Category Archives: Gardening

Installing an Exterior Spigot

(From Resist Zine #47)

I’m more of a story-teller than a straight up DIY guy.  When I wrote How & Why that kind of came back to bite me in the ass.  I was asked to write it in ‘my style’ which pretty obviously is storytelling, but when I got done and sent it in, they cut 100 pages trying to turn it into a step-by-step guide.  Articles came back split up into steps and had to be re-reedited in order to make any sense at all.  I’ve had people claim that my projects are just ‘contraptions’ and that I admit as much.  I don’t know about that.  What I do admit is that I make mistakes and that sometimes in the middle of something I think of a better way of doing it.  And I am admitting right now that I am a story-teller.  I COULD sit down and write step-by-step do it yourself instructions but that’s not what I like to do.  I like to tell stories.  I think it’s more interesting when you get to read about how I completely screwed something up and then had to go back and fix it, or the thought process I had to go through to get it right.  On top of that, I think stories tend to seal things in our memory and keep us from making those same mistakes.

So that said, here is how installing that exterior spigot worked out for me.  First off, the perfect place I found, with the valves already installed and ready for me to add a spigot…  Well, after moving our garden to the front of the house, having a spigot on the back of the house didn’t seem like the best idea. So I started looking for options along the front of the house.  The fact that all the windows in the basement had been boarded shut made running a spigot to the outside of the house a bit easier since I didn’t have to bust/drill through the masonry block, I could just drill through a half-inch piece of plywood.  Then it was just a matter of finding a place to tie into the existing plumbing.  A laundry sink near the front of the house made that easy too.

I picked up all the pieces I thought I would need: a T fitting for connecting to the existing line, an exterior spigot, 10 feet of copper tubing, a valve and a few 45 and 90 degree elbows.  I don’t think plumbing is as complicated as most people make it out to be, especially if you’re dealing with copper tubing.  (The old iron pipe on the other hand can be a huge pain in the ass) It seems like you always end up having to make one extra run to the store, or running into one thing you didn’t really expect, but I’ve always been able to finish what I’ve started.

The first thing I did was solder about a foot of copper tubing to the spigot.  Then I got worried because that particular spigot had a rubber seal and I was worried that I had melted it by not taking it out when I soldered the two together.  But I took it apart and it was just fine. Then I drilled a hole in the plywood, slipped the tube in and screwed the spigot to the wood. I had planned to squirt some caulking behind it, to seal it, but I couldn’t find my caulking gun. Plus if you had seen our basement you would realize that it probably wasn’t going to make one bit of difference anyway.

Then I went to work inside, and this is where the trouble started.  Now when you’re soldering pipe, you can’t solder wet pipe so you have to get it and keep it dry.  So I turned off the water and turned on all the faucets so that the lines could drain.  One thing I didn’t realize is that the upstairs and downstairs were on the same meter, so I was turning off the water to the whole house (including the upstairs neighbor) and draining his lines too.  Fortunately I had run into him in the front yard with my supplies and told him I was about to do some plumbing, so he wasn’t shocked to find the water temporarily shut off.  I cut the supply line to the cold water on the sink and used my plumbers brush (same as a battery terminal cleaner) to remove the paint from the outside of the tubing.  Then I dry fit parts as far as the valve, which basically means that you cut your pieces and put them all together to see if they’re going to fit.  Then I soldered the valve, elbow and couple pieces of tubing together before slipping the assembly into the T fitting and screwing it to the ceiling with a pipe strap. This would hold the T fitting at exactly the right angle while I soldered it.  If I had soldered it first and gotten the angle wrong, it could have been a lot of work to get it right.


Soldering (or ‘sweating’) copper tubing is pretty easy.  You’ll want to rough up both surfaces that will be in contact.  The easiest way to do this is with a plumbing brush. Just twist it around the outside of the tubing, and then inside of the fitting.  Wipe off any grit with a rag. Brush plumbing flux on both surfaces and assemble the pieces.  Next you want to heat up the joint evenly.  I like MAPP gas because it burns hotter than propane, so it heats up the joint quicker.  Move the flame around the joint until the flux starts to sizzle.  At this point, the solder should melt when you touch it to the joint.  Move the flame away, and start applying solder at the bottom of the joint, working all the way around it.  I usually wipe it off with a rag while it’s still warm.

