Posts tagged Squaw Creek

City gardens ready for potato planting on Good Friday

imga00711Good news for gardeners who lease plots from the city and want to get their potatoes planted on Good Friday… 

Despite some weather setbacks, Cedar Rapids parks staff finished tilling and marking all three of the city garden sites this week. Cedar Rapids leases out 150 plots at Ellis Park; 102 at Squaw Creek Park and 60 at the Tuma Soccer Complex. As of today, only 97  plots were rented at  the Ellis garden, which was flooded out for the season last June. Soil tests for benzene, arsenic and other chemicals have come back at safe levels, but some of the people who gardened at Ellis may have also been flooded out of their homes and won’t be back to garden.  

I spoke to E.B. Kunkle of Cedar Rapids today, who appeared to be the first gardener back at the Ellis site.

E.B. Kunkle

E.B. Kunkle

E.B. was planting onion sets. Last year, he was able to harvest green onions, spinach and radishes before the floods wiped out everything. Gardeners were advised against returning last year due to possible contaminants. Today’s weather was in the 50s and the soil was dry enough to get started, at least on onions. E.B. has tried growing potatoes in the past, but they were overcome by (my nemesis) the potato beetle.

Gardening lore calls for potatoes to be planted on Good Friday, which is tomorrow (April 10, 2009.) I doubt that I’ll get mine in that day, but as usual, turned to my uncle, Craig Musel, for advice. Uncle Craig gardens near Chelsea, Iowa, and always manages to win at least a few blue ribbons for his potatoes at the famous and fabulous Iowa State Fair. I talked to him Monday, and he said he started planting his potatoes about three weeks earlier, which would be mid-March. His tip? “I plant them whenever I can get them in the ground,” he said and keeps planting “until I’m done.”  Those blue ribbon winners – never want to reveal their secrets.

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Deconstruction vs. demolition: a green way to handle flooded homes?

Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill/Jackson Neighborhood Association, has been working on a “Good Jobs/Green Garages” effort since the floods. Some of that is detailed in an article in the Sunday, March 8, 2009, issue of the Gazette:

 

http://tinyurl.com/bdn94m

 

Here is more from Michael about those efforts:

 

   “We have added a very important layer of innovation and action to Good Jobs/Green Garages:

   As Neighborhood Assn. President, I have been approached by flooded residents in their 70s and 80s that do not have the time, energy or financing to Rehab/Rebuild.   We are pairing these elderly residents with former Metro High students that are now in their mid twenties, energetic, employed and ready to engage limited money with “sweat equity” to gain first time home ownership by rehab and retrofit of these flooded homes they are purchasing from the above noted elderly flood victims.  We have one rehab/retrofit  Next Generation Home Ownership project already underway in Oakhill Jackson.   We have also paired an elderly resident/ and a young new homeowner in Time Check to work with  this model of community recovery.

   My goal is this:  Create the working model. Then, if the City Government wants to get on board, fine, if not, well, we’ll keep working away to rebuild this city one step at a time from the ground up.”

 

 

   From Cindy, again: Rod Scott, who is also featured in the Gazette article, realizes not every flooded home can be saved. But he questions why so many that could be rebuilt are being torn down. He asks if it’s because the city is encouraging demolition, especially of homes in modest-income neighborhoods. Rod, who is president of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance, notes that many of the homes are structurally sound. “They’re just flooded buildings,” he said. “They can be cleaned up and rebuilt.”

 

 

   Cedar Rapids City Council member  Tom Podzimek added to the city’s discussion of sustainability when it comes to rebuilding from the floods in one area that hit home. For city gardeners, it might not be a popular idea, but a suggestion that has been proposed in the past would be to sell land that has city gardens – presumably the Squaw Creek gardens, as the Ellis area often floods – and allow developers to build private housing there. The tradeoff would be offering leased city gardens in the city’s new green zone, where flooded homes have been bought out and removed. “Why get in a car and drive five miles?” Podzimek asked, when the “greener” model would be having gardens located near the people who use them.

   Other ideas for the green zone have included soccer and baseball fields and dog parks. Podzimek said some residents want those entities in areas not prone to flooding, but he said it makes more sense to have homes and structures built away from flood zones and use the 250 acres or so of new green space for those “flood resilient” projects, such as ball fields.

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Time for city gardens

  I renewed my city garden lease yesterday and talked to a few other people who were doing the same. Cedar Rapids has leased garden plots – 20-by-50-feet of land each – at Ellis, Squaw Creek and Tuma parks. Cost is $20 annually. Renewals run through March 2, and after that, the plots can be leased to other people. Gardeners must go to the Ambroz Recreation Center, 2000 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, to reserve a garden. Ambroz is open 8-5, Monday through Friday.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

 

  

   Last year wasn’t the best for gardening, with temperatures too cold to get the plants going in the spring, and then, of course, the rain. All of the gardeners at Ellis were completely washed out for the season due to the June flood (except for a couple of die-hards who returned after the water receded.) But soil tests conducted on the land have shown it’s not contaminated, according to the city, and gardeners are eager to try again.

 

   Chris Pliszka, who has leased a garden at Ellis for about five years, asked city workers about possible chemicals that were left behind by the floods.

Chris said he was comfortable going back after being told it wasn’t contaminated. Like other gardeners, he’s looking forward to growing fresh vegetables to eat from his garden. “The taste is amazing,” he said. Chris tries to get to his garden every day during the season, which brings up an important point about the leased gardens. The last two years, with gas prices high, I thought spending one solid day every week in my garden would be more practical than going a few times a week. The weeds proved too powerful and it became a constant battle between their overwhelming forces and my less-than-overwhelming hoe. Many people use tillers and some use chemical means to control their weeds. I’m going to try to be more aggressive with my mulching system and see if the weedy powers-that-be can be overcome this year.

 

 

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Last days of gardening

Normally, I don’t like to swear, but ARRGGHHH…. and #$@##!!!

 

   The last day for gardeners to work in their city-leased plots in Cedar Rapids is Sunday, Oct. 19, but that isn’t what got me riled.

   Parks workers will begin tilling garden plots at Tuma, Ellis and Squaw Creek parks on Monday, Oct. 20.  All produce, stakes, wire and plant ties must be removed by Sunday.

 

    It’s always sad to see the end of the gardening season, but it’s even more upsetting to have something taken by garden thieves.

    That’s what I discovered last night at my city-leased garden. Someone had taken every single one of the cabbage heads that I had planned to pick last night. The Grinch didn’t leave a single one! It was clear that it wasn’t a hungry critter by the clean knife slices on each of the plants; plus, at least the wildlife doesn’t hog everything, as this person did.

 

   I don’t mind sharing my veggies. In fact, I get the greatest sense of satisfaction in doing just that when I can donate to our local food pantries. But having someone take something without asking is low. I know it happens occasionally at some gardens and quite often at others.  It’s happened to us before, with sunflower heads and pumpkins, but cabbage??? And even though I doubt the thieves will be reading this, I have some suggestions for them.

 

1)      Ask first! There’s a good chance that many gardeners will gladly give you what you need.

2)      Don’t take everything. Chances are, I wouldn’t have missed a few heads of cabbage, or tomatoes or whatever else has been taken. But to steal everything is downright greedy.

3)      Change your ways! Click on the food pantries tab on this blog and find a place to donate those vegetables you took.

 

 

   A final thought: since some gardeners do abandon their plots before the final day of the season, there is likely good produce that goes to waste. Perhaps the Cedar Rapids Parks Department could allow “open harvesting” on the day after the gardeners have to leave.

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