My neighbor, Chuck Waterman, grows his own vegetables in a very small space between his garage and the alley. Mr. Waterman’s intensive cultivation is a joy and an envy to all the passerby who dream that someday they could produce such beautiful looking foods in their own backyard. I am one of them, that is for sure.

After 4 summers of seeing his tireless work, and obvious joy that he gets out of what he considers his ‘hobby’, I was so excited to finally ask him some questions. I hope you will be inspired to grow some of your own foods for yourself and your family. It really does not take much space or energy to produce the best tasting vegetables right in your own home.

Thank you, Mr. Waterman, for sharing your story!

When did you start growing vegetables? 

My Mom gave me a little corner of her garden when I was 7, that was my first gardening adventure. How did you get started? After hoeing and weeding my little plot of Ohio clay back then I planted some beans, some Punch’n’Gro tomato plants that I started from seed, and some pumpkin seeds.  Although the work was abundant and the harvest minimal, I was proud of what I had done, and became a lifelong gardener.

When did you turn your back alley area into a productive garden? 

In 1986 we razed our old garage on the alley and built an addition to the house with an attached garage.  Although the old driveway and garage foundation were removed, the soil underneath was terrible – hardpack clay with limestone rock mixed in.  I didn’t need more grass, so to deal with the poor soil I built 2 – 100 sq. ft. raised beds with pressure treated 2x8s and filled them with mostly peat, a little topsoil and sand, and an annual helping of compost from yard and kitchen waste.  A couple of years ago when I was about to retire I added two more raised beds.

What goes into preparing for the garden? 

Year ’round I make compost, from leaves in the fall, grass clippings in the spring, and kitchen waste all of the time.  Starting in January I decide what and how much I’ll grow, check out all the new designer veggies in the seed catalogues, and then start my cole crops indoors.  After a few dry days in March I till compost in the boxes and start planting peas and cole crops on or around St. Patrick’s Day – it seems like an appropriate day to begin, what with all the green beer and such.

  

What do you grow, and what are your favorite things to grow. 

I love da maters!  I have 17 tomato plants this year and 7 varieties.  Other crops include cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale, 7 kinds of lettuce, swiss chard, snap peas, pole beans, peppers, eggplant and summer and winter squash varieties.  On the fruity side I grow table grapes, strawberries, blueberries, figs and paw paws, and my herb garden has parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, mint and cilantro.

Any tips for vegetable gardeners in Bexley? 

Gardening in Bexley can be challenging, I find I’m always battling the 4 “Ss” – space, shade, soil and squirrels (and a host of other freeloaders!)  But it can be rewarding, and tasty, too! Any special things you do that help your garden grow better each year?  Once you find that sunny corner of your yard to use for veggies there is nothing better to make it productive than to start working on the quality of the soil.  Every year I add compost, balance the pH, try to stay organic to encourage beneficial worms, spiders and insects, and rotate what I plant to avoid depleting nutrients.

Tell us a little bit about your Bexley history.

We moved to Bexley and our current home in 1980, raised our 4 kids here, and now some of them are coming “home” to Bexley, my oldest son and his family and my daughter are both Bexley residents.

Could you share with us some of your habits that keep you healthy? 

Garden, of course! I also eat what I grow, bicycle, walk, volunteer at Legal Aid, hang out with friends and family. I enjoy a glass of wine, a beer, or a nice cold martini now and then. Oh, and I picked mostly healthy ancestors!

A little space can go a long way. I am sure some of you have your own garden stories as well. Please feel free to share with them here, or you can post stories on our facebook page! I’d love to see how your garden grows.

In good health,
Kit