We’re growing! Introducing the new voices of ‘Let’s Grow Stuff’

February 10, 2022 Benjamin Futa Leave a Comment

Greetings from the garden and welcome back to the Let’s Grow Stuff blog. One of my absolute favorite elements of gardening is that no two seasons are the same. We build on what we’ve learned and we’re always driven to try something new based on our previous hits and misses. Gardeners are fearless explorers. 

Gardeners are also some of the most nurturing and giving people. As we develop relationships with the plants in our care, I believe we come to discover new skills and capacity within ourselves, too. What we learn while gardening transcends the soil and can make us a better version of ourselves. In this way, gardens (and gardeners) have super powers.

I also love how no two gardens are the same. No matter their purpose, each garden is a deeply personal expression by a gardener. They’re an extension of our soul and our beliefs, and they can help us connect with others. Gardens are inherently social objects intimately entwined with our culture.

In this spirit, I’m thrilled to introduce two new voices and gardeners for the 2022 season of Let’s Grow Stuff: Qwantese Winters, our new co-host, and Sigrid Peterson, our new contributing blogger. We’re excited to welcome them to our gardening family and I hope you enjoy getting to know them.

  • How did you come to start gardening? What motivated you to begin? 

Qwantese:  I found out years after my grandfather passed that he was Gullah Geechee. On my journey to learn more about the culture I noticed a common thread, my people; Geechee folks and just African Americans in general have a rich relationship with the land that goes past the traumatic history of slavery. Unlike what stereotypes say, Black folks had (and have!) deep relationships with the land! I began learning more about herbalism, gardening, and all things related as a way to continue that legacy and inspire other people who never knew gardening was “for” them.

Sigrid:  My grandmother kept a huge kitchen garden in her backyard in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, and my eldest sisters became accomplished ornamental gardeners. I had always wanted to learn while watching them. 

The pandemic and the imperative to shelter in place motivated me to take the gardening plunge. I’ve lived most of my adult life in dense urban settings, in multifamily housing. I’m grateful for my small, brick balcony as a place of solitary refuge and relaxation in the warm weather months. It has nice western and southern exposure, and I thought, “Hey, maybe I, too, can grow stuff!”

My kind landlords also dug me a small garden plot in our courtyard so I’ve been able to experiment putting said stuff in the actual ground.

Quantese Winters stands in front of a pink and orange wall smiling and holding a houseplant

Qwantese Winters will join Ben Futa as co-host this season focusing on farming vegetables.

  • What’s been your favorite part of gardening so far? 

Qwantese:  This is hard to answer because I love so much about it. I think the top thing has been the joy I feel when my plants produce their first fruit! I feel like a proud parent. 

Sigrid:  I like every part about it, truly. I like planning out what I might like to grow, the material and tactile nature of gardening – digging, watering, clipping, pruning. I even enjoy weeding because you feel so accomplished when you’ve cleaned things up and made them tidy. I love that it encourages me to move my body.

Gardening has also brought our multifamily apartment community together with our little plots in the back. We celebrate our growing achievements and we share seedlings and the harvest. My first summer I thought, “Holy smokes! I can’t eat this many tomatoes,” and I would force veggies on my sweet neighbors. 

A comic illustration of Sigrid wearing a straw hat on her balcony, showing filled planters on the ledges and three birds

Sigrid Peterson will be growing on her apartment balcony and contributing to the blog this season.

  • What’s one thing you know today that you wish you’d known when you first started gardening?

Qwantese:  While it is beautiful work it is also hard work. I learned to hydrate, eat full nourishing  meals, and don’t forget to take breaks! 

Sigrid:  Errrm…”one” thing?! I felt like such a knucklehead not even knowing the basics – that we live in geographic “zones” where our climate conditions have strengths and limitations. That every plant has a specific planting, growing, and harvesting “window” of time that one must know to garden successfully. My late grandparents, all of whom were farmers, must have been screaming down from the heavens last summer, “Did we break our backs for you not to understand that you can’t plant onions in June!? They’re a bulb, for Pete’s sake – go look up ‘bulb’ in the dictionary, young lady!” 

  • This may be an impossible question, but… do you have a favorite plant? Or, a favorite plant right now?

Qwantese:  I love okra. I love the seeds that can be used to make things like hair masks and even a coffee alternative. I love their gorgeous yellow flowers too! My favorite way to have them is fried but they also taste great raw in a tomato corn salad. 

Sigrid:  How dare you. It *is* impossible, but I’ll humor you. 

When we transitioned from summer to fall last year, I was so sad about not having pretty things in the planters on the ledge of my balcony. Then I realized, “Oh wait, Siggy, you can have plants in autumn, ya just gotta learn about hearty plants that thrive in cold temperatures!

I went on a plant hunt and found these brilliant orange pansies called ‘Padparadja’. The pansies were just so beautiful, especially next to an ornamental kale that was a shocking purple and pink. They made me happy and, indeed, they were hearty in the cold, fall temperatures! I’d step on the balcony with hot coffee and tell them how tough they were and how proud I was of them (I spend a lot of time alone).

  • As the newest member of the team, what are you most looking forward to for this season of Let’s Grow Stuff?

Qwantese:  I’m looking most forward to inspiring new growers to get out there and create their first garden in low cost, accessible ways.

Sigrid:  I hope that I can encourage others to try gardening even if they’re beginners, even if they don’t own land, or a single family home, or have a lot of space. A front stoop, a substantial window ledge, a little balcony – you can fill these with abundance.

And also learning more about how to grow stuff, of course! I’ve got a long way to go, and being able to hurl questions at Ben and Qwantese (so excited she’s the new co-host!) will be so fun because they know All The Things.

I want to try growing veggies and herbs on my balcony this summer, but I also want to make things colorful and pretty. My balcony ledge containers are shallow so I wonder if I can even grow edible things in those? I’d love to learn to use the vertical space of the brick walls of my building to grow veggies upward? There are trailing and vine-y things, right?

Well, there you have it! This season of Let’s Grow Stuff will be filled with fresh character, personality and new experiences. Ultimately, our mission remains unchanged: to empower gardeners of all experiences to grow a better garden, no matter what, where or how you choose to grow. 

Let’s dig in.