Being Green, Gardening and Why I Blame my Kid

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So often you hear "It is all my parents fault" occasionally I even hear m mother taking the blame for my occasionally caustic personality thought I'm fairly certain I've never blamed her for my questionable vocabulary and sharp tongue. Not that she is shy by any means just a little more diplomatic.

In this case I'm blaming my kid instead of the other way around. It all started in the spring while the youngest was I the second grade. She came home all wound up about needing to save the earth. In fairness I've been a pretty green guy for years. I've used organic lawn care products long before I most people had the environment as top of mind. Speaking of organic I've bought organic when its available for the past decade and local all my life. What I wouldn't say is that by any means am I an environmentalist. In fact while I've claimed to be a lot of things an environmentalist has never been one of them. Buying green due to a fear of cancer and a shorter life, buying local because I liked the farmers market, the fresher products and the people selling me my veggies. In both cases I did the right thing by accident and not as a conscious act.

So anyway here she comes bouncing along at nine years old excited, full of great ideas and decked out in her often present pig tails. First she tells me how much wood is wasted and placed in land fills rather than being used for other projects or recycles. I don't question the percentage or amount she quote to me like gospel. All I say is "oh really" before she launches in to more statistical evidence provided by a well meaning science teacher. OK fine she's been heard I get it and leave the 2x4's and 1x3's from the recently disassembled dog cage in the basement and I built poorly constructed, unattractive but completely functional trellis complete with reused untangled kite string for the beans and climbing flowers to crawl up. My mother's father would have been so proud it looked like a contraption he would have built out of whatever was laying around. In his case not because he was an environmentalist or because he had a daughter or granddaughter telling him to "recycle" but because it was there and paid for and there was no reason to get rid of perfectly good wood.

So we recycled the nail laden and hole filled boards into our new creation. Sure money was save because I fully planned to go out and buy lattice or trellis for the plants this year. She proudly helped me finish the building by pound the last nails in, tying off the last strings and the running inside to get her mother to see our monstrosities that were placed in a front garden behind a garden statue that was a gift from her side of the family. My wife came out, smiled at her reassuringly since she was so proud of the crooked ladder looking things right before asking how quickly the plants would grow to cover them.

I did what any wise husband would shrugged and guessed "June maybe July" being very no committal.

She smiled and told our daughter what a great idea it was and then shot me a look questioning my abilities as a carpenter. Which while I dabble at things is yet another thing I've never claimed to be. The beans and flowers have done particularly well. We'll just chalk it up to a little extra rain and good karma.

So its fall and being one to never waste soil I practice a nontraditional yet completely natural way of composting. Now sure I could buy one of those nifty composting bins to help the process. My mother and father have several of them. Frankly I'm too cheap for that. Instead, cutting the plants as they brown, I put them in pile with old potting soil in an un-planted spot in a garden. Preferably, but not necessarily, obscured by a large stone statue, rock or large patch of plants where it can break down "naturally".

So when the fall harvest of sunflowers began we took the heads less the seeds and put them in a spot next to the herb garden. It was the same place I unceremoniously put the manure laden soil mixture from my previous two years indoor lettuce planting. To the left of the bronze garden faerie my the chocolate bell pepper plants (yes I know they aren't herbs) by the basil, behind the lemon thyme.

And so it sat as as we cut the long green leafy stalks into foot long lengths so they would fit, and more importantly, not draw too much attention. Chatting back and forth without the distraction of TV, video games or computers, quiet and quality uninterrupted time. That is where the lesson accidentally came in about letting plants go to seed so we could use those seeds to create new plants for next year. Talk about how such things work in nature and why it works that way. And then finally about how reusing parts of the old plants helps keep the soil rich. See it isn't about making a political statement, it doesn't come from a deep need to change the world. It comes from nothing more than good old fashioned horse sense and helping to do what nature does in its own way to improve your own gardening results.

Sure there are missteps along the way like unattractive structures behind the wife's favorite garden statue. Or like when the mother in law comes over and grumbles at me before the sun comes up"Why in the world are your coffee grounds wets and weak?" The reason being? She used the can labeled "GROUNDS" meaning used coffee that once its sweet nectar had been consumed served a better purpose in my pile of rotting vegetation, sprinkled on the lawn or as part of my cow manure and compost tea I make to water the occasional growing thing.

But in the end of it all sometimes a little youthful idealism, being a touch cheap, and acting like my old farmer grandfather intersects with lofty ideals without even trying and for this I blame my kid.

A few last words of advice. Mother in laws usually survive weak wet used coffee and even understand and forgive you on occasion. An upfront warning about how the plants might just completely cover the wife's favorite garden statue for 4 or 5 months if all the seeds take and grow like bad weeds might be warranted. And finally, remember those informal compost piles you've been hiding throughout the gardens well in relative obscurity? Well the one out by the Fairy Statue and herbs I've got to tell you something about... the bad news is that the compost pile has taken on a new purpose quite accidentally. The soil from the lettuce planters well it's sort of sprouted with the all the other good stuff we put on top of it, a little rain and some nice cool nights. On the up side we're going to have a bumper crop of home grown mixed field greens this fall. Well that and it is all Elise's fault!

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Patrick is an avid writer and outdoor enthusiast dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits of landscaping. Looking for more landscaping ideas? Come visit for the largest selection of garden statues.

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