Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Edible Gardening Convert

A nice collection of lettuces.
A guest post by Claudia Graves, a college friend and now a new and enthusiastic gardener.

Zero to sixty in three years


My mother could grow anything. It seemed that her touch could bring a sickly plant back from the brink or encourage a healthy one to thrive. “The greenest of green,” is how I used to describe her thumb, but she passed that trait along to my brother only. His plants thrive. Entrance into my house is the kiss of death. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I kill them with kindness and too much watering. No – I kill them with neglect and abuse. Why use “dirt” other than what lies right outside my door?  Why fertilize except for an occasional blast of some chemical so potent that it produces instant wilting… followed by a high probability of death. And watering? Once every few months should do ‘em. So I have “grown” a lot of lush “plastic plants” in my lifetime and not much else.


Then somewhere along the way I discovered that pencil cactus and aloe could often survive my version of care, so I grasped that straw and grew multiples of each on the porch. They were never exactly healthy, but they didn’t totally die. Just parts of them died. Sometimes big parts.

More Vegetables


However, everything changed a few years ago when my significant other and I began eating a lot more vegetables and started making green smoothies every day for breakfast. I bought organic vegetables whenever possible, but the variety was limited and they were very expensive.

Claudia's array of Earthboxes next to the pool.


Several friends had gardens and I began to give that some cautious thought. Knowing my track record as a gardener I wondered if there was any point in trying. But as luck would have it, Ginny stayed with us a few days during one of her book tours and I decided to mention it to her. We walked around my yard and she pointed out a place where a garden might grow. She told me how to proceed and we did everything she said. I couldn’t believe it - things actually grew! Somehow I hadn’t expected that. It wasn’t totally wonderful because there were too many “critters” and not quite enough light, but it was an exciting start.

The next fall I decided to try container gardening inside the screened pool enclosure. That was easier and worked better because there was plenty of light as well as bug and “critter” protection. An additional benefit was that I could move the pots around or even take them inside if frost was expected. We had a better crop that year but it was still a lot of trouble. It didn’t look very good and I had to water, fertilize and weed. Obviously, none of those are my strong points.
Kale growing without weeds because of the
plastic mulch.


Earthboxes to the Rescue


“Get Earthboxes” several people said the next year. I didn’t really believe all that they told me, but we drove to the Earthbox Research Center anyway and attended a demonstration. I was amazed at what I saw there and how foolproof it seemed to be. Nothing is left to chance because in addition to the containers themselves, the right amounts of everything needed is sold in individual packets: soil, dolomite, and fertilizer as well as a plastic cover to keep the moisture in and the weeds out. It would be almost impossible to do it wrong.

I was so impressed that we bought four of them on the spot then returned a few days later for two more. Several weeks later we bought a seventh box. On the second trip we also got an automatic watering system that is controlled by a battery operated timer. Not only does that mean that we don’t ever have to water (sigh of relief from me and the plants), but that the garden is self-sufficient when we are out of town. With the addition of the watering system there is nothing to do after the initial planting except to harvest the crop. And we do just that – big time.

Every day I gather one or two colanders full of vegetables for immediate use and also have extra to share or freeze for later. I am amazed, my friends are impressed, and I have overheard golfers on the course behind us talk about the “garden house.”

I’m actually a gardener now. Who would have thought?

Claudia and I enjoyed a sunset at the beach in St. Pete.


I love that you can read this post by one of my disciples--a convert to gardening. One problem Claudia will have with her screened-in veggies, is that she'll need to hand pollinate the squashes that she's just started. There are male and female flowers and without pollinators, she will not get any developed fruit unless she transfers the pollen.  

I spent three nights with Claudia while I was speaking to groups in central Florida and then participating in the Green Thumb Festival in St. Pete. It was a great way to catch up and one evening we drove a few miles to the west to enjoy a beach sunset. :-)

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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