Garden description: I am a new gardener. When I moved in, about 5 years ago, the garden bed was filled with weeds and roots. It took a couple of years to remove it with just a shovel and lopping shears. As I got through each section of the garden bed, I added new soil and added leaves to help improve the soil quality. I planted random plants here and there and killed many of them. I didn’t even know the difference between an annual and a perennial. I didn’t understand that each plant had different needs. I also did a poor job organizing the plants in the garden bed. It’s heartbreaking to kill a plant, so I was afraid to garden incorrectly. That mentality held me back. The last two years, I’ve pushed my boundaries and really went for it. My favorite color is purple, so it’s the main color in the garden with pops of white, red, and yellow. It has a cottage garden feel. This last year, I’ve really built my confidence and if I have an idea I go for it. It’s worked out very well. I love it. It brings me so much happiness. It’s grown so much. I look at it and I think “wow, I have kept this alive.” I’m not great at anything, but this is something I can really be proud of.

Who are the gardeners? My name is Julissa and pre-covid I was a fitness instructor. I taught at the Newark Senior Center, the YMCA, a couple of schools, and a few private businesses/clients. I am now a real estate assistant. My hobbies include belly dancing, yoga, reading, hiking, and gardening. Next year, my garden goal is to have a small cut flower garden and a beehive.

Why do you garden? There is nothing else that brings me the same amount of happiness and freedom. The plants, animals, and insects are my friends. There is always a new discovery. I see bees, butterflies, bunnies, frogs, birds, praying mantis, and fireflies in the yard. I absolutely love it. I’m in the garden several times per day.

How has gardening impacted you during this time? I’ve allowed myself to let go of the fear of doing it wrong. Just give it a try and see what happens. I’m allowing myself to be creative. I planted seeds this year which I was always thought I couldn’t do and added bigger plants which I thought I couldn’t handle. During covid, I decided I had to build a pond. So I did, in the middle of a rain storm with only a shovel and hours to spare. I carried rocks that were in the front of the house to the back all by myself. It was hard work, but very rewarding. The pond adds to the beauty of the garden. This year, I reorganized the garden and it flows so much better. I was afraid of killing plants by moving them, but I watched over them, watered them multiple times a day, and supported them with stakes until they recovered from the shock of being transplanted. I lost 2 rose bushes and an annual poppy, but everything else survived. I did it!

What do you have in your garden? Fox tail asparagus fern, rose bushes, lantana, astilbe, red yarrow, lavender, delphiniums, black-eyes Susan, lamb ears, meadow sage, Spanish lavender, bear-tongue, snow in summer, meteor shower, mellow yellow coneflowers, 2 butterfly bushes, alliums, tickseed, lemon balm, petunias, pincushions, creeping phlox, graceful white bee bloom, aster, hollyhock, geranium, creeping Jenny, Russian sage, oregano, a tiny lilac “tree,” salvia, sunflowers, and a wild flower patch. I have a hydrangea and heuchera section that are a work in progress. I look forward to what the garden will be next year.

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? In the spring I always have problems with aphids on my rose bushes. I’ve tried a homemade chemical-free solution and I’ve even bought lady bugs. None of them did the trick. The best solution is to wipe them off with a damp paper towel. I find Japanese beetles here and there, but I just move them to an area in the yard that has no flowers.




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