2017-07-09 / Insight

Columbiaville gardener uses no-dig raised beds

Grew 500 lbs. of food last year
BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Gina Delisi, 32, of Columbiaville, has transformed her home’s yard into a garden featuring all manner of edible and medicinal plant. Delisi said last year, her garden yielded nearly 500 pounds of food — and this year, she hopes to surpass that mark. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Gina Delisi, 32, of Columbiaville, has transformed her home’s yard into a garden featuring all manner of edible and medicinal plant. Delisi said last year, her garden yielded nearly 500 pounds of food — and this year, she hopes to surpass that mark. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese COLUMBIAVILLE — There are a number of reasons why a person might be inclined to start a garden — natural beauty, to attract butterflies, or just to get outside and have a hobby — but for some, a garden provides a source of healthy, organic food at a minimal cost, grown right in the backyard.

Gina Delisi’s garden, at her home in Columbiaville, is cultivated not for aesthetic purposes but for fruits and vegetables.

“My garden is about 95 percent edible or medicinal,” she said. “It’s not pretty for the sake of being pretty.” Her garden wraps around her house, featuring flowering herbs and a peach tree in her front yard, with her back yard bifurcated into equal sections lawn for her dogs and a fenced-off garden area lined with rows of carefully planted, manicured vegetables.

Delisi’s garden features dozens of varieties of edible or medicinal plant, growing side-by-side using a method called Hugelkultur.

“Hugelkultur are no-dig raised beds that hold moisture, build fertility, maximize surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs,” said Delisi. “You fill a hole with spongy wood, and all the wood holds in water.” Delisi, 32, said the Hugelkultur method (pronounced hoo-gulculture) is great for root systems and reduces the need for watering. It even creates a small amount of heat. “Using this method I was able to start stuff earlier,” she said. In the Hugelkultur beds, Delisi has planted a myriad number of edible plants such as beets, garlic, mint, lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, squash and cabbage.

Delisi said her inspiration for cultivating an edible garden — and perhaps her green thumb — originated from her grandparents. “My grandma had a gar-den. I remember eating green peppers like they were apples,” she said. “It made me want to have my own garden.” She started growing herbs about five or six years ago and the project has grown consider-ably in the years since. Delisi said she does not use any form of herbicide and everything is entirely organic.“I don’t even use commercial fertilizer,” she said. And her methods work. Last year, she said, her garden produced almost 500 pounds of food, and this year she’s aiming to break that mark.

“I was able to get lettuce until winter last year,” she said. “I had a New Year’s salad in January that fed six people.”In addition to being a gardener, Delisi is also a teacher, providing lessons for people in the art of cultivating herb gardens. Delisi has taught classes on starting herb gardens, first aid salves and herbal oil infusions, culinary herbs and herbal preserving, and will be teaching classes at the Southern Lakes Branch Center of Mott Community College in Fenton next month. Delisi said that any-one can start a garden. It’s not something that takes a lot of know-how to get going. “Start with something small and something you’ll want to eat.

Don’t plant a bunch of tomatoes if you don’t like tomatoes,” she said. “It’s relatively cheap to start a garden and seeds are cheap, there are so many things you can get started in just a decent sized pot.” Delisi said another key to getting into the hobby of gardening is to find likeminded individuals. “You can find other people who are doing it too,” she said. To help with that, Delisi and other gardeners in the area formed a Facebook group called Lapeer Herb Circle, which features tips, conversations and meet-ups with other gardeners. Delisi’s garden will be featured in this year’s Garden Tour and Fairy Garden contest, organized by the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. On Saturday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the public is encouraged to visit Delisi’s garden to learn tips and tricks from the gardener herself.

“I’ll give a little tour and answer any questions people might have,” she said. The Garden Tour features six gardens around the area, with Delisi’s being the northernmost. For more information and to purchase a tick-et, contact the Master Gardener Volunteer Program at 810-664-8317 or 810-664-7531. Advanced tickets are available at Burke’s Flowers, Campbell’s Greenhouses and the Michigan State University Extension in Lapeer. 

The Fairy Garden Contest is free and open to anyone. Entry formsNeware available at www.lc-mga.org/programs proposedevents or you can call Marlene Daniels at 810-664-8317.


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