What tips and tricks would you like to share with other people?
People are always amazed by my pictures and what I grow and it always surprises me honestly. Because even if you only have a patio and garden nursery black buckets — you can grow something in your climate with relative ease. All it takes is water, light and tending. I use chicken fertilizer called, “Chickadee-Doo-Doo” and my breakfast eggshells or calcium shale when planting tomatoes to prevent, “bottom rot.” Store-bought soil doesn’t drain well enough often, so I prefer cactus soil or mix in something coarse for drainage – which seems key for my happy tomatoes. I’ve yet to try hydroponics but I’d love to soon. I’m also really close to the beach so I fend off white powdery mildew by spraying backing soda with water (1 tablespoon per gallon). I use Epsom salts (a tablespoon per gallon) to make peppers explode with growth, as they love the magnesium. However, these tricks are all things any gardener can find easily online.
Whether you’re growing edibles or merely flowers or landscaping, the most important tip I can share is also very much unknown by most: When not growing from seeds, please only purchase plants from Lowe’s or any garden store who has pledged not to buy from suppliers who use bee-killing NeoNic pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides are the nicotine-based pesticides are used on ALL of our crops. “NeoNic’s” (as we call them), sound great in theory. Nothing is sprayed in the environment or on a picker – instead the seeds are dipped in the pesticide, and it grows into the DNA of the plant. But in combination with a rare mold, these pesticides have been proven the cause of Colony Collapse – the devastation of bee hives worldwide since 2006. Worse, our crops are only single-dipped in NeoNics, but growers for nurseries are now TRIPLE dipping seeds. So we’re now naively killing important pollinators with our own gardens and yards – the last thing any gardener would wish. These plants are often the cheapest to buy so most small and local nurseries are also buying them. So what can you do? Contact the management and the owner, the corporate office online… if they “don’t know” if they’re selling NeoNics, they likely are. But your statement that you won’t do business with them until they can promise they aren’t, is exactly what pushed Lowe’s to stop carrying them. Your voice makes a difference. I want everyone to shop local, but only if you’re certain they’re not buying from a supplier who uses NeoNics. Change will only come if you speak up in email, online, in dollars, with your voice. And spread the word with other gardeners. Without pollinators, we’ll have no gardens.
What are some of the other things you would like to have other people understand about living a healthier and self-sufficient life style?
There's really no such thing as self-sufficient, everything requires community. So if having a garden seems overwhelming, get a partner in on it with you. A garden gives a harvest worthy of sharing and sharing the watering and pruning makes the rewards great and the time required less for all. I know of an older woman who can't garden but allows others to grow and plant in her yard for 50% of the harvest. A shared garden could also be in pots on a patio, or a balcony with a neighbor. Your food not only tastes better, and you get to connect with nature -- but it's also incredibly convenient to walk outside to see what's for dinner or not have to run to the store for ingredients.
What are your favorite plants to grow in the garden?
Ha! Tomatoes. Tomatoes. Tomatoes. I’m a complete tomato maniac (growing around 40 heirloom varieties spring-summer and 10 year-round). Also peppers, lettuce, beans, onions, herbs, berries and bees! (I'm an amateur beekeeper).