Friday, May 19, 2017

On a Planting Sprint

After waiting out the frost warnings, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden is really getting down to business with a plantingpalooza I was there until after 6 p.m. last Saturday planting tomatoes, peppers and beans.  I had set up trellises the week before so that I could focus on the planting.   Sabrina and Amy were there too getting their planting groove on as well.   In the meantime, I’ve been getting lots of help as well, which frees up time for me to address other issues (and get some yard work done at home).  Our strawberries are in season and I never stop by without grabbing a couple to keep my blood sugar up.  Of course, it stopped raining.

Amy brought her friend Sarah with her last week.  After weeding her plot and planting some tomatoes, they planted three rows of bush beans in a food pantry plot, improved the soil in another food pantry plot and planted two rows of lettuce (because my two prior attempts in that location have failed – unlike the lettuce I planted in Rayna’s old plot).   Sabrina also helped with some watering and on Wednesday put in another three rows of corn.  The corn we planted a few weeks ago is only now starting to poke through the soil and I fear that I might have planted the seeds too deep.  Sabrina decided to put some manure in the bottom of each furrow to help the corn along.

After they left, I continued planting in my plot and  -- nine years after breaking ground – came upon yet another partial cinder block.   Sabrina had similarly found a large piece of debris in her plot that same morning and had broken an old shovel while trying to dislodge it.  I really wanted to avoid breaking another shovel because we only have to or three left in the shed.  I dug and dug and dug.  I took a break and watered some seedlings and dug some more.  It was attached to another cinder block with rebar.  Groan.  I dug some more and watered some more.  After an hour, I had reached my limit, but didn’t want to plant a pepper plant on top of this cement block. 

When I gentleman sauntered by on his bicycle, I yelled out:  Are you a big strong man?  Of course, he said.  So I asked him to help me dig out this nightmare.  In about five minutes James had tripled the size of the crater in my plot.  I had to move the pepper seedlings and hope that the leeks and chard seedlings that he stepped on would recover.  However, despite digging such a large hole, we still could not find the end of the rebar.   He asked for a hammer and I gave him my garden hammer (which I found literally in the intersection of Main Street and James Road about 10 years ago) and he pounded the cement off the rebar and then pounded the rebar flat.   He was very complimentary of our soil in the meantime.   I never carry cash to the Garden, but he declined our fruit and greens.  Thank you James.

I also had to mow the lawn because the gardeners assigned that task in May still had not mowed even once this month.  Needless to say, I expelled them from our Garden of Eden  (although one of them later told Sabrina that he was still a member).  Slackers need not apply.   We were supposed to have two new gardeners come on Saturday to put in their work equity for a plot and I had hoped that one of them would mow.   Not surprisingly, not many people think that volunteering for three hours is worth it to join a community garden and they didn't show up.  Too many folks expect me to spoon feed them and make it easy as pie even if it means that I do all of the work.  Sigh.    While I mowed, I discovered that a mysterious angel had already been there and edged around the trees, blueberry bushes and flower beds.  Wow.  That was unexpected.  This person also topped off our compost bins with grass clippings.    Yea!   After asking around, I discovered that it was our Board member, Ken. 
While taking a short rest break, I stopped by Kimball Farms next store.  Pastor Brown and a younger man were trying to do some weeding in advance of an inspection by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank the following Monday for their plans to build a hoop  house (aka high tunnel) behind the ministry house.   (The MOFB  announced at the Conservatory's We Dig Ohio! conference a few months ago that it had secured a block grant from the USDA to support urban agriculture and community gardening.) They didn’t get very far.  Someone had donated several flats of seedlings, but they never made it off the picnic table.    He told me that they had been focusing on their other community garden a few blocks away.  But, best of all they have a contract with Saba foods in Upper Arlington to raise and sell dandelion greens.    Really? I said, I know where you can get a lot of dandelion greens and gestured towards the vacant block watch lot behind us.   He explained that those were too bitter and these were a special variety. 

