Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Happy Punkin Day

Until I graduated from high school, I always called pumpkins, “punkins.” Maybe this was just my Kansas-born dialect coming out or maybe it was from the nickname my grandpa had for me, but either way, I got made fun of for it. My nickname in track and cross country during high school was Punkin, and when we got Internet for the first time, my AIM screen name was Punkin215.

Now that I’m almost 30, I am finally pronouncing it correctly. As I mentioned in the last post, my family came to visit last weekend and we had a blast carving “pumpkins.” They have one more night of glory on the front porch (full of bugs and candle wax) until they become compost!

The finished product, from left to right - Papa's punkin, Mom's punkin, and Blair's punkin


Santa Claus melon: The verdict is in

The verdict? It’s delicious.

So delicious that we decided to create a photo montage to express our happiness with the mystery melon.

Isn’t Blair such a good Santa Claus melon model?

Ok, now for what you probably were really wondering. What did it taste like? It was pretty sweet. It definitely didn’t taste like honeydew or cantaloupe – maybe something in between. I think we picked the first one before it was completely ripe. It was a bit crunchy, but good. Kathy even got to try a slice.

We picked the second one (and last one) just a few days ago. It was even better and juicier. This one tasted more like a cantaloupe, but I think it was still sweeter. It was much greener inside and much more yellow on the outside. After reading some of the articles you all posted to the blog, we learned how to tell when it was ripe.

 There aren’t many spring crops left in the garden now! Just a few more tomatoes on the Costoluto Genovese and a couple jalepenos still growing. We cleaned out all of the beds today (before it hit 100 outside) to prep them for late summer/fall crops and even got a few things into the ground! More on that to come…

Thanks for playing along with “name that melon.” You never know what the compost fairy will bring.

Name that melon

We didn’t plan to grow melons this summer, but our compost had other plans in store for the garden.

When you use compost, you get all the richness of great soil, but you also get some mysteries. When you throw food scraps into your pile, oftentimes those scraps contain seeds, and once your garden starts growing, you notice things popping up here and there that you didn’t intentionally grow. One of these mysteries is said melon.

This is the younger of the two melons growing. It's about the size of a large grapefruit.

This is the older melon. It's just a bit smaller than a football.

Our best guess is cantaloupe, but we aren’t sure. It doesn’t look ripe, but how do we know when to pick it? Here’s a closer look at the vine if that helps anyone identify it. Please help a gardener out!

Melon vine climbing along the bed's perimeter

The journey to becoming Citizen Gardeners

We’re on a quest for gardening knowledge – soaking in what we can a little at a time. After reading more about becoming a master gardener (at least 50 hours of training and 50 hours of volunteer service), we decided to start smaller. I found a program in Austin called the Citizen Gardener, about 10 hours of training and 10 hours of volunteer work. Now that sounded doable!

We gave it a shot and completed the 10 hours of training last weekend and are now looking at volunteer opportunities. We learned all about choosing and prepping a site, using square foot gardening and lasagna gardening techniques for raised beds, and turning household trash and scraps into compost – thanks to our great teachers, Jared and Les.

With both techniques, we learned that you should pick a good site (one that gets eight hours of sun a day, is aesthetically pleasing, is relatively flat, etc.) and prep that site. Remove any large rocks; wet the ground thoroughly; start the microbial process of the existing soil by throwing down items high in nitrogen (coffee grounds, food scraps, etc.); lay down cardboard on top of your scraps to act as a weed blocker; and water the cardboard well! Then, you’re ready to place your bed on top of the cardboard.

Square food garden

Don't forget to mulch around your bed!

With square foot gardening, you measure out your bed in square foot sections. We built a pretty portable 4×4 ft. bed, which is typical for a square foot garden. Another principle of this technique is close plant spacing, also a principle of biointensive gardening. I didn’t realize you could pretty much halve the spacing recommendations on seed packets. By planting your veggies closer together, you create a cover of sorts to keep your soil bed moist and prevent erosion. Besides, this is how plants generally grow in nature.

With lasagna gardening, you create a raised bed using layers of compostable items – hay, chicken manure, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, and other items you’d put into a compost bin. This may be a cheaper option if you don’t have compost soil readily available at home because filling an entire 4×4 ft. bed can be expensive when you use good dirt. Having these two beds side-by-side will be helpful for crop rotation during the next planting season.

Composting with Citizen Gardeners

Les, Blair, and Jared working on the compost bin.

We also talked a lot about “growing your own soil,” aka composting – layering browns (carbon) and greens (nitrogen) to create good dirt. We got creative with our compost bin, constructing it with five used palettes and some old wire, filling it with plenty of interesting items. Blair, being the only male in the class of about 15-20 women, was tasked to “stir” the bed.

We also learned that you can find usable garden items in the most unexpected places (used palettes from grocery stores, food scraps from a local school cafeteria or your own kitchen, coffee grounds from Starbucks, scrap wood, leaf trimmings, PVC pipe, chicken wire, and even neighbors’ junk). We also learned about a cool Web site (, where people give away things they just don’t want anymore. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, or so the saying goes.

Despite having some pretty crummy weather for an outdoor class (about 34 degrees our first Saturday morning and raining the second Saturday morning), I think the course was a great hands-on experience for beginner gardeners to learn general techniques for starting or improving a garden. Plus, you get to meet some cool people and hear about their experiences in the garden. We’ll all meet up again in May for a potluck (if we don’t run into each other sooner volunteering around town)!