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3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, DC, 20002
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202-245-2709

Washington Youth Garden

Interview with Farmer Nadia: Theme Gardens

April Martin

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Good afternoon, Farmer Nadia.  Today, I’d like to ask you about one of the amazing, kid-friendly features of our site, the theme gardens!

How did you decide which theme gardens to create this year?

The Pop Tart garden came from the lesson in Garden Science where we ask kids what percentage of Pop Tarts actually comes from strawberries.   The Pop Tart is actually made mostly of soy, wheat, corn and sugar (in our garden, the sugar cane plants).

Can you tell me what percentage of the Pop Tart IS made of strawberries?

Less than 2%.

Wow!  Now, I know you didn’t just plant a Pop Tart garden.  We have a MyPlate.gov garden, a corn maze, a cucumber tunneled melon patch and a lot more.  How do you come up with all of these great ideas?

Over the winter, there’s nothing to do but research and read about other gardens.

Are any of these just your own idea?

Original ideas are hard to come by these days.  It’s a wonderful process to research what others have been doing for hundreds of years, like one of my favorite theme gardens, the Three Sisters garden.

Wait, what is the Three Sisters garden?

The Three Sisters garden is a method of growing squash beans and corn all together in one small area.  They are called the three sisters because the three plants help each other grow.  The corn grows tall and straight and serves as a trellis for pole beans that grow vertically up the corn stalk.  The winter squash, like acorn or butternut, is a low growing vine that will serve as living mulch that shades the ground, keeping out weeds and keeping in moisture.  And I’m not done!  The beans, as part of the legume family, fix nitrogen into the soil, which is a very important nutrient for all plants, especially corn and squash, which are heavy feeders.

You’ve made this garden an inspiring and accessible place for children.  I’d like to conclude the beginning of our interview series by asking you for your own favorite childhood garden memory.

I don’t know if this counts, Charla.  I can’t really call this a garden, but there was a small grove of pine trees right outside of my baby sitters house where I spent many summers.  The floor of the pine grove was covered in pine needles and I would go into the pine grove, which was probably only 50’x50’.  But it was like my own secret place and I would climb up into the trees and get sap stuck all over my fingers and clothes.  It was just me and the pine trees and this special experience with nature.  In the youth garden, I find it really important to have shelters for kids, like the sunflower house or bean teepees or the cucumber tunnel or the corn maze, all of these plants that will envelop them and enclose them in edible forts.

Thank you for your time and all of your creative work!  I can’t wait until our next interview!