Elizabeth wrote this as a Farewell to the Field or How to Move an 8,000-square foot Garden, but it also recaps nicely most of 2014 and what it was like to be a part of our garden last year. Ann
Most (sane) people cringe at moving a rose bush. The Dallas County Master Gardeners who regularly volunteer at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road took a collective deep breath this summer. Then they rolled up their sleeves and got to work moving the 8,000-plus square foot garden.
The 80- x 100-foot primary garden included the color wheel, raised vegetable beds (six 3- x 20-foot beds plus two smaller beds), the wildlife habitat, and an arbor. Cindy and Roger managed about eight rounds of compost measuring 5 feet across. A packed— and very dirty—garage of tools and assorted gardening gear, a kitchen, bins and a file cabinet of educational materials, tables and chairs, and a refrigerator rounded out the list. And one punch bowl!
The Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road had been in the same spot for nine years. Dallas County put the site on the market in June and within days had several contracts. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension told the master gardeners to circle December 31 on their calendar as the final exit date. (This date was later moved up six weeks to November 10.) Controlled panic ensued.
Ten brave souls volunteered to serve on the Relocation Committee. Of course, it’s a bit more difficult to relocate if you don’t know where you’re going, and you don’t know what to look for at proposed sites. Oh, and what’s yours at the old site to take with you?
The relocation committee had to keep up an off kilter tap dance; when the right foot was off tapping to one beat, the left foot had to be working just as hard—at something else entirely.
We brainstormed about possible locations in North Dallas, Carrollton or Farmer’s Branch to be close to our long-time volunteers. Churches, established master gardener projects, parks, and rec centers came to mind.
Lynn pulled together a site evaluation document that helped us compare, for example, parking capacity and availability of electricity at different site visits. A new handout explained the garden’s history and goals during site visits. A survey polled participants in the garden.
We knew we had a lot of “stuff” at the Joe Field site, but what—legally—belonged to us, to Dallas County, or to the new owners? First you have to know what you have. Volunteers went cabinet by shelf by garden path and listed everything in the garden. Sarah, who compiled five pages of inventory, became known as the “Queen of Stuff.”
The heat hovered in the high 90s with crushing humidity. What “better” time to drive all over North Dallas and look at possible sites for an 8,000-foot garden?
Some visits were rather formal: call, set up an appointment, meet with representatives, and walk all over the site. Others were a little more casual: drop in on a promising rec center and chat up the director. Jackie made phone call after phone call to the City of Dallas Parks Department. Some were mired in paperwork; others didn’t have meeting rooms or storage. Some were too far. Most didn’t have kitchens. Timelines weren’t in sync with some sites. In all, we looked at a community college, churches, an established master gardener project, a future master gardener project, and a rec center in August and September.
The tap dance speeded up. What about the plants at the Joe Field site? What could be safely moved? What stays? Do we have a spot for huge climbing roses? (Wait—we don’t know where we’re going.) When is it safe to move ——? How? Can you propagate the plant if it’s too large/established to move?
For answers, we turned to propagation guru Roseanne Ferguson, who graciously agreed to give a workshop in September. Jim and the potters started on iris in mid-August, which is the best time to divide corms. Daylilies and bulbs were next on the list. Volunteers walked through the garden trying to decide which plants could be relocated and which could more easily be bought as new plants for the new site.
The summer heat was like a blast furnace; record high ragweed added to the misery. The month passed without rain.
The tap dance picked up a different beat: money. Ann had always been careful with expenditures. Educational luncheons and plant sales added to the coffers this year. Still our savings were not even close to the large sums it takes to put in a new large garden. Elizabeth and Linda met for hours to plan Farewell to the Field, a goodbye fundraiser on November 4th. Plans were made to sell favorites from the Joe Field garden at the October 23rd Master Gardener meeting, including Basil Pesto, Lemon Verbena Jelly, and Pomegranate Jelly. Canning and baking started full tilt in the tiny Joe Field kitchen when it was too hot to work in the field. Gardeners turned on the heat in their own kitchens, and jar after jar of yummies were made for the craft sale. Volunteers offered to start looking into grants and foundations.
Site visits continued in the heat. It was very reassuring to the Joe Field volunteers that —like Sally Field at the Oscars—they like us. They really like us! Every visited location said they would welcome a garden like Joe Field.
Midway Hills Christian Church (MHCC) at Royal and Midway Roads kept coming to the top of the list of site candidates. The church, brought to our attention by Susan, a member and Joe Field gardener, had recently adopted a Green Chalice initiative. This goal, part of the national church, directed the small, but growing, congregation on a path to show stewardship of the environment. Its buildings, dating to the 1960s, had vacant space for Joe Field garden educational materials. The Dallas Cooperative Preschool had recently moved to an education wing of the church. The Da Vinci School buzzed next door; indeed, many private and public schools ringed the campus. A recent re-roofing was designed with gutter accommodations for rain barrels. A fellowship hall looked out onto a courtyard. A commercial kitchen could be reserved for luncheons. And best of all, there was land, almost a football field of land, waiting for a WaterWise garden.
