How does your garden grow? Ours is organic!

When you think of food at a sports bar, it is not likely that fresh, organic vegetables come to mind. However, Third Base Sports Bar in downtown Austin is trying to change that point of view. Less than a year ago, one of the bar’s owners, Michael “Stix” Tashnick started a garden at his nearby home, in hopes that it could provide the restaurant’s menu with some homegrown flair. In a short time, this dream has become a reality and Third Base Downtown is already using some of the fruits, or vegetables, of his labor.

Stix got the idea for the sustainability project back when Third Base first opened, over four years ago, but it was not until last summer when things really got underway. On a hot August afternoon, friends gathered at his place to start digging beds for planting. Not one to do things halfway, Stix says he may have initially, “bit off more than he could chew,” but says that he is really pleased with the progress less than a year later. He has learned a lot along the way – about planting, composting, irrigation and harvesting. He said the plan was originally to use the first year as a learning experiment, but was surprised to find that Third Base Downtown is already reaping the benefits of his hard work. The restaurant no longer purchases fresh basil, instead using basil from the garden; and they are already using cucumbers and tomatoes in their fresh salads.

The garden boasts a dozen different types of peppers and twenty-five varieties of tomatoes, although the restaurant is only currently using a small sampling of those. Stix said he has spent this year really learning about different types of from books and local gardening stores, such as The Natural Gardener. He is also using the prep scraps from all of the restaurants to compost. Composting provides an alternative to chemical fertilizers, with nutrient-rich materials that act as a soil conditioner and natural pesticide.

In addition to the wide variety of vegetables, the garden is also home to nineteen chickens and 3 ducklings. One of the chickens is an adopted “Silkie,” a variety of chicken known for its fancy plumage and docile temperament. The chickens have their own coop, separate from the garden and their eggs are gathered daily. Considering that the restaurant has recently started serving brunch, it is likely that restaurant patrons will soon be eating “farm fresh” eggs on Sunday mornings.

Stix’s vision for the garden is to eventually have staff and friends of the restaurant become a true part of the project – helping plan, plant and harvest in the garden. He hopes it will eventually become a great place for the community to learn about sustainability and organic gardening. He also sees it turning into a showcase for the restaurant, with yard art and a tent with information so others can experience the project as well.

While other high-end restaurants have jumped into the world of organic gardening and working directly with local farms, Third Base is really the first Austin sports bar to attempt such a project. Considering the jump-start Stix has gotten on the project, it would be no surprise to see a growing number of menu items featuring fresh produce, straight from the restaurant’s very own garden.