The End of Summer.


Peace from Over-the-Rhine – Cincinnati, Ohio!

The summer days have been long and hot. The rain has been MIA for weeks, and yet, we are still smiling. Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden has been busy this summer providing free classes focusing on how to grow your own food, how to prepare and cook your own harvest, and how to start your own flower business. And, thankfully, the garden had been good to us. We’ve had lots of help enabling it to thrive, but there’s still lots of harvesting and watering to be done so we welcome anyone who’s willing to lend a hand!


In addition to the above-mentioned classes, we just wrapped up our final free community cooking classes of the season. All summer we have been delighted to have an expert nutritionist, Lisa Andrews , come to the garden to teach us how to make delicious meals with the fruits, herbs and vegetables we’ve been growing. Check out some of the photos of her classes!

And we can’t forget that all of this would not have been possible without Gardener Jill who took the lead on planting and cultivating our successful vegetable beds. Boy did she crank out a lot of food! Although most of the produce is consumed by the gardeners and the local community, Jill also takes time to run a load of fresh produce over to the local food pantry each week. We are all very fortunate to have her.


Speaking of fortune, some of the plants that did wonderfully for us this year—the Swiss chard, collard greens, kale and a variety of lettuces—were especially yummy. We also had  success with squash, eggplant, hot peppers, and my personal favorite—tomatillos. Cauliflower was another plant that took up some prime garden real estate this summer. Unfortunately, it was a big flop. I suspect I may have planted them too close together and perhaps didn’t water them as regularly has I should have. The good thing is there’s always next year and the famous motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again!
Speaking of trying and succeeding, Jill’s husband, Chris started planting hops and has been busy harvesting and tending to this first brew of this season! Congratulations Chris!

Another big successful endeavor has been the flower gardens. The flowers coming out of the market gardens are stunning right now. The dahlias are especially gorgeous. So, I plan to double the amount of tubers I plant next year. I also made the decision to invest 100% of my time into my cut-flower business. So, after years of dreaming, I am proud to say  I am officially working for myself! To learn more about my local business please check out my business website. My goal is to become one of the most successful flower-farmer-florist-educators in the area. And I attribute my ability to begin reaching this goal to my work with Grow Appalachia. My dream would not have been envisioned had it not been for my years of experience with all the wonderful people there. I am so grateful to all of you. Thank you and congratulations on celebrating 10 years Grow Appalachia! And CHEERS to all who make this program possible.

Which brings us to the present. Despite the temperatures in the 90’s, we are actually entering the Autumn phase of our garden which will be spent pulling out the summer tomatoes, amending the soil and planting our fall crops—spinach, radishes and beets. Autumn is also when we begin scheduling our volunteers who help us shut down the garden for the winter. But I am excited to share that about 50% of the garden will be involved in our season-extension project. Season extension will allow us to experiment with growing things throughout the winter. You know what they say about growing winter carrots right? You get a sweeter carrot. I’m anxious to find out if that’s true. But I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


In the meantime, there’s still plenty of Autumn days to fill. Which included the start of the Garden Club—an after-school program attended by the neighborhood youth. Every other Monday and Wednesday, I conduct and hour-long free class in the garden. Lessons range from general gardening techniques and care to becoming an entrepreneur and “growing” a business. Due to the hot weather and very little rain, our first few classes included watering, harvesting, and sampling our produce.


When it comes to sampling, the biggest crowd pleaser so far has been the peaches. Despite a huge limb being damaged in the storm, our peach tree produced over a hundred peaches! For almost two weeks, everyone who walked by the garden took a peach or two with them. It was beautiful to witness how a single fruit tree could bring so many people together in the neighborhood. I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.







About the Author:

In 1980, members of the Over-the-Rhine community in Cincinnati, Ohio joined forces with the Civic Garden Center and purchased four vacant lots on East McMicken Avenue which they ultimately transformed into a productive vegetable garden known as the Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden. This historic Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden was the first community garden in Cincinnati and is an excellent example of people coming together to improve a neighborhood. Beginning in 2014, the Civic Garden Center’s Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden began collaborating with Grow Appalachia and Paul Mitchell the School Cincinnati after the then Admissions Leader and Green Team Leader, Christina Matthews, along with a neighborhood art teacher, Ali Burns, decided to apply for a grant from Grow Appalachia to support the garden. Christina Matthews, personally met with John Paul Dejoria, the CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems and founder of Grow Appalachia, in Toledo, OH where he agreed to donate $10,000 toward their efforts. The Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden is Grow Appalachia’s only urban partner site. And although it is located in a neighborhood that continues to see high crime rates, it is viewed by many of the residents as a respite from some of the pressures that exist outside its fences. It is also purported to be the longest continuously active community garden in the country! Paul Mitchell the School Cincinnati eagerly became involved with the garden as a direct result of the culture established in its schools. The culture of Paul Mitchell’s schools encourages individuals to do more for their community by giving back. The Green Team focus on civic responsibility, recycling etc. Christina Matthews’ vision was to meld the goals of Grow Appalachia, Paul Mitchell Schools and the OTR People’s Garden in an effort to improve the Over-the-Rhine community. Six years later, the Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden has accomplished more than anyone could have ever imagined—growing approximately 500 to 1,000 pounds of fresh food and flowers per year! More importantly, it provides a space for the community to heal, teach, empower, and feed each other. Just last year the garden offered 17 free garden classes with topics that included cooking, generating income from a small garden plot and building affordable season extensions. Events like these brought 250 new friends and volunteers to the garden in 2019! Christina Matthews, was so inspired by her years of involvement with Grow Appalachia and the People’s Garden that she resigned from Paul Mitchell Schools in 2016 and launched her own flower-farmer-florist business—The Flower Lady OTR. Now Christina devotes all her time and energy to what she loves—growing a business in conjunction with volunteering her time with Grow Appalachia, The Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden, and in the OTR community. Life is flourishing!

One Comment

  1. Summer October 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    Summer is the greatest time of the year. You get sunshine, can go to the beach, eat ice cream, wear t-shirts and shorts dresses. Also because of the great variety of flowers in the garden.

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