The People’s Garden to offer a variety of classes

By Conelia Dixon - Contributing columnist

Micah Stephenson, son of Nate and Michelle Stephenson, plants seeds in a bed at The People’s Garden in Sidney.

The People’s Garden is doing well despite the unusual May weather. Have you been to visit the garden yet? We are having a class in our nice Learning Center July 16. See if you can make it! It is so pretty and peaceful at the garden.

We are liking how things are going the past couple of weeks, weather being a challenge before this. We started planting the cold-hardy seeds and plants in March and since then we have been working in the heat at times and even the snow! As always, we are optimistic and are working hard to get crops planted, new metal beds built, and fences constructed around the new vegetables that are coming up. We build fences around the individual beds to keep out the critters, like deer and groundhogs.

We always have a plan of what to plant in which of the 54 garden beds that we manage. This planning is done in the winter. All the beds are numbered, and we keep a log of what is grown in each one. We use companion planting, crop rotation, and we grow vegetables that the pantry shoppers seem to need as well as what food will grow best in this climate. In our eight years, we have learned much about what vegetables to focus on and we grow what the Agape Distribution food pantry does not get from other sources. For instance, we do not grow potatoes, melons, or corn. We have found that okra grows well in this climate and the shoppers love it.

People like green onions, green tomatoes, radishes, salad greens like turnip and beet greens and they like herbs like parsley, oregano, and chives. We are growing more beans this year, and sometimes we try something new to see how it goes. Beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kohlrabi are favorites of the animals, and extremely hard to protect. Kendra has her herb garden started and will do a presentation for us sometime with possible recipes available.

During the beginning of the season, it is a race to get everything planted at the proper time during the spring. First the beds must be prepared by clearing out any weeds, sticks and leaves. Then we mix leaf mulch, topsoil and our own compost in a wheelbarrow and put it in any beds that need a little more soil because of settling. As we put the seeds or plants in the soil, we label everything, and we log what we planted that day in which beds, and the date.

Fences must be put around almost all the crops. Chicken wire and iron fence posts seem to be the best for us. The Soil and Water Conservation District of Shelby County has donated much of these materials. The chicken wire is stapled to the beds and/or clamped. There are a few things that the animals do not tend to eat like okra, rhubarb, tomatoes, and peppers so they do not have to be fenced in.

We are pleased that we have a nice Learning Center and plan to have classes this summer and fall. We will offer it for small meetings, Bible study, and possible other events. Beginning gardening, herbs, including recipes, possible crafts like rock painting, making scarecrows, or salad ideas are some classes we have thought of. We would like to have music and art in the garden too. We are interested in ideas from you. We have heat and air conditioning in our beautiful building.

We have a new rainwater pump so you can water with sprinkling can or hose or bucket. We have a porch to sit on and benches in the garden so you can enjoy the beauty of nature and the bird songs.

Leroy Beard, our local Sidney historian, is famous for this. He loves the garden and has been so supportive. We find that by putting a variety of different flowers in the garden, we have much pollination going on. Many different insects like bees and butterflies visit the many different kinds of flowers and vegetable blossoms.

All our documents are available on our phones on Google Docs so we can keep up with the day-to-day planting. There are three of us that share all this information. Oh yes, gardeners must be tech savvy too! We do have a set of guidelines that we have available to anyone, and we do give those to people who rent a garden bed or two. They are common sense, easy follow guidelines (we do not call them rules). If you might be interested in renting a garden bed, call 937-726-9525. We have 10 beds rented at the present time. Any that are not rented are planted with pantry food. There are visible signs in the beds that are rented.

Now that the COVID restrictions seem to be easing a bit, we hope that more people will be more comfortable with coming out to the garden to volunteer, to help with planting, weeding, building, harvesting, and hopefully to join in our classes. We plan to have a small class about general gardening to start with on July 16, 6 to 7 p.m. We hope to be seeing you. Please call for a tour and to register for the class 937-726-9525. The class is free.

If you happen to come to the garden, go to the white message box on the porch. There is a job list there. You can help weed, pick up sticks, and other jobs that you are comfortable doing. Thank you for helping; we certainly appreciate it.

Contact The People’s Garden on Facebook, by calling or texting 937-726-9525 or 937-703-2905, or by leaving a note in the message box on the porch.

Micah Stephenson, son of Nate and Michelle Stephenson, plants seeds in a bed at The People’s Garden in Sidney. Stephenson, son of Nate and Michelle Stephenson, plants seeds in a bed at The People’s Garden in Sidney.

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.

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