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Liven up your green space for Earth Day

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The first few breezes of fresh spring air are reminders for how rejuvenating green is after a season full of snow, coats and blankets. Grand ambitions for gardens start to grow as well. But without a plan, many of the intentions for a yard full of blooms can fall into neglect.

To help any aspiring plant parent make the most of their budding green thumbs, Franklin Park Conservatory Supervisor Win Fox shares his wisdom for how to nurture plants both inside a living space and out in a garden.


Think about space and lifestyle

When thinking about what kinds of plants are most suitable for a living space, the first consideration is the window location. Plants need certain amounts of light, so northern or eastern-facing windows are better suited for low-light plants, while southern or western windows can sustain plants that need a bit more sunshine.

Photos by Brian Kaiser

Second, think about the actual amount of space available; the fiddle leaf fig—a crowd favorite, according to Fox—isn’t going to fit on a table, for example. “You’ve just got to make sure you have space for it because that’s a tree,” Fox said. “We have one at the conservatory that fills up our whole Palm House practically. It’s 60 feet tall.”

Finally, Fox says thinking about how much care you are willing to dedicate to taking care of plants is important. There are plants, like the ZZ palm, that only require watering every now and then. But he says that once someone starts working with plants, they’ll only get more involved. “It’s one of those hobbies that, once you get the ball rolling, you can’t really stop.”

Be an attentive, but not a helicopter, plant parent

Although some garden centers will advise plants be watered at specific intervals, say, once a month, Fox says knowing when to water is more based on what the soil looks like. Soil should never be bone dry, but if you stick a finger into it when the top layer is dry and feel some dampness underneath, you can probably wait a day or two to water. Alternatively, the plant’s soil shouldn’t always be wet because then it could rot or even drown.

Fox recommends keeping plants on top of a saucer in a ceramic planter, which allows the plant to breathe, with a drainage hole on the bottom. A decent rule is that in the winter when plants aren’t growing as quickly, they need less water, whereas in the summer they might need more. 

Additionally, first moving a plant from the store to a home can cause the plant stress. Garden centers, for example, tend to be more humid and have more light, compared to the dryness and darkness of a house, particularly during the winter and early spring. 

“Your plant might start to exhibit some signs of stress right away, and you think you’ve done something wrong,” Fox said. “Then you changed the environment again, and it’s still not doing better, and you kind of lose hope.”

When people ask him what’s wrong with their plants, Fox says his frequent advice is to be patient. “[The plant] has just, you know, been through a lot right now.”

 Want to start a garden? Many of the same rules apply

As in picking a house plant, deciding on a concept for a garden also means factoring in lighting. Summer annual vegetables have high light demands, so Fox says the garden needs southern exposure and at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. 

Soil is the next consideration. Here in Ohio the soil has a lot of clay, which means people tend to amend theirs with compost or other organic material to ensure it has enough nutrients for the plants to thrive. With that in mind, Fox also said new gardens will tend to have enough nutrients in the existing soil to grow. 

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Start seeds early, and keep them hydrated once they’re outside
Fox says plants available at garden centers starting in May are typically good options for a beginner garden. Tomatoes and summer squashes like zucchini are great for the warm season, but Fox even recommended trying out fall squashes like pumpkins and butternuts. For those wanting to branch out a bit, Fox says at the conservatory they like to grow okra and beans, though those are prime target for bunnies and groundhogs.

If you want to start with your own seeds in the future, early spring is the best time to get those planted and growing in a sunny windowsill. Starting seeds early gives them time to germinate, sprout, and grow a few inches before it’s time to move them outside in May, once the chance of frost has passed. In contrast, cool season vegetables like cabbages and broccolis can go in the ground in March. 

Unlike house plants, the transition from inside to outside won’t cause as much stress to garden plants. They’re less finicky and tend to be happy in the ground, says Fox. 

The key to a successful planting, though, is to water immediately after the sprouts go in the ground and every day for a couple weeks until the roots expand into the surrounding soil, while monitoring for wilting, Fox said. 

