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By Michelle Riggen-Ransom

Lately I’ve been spending far too much time over at the Pop!Tech blog, blinding myself with science. I need more nature! Fortunately, I have a lovely husband and son who’ve been tending to our garden over these past few weeks, so I wanted to provide a mid-summer garden check-in.

Let me remind everyone that this was our first attempt at gardening (we’re no TJ Sondermann) and we’ve had some challenges. But that’s what gardening is all about, right? Experimenting with what works with your soil conditions, light, fertilizer, etc. Well, that and growing some major veggies!

I’ll start literally from the ground up: compost. We bought what in retrospect was a much too large compost bin and have been diligently feeding it our non-dairy, vegetarian table scraps. However, equally diligent have been the Night-time Creepers, who sneak into our yard, break apart the little side door on the bin and strew smelly, half-rotted food along our fence line. We finally had to duct tape the door shut, which so far has been successful. What can’t be solved with duct tape?

Another bummer is that every time you pop open the top of the compost bin, a translucent army of fruit flies zips giddily into your eyes and up your nose. With all that fly action, some very clever spiders have taken up residence and even laid eggs in there. Between the smell and the flies and the spiders, I’ve decided taking out the compost is an excellent chore for my son. Next step will be adding some soil or manure once we’ve got six inches of kitchen stuff piled up (which is taking a while since the bin is sooo big).

Our sunflowers were munched by something early on. Apparently, sunflower shoots are so deliciously tempting to critters that they are actually pretty hard to grow, at least if you have a lot of critters. We lost most of our peas to last month’s hailstorm, and we over-watered our radishes, meaning no harvest of my current favorite snack. Boo!

Now for the good stuff. My family loves taking “garden walks” on the stone paths we laid out to inspect the daily changes, so that’s been really fun. Our organic pest control method has thus far consisted of flicking a few beetles off of our beans, so our plan of doing nothing has worked out well. We’ve got rocking cucumbers, a few baby pumpkins, crazy bushes of tomatoes, and lots of luscious squash blossoms. Our three different eggplant varieties are all healthy. With the recent rains and lots more sun ahead of us, everything is fixing to grow.

I’ll post again at harvest time. For now, I hope everyone’s gardens are growing well. Feel free to send in some pictures of your family and their gardening efforts; if we get enough, we’ll post a roundup so you can show off your bounty!

Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is an occasional column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.