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Passion Garden  

I sat down with a wonderful woman the other day, her 94 year-old mother by our side, and talked about gardening, and the healing properties in its harvest…

She is a vendor at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market, and runs a small business, Passion Gardens (click link and scroll down). In addition she is the president of the Tx chapter of the Nation Women in Agriculture. We talked and often laughed for a good while as I jotted down notes to prepare the story you are now reading.  Through the entirety of the interview, it never dawned on me to ask her where she came up with the name for her business…. and now, as I began to put pen to paper…it came so easily.  I didn’t need to ask.  She had provided her answer in the cadence of her words describing how she is at home with her hands in the soil.

Kay Bell, is one tough and compassionate woman.  She is a schoolteacher, a wife, a daughter…. But more than any of these things, Kay is a caretaker of Mother Earth.  Well, at least Mother Earth found on the few lots surrounding the cross streets of Taylor and Elm in downtown Waco. If you drive down Taylor street in East Waco, you will have no trouble spotting the bright and beautiful raised beds where she grows her colorfully blended quilt of herbs, edible flowers and veggies.  In these lots, Kay grows the herbs, plants and flowers that produce her secret recipe healing teas.  Although I tried to gain a hint of two of what goes into her secret concoctions…Kay wouldn’t budge…  Like a mother to her child, she holds her recipes close to her bosom and won’t let loose!

Kay attributes her love and understanding of earth’s many bounties to her childhood.  “I am from Jacksonville, Texas.  We lived on a farm and had about 80 acres.  While other kids would be inside playing games, Daddy had us outside working in the fields.  Lord, I hated that work.  I just hated it.  But it’s probably why I can do it so easily now.”

The Bell’s moved from Jacksonville to Waco around 2008.  When they first moved into her house, there was a large lot alongside that was most likely used for a dump of sorts for many years.  Trees and weeds had overtaken the lot as it had sat vacant so long.   Kay had a hunger to work with the earth again, and wanted to plant a garden for the family.  She decided she would approach the owner and ask if he would be willing to sell it to her.  He did, and with much sweat and labor, she refurbished the space and planted a small garden.  A funny thing happened in that once vacant, ugly lot.  “I planted squash and tomatoes mostly. Before I knew it, I had squash growing so fast and so big it was hard to believe.  I guess all that trash had created a rich compost in the ground, because my plants grew and grew and grew!” Bell continued, “I kid you not! There would be people just driving by in there cars and slowing down to look at my giant plants. Some would even stop to take pictures!”  One day she was talking on the phone to an old friend about her bounty, and he made a suggestion she took to action. “He said since I had such an abundance of squash and tomatoes, I should take them down to a local farmers market to sell.”

Shortly after that conversation, she came across an ad in the paper for vendors needed at a local farmers market that set up in the parking lot of the ExtraCo Events Center. The next week she brought her small booth fee, veggies and a card table to set up in that parking lot.  In one hour she had sold out. She kept that booth at the market and turns out, it paid off…  Soon, her backyard business began to grow as fast as those zucchinis! Bell recounts…”That first Summer, just those three months, paid for the lot.” One year later she bought another lot to keep up with the demand. Four years later they were sitting on four properties full of plants and potential.

Most recently, an in-kind donation came from the Rapoport Academy in the form of another lot near Bell’s house, and just down from the school itself.

Before we fast forward present day, allow me to provide you one more key event in Bell’s past that led to her interest in growing herbs. In 2002, Bell was diagnosed with Cancer and had been weakened and frustrated by the side effects of her chemo and radiation treatments. She began doing research into alternative treatments and came across information about the healing properties of herbal tinctures/teas. Quitting chemo and not looking back, tired of the wrath it took on her body, she began her journey into herbal teas as a remedy.

Well, you already know the outcome, as I sit next to this vibrant woman, full of energy, telling her story… Bell is in complete remission and has since developed multiple other tea remedies targeting such afflictions as: Liver and Kidney ailments, Thyroid imbalance and low energy levels. Passion Garden Tea has quite a loyal following at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. In fact, her herbal remedies have become so popular, Drug Emporium now carries a line of her dried packaged teas. Even with her proven successes, Bell isn’t done yet.

