BIU Backyard Gardener: Stephanie Bernard

Give Peas a Chance…

This has been my first year in the Build It Up program and the benefits have been amazing. Do I have it all figured out? Of course not. I’m years away from mastery of anything! However, the methods I have learned and the resources the program   has provided (specifically the people!!) will have lasting benefits on all of my future gardening.


To give you a little bit of history, I grew up in a family of gardeners and was exposed to the practices of sustainability and conservation from my earliest memories.   One of my favorite things to do as a child was to dig in the dirt of the garden with my sister while my parents tended to their crops. I was fortunate enough, also, to have grown up next door to my grandparents. My sister and I would spend our summer days with them watching my grandmother every morning as she meticulously weeded and watered, checking each and every row. While it seemed all of our friends were hanging out at the pool, we would spend the subsequent afternoons stringing and breaking beans, shelling peas, shucking corn, stringing beans to be dried, and such. I can remember one summer spending hours upon hours shelling peas, only to be left with something like one serving bowl full! Seemed like all of that work just didn’t amount to much. Though I loved these activities, I swore I would never, EVER, grow peas!


My dad could grow anything and my mom would do something with everything that he brought in. Every thing. I remember days spent canning beans, tomatoes, and whatever else we had enough of to save. My mom would can tomatoes which would last the winter long for soups, sauces, and her chili (which was my favorite). She would spend weeks making pickles! I loved following along with her as she would do this, and am so thankful now to have had those exoperiences. I know that all of those things laid the foundation for who I have become. Although my mom is gone now, my dad still enjoys working in his garden and is so knowledgeable! I love to talk to him about the things I’ve learned through BIU.

So, back to present day…I got older and moved back to the land where I grew up. In making my own home, I knew I wanted to maintain a more self-sustainable lifestyle. I have been gardening and preserving on my own for years and have had successes along with many failures.   I believe that the key to success in any endeavor is a balance between knowledge and experience.   First, you have to know about what you’re doing and then you have to keep trying until you figure out what works. BIU is such an excellent source of knowledge and having people to ask questions and bounce ideas off of is so helpful! Plus….you need materials!

My challenges this year have included timing, location, and availability. The weather affected my ability to get things set out in a timely manner because it was so wet! I feel like that hindered, or delayed, some of my harvests. This was also a trial year for me in where exactly to put things in my garden (what grows best where). I started a few raised beds also. One was very successful and has provided enough lettuce for daily salads (yum!!).

I have two others, however, that resulted in absolutely nothing! I think my chickens may have had something to do with this, too!! Finally, having an extremely active toddler naturally affects the amount of time I have to actually stay IN the garden. He loves to dig in the dirt, just like I did, but he just doesn’t stay in one place very long.


So, there have been some days when the bug-checks and weed-pulling were at a minimum, and what was done was done with much distraction at superman speed.   Overall, though, I know that I’ve learned so much this year! I definitely want to do a better job of starting seeds and am anxious to learn more about that, as well as timing things better so that I have more to actually market in the future. The BIU program has been an awesome experience! I also hope to use the knowledge I have gained in my garden club at the elementary school where I teach!


Ironically, though, no matter what I do, the many, many pea plants I’ve set out over the past few years have only resulted in a harvest of approximately 4 actual pods. I guess sometimes you just gotta be careful what you wish for!





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