“You’ll be tending to them in their little pots, and they’ll have nice roots down in your potting soil, and they’ll be happy all the moisture’s going to be trapped in there.” Fox said. “Once you get them in the ground, that will stress them a little bit…. Your soil is probably going to draw moisture away from the root zone.”

Keep the animals away

Gardeners have a wide range of innovative strategies to keep their plots animal- and bug-free. Fox says small fences work for rodents, groundhogs rabbits, and a bigger fence, if possible, will also keep away deer. 

There’s also a strange variety of repellents. Some use garlic and other spices and oils like cinnamon and clove. Some people use products that contain dried blood, which elicits a fear response in animals. Others hang aluminum pans that clang when the wind blows, or they’ll snag hair clippings from a local barber shop or salon, stuff those in pantyhose and make the garden area smell as if people are around.

Figuring out how to keep plants alive can seem like a daunting task, especially for those with a dismal history. But Fox says he and the horticulture team at the Franklin Park Conservatory are ready to give advice on keeping plants healthy and happy. 

“If you’re looking for inspiration to anybody who’s looking to get into gardening, we’re a great place to stop by and our horticulture staff will be […] happy to answer any questions that you may have.”

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers gardening classes for kids and adults and several plant sales throughout the year. Visit fpconservatory.org to more information.

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The Muffins vintage “base ball” team pays homage to a traditional pastime

J.R. McMillan

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When Aaron Seddon first stepped up to the plate nearly a decade ago for the Ohio Village Muffins, he was actually stepping back in time. It wasn’t the same game he’d played in his youth. The rules and uniforms were unfamiliar, and pushing 30 as a walk-on wasn’t out of the ordinary. Even the spelling was different. This was 1860 vintage “base ball.”

No that’s not a typo—and no, the whole team didn’t forget their gloves either.

“When we’re talking to spectators about the differences in the game, they’re immediately concerned that we aren’t wearing gloves. That kind of protective gear didn’t enter the game until the 1870s,” explained Seddon. “We get a lot of our recruits from people who come to matches, who are intrigued by what we’re doing. We’re a close-knit group, even o the field. We’re a team, but we’re also a family.”

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Long before the days of hot dogs and dugouts, what we now know as baseball was played in fields and empty lots from Cooperstown to Hoboken. Historians still dispute the exact origin story of the sport, but generally agree that it was the inevitable intermingling of Union and Confederate troops that transformed the game into a national pastime.

But Columbus has its own history, mixed with a little folklore. Before the war, there were exactly zero baseball teams in the capital city, but shortly after its end, there were six. Players learned the sport from fellow soldiers from New York and New Jersey who brought bats and balls with them to pass the time between battles. Even the hand signals still used today for balls, strikes, “safe” and “out” arguably owe credit to the Ohio School for the Deaf in Clintonville, put into play a decade later to help their hearing-impaired athletes compete as equals.

Which brings us back to the matter of the Muffins. When the Ohio History Connection started their vintage baseball program in 1981, there was no prototype, only a rulebook. Recruiting most of that first team from their employees, they couldn’t help having some self-deprecating fun at their future expense. In the early days of baseball, your best players were referred to as the “first nine” followed by the “second nine.” Everyone left on the bench were called the “muffins.” A “mu ” was period vernacular for an error, back before they were counted. The name was so inside baseball, it was perfect.

“The umpire’s role isn’t really to arbitrate the game. He’s there to settle disputes between the players they can’t adjudicate themselves,” Seddon noted. “And the pitcher’s role is to facilitate hitting. In modern baseball, your pitcher is your best defensive player, to prevent the ball from getting into play. The game we play is before it became professional. Everyone was an amateur back then.”

Fans will also notice a suspicious absence of balls and strikes. Newspapers from the era report some batters taking 50 or more pitches waiting for just the right one, because if a hit was caught on the first bounce, it still counted as an out.

