Feasting Year-Round from a Small Backyard, Meet Debra at Abundant Mini Gardens!
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How did you get started with your blog?
I had to take early retirement due to medical disabilities. I needed to focus on something positive in my life, other than the chronic pain and physical limitations I was dealing with every day. So, I decided to share my passion for gardening through a website, which is now called Abundant Mini Gardens.
I had been a public speaker as a Master Gardener volunteer for several years. I was no longer able to do much public speaking due to my chronic illness, but I could gradually write articles and share my gardening experience on the internet.
Did you start your blog when you started your transition to live this life style?I created my blog at the same time that I transitioned to the Paleo diet. Because I was starting to eat at least 8 servings/day of vegetables on that diet, I needed to improve my gardening skills in order to grow even more food in the limited space that I was able to handle due to my disabilities.
I’ve learned how to harvest up to 60 pints of vegetables from a garden area smaller than a twin-size bed, and that’s what I share on my website and teach in my online courses.
Have you always been this way?
Yes, I’ve been a passionate gardener for over 35 years. In 1980, when there weren’t any college degree programs on organic gardening, I created my own degree program on that topic through an independent study college, which was part of the State University of New York. I also become a Master Gardener volunteer.
I’ve read literally hundreds of books and articles on this topic, and have experimented in my own gardens for decades. I used to move frequently, so by necessity I had to learn how to quickly create great garden soil from scratch nearly every year.
What are some of the other things you would like to have other people understand about living a healthier and self-sufficient life style?Take it one step at a time as you learn new skills and start a healthier lifestyle. Especially with gardening, it’s critical to start small and only gradually increase the size or complexity of your garden. This way, you can experience success early in the learning curve, instead of being overwhelmed and frustrated.
What tips and tricks could you share with other people?Focus on great quality soil. I’ve seen too many new gardeners plant in poor quality soil or purchase the cheapest bagged soil available, and then become frustrated when their plants don’t grow well.
Also, provide your plants with very deep soil and space your plants farther apart than square foot gardening or other websites often recommend. How much food a plant can produce is often directly related to the size of its root system. Giving plants shallow 6” soil and cramming plants too close together can actually result in stunted plants and a smaller harvest.
Have you ever made mistakes or failed doing something?
I’ve probably made every gardening mistake that’s possible over the years! The secret is to learn from your mistakes and keep trying new things. Every garden site and region is unique, and not all gardening techniques or plant varieties will work well in every location.
My current biggest mistake is not setting up an irrigation system when my disabilities made it difficult for me to continue hand-watering my garden.
How did you overcome any obstacles?When I became disabled, I was no longer able to work at ground level, or stand for long periods, or do a lot of work with my hands. So, we hired someone to create 18” high raised garden beds made from concrete blocks where I can sit on the sides to work in my garden. I often work in short 15 minute time periods.
We also created a number of waist-high gardening containers, which are wonderfully easy to work in while either standing up or sitting down. I still need my sister’s assistance with many gardening chores, but I do as much as I can within my abilities.
I’ve also learned how to produce even more vegetables from limited space, to reduce how much work we have to do in our garden to produce most of the large amount of vegetables that we eat every day.
To help other gardeners learn how to create a highly productive small garden, I provide a free 12-page guide, 9 Ways to Grow More Food in Less Space, to everyone that joins my Abundant Mini Gardens community.
Have you ever dealt with a person who disregards your life style?Some people don’t understand or respect my new diet, but most folks I know are very supportive - especially if they’ve seen the changes that happened to me once I started this lifestyle. My pain levels are greatly reduced, many health conditions improved, and I’ve lost over 50 pounds - and kept it off!
Eating a large amount of fresh organic vegetables has been incredibly beneficial for me. I’d have a very hard time affording all this food if I wasn’t able to grow much of it in my own yard.
What are some of your greatest rewards with a lifestyle such as the one you live?It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to grow most of our own fresh organic vegetables. I have gotten so spoiled with the wonderful flavors of home-grown food that I now hate to eat store-bought vegetables. And we’ve saved literally thousands of dollars on our grocery bill!
I absolutely love sharing what I’ve learned about gardening with other people – especially with new gardeners, people with limited physical abilities, and folks that are using fresh organic food to help heal their bodies like I have.
My goal is to help other gardeners discover how to grow their own highly successful gardens. In addition to dozens of gardening articles on my website, I’ve written a book that’s been a best seller in the urban gardening category on Amazon: The Abundant Mini Garden’s Guide to Vertical Vegetable Gardening.