The corn is as high as . . . no, wait, there is no corn in the garden, but the tomato plants are nearly as tall as the growers. Katelyn Kumberg is 13 and brother Colin is 10. In addition to tomatoes, they are growing onions, okra, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. They may plant a second crop of green beans, although with school starting soon, they won’t have as much time to take care of it.


The corn is as high as . . . no, wait, there is no corn in the garden, but the tomato plants are nearly as tall as the growers. Katelyn Kumberg is 13 and brother Colin is 10. In addition to tomatoes, they are growing onions, okra, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. They may plant a second crop of green beans, although with school starting soon, they won’t have as much time to take care of it.

Planting the 32 by 48 foot plot is a family project and a family tradition. Dad Charlie Kumberg got his start in gardening as a 4-H’er. He runs the rototiller to break up the ground and digs the furrows for the seed or plants. Everyone pitches in to plant and then to lay down a mulch of hay.

Mulching is the least favorite job — it’s really dirty, Katelyn said, but after it’s done they don’t have to do much weeding.

Mom Karen reminds that nobody really likes picking beans either, but Colin seemed to enjoy searching for treasures among the lush plants Wednesday afternoon, coming up with an eggplant and a cucumber.

The vines are loaded with green tomatoes; they will be about two weeks late for the county fair, where exhibiting vegetables is a favorite part of the 4-H project for both Katelyn and Colin.

Another favorite activity is selling at the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings at the Presbyterian Church parking lot. They don’t get to do that as much as they would like, because many regular buyers call the house to ask if they have surplus vegetables and then come by to pick them up. The children like bagging up the produce, weighing it and visiting with the buyers, most of whom they well acquainted with.

“It’s been good for them,” Karen Kumberg said. “They’ve learned to count money back.”
They have learned about responsibility.

If you don’t pick the vegetables when they’re ready they will fall off and die and if you don’t water, the plants will dry up, Katelyn said. Then the summer income dries up, Mom added.

They have learned which varieties do best and how to increase production.

Katelyn kept a record of tomato production for 2007 and developed the data into an exhibit for the school science fair and for the county fair. She counted and weighed the produce from four plants each of Jet Star, Celebrity and Super Fantastic tomatoes. Super Fantastic yielded the greatest number (254) but they were smaller. The Celebrity tomatoes weighed the most — 94.6 pounds, compared to 84 for Super Fantastic and 85 for Jet Star. The Jet Star tomatoes were less subject to cracking, so were better keepers and more attractive for selling and exhibiting. Based on her study, the family decided to plant Celebrity and Jet Star this year.

Colin experimented with green beans and two brands of fertilizer versus plain tap water. A bean plant fertilized with Expert Gardener made the biggest root system, but Miracle Gro fertilizer was more consistent. Both produced more roots than beans that received tap water only. Bigger roots means more beans, Colin said, so he concluded that they should fertilize their vegetables.

Katelyn is learning to can beans and won a grand champion ribbon on her 4-H exhibit at the fair this year. Canning for the fair is different than canning for home, Karen said. Judges like to see all the beans cut to the same size, so Katelyn took special pains to make two or three pretty jars for the fair and the rest of the beans were just whatever size they ended up.

Colin’s favorite way to eat green beans is as a pickled bean that his mother calls dilly beans. That’s one of the reasons they may plant a fall crop — there weren’t enough beans from the spring planting to can any that way, Karen said. Katelyn likes the vegetables she grows better than store-bought — they don’t sit around so long. She especially likes her mother’s salsa made from the Kumberg garden.