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A Week in My Garden: Guest Spotlight

ToRena checks on the bounty of her garden
ToRena checks on the bounty of her garden

Dorchester resident ToRena Webb invited me into her garden this past week. She has a number of projects going on in the backyard. From potatoes being grown in a trash can to the herb garden on the patio, ToRena is making the most of the space she has. She told me of how her father introduced her to gardening at a very young age. As an expecting mother, she plans to continue the tradition both with her children and her nephew. This week she will have her nephew help her harvest strawberries.

With such a busy schedule, how do you (plan to) incorporate gardening into you life?

I'm a Teaching and Performance Artist and am able to plan my schedule according to my own needs. I like to garden in the morning and early afternoon. This still gives me plenty of time to do many other things in my day.

How many years have you been gardening in Massachusetts (Northeast US)?

I have been gardening on my own for three years, but growing up I used to help my dad plant and maintain his garden in our back yard. I also worked in a program led by JoAnn Whitehead (local garden educator) when I was 13 that taught us how to plant, maintain and harvest vegetables and we donated them to a food pantry.

Top 2 reasons to have a garden?

  • It's extremely satisfying and rewarding to eat your own harvest.
  • You care for and nurture your produce and know that your produce is organic.

Potatoes growing in an old garbage can
Potatoes growing in an old garbage can

What did you plant? Or will you plant anything this month or week?

I've already planted lettuce, peas, spinach, collards, kale, carrots, shallots, red onions and spring salad mix. This weekend I will transfer my sungold tomatoes, basil, eggplant, and summer squash. This year I decided to give potatoes a try. So I am experimenting with growing them in a trash can. So far I've had to add compost every day because they are sprouting up fast. The squirrels have already eaten my eggplants, basil, and dug up my oregano , thyme and marjoram. I'm bummed about it because they looked nice.

What watering method do you use? How often do you water?

Depends how I feel. I have a rain barrel and water slowly with it. I recently bought a soaker hose but haven't figured out the best way to use it yet. I water at least every two days, unless its raining.

What have you harvested so far? What's next?

I have been eating lettuce and salad greens every day. It tastes so sweet. I'm excited because I planted garlic in the fall and it looks beautiful. I should be able to harvest that soon.

What is your favorite recipe to use your produce in?

I've been experimenting with kale and carrots lately. Instead of cooking Kale the southern way, I've been sauteing it in butter and olive oil with carrots, onions and garlic.

What are you most excited about growing and why?

I'm excited about growing potatoes and summer squash this year. I usually grow zucchini but last year the flowers never turned into veggies. It kept molding and eventually I pulled it out. I've read up a lot on potatoes and am excited to see if this trash can method will work. Its amazing seeing the greenery sprout up every day when you know you buried them the day before.

Any tips to share?

Orange peels have been keeping the cats away and since I sprinkled red chili flakes around my bed nothing else has reappeared. The Food Project and BNAN have shared great tips with me. I'm thinking ahead for next year and looking into intensive growing methods for more produce. I enjoy the square foot method. its very easy and convenient.

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