Novice Gardener - My Backstory

| Ellie Steltz | Blog

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I honestly don't remember exactly when my love for growing started, but I do remember growing peppers in a container on our back porch when I was pretty young. It made me SO happy and proud to see those little peppers grow! But it was later on in life when I started to really own the love of gardening and eco-friendly living. It became a big part of my identity. 


As I finished high school and started my college years, my passion for the earth was strong. I was always reading about the food systems in the US and how harmful a lot of them were. In my second semester of my freshmen year, I became a hardcore vegetarian (not eating a single bite of meat!). This was not easy at a small bible school with limited food choices (let's just say I ate a lot of bread…). That lasted for most of that semester until I decided to simply not eat meat when I was alone, but I would eat it if it were served to me. But that whole issue of vegetarianism is a subject for another time!

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After a year of Bible school in Upstate NY, I transferred to Liberty University in VA. There I became involved with the campus garden and a group called the Students for Stewardship where we did some cool projects to help promote sustainability on campus. This is where I really started to dig into the learning of gardening. I was completely clueless! I was the one who was always asking questions and was way too excited about everything… It was amazing.

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At the Campus Garden, I learned how you shouldn’t walk on the soil where you'll be planting because of compaction. I learned allllll about composting. I was a composting nerd, my friends. They actually got a commercial composter while I was there so they could compost food from the cafeteria! SO cool. I would take my banana peels and coffee grounds up there to compost them. I was living the life. But moving along (here's a more in depth article about composting)…

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Over the years, I continued to read and study here and there about sustainable practices, permaculture, composting, container gardening, reducing consumer waste, recycling, fair trade, pesticides, etc. etc. etc… For a minute there, I was actually pretty sure I wanted to be a Nutritionist! My old self would probably be ashamed of how I eat today…But we'll get to that later.

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For my last summer before I graduated, I did an internship at a local greenery in the small town where I now live. This opened my eyes to the world of growing not only vegetables and herbs, but also flowers and other plants. Again, I was COMPLETELY clueless. Like, I didn't even know a petunia from a geranium (and it's okay if you don't, but in the plant industry, it's pretty important). But the owners were full of grace and amazing teachers and let me soak up their knowledge and learn as I went. Every time a customer asked a question, I would listen to the answer and tuck it away. I was, yet again, the person always asking questions and being way too excited about everything. I have lots of pictures of pretty flower petals on the ground from trimming plants because I couldn't get enough of it all.

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Now it's been 5 seasons that I've helped out there in various ways and I have learned SO much. I also worked at a local flower shop for a couple of years in there where I learned EVEN MORE about flowers and house plants and branched out into cut flowers.

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I feel so blessed to have had so many different experiences in relation to plants and tending the earth and I am excited to start to share some of that with the world. All from the perspective of a girl who is clueless and totally faking it till she makes it, learning something new pretty much every day. Also as someone who isn't prone to study, I had no desire to go into the scientific fields of agriculture. No thank you. Just a regular human with regular knowledge trying to grow pretty and yummy things and steward the earth well, like I believe God created us to do.

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David and I have lived where we are today since we got married in January of 2017 (and he's lived here even longer than that!). I started gardening here when I was staying in a basement room in town that summer that I did the internship. I had containers lining the house filled with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and flowers. The next year (2017), we were married and I now lived there with him. I lined my desk by the window with little seedlings (that got way stretched out because we don't really have a good, south facing window, we'll touch on that another time). That year, I planted some flowers and started tending to the apartment flower beds for our landlord (again, totally clueless about perennial plants! But I learned as I went). I also planted veggies in containers again. In 2018, I didn't plant quite as much, as I was busy with my business. But David built me a compost bin from pallets and that was an amazing addition to my(our) little backyard homestead. In 2019 we spontaneously decided to make garden beds (well, I decided to and David made it happen, see a trend here yet?). It was AMAZING to actually plant things "in" the ground! And this year (2020), I've spent hours cleaning out the weeds from those beds and relining them with landscaping fabric and prepping them for new veggies! I relined them because of a nasty weed we have called the Japanese Milkweed and it's very invasive and my worst enemy. That's all I'll say about that for now. I also made a little cold frame/greenhouse for my seedlings so they could soak up some extra sun, rather than reach for it through our NE facing windows.

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And that brings us to the present! I'm excited to share what I've learned and what new things I'll be putting into practice this year. The life of a gardener is never dull!! Thanks for being here!


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