Monday, June 3, 2013

new spring garden

Hello! My name is Nick, and you may have seen my hands in some of Gina's food photos that have appeared on words & whisks.  While I like to tell her that I could start a second career as a hand model, my real jobs for the blog are Official Taste-Tester (sorry, Mia) and Official Dish-Washer.  Today, Gina (finally) let me write a guest-post for her blog.

As the main waterer and planter of the garden, I'm here to talk about Gina's new backyard garden. We are both very excited about the garden; it is the first time that I have done any gardening, which is interesting because my father is a PhD botanist.  I guess it took until adulthood for his passion for gardening to transfer to me.

Note: despite my hands appearing occasionally in blog posts, these are not my feet. I can't pull-off a pair of pink Hunters. (Gina just wants it to rain so that she can wear her rain boots.)

While Gina has talked about starting a vegetable garden all spring, the actual planting of the garden was a spur-of-the-moment decision.  One weekend afternoon about a month ago, Gina  convinced her dad to drive over with his power tiller and carve out a small patch of land in her back yard.  The garden itself is about a 15' x 15' square, which isn't very big, but hopefully I can convince her to expand it next year.  Who wants to mow grass, anyway? 

We based the vegetable selection on a few factors: 1) what vegetables we could plant in mid-May and get to grow (most of them), 2) what we cook a lot with, and 3) what we thought would grow readily in a midwestern, urban garden.  We originally settled on: sweet corn, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, and basil.  We later added snow peas, green onions, and winter squash in the space we had left. 

So far, the corn and tomatoes are growing beautifully.  The corn was planted too close together on the assumption that not all of the seeds would germinate.  Once they are about two feet tall, we will pull-up the extra plants to leave 8"-12" between each plant in the row.  Pictured above is the corn; below are tomatoes growing into the trellises.

When Gina's dad tilled the soil, he not only repeatedly commented on the quality of the soil--"Wow, this is great soil, Gina!"--he also worked the tiller like he was riding a mechanical bull.  (I thought he kind of looked like Vince Vaughn in Zoolander when he is mining coal with the jackhammer.)

When he was finished tilling the soil and planting the seeds he gave Gina his best advice for the garden: "You have good soil. Just nurture it, Gina. Nurture it."  We both thought this statement was hilarious, even though I don't think it was intended to be.

Meanwhile, we've also attempted to start a compost pile in the backyard.  We began by piling all of the kitchen scraps and grass clippings, along with dead leaves into a brick kiln-like structure at the edge of the property.  Unfortunately, with the amount of sun exposure there, the compost pile was getting dried out, and didn't work.  Unsure what to do, I phoned my dad, who would know what to do.  His advice: "Nick, it's compost. It's not that hard. You're a scientist. Figure it out."  #classicdadline2.0

Later, he gave me some actual advice for urban composting -- take an old plastic garbage bin with a lid (one of those big Rubbermaid ones) and drill some holes in the bottom of the bin.  Then, layer your compost into the garbage can and water it down.  Keep the lid shut.  In a month or so, your starter compost pile should be ready, and you can keep mixing additional material into the compost.  The run-off water from the compost bin will be nutrient-dense, so you can position it strategically around the yard to allow it to enrich the soil/grass/plants. The key to good compost is to have a 50:50 ratio of carbon:nitrogen (brown stuff to green table scrap stuff).  Also, the compost needs to be kept moist.   If it's hot in the middle of the pile, it's working.

You can even compost in a heavy-duty black garbage bag. Make your 50:50 starter pile in the bag, water it down heavily, seal the bag up, and toss the bag around occasionally to mix. The heavy plastic bag will trap all the heat and moisture. 

Oh, and of course we have a nice pink satin ribbon to mark the edges of our corn row.

Thanks, Gina, for letting me write a post:  Nurture your blog, Gina!

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