“Probably the biggest difference between modern baseball and the game we play is—if an opponent makes a really good play—everyone cheers,” Seddon revealed. “We’re playing a competitive game, we’re obviously both out there to win the match. But there’s much more camaraderie between the teams.”

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Speaking of the other team, the Ohio History Connection has more than one vintage baseball club. Much as the rise of men’s baseball inspired impromptu games among women well before Vassar College started the first formal women’s program in 1866, the Diamonds played their first match in 1994. Despite their parallel history and popularity, many of the early women’s vintage baseball teams have since consolidated or faded away, making matches more challenging.

Like the Muffins, the Diamonds also represent the game as it was played in 1860, which for women of the era was strictly recreational. The rules were the same, but even playing in back fields among themselves, the ladies often caused quite a social stir with their attire.

“We wear period-accurate dresses made from patterns of actual garments considered either a camp dress or a work dress. Someone who first starts out may play in a long skirt and a white blouse,” explained Jackie Forquer, who has played for the Diamonds for more than two decades. “We don’t play as many games as the men, but the time commitment is also less. We play festivals and exhibitions games. Our players who come from a softball background see this as another way to share their love of the game.”

Both the Muffins and Diamonds are technically historical “interpreters” who interact with spectators much as players would have in 1860, sometimes to exacting detail. Forquer, who plays first base, is sometimes the first ambassador for vintage baseball folks may meet, either through school programs or at the beginning of a game, with Diamonds matches often preceding the Muffins. Never breaking character, she’ll politely ask the umpire to seek the approval of the audience before women roll up or remove their sleeves before beginning play. Showing so much skin used to be scandalous.

Every organization has a historian, but vintage baseball happens to have an actual one. Dr. Jim Tootle came to the original version of the game later in life than most, but has still managed to outlast many of his peers. Having retired as assistant dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences at Ohio State, his passion for preservation is as infectious as his laugh.

“I’ve gotten to play in four major league parks from coast to coast. I thought my playing days were winding down when I stumbled upon this, and I’ve probably played 600 to 700 vintage games,” Tootle recalled. “It’s been a wonderful experience to represent the Ohio History Connection on our home field at The Ohio Village, but also to travel the state and the country.”

Tootle actually has written the book on vintage baseball—two in fact, not counting a third still used by prospective vintage baseball teams across the country trying to get their start.

“It’s like Civil War reenacting in a way because we give great attention to accuracy—interpreting the rules, our uniforms, and our equipment. And yet, the moment the first pitch is thrown, it’s not a reenactment anymore. It’s a real game, and we don’t know who is going to win,” Tootle chided. “I have to laugh watching ESPN anytime there’s a barehanded catch. They go nuts and show it three or four times. I feel like saying, ‘Come out to a vintage baseball game, every catch is a barehanded catch. Gloves weren’t even invented yet.’

For a complete schedule of games, including the 2019 Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival featuring 30 teams from across the country, visit ohiohistory.org

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(614)-360: Mystifying scenes from within Otherworld

Mike Thomas

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As avid 614NOW readers already know, Otherworld is an incredible immersive art space on Columbus’ east side that allows visitors the opportunity to step outside of the bounds of normal reality.

If you still haven’t checked out Otherworld in person, we hope this sampling of some of the incredible 360 views found within will kickstart your curiosity.

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Needless to say, these images pale in comparison to the real thing. Visit Otherworld for yourself, and discover all of the wonder and mystery that awaits. Until then, view our 360 gallery below to kick-start your curiosity.

Pro-tip: hit the “expand” button on the gallery’s top-right corner for a fullscreen view of the images.

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Brand new festival to bring adventure to your summer

614now

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A brand new festival is running, jumping, and climbing into Columbus later this summer. Scioto Fest will be a four-day adventure celebrating all things Scioto Audubon September 12- 15.

This dog- and kid-friendly event will include a Yappy Hour for big kids and their pups, and outdoor moving screenings for the little kids. Live music, vendors, and giveaways are to be enjoyed by all!

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From climbing, to camping, to slacklining, Scioto Fest is sure to get your adrenaline flowing.

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