After they left, I wondered by again while getting water and saw that the resident groundhog was munching away on a dandelion in one of their long raised beds.  When I approached it to see just what it was eating, it bounded across the other raised beds like it was running a hurdle track meet.    Anyone who thinks that raised beds will deter groundhogs from eating their produce hasn’t seen how easily this fellow leaps up and across them.    I didn’t realize that they could move quite so quickly.  Before I left, I added more bricks and stones to plug the holes under the chain link fence separating the SACG from Kimball Farms and that groundhog.  I need to add some chicken wire under the gate, too.
I’ve been extremely happy with my groundcovers.  I read about them in gardening books as really the only effective organic deterrent for insects.  Marge at St. Vincent de Paul’s garden was using them for their greens and I started using them last Fall.  They protect a late lettuce crop from bolting on hot days and keep moths from laying caterpillar worms to eat the kale and cabbage.   Every plot that I covered this Spring has doubled in size within the week and there has been much less insect damage.  I don’t pin the sides because it takes too long to uncover the plots to water and inspect them.   Instead, I hold down the sides with broken bricks and other debris that we continue to dig out of the Garden.   I doubt that the groundhog will mess with it if he crawls under the gate.  Sabrina wants to get some now too, but they didn’t have any at Lowe’s.  I bought mine through (which donates a freakishly small portion of our purchases to the SACG). Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Crop Cover / Frost Blanket / Garden Fabric Plant Cover cost essentially $17 for an 83”x25’.  They can be easily cut down.  What I really like about them, too, is that they are so light that you do  not need any pvc supports as the plants get  taller.  I plan to also use them to cover my zucchini crop to keep the borers from laying eggs in the stems, etc.  Sadly, you cannot leave the row covers on squash once they start to flower unless you want to pollinate the flowers by hand . . . .  At some point, they will have to fight the bugs themselves.

Our capital improvement project this summer is to put a pretty picket fence in front of  wire fence that we installed in 2009.   We’ll keep the wire fence in place to deter critters and act as a bean trellis, etc.  The City of Columbus has arranged for us to receive $200 of free materials from the Lowe’s at Hudson and Silver Avenue.  Doug, the Manager of Lowes, also arranged for another extraordinary discount on top of that so that we could get virtually all of the materials that we’ll need without eating too much into our limited funds.   Ideally, I’d like to add a wrought iron fence, but that would cost almost twice as much.  Ken took the lead by picking out and pricing the materials that we would need.  He’s going to pick them up later today and then another Board member is helping us to store them until we can get it built.  I’ve had to explain to Ken that we’ll be building and painting it in stages because we never get volunteers for more than three hours at a time.   First, we’ll need to dig the post holes and set the posts before the flowers get much taller.  I don’t want to kill more sunflowers than we have too.  (The mint, on the other hand, cannot be killed even when we try).  We’ll probably build and paint each 8-foot section and then either hang them all at once or as we complete each section.  The south side of the Garden needs 25-feet worth of fence, but the north side only needs 20-feet. So, if you want to help us build and/or paint our picket fence, please contact me as soon as possible.

Our daisies are in bloom and the new gardeners are going gaga for them  (like everyone else).  I didn’t let them take over the entire Garden this year because they look so awful when their season is finished.   Everyone one wants to take some home, but I’ve had to explain that when you cut them, then no one else can enjoy them.  And then I would have to police who gets to pick flowers, how many they get and how often they get them.  I’m not interested in doing that.  Just leave them be please and grow some in your own plot like I do.    It’s time for the first pruning/cut back of the asters.  Everything is growing faster this year because of the unseasonable heat we’ve had.  To keep them from getting too tall, you can and should prune asters back in half in May, June and maybe even July.  This will promote bushiness.  Otherwise, they get awfully tall and floppy (not like they look at all when you buy them in Fall containers). 

No comments:

Post a Comment