Gardener Profile

I was on a Facebook page for a gardening group, and someone initiated one of those “get to know you” types of posts. This doesn’t answer every question, but it does provide you with a good introduction to me and my garden.

Nick Name?
Mrs. GreenJeans

What does your nick name stand for?
I’m not entirely sure, but years ago a neighbor (he’s quite the character) started calling me that because I was always working in my little garden plot.

Age?
Thirtysomething

Where do you live or used to live?
In the woods. In the western Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, for the past 15 years or so. I grew up in Wisconsin, about 5 hours south of where I live now.

Zone?
The plant hardiness zone is about 4b/5a here because our winter minimum temperatures are moderated by Lake Superior. However, our growing season is short and more like areas that are 3b/4a.

My garden in April, in a warm year.

Do you work or where did you work before?
My background is in forestry, and my professional work is related to compiling and communicating scientific information related to forests. It’s really awesome.

Other hobbies besides gardening?
The bigger ones are: biking, triathlons, playing outside, writing.

How long have you been gardening?
When I was about 15, I was inspired by my summer job at a farm market and dug up a patch of sod in my parent’s yard to make a garden. I can’t remember if I stuck with long enough to plant anything, but I certainly didn’t grow anything. I started gardening for real when I was 22, and I’ve been gardening at our current home for the past 10 seasons.

Where is your garden located and what is its size?
I have a bunch of gardens, and a lot of plants. We have about 3 acres in the country, and I have a few different garden areas:

  • My vegetable garden (about 30 ft x 40 ft), which is where I spend most my energy.
  • Perennial fruits are near there. There are grapes growing on the north fence of the vegetable garden, and blueberries planted on the other side
  • A wildflower garden containing prairie plants that are native to the area in Wisconsin where I grew up.
  • Foundation plantings around the house, consisting almost entirely of plants I got for free.
  • The woods, which we use for making maple syrup and which I’d like to garden.

We also have another property with a small vegetable garden for things that take up space and don’t need much tending (e.g., potatoes) and a bunch of woods and wetlands.

Courses in Horticulture?
I took plant taxonomy and some other classes in college and got a minor in plant science. In 2017, I completed the Master Gardener coursework.

What are your specialties in gardening?
I’m really good at moving the same soil around to different places because I change my mind on how I want things arranged. I bet that some of my raised beds have moved 3-4 times. Also, I don’t have a rototiller, so I do all my soil prep and weeding with hand tools and elbow grease.

Grapes!

Favorite Flower?
Monarda (bergamot, bee balm). I love the smell.

Favorite Tree/Shrub?
Elm. I love the shape and all the textures.

What has been the best-performing plant/plants in your gardens?
Probably potatoes. Because I’m not that skilled of a gardener, but I’m good at moving soil around.

Most challenging plant?
I can never grow cabbages or cruciferous veggies (except kale) in my garden. Something eats them.

Favorite gardening quote?
Maybe that proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Favorite gardening magazines?
Not right now, but I’m taking suggestions.

Favorite garden website?
Not in particular. I feel like I’m always searching Google for something really weird.

Do you belong to any garden societies or clubs?
Not yet.

Do you have a gardening webpage?
Right here!

Favorite garden books?
I was gifted a copy of The Vegetable Gardeners Bible when first started gardening, and it’s always been a great reference. For native plants, the catalog from Prairie Nursery contains as much information as a book and is fun to look at.

Favorite tool(s)?
A digging fork and a stirrup hoe. Add in a shovel, a five-gallon bucket, and a good pair of gloves and I could do just about anything.

I could seriously write a love letter to my stirrup hoe.

What has been your best garden purchased or project?
I buy vegetable starts for things like tomatoes and peppers. I suppose it’s more fashionable to save your seeds and grow your own, but I have no interest in growing plants indoors. Buying starter plants saves me time, and I think is cost-effective since I’m not buying supplies or running grow lights.

Any projects in the works or planned?
Where do I start? Let’s save that for a future post…

If you had an unlimited budget, what would you do with your garden?
I’d make all of our property into a giant food forest.

If you could invent a plant, what would it look like?
A tree that grew chocolate, year-round, in my backyard.

Describe an experience with a garden pest that had you ready to throw in the trowel?
Anytime I tried to grow cabbages, ever.

What advice do you have for the novice gardener?
Follow your curiosity. Just do what’s fun. Nobody was ever born with a green thumb.

What is your motivation for gardening?
I garden for so many reasons that it’s hard to say. Perhaps it’s that gardening does so many things at once. If I’m gardening, I’m spending time outside and relieving stress and moving my body and learning stuff and growing healthy food and making habitats for critters and making the world happier.

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