Plant Lover of the Month: Christian and Hans – 222 E 9th Street

Many of us love the idea of growing our own food. In fact, veggie growing is my personal favorite, so I just love visiting my fellow veggie gardeners and learning from them. Many folks think that vegetable gardens are unsightly and can only be used seasonally – tomatoes and peppers are the most popular vegetables grown. This is simply not true, and this this enchanting backyard oasis on E 9th Street not only adds beauty to the yard, but also serves as a source of inspiration and learning for anyone who visits.

As you step through Christian and Hans’ kitchen onto the back deck, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant tapestry of colors and shapes. The vegetable garden boasts an impressive array of vegetables, ranging from the familiar classics to unique and unusual varieties. It’s located in front of their guest home, making a lovely spot for guests to enjoy their morning coffee.

What sets this vegetable garden apart is not just their gardening prowess, but the beautiful way it is laid out and designed to be the focal point of their back yard throughout the year. With meticulous care and nurturing, they have mastered the art of cultivating healthy and thriving plants. From companion planting to organic pest control methods, their expertise shines through in every meticulously tended bed.

As the seasons change, so does their approach to their garden. They understand the importance of adapting their care routine to the unique needs of each season and choosing vegetables that will grow and thrive in whatever the current season is.

But it’s not just the vegetables themselves that make this garden remarkable—it’s also the commitment to sustainable practices. They embrace environmentally friendly methods, such as composting, water conservation, and natural fertilizers. They also have back yard hens that not only produce a steady flow of eggs but help fertilize and improve soil health and are a great help in pest control.

Here’s a peek inside their process and what inspires them:

Your garden is very well organized. How did you get started? How did you decide on a plan and materials to use? Location?

I was inspired by my neighbor, Nathan, the man in overalls who does raised bed gardening here in Springfield. Since I moved here from Colorado, I looked to someone local who was able to grow food in the place where I live. I use his magic mix compost to amend the soil when I put seeds in the ground each season. I started with wooden raised beds and they decomposed after 4 years so I switched to galvanized. The placement of my garden was based on sun exposure. I follow the planting guidelines for our zone 9b and use seeds from a local supplier, Standard Feed and Seed.

Did you have specific plants that you wanted to grow of have you been inspired as time has passed?

I wanted to grow a whole food forest that would provide food year round. I practice companion planting and follow zone 9b planting guidelines so I can prevent using any products or chemicals on my garden. The only thing I use is sun, water, compost! I have added fruit trees every year. Since my yard is small, I used the espalier technique for my apples, pears, grapes, blackberries and raspberries along the fence line.

You grow fruit as well as veggies. What are some of the varieties of fruit that you are growing?

Anna apple, pear, nectarine, ruby red grapefruit, fig, banana, lemon, lime, orange, key lime, avocado, Barbados cherry, muscadine grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. My papaya tree died after a freeze and I plan to add 2 plum trees next year.

You garden year round. Many folks don’t know that you can do this. What are some tips that you have for being successful in the cooler months?

I keep things simple and plant seeds around March 15, and August 15th. I also plant regrowable foods such as lettuces, onion, celery etc from food scraps. If I have to buy a head of lettuce, I chop off the bottom and stick it in the ground and get lots more lettuce from that one purchase. In the cooler months, of things die, I let them. I don’t do blankets and all of that stuff. I like to keep everything simple. 

You grow pollinator plants too. Can you explain some of the ones that you grow and why you’ve integrated them into your garden?

Fruiting plants need pollinators and I love a colorful, beautiful garden that’s easy to manage and basically takes care of itself. I have roses, sunflowers, marigolds, salvia, lavender, geraniums, and several other flowers. I always keep one of my 6 raised beds, full of flowers and also plant flowers along borders of the beds along the pathway

Do you grown from seed? If so, do you grow any heirlooms? What tips do you have for growing from seed?

You’re gonna laugh, I’m a simple gardener. I literally just sprinkle seeds straight from the packets into the soil. I don’t space, dig, cover or do anything other than plant the right seeds during the right season. I get all of my seeds from Standard feed and seed up the road 

Do you grow any herbs? If so, what ones?

Lots of herbs; lavender, oregano, thyme, cilantro, parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, comfrey, Thai basil, mint, spearmint

You also have backyard hens, how fun! What inspired you and how do they contribute to your garden?

We love our chickens!! We wanted farm fresh eggs that were organic, free range and we knew the source and lifestyle of the chickens. When the crops are spent, the chicken go gobble up what’s left and scratch the soil and fertilize with there manure. I also use their bedding and drippings in the compost.

Did you build their cool and run or did you purchase it?

We purchased ours from Tractor supply and the 2 runs came from Amazon

Do you have any tips for anyone who wants backyard hens?

So easy, just do it! We hand selected ours at 3 weeks old from a local farm and kept them in the bathtub with bedding and a heat lamp for 2 weeks. Then we put them in the roast for a week so they would get used to sleeping in there. We blocked off the nesting boxes so they would not sleep in them. Then we let them out. We use gravity fed feeding and watering systems so we only have to do it once a week.

What have been some of your struggles in the garden?

I always seem to get the mildew on squashes and zucchini’s. I have never had luck with them but everything else has done great! It’s all about the soil, sunlight and water. We have a really cool irrigation system that supplies water to each individual bed. We attached soaker hoses to each faucet at each bed and buried them under the soil. The water is on a timer so it’s effortless.

What tips do you have for anyone wanting to build a year round garden?

Start by growing things you know that you’ll eat! Maybe start a salsa garden; grow tomato, pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, green onion around a lime tree. Or you could start a pizza garden and grow the things needed for homemade sauce! Make it fun, get the family involved. You will begin to appreciate food and the whole process. It’s life changing!

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