Now because there was still some water dripping through the tube, I had to do something to keep it from running up to the joint where I was working.  I had done this before, but it had been well over 10 years so I forgot exactly how it worked.  I knew you had to put something in the tube to absorb the moisture, but I forgot was it was.  Actually it wasn’t so much that I forgot, as that I remembered incorrectly.  I remembered it as being plugs of paper towel.  I didn’t stop to think about it, I just slipped some into the tubing on either side of the joint, soldered it, and then turned the water back on.  This is why I always add valves when I’m doing plumbing.  If you have a valve, you can cut off water to just the spot you’re working without turning off the water to the whole house.  Now I could turn on the water and finish the job.  So I turned on the water and all my joints held fine, but the cold water in the kitchen was no longer working.  That paper towel had clogged it up.

I ran to the computer to figure out what the heck I had done wrong.  I typed “how to solder wet tubing” in the search engine, and watched a video of a guy putting BREAD in the tube.  BREAD! That’s what it was.  Not paper towels, BREAD! To be fair, paper towels do work if the other end of the pipe is open.  Toilet paper would probably work even better because it deteriorates.  Either probably would have come out of the laundry faucet, but it certainly wasn’t coming out of the kitchen faucet!

I’m ashamed to say I actually got the outside spigot going before I got the cold water in the kitchen working again.  We went months without it.  I tried disconnecting the faucet and opening up the valve, but that didn’t work.  The bathroom sink was 2 steps away so it was easy to just step over there if you needed cold water.  We got used to only having hot in the kitchen.  (Better than only having cold)  In the end I had to add a valve to that cold water supply so I could turn it off, cut it after that point, and then connect the hot water supply to the cold water supply (under the sink) and run the hot water backwards through the cold water pipe to flush the paper towel back out where I had cut it.  Then of course I had to reconnect the pipe I’d cut to turn the cold water back on.  This time I used bread instead of paper towels when soldering the wet pipes!

Finishing up the exterior spigot was easy.  All I had to do was finish running the copper tubing from the valve to the tube I had left sticking out of the wall.  I dry fit the whole thing, and soldered it up.  Because none of this pipe had ever had water in it, it was a super easy job.

We got to use it for one whole summer of watering the garden and slip-n-slide before we were run out of the house by the new management company’s incompetence and money grubbing


How to Make Plantain Oil & Salve

Recently I was doing some research on plantain for an article I was writing for Resist Zine #47.  I was mostly just trying to confirm things I already knew about plantain, which did indeed turn out to be factual.  In the process though, I learned a lot of other things about plantain.  Among them, that plantain can be used to treat plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of a ligament in the foot).   As someone I love very much is dealing with symptoms of this, I decided that I would try making the suggested remedy.  It seemed to me that the best method of application was a salve, so as soon as it warmed up enough that the plantain was actually growing in the yard, I picked enough to fill a pint jar.

Plantain is a ‘weed’ that grows almost everywhere

To make a salve, you first need to make plantain infused oil.  It seems everybody has their own method of making it but they’re all pretty similar.  I read a few recipes and prepared mine as follows.  I picked fresh plantain from the yard, then washed it in a colander.  I cut the leaves into pieces about ½ – 1 inch square, then laid them out on paper to dry for a day.  Once the leaves were somewhat dried, not dried out but drier than fresh, I packed them into a pint jar.  I didn’t pack the leaves super tight in the jar, but tight enough that it was actually full.  Then I poured in organic extra virgin olive oil until the leaves were covered.  Using a chopstick, I agitated the leaves until air bubbles quit coming to the surface.  I made sure the leaves were covered with oil, then capped it and wrote the date on the lid.  (Actually, my girlfriend wrote it and you can see that the lid was already used for salsa once before)

Plantain Oil in the Making

Plantain Oil in the Making

Usually I wouldn’t post about a project until I finished it, but I’m pretty excited about this project, so I’m sharing what I’ve got done now.  Part of the excitement is just how good it looks in the jar.  I didn’t actually take a LOT of pictures of this process, but I figure once you know what plantain looks like, you can probably figure out how to pick, wash, chop and dry it.  I’ll probably post an update later with pictures of the finished oil, and the salve making process.  In the meantime, this is how to finish making your plantain oil.

