By Kathleen Gurbacki
Sometimes my kitchen smells soooo good. Especially when I have a brown sugar cake in the oven. Melanie, if you are reading this, I know you agree with me. She and I always enjoyed this recipe. But, sometimes, my kitchen stinks. It is for a good cause though. The bucket under the sink is a catch-all for fruit and vegetable peelings. When it gets full, or starts to become pungent (whichever comes first) it is then emptied into the compost bin in the yard. Gardening is a year-round concentration at our house. Egg shells get washed and dried and crushed before they get composted. When the brown sugar cake comes out of the oven and the oven is cooling down, the eggshells go in for a while. They become crispy and crunchy and are easily crushed.
Coffee grounds have their own container. They are dried and put into a five-gallon drum in the basement. The peelings and eggshells work their magic over winter and get added to the garden soil in the spring.
Around the middle of March or St. Patty’s Day we start seeds in the house. By this time, the vegetable seeds are available in the stores or sooner thru the catalogs. Flower seeds are collected at the end of their growing season from the plant itself, put in containers and labeled as to what flower it is. Some are started indoors. Some go right into the soil outside when weather permits.
My husband Fred takes charge of planting the veggies while I concentrate on the blooms. He plants beans, cucumbers and peas vertically to conserve space for peppers, onions, tomatoes and carrots. Our backyard vegetable garden is about 25 feet by 25 feet so we try to make the most of this space. Carrots are planted in neat rows and thinned to make sure they have enough space below the surface. This is where the coffee grounds come in. The dried grounds are spread over the rows inbetween the carrots to prevent bugs from chewing the tops. When this is done, and especially after a rain, the yard smells like Starbucks and gives you an appetite for a much-needed coffee break. Over the years, we learned more and more tricks that helped us produce some wonderful veggies. I usually have enough green beans and carrots in my freezer to last me from one growing season to the next. And that’s not counting the ones I give away to relatives and friends.
This last summer, we couldn’t keep up with the cucumbers and tomatoes. The weather was certainly in their favor. Every few days I picked between twenty and thirty cukes. More than what we needed. I put them in a box along with the tomatoes at the foot of our driveway and marked the box “Free.” I enjoyed seeing our neighbors come by and help themselves to the veggies. Glad that someone could share in the fruits of our labor. But many could not read. Free meant ‘no charge’, but loose change and dollar bills appeared in the box. One lady came into the yard and thanked us personally. Another neighbor said he wanted to share in the cost of the seeds.
You might say we go to extreme with our efforts, but maybe it’s because were retired and have the time. Maybe we just enjoy our hobby. Whatever the scenario, it’s worth the effort. Composting has become such a routine in our daily life we don’t even think twice about it. But, in the middle of winter, when the snow flies, it’s sooo good to have fresh vegetables.
Kathleen Gurbacki of Lancaster is already preparing for her 2018 vegetable garden.