Susan has been gardening for over thirty years, providing food for herself and her family. She has many years of experience growing and preserving food from when her children were growing up. Since she got her Growing Gardens plot two years ago, she has been experimenting, taking risks, and having more fun in the garden. She enjoys learning how to grow and prepare new foods.
We met Susan in her garden, where she showed us all the plots she was tending, and told us a little about the plants growing in them. Although she only has a small space to work with, she grows a huge variety of fruits and vegetables. She utilizes all the space she has, growing in raised beds, ground beds, buckets, and pots. As we threw a ball to her dog, she told us how her gardening philosophy has changed over thirty years of starting and halting various garden projects, and figuring out what does and does not work. “We would always have pumpkins, and we tried tomatoes in different containers and found out not out there [in the back yard] because the dog thinks green tomatoes are balls.”
Now, her philosophy is to plant everything anywhere, and see what sticks. She likes to be surprised by what her garden gives her, and she joyfully showed us many different plants hidden around her garden – some which she grew from seed, others which came up as volunteers. “Because I’ve decided to take risks, just throwing seeds out there, I think it’s become more fun – ‘look at what I found!'"
Although she remarked that she rarely saw other people outside when she gardened, she also noted how the community of people with gardening knowledge has been growing. For Susan, this has included both Growing Gardens, as well as the knowledge base and facilities at Zenger farm, just down the road from her house.
Susan started gardening primarily as a way to provide healthy food for her family. Besides the joy of working in the garden, she also noted the wealth of food it has provided her and her family. “I have a freezer that has tomatoes, and frozen pureed pumpkin in it… Knowing that I do have food, I’m trying to change my mentality to eat up the food I have before getting more.”
She appreciates the higher quality of the food she grows herself, and uses the vegetables she has stored as a basis for planning meals. Having an abundance of food has pushed her to eat what she has instead of buying from stores or restaurants. It also has encouraged her to learn to cook new foods with the vegetables she grows. “When we started this, I luckily hooked up with Zenger farms, because there were some foods that, like kale, I’d only ever had kale in kale salad, and I didn’t really like it. So I learned how to cook kale. I’d never cooked eggplant before, and I found out that I like eggplant… ratatouille’s good! That’s a good way to us up the squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes – it’s a good fall meal.”
Interview by Andrew Mautz, Cole Lalomia & Lu Whipps