Talks continued with representatives of the Joe Field site’s new owner, the Dallas County Commissioner, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension to nail down what belonged to whom and where it was finally going.
Our exit date moved up six weeks: November 10. Work on propagating, potting, labeling and charting exiting plants went into high gear. Hundreds of plants went to gardeners’ backyards to await their new home.
Annette and volunteers welcomed elementary students from Grace Academy to their fifth year of visiting Joe Field.
Clear, hot, dry. The first half of the month was fall only on the calendar.
Representatives of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension walked the proposed site at Midway Christian. Representatives of MHCC walked the garden at Joe Field.
Conversations continued with MHCC on what their plans were for different areas of the property. Volunteers brainstormed on future possibilities for the garden. Elizabeth and husband Mike measured and re-measured the MHCC property, the first stage of drawing up a garden conceptual plan.
The diggers and potters worked at a feverish pace. Susan directed Michele and Sue at the potting table under the shed. An unbelievable 300 cuttings and 678 plants were put in pots, registered, and sent to foster homes. Susan started babysitting plants at the TDG greenhouses for the new garden. Lisa’s color garden was almost empty, its plants dug and relocated.
Judy, Hans, and Jim took apart the arbor, its supports buried 4 feet deep by overeager Eagle Boy Scouts.
Annette, Judy, Sarah, Evelyn, Linda S., Kim, and Michele sorted, cleaned and boxed up the kitchen and dirty garage. What can be boxed up now? What do we need for upcoming events? Susan, Diana, Jean and Patty packed. Hans kept digging and digging.
Volunteers signed up to cook for the Farewell to the Field luncheon and the October bake and craft sale. Ceciliee and Cynthia whipped up some killer salsa for the sale. Jim and Tim said goodbye to our large water cisterns. Volunteers submitted names for the new garden. One proposed name was a riff on our blog, Dallas Garden Buzz. Sanity prevailed, and we did not adopt the Buzz-ards, as our nickname. We were now officially the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, an Earth-Kind® WaterWise Demonstration Garden, a collaboration of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Dallas County Master Gardener Association and Midway Hills Christian Church.
Ann and Lisa negotiated with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and MHCC on the project approval document. Elizabeth designed a conceptual plan showing how the color wheel, wildlife habitat and other parts of the Joe Field garden could be shaped into a new garden space at MHCC. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension approved the project at MHCC. Paul and Stephen, our MHCC contacts, presented the project and drawing to the church board meeting. Gary smiled and encouraged and helped.
It was time for the final move. Suburbans filled the parking lot. Exhausted volunteers rolled log seats onto Lisa’s trailer. Glenda was the ultimate trouper, showing up to help with a broken foot. Tomato supports, bamboo poles, worm boxes, and box after box of materials went into waiting vehicles. When items like the refrigerator and loaf cistern were too large to move, Abbe and Neil came to the rescue with large trailers. Cindy and Roger moved all the compost. As our Joe Field garden emptied, the storage sheds and unused playground at MHCC filled. Dallas County came to claim their part of the garden.
Linda spent Halloween Friday afternoon setting up for the Farewell to the Field fundraiser—at Joe Field. But the weather report kept getting worse, and by Monday the outdoor luncheon had to be moved five miles at the last minute to the MHCC fellowship hall to escape a driving rain. Patty borrowed chairs. The church had lots of tables, but few tablecloths that matched. Almost 50 guests for the feast had a golf umbrella escort through the pouring rain, with more than 20 volunteers cooking, serving, and setting up. The MHCC pastor bought a pumpkin cheesecake at the bake sale and added a nice contribution to our new garden.
Carolyn, Gail, Elizabeth, and Dorothy worked frantically to pull together a budget request for the November 11 board meeting, two weeks after the Farewell luncheon. Emails flew as they pinned down costs for items like crushed concrete, drip tubing, and boards for the new raised beds. Carolyn consolidated the project’s goals and accomplishments with a power point presentation using Starla’s pictures. Gail worked and reworked the presentation. Elizabeth crunched numbers. Dorothy gave great ideas. Ana researched the number of master gardeners and schools near MHCC. Members of the DCMG board were invited to MHCC to see the site of the new garden. About 25 garden volunteers waited through a long morning of presentations at the board meeting. To the relief of the volunteers, the board approved enough money to put in phase one of the long awaited garden.
As with any large project, it takes the talent and hard work of many people. The gardeners at the new Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills are ready to begin the new year!
Pictures by Starla