Let the oil and leaf mixture sit for 6 weeks.  Some recipes tell you to shake it every day, some don’t say anything about shaking it.  I may shake it once in a while, but I don’t think it’s going to make or break the oil.  After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth to remove the leaves, and you have plantain oil.

To make a salve, gently heat the oil and add 1 tablespoon of beeswax to every ounce of oil.  Pour into containers and allow to cool.  Along with plantar fasciitis, this can also be used for chapped lips, bites and stings, diaper rash, canker sores and tooth aches.

The original article I wrote about plantain’s many uses is in Resist Zine #47, available here:–plans.html

UPDATE: (12/2/2014)  Making Salve from the Infused Oil

Well I finally got around to making some salve from the plantain oil we made months ago.

I put a piece of cheese cloth over a wide mouth jar, holding it there with the lid ring, then poured the oil and leaves into it.  Once most of the oil had drained through, I twisted the leaves into a ball in the cloth and wrung out the rest of the oil.  I meant to do this a long time ago, but I couldn’t find my cheesecloth and since I already had two packages of it, I didn’t want to buy more.  I never found it and finally bought more.

Straining Plantain Oil through Cheesecloth

Straining Plantain Oil through Cheesecloth

Squeezing out the remaining oil

Squeezing out the remaining oil

I heated the oil up on the stove in a camp cup.  (I probably should have done this in a double boiler, but I didn’t bother for such small quantities)  I did it 2 ounces at a time just because I’ve never done this before and wanted to make sure it turned out okay.  While that was warming I shredded up some beeswax with a cheese grater.  I figured it would be easier to measure that way.  Then I just packed the shreds into a tablespoon.  I broke it back up while putting it in the oil so it would melt faster.  I constantly stirred the oil until the wax melted and then poured it into a baby food jar.  I’d actually picked up some clearance baby food for that express purpose.  It didn’t hurt that I’d just had a tooth pulled and couldn’t eat solid foods yet.  When that one was done I made up another small batch.

Shredded Beeswax

Shredded Beeswax

Later in the day, when the salve had hardened I went to use some of it.  It was pretty hard.  It took a bit of work to get it out of the jar.  Body heat started to thin it right away, but it was tricky to get a good amount out for a larger area.  I think it’s probably the perfect consistency for a salve you’d use on your lips since body heat softens it just enough to get some on your finger for a small area.  Or if you had it in a lip balm applicator it would probably work just as well that way.  I think for future batches of salve meant for larger areas I’ll probably use a little less than a full tablespoon of beeswax.

Jar of finished Plantain Oil Salve

Jar of finished Plantain Oil Salve

Seed Germination Test (Saving Seeds from Year to Year)

I ran across this at Menards one day when looking for some peat pellets or something.  I think I actually resisted the urge to buy seeds this year.  I’m always so tempted by them.  I know that I can save them from year to year to year, and I do, but when the seed displays come out early in the spring, I just can’t help myself.  I start looking at all the interesting plants and think about all the things I want to try.  They never sell for the price listed on the package, there’s always some kind of discount off the package price, so it feels like a deal.  Plus each packet is so cheap to begin with that it’s easy to justify.  So for years I could be found walking up to the register with handfuls of seed packets, multiple times each year.  Then when it came time to put the seeds in the ground, I’d realize I just didn’t have room for that many plants.  I’d use some and save the rest for the next year, when I would buy even more seeds! This year I didn’t do that.  I had to run to the store to buy bean seeds because when I went to plant them, I didn’t have any! Well, actually I only THOUGHT I didn’t have any.  A couple days later when I was organizing my seeds, I ran across a brown lunch bag full of beans that I’d saved for seeds but never shelled.  So I shelled them and saved them for next year. 

Even though I already know about saving seeds from year to year, and how to do a germination test, I was pretty excited to see this displayed at Menards.  I’ve written about it in Resist zine, and had a little sidebar in How and Why describing it, but I don’t think most people know that seeds will last quite a while.  Gardening (like everything else) had turned into such a consumer sport.  They’re always trying to convince you of some new thing you need to buy for your garden and people lose track of the idea that gardening is a natural process that doesn’t necessarily need a lot of outside resources.  Perhaps getting folks to think about saving seeds from year to year will get them to thinking that these plants actually produce more seeds which can be saved and used the following year(s).

