Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rain Delay

We had a rain day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden on Saturday.   After going three straight weeks without at least an inch of rain per week, we’ve received over three inches in just four days.  (This reminds me of our dry months last year when we would receive an entire month’s rain in the last few days of the month).  After having May weather in April, we’re now having March weather in May.  Go figure.   I have trays and trays of seedlings in my patio portable greenhouse that are too tall to return to my basement grow station (with grow lights), but too tender to stay outside indefinitely in this weather.   I may have to move the greenhouse to the garage in the evenings. 

Tree pollen season is back upon us and our friendly downspouts are again clogging on schedule.  Despite 2.3 inches of rain before yesterday, our big tank was only half full when I checked it on Sunday because the downspout drain was again clogged.   After unclogging it, I checked the other downspout, which was ok and the tall tank seemed to be full.  However, with our neighbor now having its own large tank near our tall tank, it is a challenge to check that downspout with my ladder.  The oak pollen clogged my own downspout and had covered my lawn and patio.  My neighbor is blaming it for coloring her concrete.  Sigh.   I took some photos, where you can see it (even though the winds had bunched it more together than it had been a few days earlier).  When the black walnut tree next door starts to pollinate, we can count on having to unclog our downspouts at the Garden on a weekly basis until it dissolves.

On Wednesday, I weeded my own plot a bit (which I’m sure that my gardeners think is well overdue).   Our speakers last fall at the meetings of the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition have been preaching the importance of soil microbes.  We spend a lot of time feeding our plants (with fertilizer), but they also need living soil and those microrganisms need something to eat during our non-growing season.  This is one of the reasons farmers plants cover crops in the Fall to overwinter a field or garden. It’s also one of the reasons to cut your spent plants off at the lower stem instead of pulling it out by its roots.  (Another reason is to minimize erosion when the soil is unprotected from the wind).   Those roots give the soil something to snack on over the winter and this is as important as the soil nutrients.   Remember how disappointed I was that Marcel had pulled out all of the roots we had left behind on closing day?  Well, she knew better than to touch my plot.  In addition to leaving behind stems and some fall crops (like kale and leeks), in October I had planted Walnut Creek Seeds Winter Kill seed mix.  This group of seeds are designed to be planted in September and to die back by the time we’re ready to plant in the Spring.  It contains a mixture of oats, winter pea, maple pea, radishes, etc.  The speakers also advocated no-till farming (which only Sabrina practices at the SACG).

 I also let chickweed take over my plot.  It has shallow roots, dies back when it gets hot and does not get very tall.  I figure, it can’t hurt and it keeps the soil in place (instead of blowing away when it’s unprotected).  Chickweed got its name because chickens eat it in the winter when everything else has died.  OSU did a nice blog post on it a few weeks ago.   I roll it up as I do my spring planting to make room for new seeds and seedlings. 

I also mowed the lawn again.  One of our new gardeners has been ignoring my weekly updates and even the email I sent with all of our lock combinations.  He argued that I only sent him some of the combinations and not the one for the tank.  Sadly for him, everyone got the same email and no one else has had any problems.  (Unlike him, they took my advice to write them down before they forgot them).   And we haven’t locked the tanks in a few years.  I’m annoyed that he’s too lazy to even try the combinations he already has before complaining and blaming me for his poor character.  I sent him the combinations again and now -- even though he has spent no more than 4 hours in his entire life volunteering at the SACG --  he’s been calling me names by email and won't let it go.  Just random thoughts.  As someone observed to me about her own brother on Sunday:  he lives in the present and tends to get stuck there.  Considering that we only have two rules at the SACG and one of them is not to annoy me or cause problems for me, I don’t think he’s going to be long for the SACG.  We’ll see if he performs his assigned weekly chore this week.   The Garden’s mentally and physically exhausting enough without having to deal with high maintenance drama queens like this.  Mother Nature is the only drama queen I can accommodate.

I also photographed our blueberry bushes, which were also in flower.  I can only hope that we get as many blueberries as they had flowers because half of them were looking fantastic.  The other half, not so much.   Rayna’s been concerned about them.  When I was getting ready for opening day, I discovered that someone had thrown a heavy landscaping stone onto one of the bushes.  Why?!  What could that bush have done to deserve it?!  It doesn’t have thorns.  Gee whiz. 

