Our Garden is Growing on Us

Plants spring up through holes in mat coverings over the garden.

Photos courtesy: Dale Mittler/Instagram

It’s now been about 6 months since all the planning of the 10,000 square-foot garden directly behind the Ronald McDonald House really began to come to fruition. The plans for the garden had actually begun last year, by Alex Paquet, Summer Fellow from The Columbus Foundation during his position with our chapter. After dilapidated houses had been razed on the lots, which RMHC of Central Ohio had recently acquired, the ground began to be prepared to become a large home for vegetables, fruits, & herbs. When it was planned, it was expected that we could have large groups of volunteers helping to start and regularly tend to the garden. Then COVID-19 interrupted that plan. Though there was a pause in the cultivation of the garden, the determination to make this garden happen couldn’t be stunted. In fact, it seemed more important than ever to get the garden going.

Since the cold start, one regularly-scheduled volunteer has really made it his mission to make the dream of a garden a reality. Bill Mount already spent a lot of time outside at the House, mowing the lawns. An avid gardener, he was determined to get this large outdoor space prepared for planting. Now, he was bringing a much bigger tractor to the House, to till the soil in the garden. But this soil is city soil. All kinds of brick and pipe pieces and stones had to be hand-picked from the soil for the tiller on the back of his tractor to do its job. With now only some staff coming into the House, besides the families themselves, it was decided that the available staff would get busy helping to remove large objects from the dirt, at a physical distance and with masks on. That would be a great start, but volunteers were still needed for the next steps.

When the governor gave the word that our state would begin to slowly re-open, that allowed us to schedule a few small groups to come help prepare the garden for planting. Being a large, open space outside, it was determined only a few small group of volunteers could come help Bill get the garden started while taking distancing precautions. After the weed mats were laid over the ground, a torch device was used to burn holes in the covering to begin planting. One of the small groups to help with this process was a group of doctors affiliated with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The garden was now well on its way to becoming like a small farm field, as one volunteer called it.

Now, we’re proud to announce that we have the following vegetables planted: sweet corn, Indian corn, broccoli, cauliflower,  cabbage, onions, and 150 tomato plants. Pole, bush, & wax beans; summer, zucchini, butternut, & spaghetti squash; garlic;  & collard greens are all ready to be harvested. Some kale has been harvested along with all of the butter lettuce. Cantaloupes & raspberry bushes are also in the growing along with sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, and Eucalyptus.

 

There have been grassy cross paths established in the garden to walk around the different plots, which intersect with a round center area where more than 20 varieties of herbs surround a banana tree. Wire tunnels have also been built where vines producing gourds are climbing up the sides. Bill says, “the size of this garden is similar to the size of a large production garden.”  But as all of the plants in the garden are reaching for the sun, cattle paneling is used to really make use of the ground space by training the plants to grow upward, making use of all the space. Volunteer Director Kate Becker says, “I envision the garden helping us feed 300 people a day.” The cost of food for families staying in such a large House as ours, finding affordable food can be quite challenging. “We’re feeding so many people, we needed enough food to actually feed our families,” Kate said. That’s exactly what’s happening now. Our Chef Blair Arms has already used beets and and lettuce in recipes for our families. Thanks to the few volunteer groups that have made it happen.