Tour Celebrates Gardens
November 01, 2023
Kathleen Roberts views her backyard as a mini agricultural experiment station where she hones her horticultural practices over time through trial and error.
As one of 13 stops on the inaugural University of Idaho Extension Edible Garden Tour, Roberts shared the botanical secrets she’s learned over the decades with several other Pocatello area gardeners who came to see what she’s created.
The Aug. 12 self-guided garden tour drew 135 registered participants.
Roberts grows her plants in raised beds. She’s found yields are lower in the taller beds, likely because plant roots get too hot. She’s had mixed results with intercropping — seeking to improve production by sowing seeds of different plant species together. Flowers grow alongside vegetables in most areas to attract pollinators. Furthermore, the sunflowers cast a bit of shade to cool the vegetables.
She saves and replants her seeds — and she gave many seeds away to guests who came for the tour. The result is a garden that yields more than her family can eat.
“I’m from a farming family in eastern Montana. I started gardening early when I was 7 or 8 years old,” Roberts said. “I love to show my yard.”
At a nearby tour stop, Marjanna Hulet’s garden also features flowers to lure in pollinators. She makes a point of planting only foods she can’t find in the store, such as heirloom tomatoes and rose-colored beans.
Tour gardener Brandi Jacobs raises chickens and ducks, who give her more than eggs. She uses their manure to fertilize a lush and dense stand of vegetables and ornamental plants. Through an agreement with a neighbor, Jacobs significantly expanded her production, planting in their adjacent yard while allowing them to help themselves to vegetables.
“We probably grow about 75% of our vegetables because I can them,” Jacobs said.
Her daughter, Viola, 13 — accompanied by a friend and her 2-year-old sister Ruby Sue — took advantage of the garden tour as an opportunity to raise some spending money, selling lemonade, baked goods and home-canned zucchini relish.
“I feel like food from the garden tastes better. It’s fun to pick it yourself, too,” Viola said.
Gate City Christian Church uses its garden to supplement donations to its community food pantry. Church member Mackenzie Gorham co-founded the pantry in 2016. She also helps run the garden, which she estimates yields 30 gallons of greens and up to 150 pounds of onions, tomatoes and squash per season.
“We get donations from grocery stores. A lot of times produce is far past its prime and we end up throwing a lot of it out,” Gorham said. Wasted produce is used in making compost.
The church also showcased the creative greenhouse members made from salvaged plastic soda bottles.
In addition to raising awareness about gardening, tour organizer Kathryn Hickok capitalized on the opportunity to promote other UI Extension gardening programs. She distributed literature on canning classes and Idaho Master Gardeners made the rounds to raise awareness about their program. Everyone who registered for the tour will also receive a quarterly Extension newsletter.
During the lunch hour, Hickok hosted a forum outside of Pocatello’s Marshall Public Library, where the crowd visited booths about UI Extension gardening programs, as well as displays featuring like-minded organizations in the Pocatello area. Visitors were treated to a demonstration in which garden ingredients were made into salsa using a bicycle-powered blender. Many guests made miniature salad bowl “gardens.” Participants were also entered into a drawing for gardening-related prizes.
Hickok, a UI Extension educator based in Bannock County and Eat Smart Idaho administrator, more than tripled her original goal of getting 40 participants registered and is confident the tour will become an eagerly anticipated annual event.
“All of the gardeners I talked with were so excited, and people who called in to the office all day yesterday were thanking me for doing this,” Hickok said. “The hope is to get participants excited and curious about gardening and show them they can do it.”
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu.