Feature Month: Lena

Biotech may have brought us together but gardening has been one of the passions that has kept us in touch. I absolutely love chatting about varieties, methods and pest control (sort of) with this critical thinker. Not only does she push me to consider new ideas throughout my own gardening journey but she is always putting her homegrown goodies to good use in the kitchen, inspiring me to try new recipes and make more things from scratch. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce my former colleague and forever friend, Mrs. Lena Fefe.

Name: Lena Fefe

State: Virginia

Grow Zone: 7a

Gardening style (container, raised bed, tilled plot, etc.): I have two raised beds and several containers surrounding the beds. My hope is to be able to expand the garden in the fall to have a few more raised beds so I have more room to walk around in there.  

How long have you been gardening: About 10 years but I started very small in a few large containers on my patio. Now that we have moved into our family home we are able to have the space for a garden. 

Why do you garden: I love growing things and being able to grow what I like to eat. I love learning about so many different kinds of plants (and unfortunately bugs) and trying new things. It’s a great feeling to eat something you grew!  

Do you typically garden alone or with friends/family/pets: Garden time is usually in the mornings while my boys are asleep. My oldest loves the worms and frogs and my youngest loves the flowers and cherry tomatoes. Next week they get to go digging for potatoes. Hopefully it’s a fun experience! My husband has also started gardening this year. I planted a few too many tomato plants and he couldn’t bear to toss them out! So he is officially a gardener too! 

Biggest success of 2021 season: Tomatoes!!! Thanks to finally getting my soil right (adding manure, compost, and peat) my plants are thriving and are giants and still going strong. It’s very rewarding to see all these babies I am growing!  But, admittedly the tomatoes have a mind of their own and at this point are almost uncontrollable. 

Most unfortunate failure (lesson) of 2021 season: Strawberries. I had a genius idea to collect seeds from a strawberry in the summer of 2019. I hand picked the seeds and started them and had a few plants growing by fall. They were very slow to grow but put out many runners and a year and a half later I got strawberries! Well, I got 6? 10? Strawberries? I may wait and see what they do next year, but I think the right thing to do is to buy a known variety instead of all this experimenting. 

What is your most used gardening tool: I am not big into tools but I love my harvest basket. 

Favorite plant that you’ve ever grown: I love snapdragons. When I was a kid my mom always planted them and I used to play with them. When you squeeze the sides the “mouth” opens like a dragon and says roar! Just a bit of nostalgia. 

What are you most looking forward to growing in the future: I do want to plant luffa and sunflowers when I have the space for them. 

One last piece of advice for our readers: Patience. It’s the hardest part of being a gardener. The will to not intervene and relax. The bugs will come and go and it will be okay!! 

It has been a pleasure to watch as Lena’s garden, and her green thumb, have grown little by little. I think this is a great message for some of our readers who are lacking the confidence to just dive in to a big garden. That’s unnecessary. It’s ok, and even encouraged, to start small and gain some experience before taking on a massive project. Pick a couple of your favorite things and see how it goes, then add a few more next year; baby steps. Many thanks, Lena, your gardens are looking fabulous. If any of our readers have questions for Lena, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Cheers, friends!

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