One of our goals at EarthBox® is to make gardening easy, successful, and fun for people of all ages. We want to inspire home gardeners, and empower them to grow their own food and try something new or different.
In this series "Get to Know a Grower (GTKAG)," we are sharing the experiences of some of our most passionate and unique EarthBox® growers. This month's featured grower is a true EarthBox® enthusiast, and an EarthBox® Forum all-star: Dr. Gary Bachman—or "Garden Doc" as he often goes by—a celebrity in his own right within the gardening community, who can often be spotted wearing his signature Hawaiian-style shirts.
Gary's personal passion and dedication to EarthBox® gardening has lead to an easy solution for the dreaded Blossom End Rot (BER) that many tomato growers face: "The Snack" as he calls it, is a supplement—1 teaspoon of Calcium Nitrate—added to the water reservoir once per week. This treatment can drastically reduce the occurrence of BER when used as a preventive treatment.
Read on for Gary's story, and be sure to drop him a line when you're on the EarthBox Forum (which he also assists in moderating for us). Thank you, Garden Doc, for your wisdom!
Dr. Gary R. Bachman, Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm
Location: Ocean Springs, MS – USDA Zone 9a
Tell us about yourself: I spent 13 years with the GTE Corporation in Detroit, MI and Westminster, SC. I received my B.S. and M.S. from Clemson University, and my Ph.D. in Horticulture from The Ohio State University.
I have previously been on the faculty at Tennessee Tech University and Illinois State University. I'm currently an Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at the Coastal Research & Extension Center at Mississippi State University (90% Extension/10% Research appointment). I also host the awarding-winning Mississippi State University Extension Service’s Southern Gardening TV, radio, and newspaper columns. I also host a Facebook Live event called Facebook Fridays with Southern Gardening every Friday at 10:00 a.m. CDT.
How did you become an EarthBox® gardener?
My first introduction to EarthBox® was helping a colleague setup an EarthBox® garden at a local alternative school. I was impressed with the simple, yet elegant, design. My first year in 2008 I purchased five EarthBoxes.
Over the course of five years I bought more until reaching my current total of 136 EarthBoxes. Since then I have given close to 100 talks about my experience with the EarthBoxes to Master Gardeners, garden clubs, schools, Habitat for Humanity, and other garden interest groups. The focus of these presentations is helping new and experienced gardeners.
What makes your EarthBox® garden unique?
My garden is very unique! My wife, Katie, and I are urban homesteaders and operate our “farm” called Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm. The Urban Nano Farm (UNF) is designed to be a demonstration garden that highlights how a small footprint garden can yield an abundant harvest; and can grow an abundance of locally-grown, specialty vegetables and produce all year long. With a total of 3,200 square feet, this garden supplied enough produce to our local farmers market 52 weeks a year for five years.
More information on Gary's efforts can be found in the MSU MAFES Discovers Magazine, Winter 2017 issue HERE.
How many EarthBox® gardening systems do you own?
EarthBox® Original: 136, Terracotta
Gary sets up a Christmas village display each year, a miniature version of his Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm—complete with a replica EarthBox® garden!
What are your Top 3 favorite crops to grow in the EarthBox®?
1. Tomatoes – especially different heirloom varieties.
2. Peppers – both sweet and hot varieties.
3. Cool-season greens – Swiss Chard, Kale, Lettuce, etc.
What is your favorite EarthBox® add-on?
The Automatic Watering System (AWS), though with 136 EarthBoxes that can be a bit costly. I have some other accessories that I’ve come up with on my own to make my gardening tasks easier, which I’ll be sharing in my videos.
What advice do you have for someone who is new to EarthBox® gardening?
For gardeners new to the EarthBox® growing system, it’s important to follow the directions, even if you're very experienced with traditional in-ground gardening.
I like to tell the story about my first tomato crop. After reading and following the directions for the initial EarthBox® setup, I was perplexed with the recommended planting directions of two tomato plants per system. Here I was with a Ph.D. in Horticulture from The Ohio State University and I was being told how many tomatoes I could (should) plant. So what did I do? Of course I transplanted eight tomato seedlings in an EarthBox®. Needless to say I was not very successful, as these eight tomatoes totally overwhelmed the reservoir capacity and available fertilizer. I learned a hard lesson that first year.
What underrated fruit or vegetable do you love, both growing and eating, that others should try?
Perhaps my favorite veggies to grow are a variety of peppers—from mild and colorful bell peppers (fresh and canned) to jalapeños (fresh and stuffed poppers) to super hots like Bhut Jalokia and Carolina Reaper.
Recipe: Garden Doc's Kale Chips
One of my favorite recipes using fresh-grown-from-the-garden veggies is kale chips.
You will need:
- Preheat oven to 260° F (You may have adjust times to get the kale chips exactly how you like them)
- Trim the thick rib out from the middle of each leaf, it will never get crispy
- Lightly coat with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt, I like the Himalayan Pink salt
- Put parchment paper on your cookie sheet and spread the kale out into a single layer
- Put in the oven for approximately 20 minutes
- Carefully mix the kale around and put back in the oven
- Turn the oven off and leave the kale in for another 15 minutes
Connect with Gary!
Do you have a unique EarthBox® garden, or inspiring story to share?
Share your experiences in the comment section, below!