Gardening Jones and her Passion for Gardening
For master gardener Jeanne Kunz Hugenbruch, gardening is not just a solo activity she takes on in her own garden. It’s an activity she shares with the world through the valuable lessons and tips she shares on respected blog, Gardening Jones. GJ, as she is commonly known to her followers, started gardening thirty years ago to provide healthy food for her family. But as the passion and addiction to gardening grew, she couldn’t help but share all her learnings to other like-minded gardeners.
Gardening in her locale
GJ lives and gardens in Northeast Pennsylvania, a zone 5/6 area. For her, the biggest challenge, aside from the typical critter attacks, is prolonging the season. According to her, “As soon as the ground can be worked,” the usual signal to start planing, is anytime between mid-March to late April. “Our main growing season is from the end of May until, hopefully, early October.”
GJ attributes their cooler temperature for being able to grow a good variety of crops. “All the early vegetables do well, peas, greens and Cole crops, as do the root vegetables. We’re even able to grow cranberries here, no bog needed.” She’s also thankful to the cool weather for their plants not bolting as soon as they do in warmer zones. “But on the flip side, we need to jump start the heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers, in an effort to get a larger harvest.”
On the importance of organic gardening
For GJ, organic gardening is the way to go. “Growing food without the use of any chemicals, be they man-made or natural, is essential in these times. Even an organic pesticide will not distinguish between a potato beetle and a honey bee.”
She adds that pest issues can be controlled if a garden has healthy soil and is cleared of dead plants and debris. “Of course, if you have neighbors nearby who don’t practice Integrated Pest Management or keep their gardens healthy, they may draw a pest to your garden.”
While she still believes that using pesticides should be avoided, in an instance when pests get out of hand, using an organic solution is better than a man-made chemical. And even then, only the least amount needed should be used.
Gardening is for everyone
When asked for advice for people thinking about gardening, she had one important thing to say. “Do it! Jump in there and get your hands in the soil. Not only will you experience the taste difference in a homegrown vegetable, which is also an indication of how much healthier your food is, it has been proven that gardening is good for your emotional wellness. It helps top release chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier.” She also suggests topping gardening off with a bit of for a truly healthy activity.
When asked about people with black thumbs, she rebuts with a quote from Henry Ford. “‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.’ I don’t believe in a black thumb, I think it’s a matter of having a good growing environment and as much information as possible.” Information is something GJ has in spades, so she started the Gardening Jones blog, to share information in as simple as format as possible. She does it to, “uncomplicated what has been complicated.” She believes that even a three-year-old can stick a bean seed in the ground and grow beans.
“It has been my experience that the worst thing a gardener can do is over think growing food. Probably more plants have succumbed to too much attention rather than a lack of it. It’s a plant’s goal to grow and reproduce, gently help them along when they need it, and you’ll be fine.”
The Jones’ Gardening System
As a master gardener, people flock to her for advice on their own gardens. Wanting to make things easier for other people, she realized that most of the issues they were having could be addressed by a specialized raised bed. That gave birth to the design of the Jones’ Garden System.
She describes the the Jones’ Garden System as a raised bed garden that can go on any flat surface, even in a driveway. “What makes it different is that it has a support structure that allows for panels to easily be clipped on and off all four sides as well as the top. When the panels are covered in the provided plastic, they act as a cloche or high tunnel to warm the soil faster and keep frost off the plants.”
The system’s flexibility allows easy adjustment to the changes in the weather. When it starts to warm up, “The plastic can be removed and underneath is a heavy mesh that allows pollinators in, but deters larger animals like bunnies, squirrels, and the neighborhood cat. This mesh further gives you the opportunity to tie your tomatoes to the top panel, and stake them by simply twirling the string around them as they grow.”
The system also allows the gardener to get a more efficient use of space by, “growing vertically up any two opposite sides. To harvest, just open a different panel, as you would a cupboard door, to reach your veggies.” She adds that using the system also means that there is less bending and less weeding. “It is a much easier way to grow a lot more food in a given space.” The system makes it easier to protect plants that need it, like tomatoes.
For more information about the Jones’ Gardening System and for more of GJ’s gardening lessons, visit www.gardeningjones.com/blog. GJ has also appeared on PBS and maintains her own YouTube Channel. She also writes for Horticulture magazine and their blog, as well as other local publications.She is a member of the Garden Writers Association, and recently was awarded a State Nutrition Services Award and had her yard declared a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Aside from gardening, she, together with her childhood sweetheart, also share recipes and cooking techniques in blog and book form.