Gardener of the Month: October 2020
Meet Our October Gardener of the Month: @neverenoughdirt!
AT A GLANCE:
Day job: Stay at home parent to two kids 6 and under (previously IT Support Manager)
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving
Favorite veggie: Chinese broccoli (aka gai lan)
Favorite activity (other than gardening): Photography
Favorite movie: Young Frankenstein
Describe your garden.
Our property is roughly 8000 sq. ft. with the last 1/3 of it being a steep slope. My gardening is spread throughout the property. In the backyard, we have plants along the edges in order to keep the middle open for the children to play in. On the side with the most sunlight, we have a more formal gardening area. The space is roughly 150 square feet. (This is what is probably the average space for many gardeners.)
This garden which I call, “The 150 Square Foot Garden,” is a perfect vignette of my gardening style. This style is a mash up of the many common gardening styles. Here we have elements of traditional gardening, farming practices, permaculture, and urban chic. On one end of the spectrum, we have raised beds and a trellis made with branches from the trees on our slope. In the middle, we have a large growing area that is on flat ground. On the opposite end, we have metal raised planters to delineate our garden from the rest of the yard.
Throughout the rest of our property, we have growing areas that are focused on one of those three themes. While each are unique, they all share my passion for growing plants with a heavy interest in learning about the relationships they have with nature, people, culture, and history. It is amazing the kinds of connections people make when they grow something that another person remembers from their childhood or exposure to a different culture.
If you could have one gardening superpower, what would it be?
As someone who likes to grow all sorts of things, the one gardening superpower to have would be the ability to create the different climates right in my backyard. This superpower would allow me to grow plants that are impossible or very difficult to grow in my climate all year round. I would use my superpower to create a northern climate for wasabi, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, apples and peaches. In the tropical climate, I would grow all the sweet and delicious fruit; including durian!! Rainwater is the best water for plants, and I would also harvest rainwater from a rainforest climate.
The best part about this superpower is that gardeners can possess this to a certain degree. Greenhouses, growing indoors, and identifying microclimates around the house can allow us to better grow plants prefer conditions that are slightly outside of our growing zone or climate.
Favorite recipe from the garden?
Grilled artichokes. Artichokes from the garden. Halved, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of salt, and throw on the grill or in a toaster oven.
If you could recommend one vegetable for EVERYONE to grow, what would it be, and why?
Corn. Corn is a vegetable that has many appeals. It can be grown to be eaten for enjoyment. Meal varieties can be grown year-round in warm climates and can provide food security. Ornamental varieties have neat color foliage and stalks to admire. The varieties that form colorful ears are especially fun. It is always a mystery what the colors are; to unwrap each ear is like unwrapping a present. It is truly like Christmas in July.
Has your background impacted you as a gardener? If so, how? Have you learned from anyone in your family or are you self-taught?
My background has enabled me to see garden challenges through a more positive lens. Finding the positive side of a garden challenge has enabled me to do more and stress less.
My interest to grow plants comes from my parents. However, much of my learning came from many episodes of “The Victory Garden” during the years when Roger Swain was on it. There was a large gap in years between the last time I watched that show and when I picked up a garden trowel. Much of what I know today is built on my early exposure to gardening as presented on that show. However, I have since learned that general gardening knowledge is based on growing in the New England climate. Growing in our warm California climate has enabled me to discover that there are practices and rules that do not apply. This discovery has led me to unlock the full potential of our climate. One example repeats my earlier mention of how we can grow corn year-round. Another example is that we can end up with many more tomatoes by not growing them “single stem”.
As a 2020 Gardener of the Year, you’ll receive 2 sample boxes of Burpee Home Gardens’ 2021 new varieties… one for you and one for a friend! Who did you give your second sample box to and why?
The first person that came to mind is my friend, Anne @realhensofoc. I met Anne through gardening. Along with being a chicken-raising ambassador, she organizes and hosts two seed swaps annually. These swaps are open to everyone. Attendees have been from the greater Southern California area (from Los Angeles to San Diego; and everywhere in between.)