Somy from Tennessee, United States

“I’m a very dedicated mother, wife, and daughter that loves not only gardening, but also design, DIY projects, and food.

My mother has always had a garden, so a lot of the vegetables were grown from seed by her. I didn’t realize then how much that would play a role in my life later. Despite that, I wasn’t interested in gardening when growing up. It was not until my first child was born, that I decided that I wanted him and any other siblings to eat organically grown food just as I did growing up.

I mostly grow food to feed my family, but it’s also a great way for me to relax and connect with Mother Nature, even though gardening can be hard work. In return, my family and friends get to taste the full flavor of homegrown food.

Our garden is approximately 4,000 sq.ft. We grow vegetables, herbs , fruits and flowers. I love to grow things, even if it’s not really meant for my zone, 7a. Growing and harvesting bananas is an example. I want to grow so many things, even if just one time. I have an accredited degree in design, so it’s natural for me to incorporate design in my garden. I love a garden that’s not only functional, but also appealing. Though my gardening space is not small, I’m always trying to find ways to have more gardening room. Incorporating vertical gardening in the garden and container growing on the patio is a great way to achieve that.

We make as much of our own compost as we can along with purchasing local mushroom compost. The weeds are hand pulled, and to manage pests as much as possible, I look for them on a daily basis. Companion planting and growing certain plants to deter them is also a practice of mine. I water at the base of the plants only.

I do purchase seeds if I currently do not have them, from different companies, locally and from other areas. However, I have learned over the years to save seeds for cost effectiveness plus the next generation of plants have adapted to its growing climate. Another great thing about saving seeds is that I can share with friends who may not be able to afford a lot of seeds or ones who would like to give gardening a try.

The hand pulling of weeds and watering everything by hand is challenging at times. I am hoping to have an irrigation system one day. Right now, I utilize rainwater collected in three 30 gallon barrels before using water from the garden spigot.

I think it’s amazing to see how a tiny seed sprouts and ends up being food, delicious and nutritious food, and I get a joy seeing the people that I share with appreciating it. It’s a great feeling to see that my garden also supplies food for the butterflies and bees. It’s convenient to be able to have a backyard grocery store that is located about 10′ to 70′ from the backdoor.

I share with my elderly neighbors, and I try to convince coworkers to start growing their own food by sharing food made from fruits, or fresh fruits and veggies grown by me. I believe anyone can grow a garden, if they choose to, no matter the size of space they have, or even with no experience. Start with what you love to eat, or flowers you love.

Being in the garden has given me more than I had realized. Four years ago, it all began with my first experience with losing someone I felt close to, and I became depressed. I had found myself not being outside as often as I once was, and I became extremely deficient in Vitamin D. Since then, I garden even in the cold months here, and make an effort to go outside when the sun shines on those cold days, even though I can not stand cold weather.

I enjoy sharing my gardening journey of ups and downs with others, and if I can influence one person to give gardening a try, then it’s all worth it.”