I do find it funny that this sign is really just a cross selling promotion for Scotts Rag in a Box® and Ziploc®, but at least the information is getting out there.  I will say that I don’t use 4 sheets of paper towel, one usually works just fine.  Also, I don’t worry about a cool or dark place.  In fact, I usually try to find a warm place.  Cool might better replicate the conditions in the soil, but warm seeds usually germinate faster and I’m usually in a hurry to find out if my seeds are still good.  Also, I don’t store my seeds in glass jars.  It’s too bulky.  I just keep them in a box in the cool basement.

Late Start in the Garden

We had a super early start to spring this year.  The winter was so mild; it was practically spring all winter.  Me on the other hand? I got a late start.  Usually I like to start seeds in the basement in about March.  I have tea hooks under all the cupboards so I can hang pairs of florescent light fixtures.  I’ve installed electrical outlets close by so I can have the lights, the soil heater (Christmas lights), and a fan all running on timers.  However, during the rest of the year I let instrument building stuff accumulate on the counters, and on the floor in front of the counters.  So when it came time to start seeds, I was already behind because I needed to clean up first.  Well it just so happens, March/April is a super busy time of year at my 9 to 5, which turns into a 9 to 9 or 10 or 12 or 2.  After working 12 to 16 hours, I have a hard time finding the energy (or time) to get my garden started.  This year it just didn’t happen.  I didn’t get the counters cleaned off and I didn’t get my seedlings started.

When April rolled around it was so warm I could have started planting seeds then.  I kept intending to go out and at least broadcast some lettuce seeds.  Perhaps get some spinach, collards or chard started.  Again, it just didn’t happen.  Too many hours at work and too many things going on when I wasn’t at work.  Some nights I would leave work at around 9pm to go see my wife Rachael play a show, and then go back to work when it was done.  On top of that, we were going through this big remodel at work that was making everything even more difficult and time consuming than normal.  There was just no time or energy left for gardening.

Finally at the beginning of May I started preparing my garden beds.  I pulled up the plants from last year, and pulled the weeds that had started coming up (unfortunately I did not find any volunteer plants this year.  I often get tomatoes, lettuce and possibly spinach.  This year, none of that.  I did get my usually onions and garlic (growing from bulbs I missed when I was harvesting) but the rest was all lambs quarter or dandelion (which are both good eating… but I didn’t do any of that either.)

Then I fell behind again.  This last week I re-weeded the gardens I had already weeded, because in the absence of any other plants (or maintenance) the lamb’s quarter had sprouted up everywhere!  However, that at least gave me something to throw in the relatively new bed that needed some filler.  My daughter Esther and I had put together a new bed last year which would be hers.  We didn’t have soil (or want to have it delivered for just one bed) so we did some lasagna gardening.  We filled the bed with a bunch of compostable waste, and mostly finished compost and put some top soil on top of it.  However, by halfway through the season most everything had decomposed and the bed was almost empty.  So this year it needed to be filled again.  I probably put in too many greens because I neglected to save some bags of leaves this fall.  There were a lot of grass clippings, weeds from the garden, and waste from the rhubarb plants.  On top of that I put mostly finished compost.  Then a trip to the store for some soil.  Top soil can be real hit or miss.  Sometimes you get some pretty decent stuff, other times it will be full of gravel and form a hard crust the first time it rains.  However, it’s half the cost of garden soil, doesn’t have additives (like time release fertilizers), and can usually be made to work.  I bought 7 bags.  I think the bags got smaller, I’m pretty sure they used to be 1 cubic foot.  Now they’re 3/4ths of a cubic foot, and at $1.25 a quarter more a bag too.  Those 7 bags were just about perfect. It was enough to get an inch or two over the entire surface of the compostable materials.

I have a bad habit of planting my tomatoes too close to each other pretty much every year.  I always think that I’m giving them enough space, but I always pack them in too close.  They end up growing together into a thick wall of tomato plants.  This makes it tricky to get the tomatoes out, tricky to cage or stake them, and sometimes causes disease problems because they’re not getting enough air circulation to dry them off when they get wet.  This year I didn’t start my own tomato seedlings, so I didn’t have nearly as many tomato plants as I normally do.  I had a couple six packs I’d picked up at Menards and another 6 tomato plants I’d picked up at the coop plant sale.  When I saw the HUGE mortgage lifter plants they were selling for just $2 I had to get a few.  I also had a couple six packs of peppers and a few more from the coop.

