Embracing the rainy days


What a great rainy day this is! It is the second day we have had rain for the crops in the fields, the home lawns, and gardens, and at The People’s Garden.

After so many hot, dry days, I was getting anxious about watering the vegetables. I guess I was thinking that I would help God… ha-ha. I got over that after carrying bucket after bucket Sunday morning before church and decided to wait. Now look at the wonderful water He sent! We have had two leaks in our big rain tank, so we had little water to help the poor plants. Terry Richardson was a huge help early in the morning salvaging some of the water in the big tank by pumping it into buckets, tubs, and the small rain tank we have. Now with the second leak, we are waiting for the plumber. It will be fixed and hopefully permanently. In the meantime, thank you, God.

We have had some great help with weeding and other jobs like planting more late-season crops and getting ready for fall crops and have had time to try to finish our project of converting the wooden beds to metal… almost done with that. Thank you, Rikki Wise, for helping us with that and with setting up the rack for the rolls of chicken wire and for building the steps to the water faucet among other jobs.

Fencing all the 55 4-foot by 8-foot garden beds is another big job. We do that with farm posts, chicken wire, staples, or hand clips. There is no way we can keep all the animals out all the time, but we strive to protect the crops that go into the food pantry. I love seeing the deer, and I always say, “hi there, but go back in your woods.” I yell, clap and shoo the groundhogs away. You can see that there are a variety of jobs, not just planting seeds and harvesting the good food. Volunteers are welcomed with open arms and can come spend an hour helping weed, pick up sticks, and other jobs that do not require us to direct them. There is a job list on the porch of the Learning Center.

At the garden we have always tried to raise the crops organically, not using sprays or harmful chemicals, but to use natural ways to keep harmful insects and disease at bay. There is a way to do this and to go even further, and it is called “permaculture.” This is a way to provide all a person needs to live on this planet, allowing for sustainability. It includes “organic” but there is much more to it. I am reading a book called “Think Like an Ecosystem” by Amelie DesPlantes. Check it out.

When we built the Learning Center at the garden, we were thinking that we would have solar panels and provide our electricity with the sun’s energy. We do need some power for saws, lights, and of course the coffee maker. It is not there yet, but always in the front of our minds. In lots of other ways, though, we are on track. We have our own compost and mix our own soil (using compost, farm topsoil and leaf mulch), we have bird houses, a bat house, two rain tanks, flowers, animals, woods, a river, and people that visit and garden to raise some of their own food.

Organic gardening is raising crops without the use of harmful chemical to control insect damage and disease. Permaculture is the idea of using nature to live sustainably in a healthy environment and to preserve our living space we call Earth. “Organic” is only a small part of “permaculture.” Plant flowers to attract pollinators, pollinators tend to interact and take care of each other as well as produce food for us. Put up bird houses to attract the birds that like to snack on tomato worms, and other insects that are destructive to our efforts in the garden. Assassin bugs like to eat Japanese beetles and other insects. We have seen that the catnip on the perimeter of the garden attracts the cabbage moths more so than your cabbage crops. We have had no tomato worms and no Japanese beetles in the garden for at least three years. We now have a martin house and martin birds like mosquitoes so even though we are close to the Great Miami River we are not plagued by mosquitoes. Marigolds seem to keep at least the rabbits out of the beans.

Another thing to investigate is hügelkultu — a way of filling up the bottom third of your raised beds with branches, large and small pieces of wood that deteriorates and makes soil. Then add your soil mix on top of that. Use your weeds to help produce soil in your compost instead of putting them in the yard waste at the curb, encourage worms and other insects and living creatures to make your soil richer by letting your compost “work” or “cook” by not stirring it too much. Strive to use all your resources and not waste anything.

Watering every evening is fun but not fun for the roots of your plants, flowers, or vegetables. A good soaking is needed for the water to go deeper into the soil. Allow your plants to become somewhat dry to allow the roots to grow deep and wide as they search for water. Then when there is water, it will be taken up by bigger roots. Farmers in the area like my friends Richard and Susie Martin know this well. We were talking about this when we visited them at their farm last week.

There are some things that we could use if you feel inclined to help us out at The People’s Garden: garden or farm soil is needed to keep the garden beds filled, as it settles or blows in the wind sometimes. We could use a good flatbed load of leaf mulch, free from the city of Sidney. We can also use a small amount of manure, cow horse, goat, chicken, or a mixture of what you have. We mix all these things to make the soil we use. Other things are farm posts, hand clamps, gardening gloves, bird houses, water for workers, vegetable, or fruit kitchen scraps (no meat, milk, or bread products). Give us a call if you want to deliver any of these things to the garden at 937 726 9525.

We have some talks and classes in the works now. One is that the Fort Loramie Senior Center group of about 30 will visit on July 20 to investigate and learn about community gardening. We are helping present a children’s garden program on July 12 at the Worch library in Versailles. On Aug. 17 we will participate in a health fair at Electro Controls in Sidney. We are also becoming a more culturally diverse garden. Join us a see what we are becoming and know that you have things to share with us that can make us even better in this community.


Michelle Stephenson leads a Cub Scout meeting in the Learning Center at the People’s Garden.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/07/web1_JULY_ARTICLE.jpgMichelle Stephenson leads a Cub Scout meeting in the Learning Center at the People’s Garden. Courtesy photo

By Conelia Dixon

Contributing columnist

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.

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