Gardener Story: Paula Butcher

Over the years I have tried multiple times to grow a vegetable garden. I had no guidance or support system. Everything I tried turned brown or was swallowed by the weeds that I couldn’t keep up with. When I heard about Build It Up, I was very excited about having someone give guidance to me, my daughter and grandchildren.  The following is our journey….

After our first session, we selected a sunny spot for our garden and covered it with a large tarp in an attempt to kill the grass. The tarp had been down several weeks when the BIU tiller showed up. Removing the tarp revealed nothing had died. (Note to self……it takes months for grass to die, start earlier). I had to leave the area for 8 weeks to care for my mother at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic so I was not here when the tiller came. By the time I returned, we found that the grass was coming back with vengeance and we had to till again.   

One of the biggest challenges was ensuring all of the grass was out of the tilled area.  We then laid garden fabric over the entire garden and worked on plant placement (that original sketch….out the window it went). We searched to determine what grows best next to each other and that helped. The fabric was wonderful to work with. We used a butane tank to make sure the holes were large enough and the edges were sealed. Using the torch was quick and easy and allowed for quick planting. My 3-year old grandchild wanted to help put things in the garden, but my 1-year old grandchild wanted to pull them out and explore the roots (Lol!). 

Some of the items we have planted are Zucchini, Bell Peppers, Basil, Tomato, Celery, and Kale. I also planted dwarf sunflower plants along the edge to encourage bee activity for pollination.  Our main pests were Japanese Beetles and Squash bugs.  

Each day when we would go out to the garden, we brought a bowl of warm soapy water and knocked pests into the bowl to remove them.  We found the Squash bugs would lay copper colored eggs on the large Zucchini leaves, so we used tape to remove them, fold the tape in half and toss them away. I like the no pesticide approach. 

Our zucchini and kale are producing like crazy. If I miss a day or two of harvest, the zucchini end up being huge. As for cabbage…..we have learned what it ends up looking like if not picked in time (picture 4 below).

The fabric has been wonderful.  I have had the pleasure of just walking through my garden to look for pests and harvesting lots of veggies to share. I can’t stay out in the sun for too long, so spending hours pulling weeds was not an option.  My recommendation to everyone is….get good fabric (not from big box stores); it’s a life changer.  I purchased mine online (Dewitt P3 3’x250’ 5oz Pro 5 Weed Barrier Fabric).

2020 has brought many challenges. However, I will say God has blessed this small spot of land and I LOVE being able to share my produce with others. I look forward to planting more items in the fall and expanding next year.

More images from the Paula’s garden!