Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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Scenes from the Field: July 15, 2019

Wow. What a difference a month makes. The last time I posted, it was unseasonably cool and rainy. Now it’s hot as Hades and hasn’t rained in nearly two weeks. I HATE JULY. This is the time of year when I feel like I’m failing as a farmer. Every damn year.

Turning over from Spring to Summer crops is hard. Our small scale, with related drawn-out harvests, and intercropping practices are part of the issue, but also a benefit. Our celery and radicchio bed, for example, provided offerings for over a month. But for much of that time I was in a holding pattern planning for what would come next. Once enough of that spring crop was harvested, I set beans. They germinated well but it will be a little while until we’re eating from them. Where the garlic came out a few weeks ago, I had winter squash seedlings ready to take their place, but keeping those happy in their move, as the sun beat down on them, wasn’t easy. There were casualties. But we carry on…

Radicchio interplanted with Blue Lake bush beans.

Today, as I take a break from the hot jobs of moving compost and fiddling with the irrigation system, I’m happy to share some images I captured during the past month.

We enjoyed lots more greens and herbs…

… roots …

…and the first tomatoes of the season.

Members of the CSA have been showing up to help get the irrigation installed in an effort to ensure the second half of the season is as strong as the first.

For more regular updates about what’s happening around the farm, follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook.


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Scenes from the Field: June 11, 2019

What a week. The weather here in central Ohio has been off the charts. It’s currently 56 degrees and raining. That’s downright nasty for this time of year. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re lucky.

Large scale farmers in the region have been struggling with too much rain, combined with unseasonably cool temperatures that have prevented evaporation, and have abandoned the idea of planting their fields this year. Too bad those folks are so big into corn and soy that they can’t imagine how to shift gears to something else. There’s still SO much time left in the season.

Here’s a few shots from the field I took earlier in the week.

Welcome to the jungle.

There’s a lot growing out back at this point. The spring crops are just about gone and the summer stuff is taking over, slowly. Will be interesting to see if there are long term implications of tonight’s 50 degree dip.

The hens are driving me nuts. They refuse to stay on their side of the fence. In good moments I imagine they are eating the squash bug larve. But most of the time, when they’re scratching indiscriminately (uprooting seedlings) and eating the kale, I just want them out!

Cora’s poppies are doing great! She and I harvested seed for these from a neighbor’s yard last year and she set them in soil in the basement over the winter one day (on her own!). We sold a bunch at our plant sale in April and I’m hearing good reports from friends who took them home. I’m a proud (human and plant) momma.


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Field Trip: Freshtown Farm

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One of the best parts of my gig leading the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club are the field trips. These three evenings provide a great excuse for me to get out during the season and see what other farmers in Columbus are up to. Tonight we visited with Marcie Todd at Freshtown Farm, at their northside growing site. 

The kids (and their parents) had a great time walking around checking out the space, a parcel FF leases from a generous long-time supporter of urban growers. The site is just over two miles from our farm, but feels like the country.

We tasted young hibiscus leaves, broccoli, zucchini, and mulberries. And we got to meet and pet the property owner’s two goats – both males so no milk, sadly…

This aspect of the program really gives the kids perspective on the various ways people are growing in our city. Meeting the folks they see at the market is good for the farmers too. Our kids (and their parents, aka the ones who have the money!) are excited to go find Marcie’s booth and buy her produce.

A final note of thanks to the folks at Acre for a gift card we presented to Marcie to thank her for the time she gave us. If you haven’t eaten there, summer is a perfect time to try their farm-to-table offerings.


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Scenes from the Field: May Catchup

Here’s a bunch of photos from this past month. Those who follow us on the book of faces or instagrams might have seen some of these already. Lucky you. Reruns in the age of media bombardment ain’t all that bad…

May 19th we had a HIGHLY productive work day. A steady stream of CSA folks through the gates helped get lots of tasks knocked off the chore list.

I continue to be amazed by how great everything is doing this season. The plants in the ground are booming and so far the succession planning is going well. CSA members are impressed by the size of the bags they are picking up. One this past weekend asked, “This is all for us?!”

I’m going to say no more lest I jinx the whole thing. You can see the bounty for yourself. I’m proud.


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Season 3: CFM Kids Garden Club @OTFUF

We’re thrilled to be hosting the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club for a third season! (Seriously, about the exclamation point.)