I planted the good heirloom plants from the coop in the established beds, making sure to give them more room than I normally do.  I think I might have actually done well this year.  We’ll see as the year progresses if I’ve really given them enough room.  I figure I can fill in around them with greens or something that will get used before the tomatoes actually mature, and take over.

Tomato Plants
(and between the beds… lots of bunny food)

Last year I planted cucumbers behind my tomato plants.  I got the idea because the first time I ever planted cucumbers, I planted them in the shade of a tree, and they did REALLY well.  I’ve never had a crop like that first one that was planted under the tree.  It seemed like as soon as it got hot the plants would quit producing anything and dry up.  It’s not that I wasn’t watering them, it just seemed like the hot part of the day would do them in.  So I decided to plant them behind (North of) tall plants (a row of tomatoes.)  I got more cucumbers last year than I EVER have.  The heat loving tomatoes seem to regulate the heat for the cucumbers and keep them comfortable and producing.  I didn’t want to buy a bunch of cucumber plants, but I did buy one with 4 plants in it.  I cut it in half and put two plants in the corners of the bed behind the cucumbers.  Then I planted seeds we’d saved from last year’s cucumbers between them.

Cucumber plants and a couple rows of sprouts

We’re not always super technical about our seed saving.  For example, the seeds that I planted had been sitting on a paper plate in the porch since we harvested them.  They weren’t even marked, so I don’t know exactly what type they are…  only that it’s one of the two varieties that did so well last year.  We just scraped the seeds out of a big yellow cuke, set them on a plate to dry, and there they sat on a table in the porch until we used them.  There are some squash seeds out there too, although those we’d actually marked the variety on the paper plate.

Once I’d given all those plants plenty of room (and once I’d finished up this newer bed) I started planting the 6 packs of hybrid tomatoes I’d picked up from Menards.  I didn’t give these as much room.  I just wanted to use them all up.  So I put a bunch of them in the new bed, then gave them cages and stakes.  I put peppers in a thin shallow bed I’d built to take up the extra room in my greenhouse.  Last year I mulched it with a bale of hay that a neighbor had given me.  Apparently it was full of seeds because I spent the whole season trying to keep the weeds under control.  This year I didn’t feed it anything because I put it all in the new bed.  Hopefully they’ll do okay anyway.  Perhaps I’ll feed them poop from our newly rescued pet. (The kids captured a domestic rabbit running around the neighborhood shortly after Easter and gave it a home in our porch.)

New bed with “crowded” tomatoes

The last thing I did was plant some beans and potatoes.  We had a sweet potato that had started growing, so I planted that.  Around that I planted a bunch of russet potatoes that had gotten all shriveled up and grown big eyes.  Then I moved by bean tree from the other garden to the middle of that area and planted rows of beans all around it.  The two are supposed to protect each other from the plant specific pests that sometimes plague them.  This is where I ran into trouble because of my unorthodox seed saving techniques.  When I went to plant my beans, I found that I didn’t have any seeds left.  So I ran to the store and bought a few packets.  Later when I was organizing my seeds, I found a brown lunch bag full of dried beans that I’d neglected to remove the seeds from.  Oh well, I’ll have them for next year I guess.

Sweet Potato Plant

Now I’ve got to get to filling in around the plants and seeding the couple empty plots.  I’ve been sprinkling lettuce and carrot seeds around the tomatoes.  I’m planning to get some zucchini planted over by the compost, where the pumpkins did so well last year.  Hopefully I’m not getting started too late.  This could be an interesting growing season.

Gardening with kids

Homemade Tomato Cages

Today I finally got around to getting some plants in the garden.  Earlier today I was writing about how I did a terrible job getting seeds started this “spring” (if you can call it that when it’s still snowing in MAY!)  So we went to the Friends School Plant Sale and bought some plants.  I also had a few tomato plants I’d picked up at the farmers market downtown.  Yesterday I came home from work with grand intentions of getting most of them planted.  After dinner I grabbed the box of plants and went out to the garden.  I got about 4 tomato plants in the ground before the sky got dark and Rachael came out to tell me severe storms were on the way, and there was a chance of hail.  I searched through the yard and garage and found a couple buckets, a large pot and a recycle bin to cover up the tomatoes I had just planted.  I put a log on top of each to keep them from blowing away and I packed everything up for the next day.

