Hello from Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden—located in the heart of Cincinnati, Ohio! My name is Christina and I have been blessed to be one of the volunteer coordinators for the community garden since 2014. Over the past 9 years I have been making a lot of new friends, writing grants to help us purchase things we need, learning how to grow food and harvesting many flowers. Shortly after I began gardening in OTR People’s Garden an opportunity bloomed with an after-school program located right across the street from our garden—Wesley Chapel Mission Center. Youth, from the Mission, began coming to the garden regularly to learn about and taste fresh fruits and vegetables. This partnership became known as, The Garden Club. Meetings are scheduled several times a month during which the children come over and participate in various garden activities.Earlier this year, in October, I met with the Garden Club and led one of my favorite activities—Will the Pumpkin Sink or Float? I packed an array of gourds in various shapes, sizes and colors into a water-filled bin. Before we dunked each gourd we discussed ways we could prepare them to eat, the basics on how to become a pumpkin farmer, and even ways we could use them to make feeders for backyard wildlife. Turns out no matter what size, shape, or color they are, they all float! It was such a fun activity, especially because the weather was perfect. Believe it or not, it reached 80 degrees! That’s almost unheard of for October in Cincinnati. So playing in the water was an added bonus.
Later that month, I met with the Garden Club and we worked on the three garden beds Wesley Chapel Mission Center rents each season for the Garden Club to grow food and flowers. It was time to pull out the old ratty zinnia flowers and green beans so we could re-plant the beds with garlic. Everyone worked together to pull out the old tired plants and take them to the compost area. We even snacked on cherry tomatoes while we worked. Our time together was a great example of the age-old saying “many hands make light work”!
Just last week I met up with Garden Club again to finish out the month of October. In my cut flower garden, located in the East End, we have two bee hives. The honey was just harvested from the hives and I wanted to share this liquid gold with the club. So, I packed up some honey and spoons and started our meeting with a tasting. The honey was a big hit! While enjoying our sweet treat, I shared the basics of starting a honey business as well as the health benefits of local honey. After a bit of weeding around the tomatoes with the stirrup hoes, we pulled out our phones and took photos of our favorite flowers which we later discussed and shared we each other. This ended another fun-packed and educational event.
Before becoming a garden coordinator for OTR People’s Garden or owner of The Flower Lady OTR, I had a great career with Paul Mitchell the School Cincinnati, a cosmetology school here in Cincinnati. John Paul DeJoria, a self-made billionaire, co-founder of Paul Mitchell, founder of Grow Appalachia, and well-known philanthropist, had a huge influence on me—especially when I transitioned into becoming an entrepreneur. One thing he often repeated was “Success unshared is failure.” For years I thought about this, and how this phrase could translate into my life. Previously, I viewed success as something that had monetary value. But since then I came to realize that success is so much more than money. Success is the moment you wake up happy and healthy. Success is pursuing a career that makes you say YES to loving what you do, who you do it with, and who you do it for. Success is the Garden Club! As I reflect on the last few visits with the Garden Club, I realize I am paying forward my successes to them. Members learn how to love and care for their neighbors and each other. They learn how to grow food, eat well, and pursue their dreams. And they learn how they can earn money through gardening. But, most importantly, they learn—as I did—that you don’t have to have a ton of money to be successful. What you need to be successful is to make a difference in someone else’s life. For me, that translates into spending time with members of the Garden Club, giving back to the community and helping make the world a better place.
Before we say goodbye, here’s an update from Kymisha, the Urban Agriculture Coordinator for The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, regarding the Riddle Yates Garden.
As the leaves start to turn and we find our cozy clothes that have been put away seasons ago, we are focusing on season extension and taking advantage of the un-expected warm weather. We now have several varieties of lettuce growing under row covers and in cold frames. Surprisingly, some beds are even growing without any protection! We’ve found that the crops under the frost cover are doing exceptionally well. The runner up is the cold frame. We are also starting to see our cover crop peek through the soil in hopes for a healthier soil next year.
Looks like positive things are happening all around. Thanks again for checking in on our progress. I hope you enjoyed learning about our Garden Club program!
Garden Coordinator–Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden