Meet Mike Abbruzzese from Long Island, New York, United States

“Gardening has always been my passion and my escape from the world. I have been practicing strictly organic gardening methods for the last 10 years and I plant practically my entire garden from seed. I love garden gnomes and frequently use the shaka hand gesture.

Growing up we had a small backyard garden. We grew roma and beefsteak tomatoes, bell and jalapeno peppers, Italian eggplant and we had an herb garden. This is what I would refer to as ‘the basics’. We purchased established plants at the local nursery. I was hooked with growing food ever since.

I am fascinated by the miracle of life. The experience of sowing a small seed and caring for it until it produces fruits or beautiful blooms is so satisfying. I believe knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown is important. For me that means feeding my family home grown organic food and garden to table whenever possible. Gardening connects you to the earth and teaches you important things like having gratitude, patience, appreciation and so much more. Gardening helps to nourish my soul. Sometimes life can become overwhelming. Spending time in the garden grounds me and chills me out. It’s a happy place of healing, learning and much needed Zen.

I have 9 raised beds and a bunch of grow bags and containers, which equates to about 400 sq feet. I try vertical gardening wherever possible to get the most out of my growing space. This year I took over 2 patches of land at my parent’s house, which adds another 280 sq feet of growing area. The two patches are referred to as the Sandy and Goose garden, named after pets that are no longer with us. I refer to these gardens as my allotment.

I grow veggies, fruits and flowers. Over the last few years I have been expanding my horizons with less common varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants amongst other veggies that you typically can’t find at the local nursery. I grow blue berries, raspberries, blackberry and figs in containers on my patio. I love growing sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias, nasturtiums and anything that is pollinator friendly and brings more color to the garden.

I feed my soil homemade compost as well as purchased compost and manure from organic certified providers. Whenever I amend the soil I liberally apply worm castings, azomite for trace minerals and organic fertilizer. Recently I made my own diy worm bin. Once the bin is established I will use the castings to make worm tea. This fall I’m going to save and shred bags of leaves from my parent’s house (they have huge oak trees) and use them as mulch next season. I try to let Mother Nature manage mostly everything else in the garden. I let squirrels and birds eat from the garden and inevitable when it becomes too much I sprinkle some home made hot pepper powder around the plants and that keeps them away.

The biggest hurdle I face in the garden is available time and managing my lower back pain. I use drip irrigation, clay watering vessels and heavily mulch to save time and water!

The biggest reward for me from gardening is watching my 2-year-old daughter, Summer Dahlia, harvest her own cherry tomatoes, eat them straight from the vine and smile! She has become quite the little garden helper, which melts my heart. I enjoy all the wildlife the garden attracts. The pollinators and birds are always active.

Every spring I gift seedlings that I started to friends and family. Over the years more of my friends have been starting gardens and they typically come to me for advice when it comes to building raised beds, garden planning and pest management. I love chatting about the garden wins and the woes. It’s always a rollercoaster of some sort.

I nourish my soul through gardening and I think others should too. Gardening, like anything else in life, can be a roller coaster, enjoy the ride.”