Part One of Three
As I cleared winter debris from my garden this weekend, I was reminded of a gardener I know in Austin, Texas. While visiting a friend there last summer, I decided to stop by a community garden. That’s where I found 10-year-old Evan and his dad sitting in a shady area by the compost bin.
I asked the dad if he would give me a tour. “Oh, he’s your best tour guide,” the dad said, pointing to his son. Honestly, I was a little doubtful. What could this kid tell me?
Then he opened his mouth and blew me away. Scooping up a handful of compost, he said: “There are more bacteria in this handful of compost than there are people in the world.”
“Seven billion?” I was surprised.
“Yup,” he said, firmly.
He went on to explain that the compost was warm because all those bacteria are working together to break down the material. “Just like a fever,” he said, patiently, kind of like I was a small child. “You’re warm because the bacteria are moving around, trying to fight the infection.”
I suddenly realized that at age 10, his knowledge of biology and chemistry probably already exceeded mine.
He introduced me to more fun facts, such as, you can tell if a plant is in the mint family if it has a square stem. And, tomato caterpillars, which are as big and thick as a man’s pointer finger, burrow into the dirt before transforming into hawk moths.
Then he recited a poem he wrote about a hawk moth. “It’s a quatrain,” he informed me.
He pointed out many more plants: spinach, cucumbers, grapes; plus butterfly plants for pollination and marigolds for repelling insects (one marigold per square foot, please, and be sure to use a variety of plants in a garden to attract various insects and pollinators).
When I asked how he had learned all this stuff, he explained that he and his dad were fans of the book, “Square Foot Gardening.” Apparently his dad had read this to him every night before bed for quite some time. He said, however, that I should buy the second edition, and repeated this advice to me carefully several times.
Back at the compost bin again, he let me take his picture, and I said to him, very seriously, “Thank you so much for giving me this tour. I’ve learned so much about gardening.”
And he said, just as seriously, “It’s my passion.”
Tomorrow: Part Two: What is MY passion?