Growing community connections at the People’s Garden


By Conelia Dixon - Contributing columnist



White bean Kale soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup celery, sliced

1 cup sliced carrot

A pinch of dried oregano, thyme if desired

3 cups vegetable broth

3 15-ounce cans white beans drained and rinsed

1 cup milk

3 cups chopped kale

1 tablespoon vinegar

A pinch of salt if desired and fresh black pepper

Spiced apple and butternut squash soup:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 large onions, diced

2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced

1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced (I bake mine first)

2 quarts chicken stock

A little salt if desired and fresh pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and apples, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes Stir in the spices, cook for 1 minute, and then add the squash and chicken stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 to 30 minuntes.

Puree and serve. Add additional stock, if necessary to desired thickness. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 6 to 8.

At The People’s Garden we are making community connections. We sincerely believe that it is important to make a positive difference in people’s lives close to home. After all, love and concern for others begins at “home”.

We choose to affect lives through our gardening expertise and through sharing the garden produce in the Agape Distribution food pantry. The garden has been in existence for eight years now, functioning very well because of the service of volunteers. Hundreds of hours of work per year are spent maintaining over 50 garden beds and the surrounding grassy area.

You can affect our community in a positive way by joining this effort. If you have one hour a week that you can dedicate to helping at The People’s Garden, I guarantee that you will feel closer to the people in this community and will know that what you are doing is helping people that really need to know that they are loved.

I remember one time when I took some turnip greens into the pantry and there was a nice lady in her wheelchair with her caregiver picking out food that she would take home. I asked her if she would like some turnip greens and she looked at me and smiled with thankfulness and said a big “yes, please”. She was blessed that day. That is what we are here for, to bless others.

We are also interested in helping others learn to grow some of their own food. Fourteen garden beds were managed by “renters” this season who decided what they wanted to grow something. Renters are encouraged to do what they want with their crops — eat, share, or donate. All seeds and sometimes plants are provided for them, and they have access to tools, water and fencing materials, with help from the coordinators if they want it. There are many thankful words about being at the garden, and many words like “peaceful”, “enjoyable”, and “love it” are heard. Not only are people working productively with soil and plants, but they enjoy the birds, the beauty of nature, and even learn about critters and insects. Being a master gardener, I can help with all aspects of gardening. Ask me a question and I will answer it. Master Gardeners manage a hotline at the OSU Extension on Fair Road, and we are happy to help you with any kind of gardening, flower, yard, lawn, insect, or disease question.

The People’s Garden free monthly classes will continue throughout the year, even in the winter. We have a nice facility for hosting class with heat and air conditioning, coffee, and snacks. In September, we held the class at the library just to see if this is an option for us. This month’s free class, and all others, will be held at the garden in our Learning Center building on Oct. 14 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Please join us and enjoy learning about gardening. You are invited to bring children if you like. We are teachers and will have a children’s activity for them. In the future we plan to present other topics too, like crafts, music, and art. We really are trying to be a community activity. Your suggestions and questions are welcome.

If you have a garden of your own at home here are a few tips for you to continue enjoying fresh vegetables even into the late fall:

• Decide what you like to eat.

• Prepare your garden space by clearing weeds and testing your soil if you choose to do that. Soil test kits are available at the OSU extension office on Fair Road in Sidney. You can also borrow a core sample tool and receive a kit to send in your sample. The kits are $11, and about $3 to $4 to send it in.

• Gather your seeds and plants. Know your hardiness zone and when your crops should be planted and when they will mature by reading the backs of the packets.

• Protect your garden from critters by fencing, row covers, chicken wire, motion sprinklers, etc. before you plant. Protect from frost by using row covers, cold frames or other protection. Lots of information is available online or from us at the garden. Look up your topics in the search and add “osu.edu” after it. You will get professional master gardener information.

• Water about an inch a week, not too much but water regularly.

• Your garden will thrive if you keep an eye on it and check for insects and keep it free of weeds by pulling them out as they appear.

• Come and visit The People’s Garden located behind Agape Distribution on the corner of Brooklyn and Court. You can get ideas by visiting other gardens. We visit other community gardens!

• Remember, “Relax, stuff wants to grow!” and many times crops do better in the fall because of fewer insect pests like bean beetles and Japanese beetles.

Some cool weather crops are radishes, kale, turnips, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula. We have planted most of these in the last three weeks, and some of them are up and growing. The expected first frost date for our hardiness zone here in our area is Oct. 11 this year. Try to plan so that you can get enough growth and protect your plants from killing frost. Give fall gardening a try and you will be happy with the results. It is so satisfying knowing that you can harvest food that you love to eat and share with others.

I have one of my favorite recipes for you to try using garden vegetables.

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By Conelia Dixon

Contributing columnist

White bean Kale soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup celery, sliced

1 cup sliced carrot

A pinch of dried oregano, thyme if desired

3 cups vegetable broth

3 15-ounce cans white beans drained and rinsed

1 cup milk

3 cups chopped kale

1 tablespoon vinegar

A pinch of salt if desired and fresh black pepper

Spiced apple and butternut squash soup:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 large onions, diced

2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced

1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced (I bake mine first)

2 quarts chicken stock

A little salt if desired and fresh pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and apples, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes Stir in the spices, cook for 1 minute, and then add the squash and chicken stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 to 30 minuntes.

Puree and serve. Add additional stock, if necessary to desired thickness. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 6 to 8.

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.