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What’s Growing On? A Mid-Summer Update

beans and peas on kid o infozuchinni on kid o info

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.

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  • Hi everyone-

    Thanks for all the comments!

    @Anna all of tomatoes are green as green can be. Actually, a few are just starting to turn…I think we need a few more days of sun to see that beautiful red!

    @Valerie we definitely need to do that. I didn’t know about the whole green/brown layering thing until recently so maybe this weekend when my green thumb sister is here, I can convince her to help 🙂

    @Katy Sorry about your compost! That is a bummer. Congrads on the tomato – saw your garden the other day and it looks GREAT!

    @Cricket I say we pick a date and head over. He will swoon to have his kidoinfo fan base descend upon him 🙂

  • we had no stench or fruit flies in our compost bin, following the greens/browns layering system valerie suggested above. BUT we instead had the problem of hiring some workers to move a shed across our yard and as a “free bonus” they removed our weird plastic bin of banana peels, dead flowers, and leaves. thanks, fellas!

    ok, and on the tomatoes–we have had ONE ripe one. we ate it! now there are tons of green ones, and even more plants with merely blossoms. good luck to us all.

  • Hi, Michelle – Wow, sounds like a wonderful garden! We had a similar problem with the compost when we got started (in fact, a much more urban, four-legged problem…ew!). I would say don’t wait until you have six inches of kitchen stuff…throw some dried leaves (aka “brown” material) in there now, water it a little, and mix it up a bit. That should clear up the smell and the flies, and hopefully the critters as well. Good luck!