Among her other goals:  A children’s garden located near her house off Elm…she calls the initiative Global Revive… In a sense she is making an effort on a small, local scale to re-educate our youth (and future generations) to understand, grasp and commit to supporting an organic, self sustainable lifestyle within our own communities. Recent visitors to her children’s “classroom” were Vanguard Prep School, home schooled children from the Children’s Garden and Outdoor Classroom, and Neighborhood Works.

Well, as you have guessed by now, her energy and vision doesn’t stop here… “My dream would be to be able to put a small building right there (as she points to the middle of the beautiful garden we are all sitting in) to hold classes to teach people about healing teas.”  She plans to retire as a public schoolteacher and devote her time to being a teacher of nature instead.

I encourage everyone to visit the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market and while you’re there, drop by Bell’s booth and sample some of her wonderful teas, vegetables, or zucchini breads.  Stay around and visit.

You too, will see how the passion bloomed in Passion Garden.

Narrative brought to you by: Rianna Alvarado

 

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Resources for Landscaping

Some of these resources may be listed in other blog posts or locations. However, I was working on a presentation related to plant selection for Central Texas and thought I would share them again since I already had the list! This is just a starting point.

Something I would like to mention in regards to plant selection- Before you start selecting your plants, consider your strategy and what end result you are working towards. (Edible landscaping, bird habitat, butterfly attracting, creating a personal space, low maintenance plants, etc.)

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center- Special Collections

Austin Native Landscaping

Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: An Earthwise Guide for Central Texas

Texas Superstar Plants

Texas Superstar Plants Brochure

Earth-Kind Landscaping

Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts & Resources

Central Texas Gardener – Click on Plant Selection for specific lists

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Flowers at the WDFM

You may have seen posts related to, and flowers galore at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market the past couple of weekends. YES, those flowers are local, and no, they are not technically from a “garden”.

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Nancy Livengood Richgruber recently embarked on her journey to become a FLOWER FARMER in Eddy, Texas. This path involves acres of production, tractor work, and soon-hoophouses!

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While we are happy to have her at our booth occasionally, her main priority right now is learning the ins and outs of her farm, regulating production, and what is takes to make her farm productive. Livengood Farms, LLC

Thank you for supporting us as we continue to support local farmers and gardeners in the area!

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My Favorite Resources

Good morning all! I just thought I would post a couple of the resources I really like to access in case they may be of help to other gardeners.

Before I get to the good stuff I feel compelled to give you an insight into my gardening style. I’ve basically been around gardens my whole life, I think of a garden as a place to grow vegetables, and while in graduate school I did research on the reasons people garden.  At one point I had my Master Gardener Certification, I have been involved in multiple school gardens, and I teach continuing education classes related to gardening activities.

You might think this would make me a capable, knowledge, “expert” on things garden related. However, I freely admit that I am an opportunistic gardener, I have lots of experience, and I give advice based on that experience. There are many people who are going to be able to give direct advice to questions, that is not me!  (see below for an example of what I grow)

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As you can see- I grow kids, and fit the garden in when I can. This means that while I know where to go to find out information and the correct way to research it and find a scientific answer, that is rarely what I do.

My fallback method is -GOOGLE! I usually find an {.edu} site and a blog, read them both and then draw a conclusion on how to proceed based on what I learned and what I feel capable of. I also know one of the basic rules of gardening: It might not work.

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If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten. If you never try, you never know. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed. Give it your best shot, and enjoy the ride. Learn from your mistakes. We could go on and on, but I won’t so: here are some of my go to resources!

McLennan County Master Gardener Hotline: Tuesday & Thursday Afternoons
1:30 to 4:30 pm (254)-757-5180

McLennan County Master Gardener Website– news, updates, and many other resource links!

