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Gardener Builds a Sustainable Backyard

Barb Stettner's organic and sustainable garden is an animal-friendly haven for foxes, deer, coyote and many species of birds.

Organic and natural are two words that describe Barb Stettner, 2010-11 president of the O’Fallon Garden Club.

Throughout her extensive backyard, Stettner uses sustainable methods to cultivate flowers, plants and vegetables. 

Stettner draws inspiration from the women in her family. Her German immigrant mother-in-law, a workaholic, nourished a small, but vibrant garden chock-full of every flower imaginable.  

Her grandmother, a share cropper from Tennessee, grew vegetables such as purple-hull peas, mustard greens and butter beans, among others.

Another grandmother grew moss roses. Stettner remembers a time as a young child climbing grandma’s tree, only to fall out, directly onto a pan of moss roses. 

Global Bucket

Stettner has a large white container covered with black plastic on her patio called a global bucket. She first learned about the sustainable gardening method while touring sustainable gardens in St. Louis with the O'Fallon garden club. 

In her bucket, tomato, basil and marigolds grow alongside each other—all companion plants. The marigolds help keep tomatoes pest free. For optimum growing conditions, she uses 70 percent mix, 20 percent sphagnum moss and 10 percent Perlite. A pvc pipe goes through the plastic to water the plants.

Pokeweed: Edible, Decorative

Fuzzy lamb’s ear and delicate comfrey plants (which chickens love) encircle her shade plants. Comfrey also speeds up the composting process.

Lovely white dianthus and pale lavender irises take up residence in the garden. A grand tulip poplar tree spans a section of the yard; its gorgeous lime-green flower petals showcase a vibrant orange-crush-colored ring around the inside of the flower. The nectar from the flower attracts hummingbirds, finches and cardinals.

Adjacent to a dragonfly garden ornament, an unusually tall plant with white flowers grows—pokeweed—a robust perennial. Pokeweed ‘pokes’ its green leaves through the ground in spring.

When the plant first sprouts (around 8 inches tall), Barb gathers the leaves until she has enough to make enough for a meal. Pokewood is cooked by boiling the leaves similar to preparing spinach. Some suggest changing the water twice. 

Perfect without seasoning, Stettner says pokeweed tastes just like spinach. Adding olive oil, pepper or salt gives it a little flavor. 

Another sustainable method Stettner uses in the garden to aid soil fertility is compost and red wiggler worm tea (urine) and castings (excrement). She sprinkles Scotts Miracle Gro on her potted plants. 

The far corner of her yard is dedicated to a bio-intensive garden with an “ultra cheap deer fence,” Stettner said. Her natural organic garden houses the asparagus plant, and soon will make way for more vegetables. To achieve greater productivity, Stettner uses the double dig method developed by John Jeavons (dig down 12 inches to loosen the soil, then dig down another 12 inches.)

O'Fallon Garden Club

“The O’Fallon Garden club is a fun group of women. We learn a lot from each other,” Stettner said.  She creates the club’s yearbook for its members.

The club gives back through ongoing projects such as the Twin Chimneys Elementary Butterfly Garden and Outdoor Classroom, Bluebird Trail (maintaining bluebird houses and feeding stations), and the United Services Preschool ABC Garden.

The club will be selling plants at the Twin Chimneys Neighborhood Garage and Plant Sale from 7 a.m. to noon April 28 at the club house in the neighborhood. On May 11 and 12, club members will hold a fundraiser garage and plant sale at their homes. 

For more information about the events, contact Stettner at  (636) 978-5930.

Tamara Duncan April 26, 2012 at 11:11 PM
So I should have planted marigolds with my tomatoes last year! I wasn't going to plant tomatoes again, but this is definitely worth a try.

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