Science Class with the Garden Gurus

31.Jul.2014 by Jamie Chapman

Last week I asked Pam what she needed help with in the garden, she said that they were going to spread fish on the plants. I pictured tossing actual dead fish at the crops’ roots, naïve about what this would do besides attract bears. Bears aside, I wasn’t far off.   So I asked the Pam and Amy, our Garden Gurus, and got a science lesson to rival Bill Nye. Supplemented with some expert Wikipedia research, here’s what I learned. Fish hydrolysate is basically pureed fish, sourced from fishing boats’ bycatch and then ground-up to be sold as agricultural supplements. I won’t overstep my primitive science knowledge, but Pam explained it as giving the earth a dose of the sea, rich in nutrients and minerals that elude terrestrial beings. There’s some magic in the fishies! Try this at home: into a full watering can, mix one full tablespoon fish and one scant tablespoon molasses, then give the plants a generous drink. Molasses for the sugar content—a fish and molasses smoothie!

One watering can, plus one T of fish (middle container) and one T of molasses (dark container) does the trick

Fish and molasses: one watering can, plus one T of fish (middle container) and one T of molasses (dark container) does the trick

We source lots of produce for the kitchen from our gardens, and it’s cool to see something that I’ve planted, nurtured under the watchful eye of the Gurus, and then harvested end up in the hot meal line or in the salad bar.   It has flourished under the construction of a new fence to keep the bunnies and deer away from our delicacies.

From left: kale, more kale, onions, garlic

From left: kale, more kale, onions, garlic

From the front: rows of parsley, basil (on the left, more parsley on the right), chard just after being harvested for the kitchen, baby beets, peppers, tomatillos, and peas in the back.

From the front: rows of parsley, basil (on the left, more parsley on the right), chard just after being harvested for the kitchen, baby beets, peppers, tomatillos, and peas in the back.

Peas for days

Peas for days

Lots of purple snow peas!  We also have yellow snow peas and sugar snap peas, now growing fast enough to pick a few small bags every couple days.  I have a high eat:pick ratio, especially with the sugar snaps.  Benefits of growing organic!

Lots of purple snow peas! We also have yellow snow peas and sugar snap peas, now growing fast enough to pick a few small bags every couple days. I have a high eat:pick ratio, especially with the sugar snaps. Benefits of growing organic!

But there’s only so much produce to harvest, and sometimes we want to make the place look nice, too.  Amy and Pam gave a few of us girls a lesson in creating flower arrangements, a task that has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite jobs at the Center.  Tricks of the trade: more is more, purple and yellow don’t match, and embrace unorthodox materials–kale and stripped limbs of wild berries add a little spice.

Tricky stuff: Caitlin and I with the raw materials, on a really hot and humid day in the garden.

Tricky stuff: Caitlin and I with the raw materials, on a really hot and humid day in the garden.

Voila!

Voila!

Beautiful from all angles

Beautiful from all angles