Monday, May 28, 2012

Rose campion, that's what we think

OK, we think this flower is the lovely rose campion. It grew wild in my yard for years, clinging to tree roots in its forlorn neglect and surviving on dry dust, mostly.

Which, apparently, it actually likes more than good soil.

Finally showed it some love, and moved some to the north perennial border and the southwest corner at Madison Square Garden. But still couldn't identify it, since I'm not that good with flowers yet. People said the leaves look like lamb's ear, but I think it's the rose campion.  If so, I'm pleased to see it blooming here.

It's considered an old-fashioned classic, referred to and sold as heirloom. Though not native, the flower came to America in colonial days and Thomas Jefferson wrote that it grew at his boyhood home, Shadwell. Grown since the 1300s, the Latin genus name means "lamp" because the ancients used the campion leaves for wicks.

It's pretty romantic, but I don't know who planted it here. The former owners of my home have been kind enough to share its garden history -- who planted the strawberries, how long the river birch tree has been here. But no one knows for sure, so if you're knowledgeable? Stop by Madison Street and tell us what you think. If you're not, that's fine too.

There's plenty of other reasons to stop by the garden. We're picking peas on Monday, and some radishes. Thanks to Graci for all the weeding help she did Saturday on the green peppers, tomatoes and cucumber. All of the plants are taking off and also include: beans, spinach, kale, mustard and collard greens, corn, okra, tomatillos and hot peppers, several squashes, potatoes, onions and garlic. Please come take some garlic! We're trying to get it out of the bed now. It's the tall stalk with the globe at the top.

Other veggies and fruits include strawberries, raspberries and Lisa's new blackberry starters. The carrots. And there's broccoli, cabbage and a mystery brassica family plant we think is cauliflower growing from last year. I know it wasn't started this year, so ...

If you have any ideas about what to grow, let me know. We've doubled the tomatoes this year, and planted another little patch of cucumbers.

Other notes:
  • Welcome new friends: Jason, Ernestine, Tasha, Juanita and Diego among them.
  • Indiana tax credits for Unity Garden donors. Unity participates in the state Neighborhood Assistance Program. If you're not familiar, NAP credits work almost like a matching grant that benefits the donor. Any resident or business can take a 50 percent tax credit on minimum donations of $100. These credits are designed to encourage giving to local nonprofits, keeping the benefits in Indiana. Unity has "sold" more than 90 percent of their FY 2011-2012 credits, but still has a few days to go before the reporting deadline so now's the time! Check the link to Unity for donation info, or call executive director Sara Stewart at (574) 315-4361. Go online here for NAP credit info.
  • Tour de Unity is June 17, and my favorite bicycle ride around town. There's also a link to the right for more information about this family-friendly fundraising event. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rain barrels, radishes and ... tropical birds?

Madison Square Garden has its new rain barrel!

The 2nd Annual Rain Barrel Auction in early May benefits the IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future and the art museum in South Bend, along with the local artists who design and paint the rain barrels.

This year, five barrels were donated to Unity Gardens and our neighborhood was fortunate to get one.

Area school children designed these barrels, some of which were on display at the County-City Building before moving to their homes around town.

Big thanks to neighbor Dave Wright on Madison Street, who agreed to install the barrel right next to the garden. So look for a few brightly colored fish swimming along near the cucumber and potato patches.

Collard greens, mustard greens and radishes are being harvested in the garden. The peas are in flower but not ready yet, and strawberries are just behind them. Corn is just now poking up too, along with beans and okra. I'll get a complete list of what's growing and when up on the site as soon as I have the chance to write one.

Special thanks to Lisa, who brought marigolds on Mother's Day to brighten up the garden, and of course to all the new neighbors we've met lately. Thanks Gavin and Pam for supporting the annual Unity plant sale!

By the way, Jacob the missing macaw did find his way safely home. But it was kind of fun having the escaped tropical bird visit Madison Street, and talking with all of you as we watched him in Maxine's tree.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A green roof doghouse to go with the rain barrel

How cute is this? I was checking out some "green roof" doghouses and decided that Madison Square Garden clearly needs one to go with our new rain barrel. Maybe we'll paint them to match after we get the barrel installed and have a mini toolshed on site too.

Let me know if you know of a doghouse to repurpose like this!

There's always creativity in the various gardens, and Mayor Buttigieg will be among those on hand Saturday at the main LaSalle Square garden for its season opening, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The garden at 3701 Prast Blvd. is just under 10 acres, and LaSalle Square is the flagship garden for the Unity network that includes Madison Street and about 50-60 other gardens. Some big, some small, all committed to building community and community health.

The main garden site will show off its new native planting area, planned beehive section and family garden plots. Plenty of free kids activities and light refreshments.

If you're coming, think about making a donation to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. A collection truck for cans and other nonperishable items will be on site, in partnership with the National Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Day. If you've never seen the LaSalle garden, out near Honeywell? It's really pretty amazing.

Another way to help Unity Gardens grow? Take advantage of a 50 percent Indiana state tax credit by making a monetary donation. Unity participates in the state's Neighborhood Assistance Program, which permits any Indiana taxpayer (resident or business) to take that 50 percent credit on their state tax filings.

The credit is still available through May 31 on any monetary or in-kind donation of $100 or more. To donate online, go to the Unity Gardens Inc. Donations Page on the main site.

To learn more about the program, go to the Indiana NAP page for information.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Yes, it's true that finding time for weeding the garden is easier than getting new posts up on the Web! We promise to try and do better ... as soon as we're done weeding the peas ...

The 2012 garden season has brought renewed energy to Madison Street. We've added three raised beds to the tilled plots, and now have about 1600 square feet of vegetable gardening space.

We've also added perennial landscaping at the Madison and McKinley corners along Walsh Street, using all repurposed materials and by dividing a lot of plants from home. Seriously, any day lily committed to growing between the cracks in the patio stones deserves a better life! Much but not all of the landscaping has been done with native plants, so watch for more black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, coreopsis and other pretty stuff.

The beans, cucumber and zucchini were started from seed and still mostly too small to plant yet, but with the warm temperatures we've got a head start on tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, among other things already in.

Thanks to Dave and Steve, who helped with getting the organic compost into the garden this week. Uphill, in the rain, both ways ...

Unity plant sale is this weekend at Junk Evolution, 528 E. Colfax Avenue in the East Bank Village area.