The Natural Gardener in Austin:  Monthly To Do Lists ~ Tips & Tricks

Agrilife Extension: Easy Vegetables to Grow ~ Vegetable Resources  ~ Bookstore/Downloads

Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research (SARE) Learning Center

ATTRA/NCAT: Urban Agriculture Publications

Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA)  Resources for Farmers 

Blogs: Melody’s Gardening in Central Texas ~ Central Texas Gardener ~ Central Texas Horticulture 

This is by no means all of the awesome sites out there so if you have favorites send me the link and tell me why: hotugc@gmail.com ATTN: Resource Links.  I’ll be working to put together a page on the main website of these resources. Thanks and have a great day in the garden!

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Get your Local Veggies!

Hello everyone!

We are busy with all kinds of gardening outreach, but wanted to take a minute to let you know a couple of updates about local Waco Markets.

First of all, we are sure you know, but just in case… the WDFM has temporarily moved! It looks like for the next year or so, the site of the market will remain across from the Courthouse off Washington Ave. (500 Washington Ave.).  The Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market is open year round on Saturdays from 9AM to 1PM. If you see us, stop by our booth and say “Hello!”. HOT UGC is not at every market, and sometimes our booth is utilized to showcase other gardens in the community.

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The link to the WDFM is: http://wacodowntownfarmersmarket.org Be sure to scroll down to see what’s expected at the market each month!

Another place to find local veggies these days is at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center (100 Hillcrest Medical Blvd-Waco, TX 76712). This market is currently open on Wednesday mornings from 9ish to noonish. I hesitate to commit to times here because there are currently only a couple of vendors who have been consistent and there is no guarantee when farming/growing! However, if you find yourself in the area, make sure you stop by and get some local goodness!

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If anyone has information about other markets in our community please let me know and I will share that information as well. Please send to hotugc@gmail.com ATTN: Waco area Market Information

Purchasing and Planting live Christmas Trees

From “What to do in December” on Natural Gardener’s website:

https://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com/what-to-do-in-december.html

Consider purchasing a live Christmas tree for the holidays. Arizona Cypress, Aleppo, and Italian Stone pines can often be found this time of year. A trick for watering these trees indoors is to place ice cubes on top of the soil, making sure there is a sturdy saucer underneath the pot. Avoid keeping these trees indoors for any longer than two weeks. To allow the tree to adjust to the abrupt change in lighting when moving outside, place the tree in shade first for about a week, then move gradually to more and more sun. Finally, plant your tree outside in a sunny area with very good drainage. Pamper it when planting by using bone meal or rock phosphate in the hole, and by following the regular watering with some seaweed solution for the first few months.

 

UGC Garden Beds at Calvary Baptist Community Garden

As of Friday Dec 2, 2016 the UGC garden has been prepared and planted!  Albeit about 3 months late, but planted nonetheless.
Big thanks to Ashley Stevens who helped dig out thousands of weeds from the overrun plots.  Katie came out and helped fight a mighty battle against Johnson grass on a Saturday workday.  Amy, a Calvary Baptist Church member, helped dig out weeds on several occasions.
 
Planted:
Plot 1 – Avalanche Beets – direct seeded 2 rows.  They are up about 2 inches. Really late planting.  Do they need freeze protection?
Plot 2 – Carrots – direct seeded 3 rows – Today I see that they are peeking through.  Do really young carrots need freeze protection?
Plot 3 – Transplanted 4 rows of Georgia collards.  They should be ok at 25 deg.
Plot 4 – Swiss Chard – direct seeded 3 rows.  They are still busy thinking about germinating.
Plot 5 – Transplanted 105 onions (10-15s).  Need to protect them or 3 months from now they will bolt.
Plot 6 – Green Star Leaf Lettuce – direct seeded 1 row.  They are up about 2 inches.  Do they need freeze protection?
What now?
We shift our focus to protection (TLC).  Immediate problem is determining which plants need help making it through the Wednesday night forecast of 25 deg.
Then the TLC that the little plants need is weeding.  In the plots as well as along the outside edges to discourage weeds from sneaking through the boards.
For those folks who did not get a chance to help dig out Johnson grass and Bermuda grass, now is the perfect time to help keep the enemy away from the little plants.  The art of hoeing will be taught at no charge.
See you in the garden!
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