSU-Penn State game (which I foolishly predicted we would win).  They didn’t get the message apparently and were waiting for me when I arrived at 9 (with cider, donuts and bannanas).  As fellow Buckeyes, they shared my pain.  After giving them a brief tour of the Garden, I initially split them up into two teams (for the two food pantry plots).  As stragglers wondered in, I assigned them Colonia’s former plot where they did battle with the raspberry bushes to cut out the tomatoes.  One team was better than the others and really cleaned up (including raking up behind them).  Another team chatted a fair amount and wasn’t very careful about where they stepped (in our very compactly planted garden).  I sent them over to organize our stakes, cages and trellises (which they did very well). 

Another team picked up litter around the Garden and our neighborhood.  They filled two bags.    grabbed a bunch of them to help me fix the rotating composts bin which had again fallen off its tracks. This involved removing everything from behind the shed (so that we could stand back there), hammering one of the tracks back into place, emptying much of the bin so that we could lift it, and then putting it back on its tracks and re-filling it.  Then, they had to put everything back.

We also cleaned off the trellises, rolled them up and stored them away for the winter.  I had one of the ladies rake out all of the wood chips under one of the platform raised beds (and distribute the chips on the paths).  I suspected that we had rodents living there (not that I told her that), but we didn’t find anything (other than a baby garter snake, which freaked her and a few of the ladies out.  I moved the limp snake to a sunny spot in Amy’s plot.  It slithered away once it warmed up).  Finally, one of the ladies cleaned out a row of Rayna’s tomatoes (and stacked the cages and rolled up the trellis).    And, they gathered up all of their tools and returned them to their locations before leaving at lunchtime.

On top of the 77 pounds of produce that I harvested on Saturday, we harvested a couple pounds of peppers and over 50 pounds of mostly green tomatoes that I took to Faith Mission on Sunday.  I also collected over 20 pounds of green roma tomatoes in the thought that some of them will turn red if stored in a warm location.  We shall see.

Some of their sorority sisters spent the morning volunteering at COSI and at Good Will.  Considering our good weather on Sunday (when we started outwith coats and ended up in t-shirts), I think my team got the better deal.  They wouldn’t have thought so if it had rained.

So, we have three more weeks left in our
growing season.    I’ll be cleaning out more of the Garden in smaller bits and pieces over the next week.  The aphids have done a number on our greens during the Aug-tober dry spell.   In three weeks, we’ll need to prune back the raspberry brambles, harvest the rest of the peppers and greens and sweet potatoes, clean out at least one of the neighbor plots, empty the rain cisterns and organize the shed.    Completely doable, right?

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