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Published: Saturday, 9/3/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

WEED IT & REAP

Alexandra Reau: Growing, teaching, feeding

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Alexandra Reau picks kale in her garden. Alexandra Reau picks kale in her garden.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Name: Alexandra Reau, sophomore at Summerfield High School and owner of Garden to Go, living in Petersburg, Mich.

Garden specs: ¼-acre, plus a 5-by-15-foot bed of herbs along the house.

When did you start gardening? When I was 10, my mother was involved in starting Youth Farm Stand in 4-H, and I started to really get into it. I planted a small garden by the house, about 10-by-25, and grew family favorites; squash, corn, tomatoes, a couple of other things. I wanted a job and figured I could have a farm stand but we live on a busy road. My mom introduced me to the idea of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you have that relationship with your customers. We learned online about different ways they can operate.

What do you grow? This is the third year for my CSA. Eleven customers pick up a “share” of my garden once a week for nine weeks, a short season because of school. [Note: a “full share” of $210 is enough produce for four people; a “half share” of $135 is a two-person portion.] In addition to a basket of produce and herbs, I include about five recipes using that week’s veggies. I look for recipes in magazines, TV programs, cookbooks, and that our family likes. My mom helps me with that, she’s an amazing cook. I run them by her, and we try them out at dinner.

I grow two varieties each of corn and cantaloupe; three varieties each of cabbage, cucumbers (I like English cukes because they’re not as seedy), eggplant, potatoes, onions, and beans (green, yellow, and royal burgundy). Four varieties of lettuce, seven varieties of peppers, and 14 varieties of tomatoes including two heirlooms (we have about 70-80 tomato plants; the heirlooms are Old German and German Johnson).

Also, spinach, mesclun, radishes, turnips, heirloom beets, zucchini, yellow summer squash, patty pan squash, sugar baby watermelon, okra, sugar snap peas, and carrots.

Summerfield sophomore Alexandra Reau washes off kale she had gathered from her garden. Summerfield sophomore Alexandra Reau washes off kale she had gathered from her garden.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
The herbs I grow are three types of basil, rosemary, tarragon, sage, parsley, chives, cilantro, thyme, horseradish. Also gladiolas, zinnias, and sunflowers.

Favorite plant: Pontiac Red potatoes. I love potatoes. I like the red potatoes in general because I’m not into peeling potatoes and I like where you can eat the skin more easily. I don’t like the sweetness of potatoes like Yukon.

Give us a gardening tip: Do not rush the season. I waited until a week or so later than usual because it was so cold, and planted a lot in early June.

Hours spent gardening: Twenty a week. That includes harvesting, washing, and packing up the food. It’s a lot of work, especially in the first month when you have to weed a lot, but not so much that I can’t handle it.

Annual expense: I prefer not to say since this is my business.

Challenges: Diseases such as squash wilt and downy mildew. And dry weather. It was hard during the dry stretch, some of the corn leaves were starting to curl. We do water occasionally during a dry spell and move a soaker hose from row to row. But it’s not cost effective to water too much.

Alexandra Reau picks green beans in her garden. Alexandra Reau picks green beans in her garden.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
I’m proud of teaching my customers about how to grow food. They ask questions, and when they come the first week to pick up their basket, I give them a tour and a lot of them bring their children. Growing your own food is kind of a lost art, but people are getting so much more into it.

What I’ve learned gardening: Patience and persistence. You have to keep working at it. Something may not grow the way you want it to so you have to take a step back and think about what can I do to get around this problem and move forward. And from running a business I’ve learned time management, organization, and how to streamline things.



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