Sunday, June 23, 2013

How I began Holistic Gardening (part 1)

Holistic gardening is an approach that you view the ecosystem or environment as a whole. Much like holistic medicine the focus is on the sum of systems instead of the individual issues. When I first had my forays into gardening 25 years ago I knew NOTHING about what I was supposed to do. I grabbed a little bag of dirt sold at the local grocery store, a plastic container, dumped some dirt in the container, plopped my plant  in and waited for a miracle.

My little plant struggled along with poor drainage, poor soil, poor light, and poor everything. So I went to the library and checked out a book. It was a light bulb moment. I read. I researched. I LEARNED! I began to collect plants--easy ones for indoors. My apartment began to look like a conservatory. I had more plants than furniture or chatkes. I was hooked but I felt like I needed more of a challenge.

Then I met the hubbs, except he wasn't the hubbs then. Well I knew he was gonna be the hubbs someday but he was just the boyfriend then. We eventually shacked up (always classy, haha) and moved to a tiny little apartment that had a balcony. OMG--I had outdoor space!

It started with a little pot of marigolds. Then there were petunias. And some geraniums. But I wanted more, I just didn't know what the  more was until  I was out for a walk one evening and there was this little old lady tending a garden on her patio that had...vegetables! I swear I heard angels singing!

Who knew you could grow vegetables in a container?! My little 22 year old brain thought all vegetables came from farms. From guys who wore overalls named Edgar, Willie and Pops. From little old ladies who wore calico print dresses. From people who did hard, back breaking, sweaty manual labor hoeing fields or using rusty broken down farm equipment. Because that is what I sorta remembered from my grandparents and great grandparents. Not my brightest moment.

I shyly asked the lady about her plants and she was happy to talk.  We introduced ourselves and she began to school me  on having a garden of edibles. Her name was Betty Jean. She was widowed and had to give up her house after her husband passed away. But she didn't give up her love for a garden.

Not Betty Jean but this picture reminds me of her. I sure wish I had a picture of her
She told me what plants could go in the same pots together. How much light was needed and how much water. She told me how to pinch off suckers to contain the size of the plant so it would make food instead of more plant. I was in awe. I was able to visit her a few times before one of her kids moved her to an assisted care facility. I found this out when my now hubby (who was the apartment complex maintenance man at that time) brought me some of her patio vegetable containers.  I never had a chance to say goodbye but she made sure to leave a note telling him to take the plants for me and thanking me for spending time with an old lady. I am choking back tears remembering this...

 I can still see in my mind's eye all the little pots and containers that cluttered her patio. She had used margarine tubs, peanut butter and jelly jars, milk cartons, egg cartons, old pots, bowls and coffee cans. Whatever she could use to hold some dirt and a plant. It may have looked like junk to some but I thought it was beautiful.

It was such a long time ago but I can recall the conversations just as if they were yesterday Those were my first lessons in companion planting and recycling. Walking down memory lane makes me tired.  I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I  did. Stay tune for next installment of my journey on the holistic gardening path.


  1. I've yet to meet a gardener that isn't happy to share their knowledge. Doesn't that make gardeners the BEST kind of people??? I sure think so. Everyone NEEDS a Betty Jean.......

    1. Sue that is the truth. I love when I run into some of the "old timey farmers" at the feed n seed, Tractor Supply or Rural King. Of course you have to haul your tuckus there bright and early to see them. They crack me up with "watcha growing young lady?" Now mind you I am 46 years old but they always call me young lady. But I guess considering some of them are pushing 80 I do probably seem like a young upstart, lol Anyway a lot of times they will give me some hints and tips for planting and growing stuff. I swear it is like pennies from heaven to get the little nuggets of wisdom, especially when they preface it with..."My gramma or grandpa always told me..."

  2. What a touching story. So much valuable knowledge that passes from the world. I'm glad she was able to share it with you so that you can share it with us later on.

    1. Me too! I wish at the time I had understood just how special it was...


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