June's Featured Gardener – Ellen Peavy
Every garden needs its caretaker. That is why, here at White Harvest, we want to honor those from all around the world who live by the toil of their hands. We love featuring gardeners who enjoy "getting their hands dirty" and growing their own food. Every gardener has their own unique story to share!
It was through a seed swap that we first met Ellen Peavy, our Featured Gardener. We were introduced on myfolia.com, a great gardening forum and journal, where she told us about an heirloom seed called the Jack Bean given to her by a good friend.
"Her great grandfather passed these seeds down to her," says Ellen. "They were used as a meat substitute in the late 1800s in Florida. I had never heard of this bean or ever seen one before." She describes it as a very hardy, strong plant that survives extreme heat and even drought. "We had a ten day period of 100 degrees or more and a real lack of rain here last summer," Ellen recalls. "Yet, the Jack Bean thrived. The purple flowers were all over the vine as it grew to fourteen feet tall and the huge pods measured the length of a ruler. I planted four in front of the chicken coop and had to use tree limbs to support the vines. I planted the other two on the side of a young oak tree which stood twenty foot tall and the beans climbed all the way to the top." Ellen says she still has about ten pods stuck at the top of that tree. She tried shaking the tree and some of the pods fell down, but the rest she says will have to stay up there.
Ellen lives in the southern state of Georgia, where there are both pros and cons to gardening. "We have milder winters here usually, which lets us start seeds earlier. I'm able to plant the potatoes around the middle of March and put out all of the rest just a week later." This also means they have a longer growing cycle. "I usually still have peppers producing in November," Ellen tells us.
However, she must face the hot dry weather in July and August and protect her plants accordingly. And the hard red clay at her feet requires some heavy composting and chicken manure to keep the soil healthy and nutritious.
"I have eight raised beds and I'm still working on getting the soil ready," Ellen explains. She likes to add chopped leaves and straw mixed with chicken manure to improve the garden's overall foundation.
Like all of us, Ellen was drawn to gardening by the delicious tastes and smells that can only come from fresh, homegrown produce. She's been growing her own food for two years now, but has always wanted to garden. "I just never had enough time in between raising my children and moving all over with my military husband. Since I'm now retired, I have all the time I could want to work in the garden," says Ellen. She also enjoys taking care of her chickens and one duck.
"I really have a passion for gardening and working in the dirt," Ellen admits proudly. "I enjoy starting the seedlings in winter and watching the plants grow." She uses milk jugs to start her seedlings inside and says this helps some vegetables, like peppers and tomatoes, get a great head start.
Every garden is - without question - a miracle. Ellen loves taking a bare patch of soil and planting seeds and watching them grow from a small seedling to a tall stalk of corn or a huge vine of Jack beans. "I'm able to take these very same seeds," says Ellen, "And grow the vegetables that feed the whole family through the winter and into the spring of the following year." It's rewarding, but serious business. She recently had four trees removed to let more sun in for her tomatoes and potatoes. Don't underestimate that needed sunshine!
She loves to grow many things, including sweet peppers, pumpkins, and squash. "The peppers just produce so much and take the least amount of work. You can make so many things with the sweet peppers. I like pickling them and making salsa." As for the squash, she doesn't mind the wait to see how big the plants and pumpkins will grow. Plus, the bees love the beautiful yellow flowers of the squash.
Ellen stands by the advice her father told her about planting potatoes on March 17th, Saint Patrick's Day. "My father was Irish and he told us his family always planted potates on this day. It's supposed to bring good luck to the family and your potato crop is supposed to be the biggest crop ever." Well, since Ellen's family had so many potatoes last year and the bushes bloomed lots of yellow flowers she says she will always stick to her father's advice and plant future potato crops on that day.
With a heart to share what she's learning with other gardeners and a willingness to keep trying different things, Ellen is an encouraging reminder to all of us that growing heirlooms is always worth the work.
She says the Jack bean has been a great resource for her to trade with and gives her the chance to try other seeds she's had her eye on. She even gave us some seeds to try! If you'd like to join the seed swapping fun, look us up on myfolia.com
As the summer season heats up, may we all find those heirloom varieties to call our own, preserve them, and swap for other favorites to keep our gardens growing strong.
Check back with us next time to learn more about another fellow gardener!
please contact Savanna at (866) 424-3185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every selected featured gardener will receive a $10.00 Free Seed Certificate
and will be featured for an entire month on our website.