We ended up getting some rain and a bit of wind, but no hail.  I don’t think those plants would have had any trouble weathering the storm.  As it stands, I’m a bit hesitant to put plants in the ground since it was still snowing just over a week ago.

So yesterday’s plans were shifted to today.  Esther had to be somewhere, and Rachael had to bring her, so they were both gone.  Jed stayed home with me.  Once I got all the plants out, I asked him and his friend Lily if they wanted to help me.  Involving children is a sure-fire way to make sure things take longer, but I like to include my kids.  I especially like to include them if neighbor kids come along.  It’s not that I’m looking for help, since I can’t think of a time that this “help” actually sped things up.  I just like so share knowledge.  I had my own little garden when I was growing up, so I learned a bit about gardening.  Most of these kids don’t have a garden in their yard, let alone their own garden, so I try to include them when they’re interested.  In past years they’ve planted seeds, shoveled dirt, spread compost, helped build raised beds and a greenhouse, and of course helped harvest.  Today it was transplanting tomatoes.

I have a tendency to overcrowd my tomatoes every year.  Years back I read Square Foot Gardening, and got the idea to plant everything close together.  Problem is that now I tend to plant things too close.  Last year was hot and wet and with the overcrowding I had some trouble with diseased tomatoes.  Last year they were so close it looked like a tomato hedge 8 foot long and 3 feet wide.  So this year to aid me AND the children,  I got out the tape measure.  We stretched the tape measure across the garden and set plants where we would put them.  Then the kids grabbed their spades and each worked on their own hole for planting the tomatoes.

I showed them how to pinch off the bottom leaves so the plants can be set deeper and grow a better root system.  They also tossed a shovel-full of compost in the bottom of each hole before the plant went in.  I showed them how to get the plants out of the plastic pots without damaging the plants.  Then they set them in the hole and pushed the dirt back in.  I helped with the first couple, and they pretty much took over from there.  When they were done with the first bed, we moved to another one and they did pretty much that hole thing by themselves.  At one point Lily said, “My dad never goes to this much trouble to plant his garden.”
To which my son of course replied, “Your vegetables must not do as good then.”
“No, but they sure are delicious.” She said.

After the second bed of tomatoes they decided to go back to jumping on the trampoline.  I grabbed some decorative wire fencing that I dumpstered last year and proceeded to make it into tomato cages.  I usually use “stakes” for my tomatoes because they’re taller than cages and free-er than cages.  (My stakes are old tiki-torches, pieces of dumpstered metal tubing, large fallen branches and occasionally store-bought furring strips that I cut into stakes on the bandsaw.)  However, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the tomato plants from sprawling all over, so as long as I had the materials I made up some cages.  It was mostly a matter of opening up some hooks, folding 3 fence sections into a triangle and then retightening the hooks.  We’ll see how they do.

After Lily went home, Jed helped me plant some cucumbers.  I generally like to have plants, but I didn’t get them started, so this year we planted seeds.  I often have pretty bad luck with cucumbers.  The first year I planted them, I got a ton.  We even made pickles.  In the decade following, I don’t think I ever got that many cukes.  So I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong.  I decided that perhaps (since they’re a cool weather crop) I was getting them started too late, and they were getting too hot.  That first year I grew them in a patch of yard that wouldn’t grow grass because it didn’t get enough sunlight because of an overhanging tree.  So I decided that maybe I should give my cukes some shade.  I planted them behind a row of tomatoes (the row that turned into a tomato hedge).  Last year we got so many cukes that we couldn’t pickle them or give them away fast enough.  We ate SO many cucumbers! It was amazing! And I never even really liked cucumbers until I started growing them myself.  I’m not sure if my theory about shade is correct.  I suppose cukes and tomatoes could be companion plants, though I’ve never seen them listed as such (and I did a lot of research for my book.)  Whatever the reason, this year I’m doing the same thing and hoping for similar results.  We planted two rows of cucumbers behind two rows of (better spaced) tomatoes.

As it was getting dark I got a few pepper plants in the ground and then brought all my remaining plants back inside.  I think the plan for tomorrow is to try out a “3 sisters” planting in the small bed that served as my tomato overflow last year.  The kids are also working on putting together their own bed (from salvaged lumber) so they can have their own test gardens.