By Liz Mendia
Standing in Julie Jones’s garden in Caliente, with Italian bees zooming in and out around the expanse of green covering nearly every inch of her 200 square foot garden plot, one might find it hard to believe that Julie’s first foray into gardening began only a few short months ago.
“I started with seeds in March in moist paper towels in zip-lock bags moistened with water and epsom salts,” Julie told the Sun, adding that she switched to gardening from her previous hobby of horses. Gardening would be a safer way to spend time with her grandkids.
Her sprouting method was very successful, she said, surpassing her boyfriends’ attempts at starting seedlings in egg cartons. Nearly everything sprouted. From the bags, Julie transferred the seedlings into red-Solo cups.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” she said smiling. The seedlings were then hardened outdoors for a few weeks before planting.
Indeed, Julie’s radiant smile would be instantly recognizable to many from her realtor signs and office on Lake Isabella Boulevard.
Her website is viewable at www.jjhomeranch.com.
Relaxed in jean shorts and a yellow cotton blouse, Julie told the Sun that the garden is her personal oasis, a retreat that she can escape into every day after work.
Preparation for the garden began with a tilling of the soil and installation of a drip irrigation system. As the inevitable pests arrived, a six-foot fence with hardware cloth was added. Later an electric fence charger and wire from Tractor Supply Company were added too, which was very successful at eliminating all but a stubborn gopher. Gopher control will be a subject of a future column.
The bees were also part of the initial planning, Julie said, pointing to a small hive 50 feet from the garden. She chose Italian bees because they are more docile, she explained. The seeds, purchased from Eden Brothers, were selected due to their being open-pollinated, heirloom and organic.
Julie’s successful garden included over ten varieties of tomatoes, and various peppers, squash, corn, cantaloupes, watermelon, strawberries, onions, and more. She was so successful she wound up learning how to can veggies, although she gave much of the produce to neighbors and local food pantry programs.
“We’ve fed so many families,” she said. “I give 90% of it away.”
The soil will soon be readied for fall plants. A greenhouse and grapevines are planned, Julie said beaming.