I had planned to weed on Saturday and dig up some of our overpopulation of dandelions.  Even though Phil Kelly kept insisting that it wasn’t going to rain on the half-marathon on Saturday (during live newscasts no less), the Accuweather radar was clearly showing a significant storm barreling down on us.   Even though a lot of storms bypass us entirely, I decided to trust the radar over a biased tv weatherman whose station was co-sponsoring a big event downtown.  I’m glad that I did so because it started pouring shortly after I would have arrived. 
It apparently dried out enough on Sunday for the SACG's neighbors to get their landscaping groove on.  When I stopped by to check on the downspouts and mow our lawn (again), I discovered that several of them had focused on Cherry Street (our alley).  The folks across the street pulled weeds and edged it.  Our next door neighbors similarly pulled weeds and edged it.  They asked me how far I thought they could push into the alley . . . maybe they are considering creating their own curb like ours and planting flowers along side their sidewalk.  I took photos of them working and rewarded them with Earth Day Columbus Volunteer Rewards.  (Isn't April 30 Arbor Day anyway)?   I also encouraged them to pull the weeds growing outside our curb on our side of the alley.  They just laughed.   A girl can dream . . . .

Despite my invitation for them to join us (and my warning about its abundant population of deer and groundhogs), Life Vineyard Church has decided to build its own community garden near Alum Creek and Main Street – just a couple blocks southeast from the SACG.   My, what a difference money makes.  When we broke ground at the SACG, we had $200 donated by Thrivent for Lutherans.   I had to get everything else donated or pay for it out of my own pocket.  We were blessed to have gotten donated compost from Kurtz Brothers, fence from Home Depot, cedar from Trudeau Fence and Bowden fence (which we used to cut into stakes and to build our front and back gates), seeds from the old Livingston Seed Company, wood chips from Wright’s Tree Service, four rain barrels from Rain Brothers (which were later upgraded by the City to two giant rain cisterns), and the compost delivery fee from Dublin attorney Christopher Hogan, etc.  We dug all of our fence posts by hand with shovels.  Pastor Nick rented an auger and purchased all kinds of lumber and wire fencing.   Local Matters help him build the beds (with lots of labor help from the very handy men in the congregation).  In a few short hours, the field went from being empty to the construction of a fabulous fence surrounding 12 raised beds.   (Those beds could have been filled by dirt if the women had wheelbarrows and soil to fill them while the men built the fence, but we lent moral support).  

Nick even had fencing to put in the bottom of each bed to keep critters from burrowing up into them, but I didn’t see that as much of a risk.  He realizes that deer can still jump in if they want, but who wants to build a 10 foot fence (other than Grace Church on Shady Lane)?   I saw that they could use a gate and offered them our wonderful nine-year old front gate (which was replaced last year by our lovely new trellis).   I could tell that they were a bit underwhelmed by its age and lacked my sentimental attachment to it.  I encouraged them to remove the top trellis (and one guy suggested maybe just replacing the top trellis).   He really just wanted to paint it a bright color, which made me shudder.  The hardware was also starting to rust, so I have a feeling that they will replace the hardware, remove/replace the top trellis section and powerwash it before they install it. 

Instead of digging a trench and burying the wire fence a foot down (to discourage groundhogs), I convinced Nick that it would be easier to bury the fence in donated wood chips.  It would also help with edging.   (Granted, soil would do the same thing and then could be used to support flower beds, but I have my doubts that the deer population would leave the flowers alone and soil is more expensive than donated chips).  We’ve never had a trouble with groundhogs burrowing under our fence (which we also supported by lining up bricks along both sides of it which we had dug out of our lot), but we do not have anywhere near the number of grounhogs that live along Alum Creek.

And Nick fed everyone with Donatos pizza and had a cement mixer there to pour into all of the fence post holes.  (We aren’t allowed to use cement at the SACG per the terms of our City lease and as faithful readers know, this has made it challenging to keep the fence posts upright at times).     I never got to use my saw or any of my power tools.   The other men had much better tools anyway and lots of electricity.  And, as Nick likes to rub it in, they have running water, too.   But, as I told him, we have more space and bigger plots.   Much bigger plots.  I also rewarded Nick and his volunteers with Earth Day Columbus volunteer rewards (since not all of my volunteers showed up for our cold Earth Day earlier in the month).

I should mention how nice it was to just hang with the other ladies and not be in charge and running around like a chicken with my head cut off making sure that forward momentum continued on several fronts while all of the volunteers were there. Unlike Nick, I aslso didn't have to spend Monday returning all of the rentals and loaners.  I could just go home and sip my chardonnay.
I had hoped to start planting peppers this week, but I think I will have to wait another week for the weather to warm up.  If it dries out a bit, we might weed the vacant plots this Saturday and prepare to plant corn in Rayna’s old plot (to be followed by pole beans and zucchini).    I have resorted to using row covers for my cold crops because the flea beetles have been eating them something fierce and the moths/caterpillars aren’t far behind.   I even bought some extra to also cover the two food pantry plots where we’re growing the popular kale and collards).    They don’t really flower, so I don’t have to remove them to make way for bees like I will for the squash.  I’m just wondering if I anchored them well enough for this wind when I only used a few bricks . . . . . .

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