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Farmer of the Week: Kristi Jones

by on November 13, 2012

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We’re happy to introduce you to Kristi Jones, the Backyard Diva, who was first inspired to garden by her great-grandfather, Grandpa Mike. He  gardened until he was 98 years old!  He taught her about vegetable gardening and passed on his prolific and locally famous bean pole seeds. Kristi shares her vegetables, seeds and flowers with anyone she meets and feels that same way I do, wanting to get everyone to start growing their own food.  As a married and  busy mom of three ages thirteen, twelve and eight, she manages quite a large plot of veggies and flowers as well as a greenhouse. She was born and raised in a small ocean front town on Vancouver Island, BC Canada.

NUMBER OF YEARS URBAN GARDENING:
3

FAVORITE THINGS TO GROW:
Dahlia’s! Grandpa’s Heritage pole beans, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers.

URBAN FARMING LOCATION:
My backyard, a little of my neighbor’s yard also.. we each have about a ¼ acre lot. The Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Canada.

GARDENING ADVICE:
You can’t grow wrong! Start off small, each season add just a little more, never letting yourself get overwhelmed!

YOUR OWN GARDENING TIPS AND TRICKS:
I am fortunate to live near the ocean and twice a year (spring and fall) I load up my truck with seaweed and it goes onto everything in the backyard! It does wonders for the soil!

WHY DID YOU FIRST START GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD?
I started to become worried about genetically modified foods and I want to make sure my family is eating as healthy as possible. I have always had a passion for growing flowers and messin’ about in the yard. Saving a little money doesn’t hurt either!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO PREPARE OUT OF THE GARDEN?
I have many favourites, however I am definitely most proud to grow my great-grandfather’s heritage pole beans, a nice long green bean – he has been saving and growing these seeds for more than 40 years that I know of.. I make some delicious canned spicy pickled beans. All my friends and neighbors leave with a jar or two in the summer! (Click here for recipe)

WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO GARDEN (OR HOW DID YOU LEARN)?
I spent many years gardening with my great-grandfather, he had a few acres up the street from me as a child. He was well known for his beautiful dahlias, roses, tomatoes, beans and grafted fruit trees. As a teenager I began growing sunflowers, a few dahlias, daisies and cosmos. Every year I would introduce a few new exciting items to my flower beds. It soon became my passion, I spent many days and hours driving around to nurseries looking around for ideas and asking questions. Even as a teenager, my friends recently reminded me that I would leave little notes in people’s mailboxes telling them what a beautiful yard/garden they had.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNER GARDENERS?
Start small, a couple tomato plants, a few sunflowers, lettuce – never let yourself get overwhelmed. Do not read too much into it! I am no horticulturist or expert by all means, you don’t have to be, learn as you go!
Give your plants some love and they will reward you back!
Compost Compost Compost! Make sure you work all that goodness back into your soil to feed your garden!

HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK DO YOU SPEND IN THE GARDEN?
Once spring arrives I am out in the yard from morning to night! You can’t keep me out of my backyard, and when I am finished in my own yard I can often be spotted gardening my neighbors yards! I also love to incorporate recycled items into my yard for fun. I spend lots of time playing with driftwood, old pallets, windows, rocks, you name it, I will try to grow something in it or on it!

HOW MUCH SPACE ARE YOU USING TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD (IN SQUARE FEET)?
I am currently have 4 raised beds that are 4ft x 8ft, 2 smaller raised beds that are 2ft x 8ft, a few spaces that are just bare land with rocks surrounding the soil,  and a few containers totaling about 275 square feet for edibles in my own yard.
In my wonderful neighbors yard I utilize about 150 square feet for vegetables and share the canned and preserved goods with him.
I have many flower areas totaling about 800 square feet in the backyard. I do separate many perennials and herbs from my yard and sell them locally.

DO YOU USE RAISED BEDS, CONTAINERS, THE GROUND OR A COMBINATION OF SOME?
I have a combination of raised beds, a few container’s and also a small greenhouse which has some large containers for peppers, tomatoes and a few other things I experiment with.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE GARDEN?
Keeping my giant dog Roxy from ‘helping’ me.. she loves to rearrange my seeds and prune my roses and blueberry bushes. I also struggle with slugs, I collect egg shells and sea shells to crush and spread throughout the garden, this helps somewhat.

WHAT ARE YOU GROWING RIGHT NOW?
It is fall here on the West Coast, I have kale, leeks and cabbage in the garden now that will be ready for harvest in the Spring. I just got finished planting garlic and I am now experimenting with some new lights and am going to try growing a few vegetables indoors over the winter, I have a tomato, pepper and some lettuce just started indoors a couple weeks ago.

HOW HAS GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD AFFECTED OR CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
The comfort in knowing that what we are eating is healthy, I love to can and preserve as much as possible – it has truly helped us get back to the basics and also work together as a family!

WHY DO YOU THINK IT´S IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE GROW THEIR OWN FOOD?
It just makes you feel good, it truly is the best medicine!! If I can inspire anyone to grow their own food, herbs, flowers, it makes me happy. That is the reason I spend as much time as I do creating a Facebook page and website. I just want people to experience the feeling of joy that I feel!

WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING ABOUT GARDENING?
That’s hard – what isn’t?
Honestly I think about all the people I know that didn’t have a clue, they were scared to attempt to grow anything; when I get emails, pictures and phone calls of people’s gardens and them thanking me for the inspiration, this inspires me even more!

ANY GARDENING “TRADE SECRETS” THAT YOU´D LIKE TO SHARE?
Find a couple friends that are interested in gardening together so you can share ideas, seeds, plants and inspire each other!

OTHER THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS
Get out there and get your hands dirty!

Check Kristi´s website at http://www.backyarddiva.ca/

Carol Carimi Acutt

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