“I don’t have a green thumb,” I have said countless times over my lifetime. I said it when yet another “plant of iron” sansevieria melted into a black sodden liquid. I said it when the tomato plant I tended and coddled over the summer yielded one hard tomato the size of a marble. And I said these six words when the six glossy rhododendrons dried up into feathery sticks in a matter of weeks.
Nicole Burke, owner of the Rooted Garden, said there’s no such thing as a green thumb, or rather, a green thumb is something everyone can claim if they follow her six truths. Author of “Kitchen Garden Revival,” Nicole looks a little like Sarah Jessica Parker but has way more energy, if you can imagine that. The mother of four children, all close in age, she is married to a chemist, Jason, and has lived all over the world, from China to Mississippi to Tennessee to Virginia to Texas. So, she knows what she’s talking about when she says you don’t need to pay that much attention to garden zones.
She came into her career as a gardener reluctantly, but inevitably. Her grandfather was the head of horticulture at Mississippi State, and her mother and aunts and grandmother all loved plants. But her parents made her do endless yard work, so much that she promised herself her own yard would be nothing but gravel. And in a sense, she remained true to that childhood goal.
This tall, thin glamorous gal started building raised garden beds in her backyard, and before she knew it, she was in internet sensation! Actually, she worked very hard and very intentionally to build her business. After a few friends asked her to design kitchen gardens for them, Nicole started her business, the Rooted Garden, and it grew and grew and grew, not unlike the plants in her raised beds. After planning and executing over 100 gardens, Nicole expanded her business to include Gardenary, an online garden education and resources company. And she wrote a book, “Kitchen Garden Revival,” which was released last summer.
The book covers the aforementioned “six truths,” the first of which is “There is no such thing as a green thumb. She promises that if you set up you garden correctly, everything in it will grow. Secondly, you need to “grow everything up instead of out,” so trellises are important. Pathways are the third truth, and she uses gravel for them for several reasons, one of them perhaps being true to her childhood promise. Fourth, borders are important for several reasons, from aesthetics to separating garden plantings. Rearranging the garden store is fifth on her list – like things should be grouped together so we can know how to plant them! And the fact that food is a wonder is her last and perhaps most important truth. But she promises there is a system behind the magic of it. She has much to say about frost dates and planting zones, noting that one can defy them with her method of gardening.
A proponent of organic gardening and letting Mother Nature do her work, Nicole believes the little creatures that root around in the garden and leave their “gifts” are important. “We must have animals working with the plants,” she says, not minding sharing a few bites of tomatoes or nibbles of lettuce with them.
Go to rootedgarden.com for more information.
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.