Entries from June 2010 ↓

volunteer veggies

Chapter 1 – Battle for the Ginger

A few weeks back I was planning a simple clean up on a bed of ginger plants in our backyard. They weren’t looking very healthy and as they had finally produced three little blooms after 20 years I thought maybe some thinning and attention might encourage more blooms. (In my opinion a yellow ginger bloom is in the top 10 of great smells) Anyway as I started in on the project I was aware that at the base of the ginger was an undergrowth of spider plants, what I hadn’t realized is; by allowing these innocuous looking plants to fill in around and under the ginger is that their root system is like something out of a low budget alien movie. The root system had produced so many tubers ┬áthat had wrapped around all the ginger roots so that there wasn’t even much soil left, I’m not sure what they did with the dirt but basically I had a bed of roots and tubers. Now my enjoyable afternoon yard chore had become a battle to save the ginger from the evil spider plants and my clippers had been replaced by a shovel and a 6 foot long, 25 pound pry bar. As I was trying to save all my ginger plants I wasn’t just digging and tossing, I had to shake loose and untwine all the tubers from the ginger root. Let me just state my appreciation and amazement at this “house plant”. This plant knows how to stake its ground. As I wasn’t putting in an eight hour shift on this job it took me a couple of days to finally get this 3 x 12 foot bed emptied. I was down to clay but I sure felt a great battle had been won. All across my deck lay scarred and wounded soldiers, the ginger plants ready to be replanted and show their pride after winning their battle. I was sure these plants would come back better than ever before with dozens of yellow blossoms infusing my whole backyard with its fragrant kiss. I disposed of the spider plants and gathered the healthiest looking ginger plants and felt excited about giving these plants a fresh start.

Chapter 2 – Compost

So wanting to give these plants a great new start I bought some garden soil in sacks but also wanted to supplement the store bought soil with compost from my own back yard because I was sure it was richer than anything you could get at the store. If you have a compost pile in the backyard you know the joy of dumping vegetable scraps, grass clippings and fallen leaves into a box and see worms turn them into black rich soil. I built my compost box a few years back after trying and discarding one of those black plastic cones. I just built a big box out of wooden pallets, old plywood and cover the pile with a piece of carpet and another piece of plywood. We have a large yard so we have lots of grass clippings and leaves to put in but the biggest contributor to the mix comes from remnants of our organic vegetables we get weekly from Two Small Farms, http://www.twosmallfarms.com/ . You buy a subscription and receive a wonderful box of vegetable, fruits and herbs. Now as these vegetables are right off the farm they include all the tops to the carrots, beets, etc. You will also sometimes receive braising greens or other items that appear more adaptable to the compost pile that the dinner plate, but I have tried to embrace these items and expand my palate. Not always successfully. The one sad part of the service is that fresh organic vegetables need to be enjoyed as quickly as possible and some of the items like lettuce spoil fairly quickly but what this does provide is lots of generous donations to our compost pile. We keep a ceramic container next to the sink and constantly fill it up with veggy scraps. Once I found the left overs from some golden beets and other items so attractive I had to take a picture.


So anyway, I was thrilled to finally get to make good use of our labor of compost love by supplementing the store bought soil with an equal amount of home grown soil. I then replanted the ginger plants I had saved, (I donated a huge bucket of ginger roots the local nursery) and watered them and hoped I would soon have my full bed of ginger back.

Chapter 3 – Volunteer Veggies

So here is an interesting discovery about my compost. Evidently while it is covered and doesn’t receive any sunlight it is quite content to break down and with the help of the local worms and insects become the aromatic soil but retrieved and spread out under the summer sun it will spring back to life. After a few days of watering the replanted ginger bed I noticed all these other plants sprouting. At first I was worried that the evil spider plants were back but it quickly became obvious that wasn’t the case. So instead of pulling out all these sprouts I decided to wait and see what they might be. It seems that various vegetables that have seeds, like tomatoes, squash and melons had decided to try and make a go of it in my newly planted ginger bed. It doesn’t appear like they are doing the ginger plants any harm so we have decided to let them stay and see if we can reap any further reward from our volunteer veggies. I’ll keep you posted.