Sharing gardening tips and tricks at The People’s Garden

I know you are thinking about your gardens, I just know it. Some of you are watching the weather and even looking up the average last frost date for this season. We are looking at catalogs for seeds and plants and we are going through our seeds from last season to see if we want to use them this year. Have you made a garden map yet? Have you looked at your tools and thought about cleaning them up? I am so anxious; I can hardly keep from talking about it. My sister knows that I am always talking “garden.”

Well, I looked up the frost dates, remembering that they are based on historical climate data. The last spring frost date for 2023 is May 3. The first frost date for 2023 is Oct. 14. When planting seeds and plants, always consider these estimated dates as well as read the seed package for how and when to plant your garden. Also consider where you live, in what hardiness zone. There are various charts online to tell you about what temperatures your plants will thrive in. In Ohio we are usually said to be in zone six or five and it usually tells you on your seed packets with a map that shows you the zones.

Did you realize that getting “dirty” is good for you? You will be less stressed, and more blessed in many ways if you are gardening: mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. Fresh air and sunshine can improve your health but there is something in the soil that can cause the serotonin (believed to be a mood stabilizer) levels in your body to rise. The substance in soil that can help you is mycobacterium vaccae and when humans are exposed to it, the microbe stimulates serotonin production. It stimulates neurons in the brain. Do you feel “happy” when you are “dirty?”

Plants are like us in many ways. We need fresh air, sunshine (our skin makes vitamin D), water and nutrition from plants that grow in the soil. Our energy comes ultimately from the sun. The sun is needed to make plants grow, we eat the plants and thus get energy/nutrition from them. Animals eat plants too and when we eat meat, we are getting energy from the plants they ate and thus from the sun. This is very simplified, of course.

If you are now considering getting dirty so you can be healthier and you want to grow some of your own food, but you don’t know how to start a garden, check in with the Master Gardener program at the OSU Extension office. We have some new trainees and some trained Master Gardeners that are waiting eagerly for you to ask questions. There is a hotline that you can contact at the OSU Extension office each Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call 937-498-7239 to reach the extension office or stop in at 810 Fair Road in Sidney on Monday or Thursday. There are soil test kits available at the office for $11 along with a soil probe to borrow, if you want to test the health of your soil, and you really should so you know if you need to amend it for what you are intending to grow. Oh, by the way, Victory Garden seeds will be available soon. They are free and are offered to help you consider growing food for your family or to donate to the food pantries.

The People’s Garden is having an open house on April 22 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. to show how we grow food for the Agape Distribution food pantry in the 55 raised beds that we have managed for 10 years now. We produced 638 pounds of food in 2022 plus Master Gardeners also contributed 411 pounds. We will have tours of the garden, stations to learn something, a door prize and Victory Garden seeds to give you, a snack and a drink. The Soil and Water Conservation District educator will be there as well as Master Gardeners. Come and see what we are all about, mostly feeding hungry people.

We still need volunteers, we welcome you even for an hour a week. At the beginning of this season, we especially need people that can help put together new garden enclosures and help fill beds with the soil mixture. Volunteers come on their choice of days and time. There is always an up-to-date job list on the porch of the Learning Center. We also need soil, manure and compost (bagged or loads). We mix soil, leaf mulch, compost, coffee grounds, green plant material and manure to fill the garden beds. There is a sign next to the compost pile to show what to put in it and what not to put in it.

The People’s Garden is located behind the Agape Distribution food pantry at 209 Brooklyn Ave., Sidney. Call 937-726-9525 if you have questions about anything regarding volunteering or if you just want to know when we will be at the garden. I think it is enjoyable to work with people, especially people who are “dirty.”

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