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Master Gardeners Share Edible Landscaping Secrets

Spring is around the corner. Want a truly "green" garden?

Pasco County Extension Office coordinator Jan Sternal has arranged for programs that we here in Land O' Lakes can use to spruce up our winter withered gardens. 

On a recent Saturday at the more than 60 people benefited from lectures on implementing permaculture gardening techniques. "Permaculture" is a term coined in 1978 for a practice that has the goal of developing stable, harmonious communities among humans, animals, vegetation, soil and water.

Jim Kovaleski, a New Port Richey resident, is a man who has truly "greenscaped" his garden. He feels strongly that rather than toil with high maintenance yards we can all benefit by creating an edible landscape.

"If we think everything comes from the store, we are missing the point," said Jim. "There is so much we can grow, even in small spaces."

Participants in the workshop on edible landscapes watched a slide slow and heard explanations of just how Kovaleski does this around his compact 700-square-foot home.

Jim grows all the vegetables he eats, and has enough left over to share with neighbors and sell at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Town 'N Country.

Years of trial and error, brought Jim to the realization that natural techniques are the best in every way. Organic produce will benefit our health and growing more of our own produce will leave a few more dollars in our pockets. 

Jim told us, "Pests are not a problem if the plant is really healthy."

How do we grow healthy edible plants around our own homes?  Compost! But rather that spend a lot in a garden store or nursery, Jim suggested, "Look locally for organic resources for compost and let nature build a healthy environment slowly, layer by layer. Patience is the gardener's best friend."

Another tip was, "Always have a root in the ground. Cut rather than pull your plants out. Allow the natural material to decompose and add to the health of the soil."

Realizing that lettuce, spinach, kale and mustard greens, broccoli, beans cucumber, squash, tomatoes, and so much more, can be artfully arranged to create a lovely and delicious landscape, the audience enthusiastically asked questions with the intent of creating gardens of delight this spring.

Now we were ready to see how we could create rich, pest-free environments, which would produce prolific amounts of vegetables and fruit. But what if our space is very limited, perhaps having only a few square feet or just a patio?

The next lecture that Saturday was presented by Don LaClair was on creating 5-gallon, self-watering containers. These are mini "Earthboxes" that can be created in a couple of hours with inexpensive components. Don gave us step-by-step instructions on creating the "Ebucket," which is what he calls this self-contained "growing machine."

Don grows tomatoes, turnips, broccoli, almost anything you might plant in the soil, in an Ebucket. The advantage of this method is it's low-maintenance, pest-free and promotes a healthy soil that won't be washed away. This allows for greater production per plant, he said.

To our delight, both Jim and Don brought samples with them for the audience. We left with either a tiny turnip plant or a tomato seedling. A drawing was held for some of the Ebuckets that Don had created; for those that did not win one, they were available for purchase at only $3.

How grateful we can be to our Pasco County Extension for bringing us answers to our planting dilemmas as well as great new ideas. A special thanks must go to Jan Sternal, the Pasco County Extension Coordinator and the master gardeners that volunteer their time and efforts. Some of those that were in attendance were Chris Storch, president of the Master Gardener Program; Debra Hamilton, vice-president; Kay Waldron, Master Gardener; and Corrine Goodman, Master Gardener.

For the schedule of lectures that will help with more of your gardening concerns see our previous article: 

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