The Gardener Wife
My name is Debbie Rea, and “the gardener wife” is how my husband Stan refers to me in his Facebook posts. I’ve been his wife since 1991, and I’ve been a gardener since 1992, when we bought our first house.
What I Do
I teach people how to grow things and how to use things they could grow in their cooking, decorating, and entertaining. Frankly, I want to be like Martha Stewart, except that I help everyday folks who, like me, don’t have all that she has. I don’t have a big corporation and a team of people working for me—just a helpful hubby who, as he puts it, “enables” me. We raised two sons, now grown, while living on a single five-figure income. We have just one house, and it’s not a big one. Our lot isn’t large enough to be measured in acres since it’s not even a half an acre. (As small as it is, it’s bigger than what I grew up with on a city lot in Chicago. Yes, I grew up in the city—and I hate having to admit that I live in the suburbs now.) Yet I still haven’t finished creating all of the garden beds that I dream of for this place. (But no, I don’t intend to eliminate the entire lawn.) To do it all at once costs a lot! Besides, we enjoy being do-it-yourselfers. I love the adventure that gardening is, so I want to draw you into it, too, and help you to succeed.
My First Garden—and my first mistake!
Our first house had an 8’x4′ garden bed in the backyard, and I planted vegetables there. Growing organic food for our table is where my gardening journey began, and it’s still a high priority. I tried to make the most of that little plot by sowing spaghetti squash seeds between the tomato seedlings along the fence next to it. Little did I know that the squash plants would take over the backyard! Poor Stan had to move those vines back and forth every time he mowed the lawn. That was my first mistake and my first lesson learned.
My Learning Process
I’ve made and learned from other mistakes over the years. I also joined a garden club, read about gardening, attended garden shows and seminars, and went on garden walks. I became a certified Will County Master Gardener in 2010 and a Master Naturalist in 2014. And guess what—I’m still learning! Whether you’re a newbie or an expert, we gardeners learn from each other and inspire one another, right? Since you might not have the opportunity to take all of the training I’ve had, I’m here to share what I know with you.
My Current Garden
We’ve lived here in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago since 1996. My specialty is growing anything edible–vegetables, herbs, fruit, and even edible flowers (my favorite!)—and I make a big point of cooking with garden ingredients all year round. I’ve also branched out into other kinds of gardening, not just edibles. I have several ornamental gardens, including a couple of fairy gardens, now. In addition, I grow many ornamentals and edibles in containers. I do seed starting, winter sowing, fruit tree grafting, and all kinds of plant propagation. I also have many houseplants, succulents, and tropicals which must come inside during our cold Chicago area winters. One way or another, I’m gardening year round!
My goal is to help you GROW SOMETHING, something beautiful—even better, something to eat!