Elly Evarts, 5, kindergartner, living in Gibsonburg uses her favorite tool to hoe weeds between pepper plants.
For many of the of the 120 or so people I’ve interviewed for Weed It & Reap, gardening has a nostalgic hue; as children, a surprising number played in the dirt and searched for worms next to grandparents or parents.
The same is true for Elly Evarts, who, beginning at age 3, learned at the knee of her grandfather, Jim Krotzer of Gibsonburg, whose own father always laid out a substantial garden.
PHOTO GALLERY: Elly Evarts
But sentimentality isn’t part of a 5-year-old’s makeup. Life for Elly -- be it soccer, football, theater, singing, traveling, or playing with her baby brother -- is a clear and present adventure.
A wiry, determined girl with bright brown eyes and kinesthetic grace, Elly starts kindergarten today with more knowledge about vegetable gardening than most adults have. And like most gardeners, she’s been observing and planning for next spring when she’ll add potatoes, corn, carrots, and yellow-pear tomatoes to her patch.
Enthusiasm is perhaps never more contagious than when a parent catches it from their child. Elly’s dad, Bo Evarts, agreed to dig up some of the fine turf behind their home. separated from a cornfield by a drainage ditch. “I love it now,” says Bo, a teacher-coach at Rossford Junior High School, of gardening.
It gets better.
Elly displays some banana peppers she picked in her grandfatherâs garden.
“Elly tries eating stuff now she never would have tried before.”
Elly and her baby brother, Jacob, play with vegetables in the yard.
Even better, Bo and his wife, Jamie Evarts, also a teacher, ventured into Vegetableland, eating things they’d never liked. They give veggies to and swap recipes with friends and family, and proudly report that baby Jacoby eats them too.
Last year, when Elly picked green beans at Granpa’s and took them home, her parents froze them and enjoyed them for winter dinners.
Granpa Krotzer, who lives down the street, explains how he brainwashed the child: “I started her out filling bird feeders and then she’d pick stuff.” An apprentice is a particular delight for a man who loved gardening enough to once rent a field from a farmer in which to grow potatoes and corn, and, moreover, whose own children would not touch a trowel.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get better …
Jamie runs CROP Hunger Walk at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gibsonburg, and has taken Elly, even as a baby, on its fund-raising marches. Three weeks ago, when the gardens were silly with abundance, Bo suggested she have a vegetable/lemonade stand in their driveway. She made a big green sign asking for donations to Crop Walk. Supplemented by Granpa’s bounty, she piled cukes, peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and herbs on her kiddie picnic table and plastic playhouse. Her parents and uncle posted her venture with an adorable photo, on Facebook pages, which helped drive traffic.
After three hours, she’d raked in $160 -- a fine lesson in economics for any 5-year-old. And yes, she’ll sell next year.
With the exception of sunflowers, flowers are not on Elly’s radar: too many pinks and purples.
“I’m not a pink-stuff girl,” she says, tossing a plump tomato into the air repeatedly and catching it every single time.
Garden dimensions: My own vegetable garden is about 12-by-30 feet. My herb garden is about 12-by-5 feet. And my Grandpa’s vegetable garden is about 20-by-20 feet.
When did you start gardening? Two years ago, when I was 3. I would help my Grandpa plant his garden and then at the end of the season, I would always pick his cherry tomatoes for him. Because of my him, my dad and I decided to do our own garden using Grandpa’s tips.
What do you grow? I grow banana peppers, zucchini, white and yellow onions, green beans, red and green peppers, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and regular tomatoes. Our two zucchini plants produced dozens of zucchini. I also help Grandpa with his snap peas and cucumbers. In my herb garden, I have basil, chives, oregano, sage, thyme, and rosemary.
Favorite plant? My favorite vegetable is zucchini because it comes in different sizes and grows really fast. I really like the fat ones. My mom can make zucchini bread with the big ones. My favorite herb is definitely basil. We make a lot of foods that use basil. Pasta with pesto is my favorite.
Elly and her grandfather Jim Krotzer in his garden in Gibsonburg.
Give us a tip: My dad says “A family that gardens together grows together!” I love working in the garden with my dad, Grandpa, and my older sister, Lexi. We even had my baby brother help pick vegetables this year.
Elly raised $160 for CROP Hunger Walk by selling produce.
EVARTS PHOTO Enlarge
Hours spent gardening per week? About five hours between my garden and my grandpa’s garden.
Annual expense: Since I’m only 5-years old, my dad has been kind enough to sponsor my hobby. He spends approximately $40-$50 a year for me. [Elly’s kind Dad wrote this in conjunction with her.]
Challenges: Weeds, weeds, weeds, and more weeds. I do not like picking weeds because they take forever and sometimes are too prickly for me. [Note: Elly has learned the value of using the right tool for the job and appreciates her red-handled hoe. “This is the best thing I’ve ever used. It’s the best thing to get weeds out.”]
I’m proud of: I’m definitely most proud of my vegetable/lemonade stand that I had this summer. I had a one-day stand in my neighborhood and was able to donate the proceeds, $160, to the CROP Hunger Walk charity which helps fight world hunger and also provides food for our local food pantry in my hometown of Gibsonburg. It was a great day and I am already planning on doing it again next year.
What do you get out of gardening? I like making and eating foods that use produce from my gardens. My favorite is making bruschetta with my dad. We use red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and basil from our gardens, and some parmesan cheese on tortilla scoop chips. And it tastes great!
And, when I first started gardening, I would always pick Grandpa’s vegetables super- early before they were ready, and I would end up with mini-peppers and mini-beans along with very green tomatoes. Even though Grandpa really couldn’t use what I picked, he was always proud of me for helping.
Got a story that might fit for Weed It & Reap? Contact Tahree Lane at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075.