A few kids came around in late April for a garden cleanup as part of Earth Day Columbus’s week of service. We got started with our regular weekly meetings the third week in May.

There are lots of new participants which is exciting. The veterans are moving up into mentorship roles – leading weeding and seeding jobs, reading to the younger kids, and setting a great example as they model appreciation and respect for the work we do together.

The first session we planted tomatoes and strawberries gifted to us by our friends at Mother’s Peace Urban Farm and Animal’s Garden collective. When they weren’t planting in their space, the kids went on a scavenger hunt for different flowers around the farm. Our last five-ten minutes are always reserved for visiting with the hens.

Our second session the older kids read Peter Brown’s Curious Garden to the younger kids. And everyone worked hard to get the herb, eggplant, pepper, and sunflower plants Swainway Urban Farm donated to us in the ground. We’re so thankful for all the support we get for this program from our local urban farming community.

The kids tasted a range of things we’re harvesting on the farm now. The snow peas were an obvious favorite. That so many of them ate the celery shocked and amazed me.


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Scenes from the Field: 2.3.2019

Yesterday the sun came out and melted the dumping of snow we got last Friday, which followed a multi-day Polar Vortex that brought temperatures down to 0 degrees with windchills around -25.

As I ventured out back to see what survived, I was reminded of a story Eliot Coleman tells in Four-Season Harvest. I’m quoting it at length because a) I love it, and b) because it remains an inspiration for the season extension work we do at Over the Fence, and the seasonal eating we do in our home.

During [our] January trip across France, we had an experience that emphasized the point. We were visiting the Jardin des Plantes in Montpelier, one of the oldest botanical gardens in France. Like many such venerable institutions, it was showing its age. Some of the walls were beginning to crumble and panes were missing in unused glasshouses. But we were not there for the architecture. We had come to see the “non-existent” vegetables. When we had called ahead to learn the winter hours and had inquired about the vegetable garden, the nice Frenchman on duty told us not to waste our time because the vegetable garden was “non-existent” in the winter. Ah, well, we had heard that song before. “There is nothing in the garden” is usually synonymous with “it doesn’t look nice like it did last summer.”

The vegetable garden at the Jardin des Plants occupies one quarter of a parterre in front of the orangerie. Admittedly it probably did look nicer during the summer, but it was just what we wanted to find in January. Despite the disclaimers of the garden staff, this abandoned Zone 9 garden, which had probably seen no care since October, still contained ready-to-pick crops of chard, salsify and scorzonera, six different types of lettuces, radicchio, sorrel, mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens, kale, cabbages, winter radish, red and green scallion, leeks, and spinach. If that garden were in our backyard, we would have considered it a source of fresh main course and salad vegetables for the rest of the winter. It was a cornucopian example of a garden truth we have long notes–if you just look around in a post-season garden, you will almost always find something to eat.

After you read this post, head out to your winter garden and see if you can score some greens for your next meal. Here’s what I found yesterday, when the high got up to 55.

Not too surprisingly, Tatsoi did great.

Lacinato Kale is also tough and super cold hardy.

The few heads of  Napa Cabbage still hanging around lived to see another day.

And even these tiny heads of Romaine (which I left as a test) were insulated enough to survive.

The Arugula I didn’t chop down in January still tastes amazing.  Hoping for a small bounce back crop from these plants as temperatures return to the 30 and 40s.

The Swiss Chard was glowing.

A few heads of Raddichio are waiting for their turn at the table.

This Pac Choi was in the high tunnel, under a second cover, but managed to get burned. Need to investigate that.

Another cold weather winner, Giant Red Mustard, is ready for a growth spurt to welcome back Persephone.

As are these baby Red Russian Kale. Though they look like they could use a drink of water. The high tunnel can get a little dry this time of year. Might try to catch some of the rain coming this week and move it in before the overnight temperatures dip down again.

Our cold frame-within the high tunnel started seedlings are patiently awaiting transplant. In this box, Pac Choi, Red Russian Kale, and Tatsoi…

…and here, spinach….

…which looks amazing up close, and tastes like good health.

The biggest Polar Vortex surprise by far is that one of the chickens started laying! I suspect Hermione or Ginny since their combs and waddles are the most fully formed. Won’t be much longer until we’re (happily) drowning in eggs again!

As a reward, the girls got to come under one of the low tunnels for a snack and dust bath.

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And the humans all enjoyed post-Vortex salads with dinner!