I’m Robin Ripley. I am co-author of Grocery Gardening and author of the Wisdom for Home Preservers published by Taunton Press in 2014. I am a sometimes garden blogger (meaning, I blog when I can). I’m also an adventurous cook and volunteer. I also have a job.
What is your gardening philosophy?
A while back I was watching a video of Audrey Hepburn hosting a series about gardens of the world. She said something to the effect that gardens should be “peaceful, personal and practical.” It was an epiphany moment for me because it summed up beautifully what I am trying to do with the landscape and gardens around our home.
I started out as a vegetable gardener because it seemed the perfect way to ensure that the food we eat is fresh and healthy. I remain very concerned about the food sources we use. But now I also try to make my garden beautiful as well as bountiful. I am learning more each year about trees, flowering shrubs and perennials, gradually adding them to my well-established potager.
Where do you live? What zone are you in?
We live in Calvert County, which is in Southern Maryland. We are in Zone 7, but are within a five minute walk of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounded by trees, so our microclimate is probably Zone 7b.
What are the dimensions of your potager and raised beds?
The potager is approximately 30′ x 40′. (I haven’t measured exactly.) The raised beds are a bit larger than are really practical—about 6′ x 10′. Fortunately, I am tall, which means I have long arms to reach into the garden beds. Even then, it is a stretch. (Har har.)
Where did you get the potager picket fence? What is it made of?
The potager fence and garden gate were purchased and installed by Walpole Woodworkers in 2005. It was a huge investment for us, but we considered the potager as an extension of the house and an outdoor room. That’s how I justified it in my mind anyway. And truly, we do use it as an outdoor room, entertaining, drinking coffee and reading the paper and meditating.
The fence and gate are made from wood. Because they are white I find I must give them a good sudsy scrub each spring. The fence was repainted in 2017–long overdue.
What are your potager’s raised beds made of?
The raised beds are made from 4″ x 4″ untreated cedar posts secured with rebar. I knew I wanted wood that would last and also not add unwanted chemicals to my vegetable beds. The cedar posts were very difficult to find. In fact, we had to drive more than an hour away to buy them from a specialty hardware store. I think they were worth the time and investment though because after six years they are still in great shape.
Does the fence protect your vegetables from deer, rabbits and other wildlife?
The fence is decorative. Rabbits can dig under. Deer can step over. So it really isn’t designed to keep anything out. That said, it was useful for keeping the chickens away from tender seedlings. Although the chickens could fly, it never occurred to them that there may be something tasty on the other side of the fence.
And strangely, the deer aren’t interested in getting in either—so far, at least. I suspect it is because there is so much to eat in the woods around our house during gardening season. A local farmer suggested that the enclosed space with ornamentation may be too much for a large deer to try and navigate while jumping. I just don’t know. So much for the deer ignoring my garden! The past three years have been a constant battle. It is very disheartening to lovingly nurse along tomatoes to ripeness only to have the deer have a tomato buffet by moonlight one night, just before they are ready for the first pickings.
How much property do you have?
We have a little more than 21 acres. Most of it is woods surrounding the house. Approximately six acres is cleared. A little more than an acre of that is devoted to the house, yard and potager. The rest of the cleared property is devoted to hay production, which is accomplished by a local farmer who uses the hay to feed his cows. It’s a win-win situation for us.
Why do you blog?
I began blogging as a personal journal of what I was doing in the garden. Over the years I experimented with giving advice about gardening. But I’m still learning, so I really only talk about my own experiences. Now I just want to record and share what is going on in the garden or what I’m up to. There are plenty of great resources on the internet for that. My garden blog is the definitive resource on the internet about my garden.
What blog platform do you use? Who designed your blog?
I use WordPress. I recently updated my blog design with a custom design by Maurice Design. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They also do the design and technical support for my work-related websites.
Do you accept guest blog posts or advertising?
This blog is my personal journal, so I have never and will never accept guest blog posts. (Okay, one time my dog Sophie did a guest post.) To date, I have not accepted advertising or paid links. I don’t plan to accept paid links. But if you’re a big, wealthy (ethical and organic) company and want to throw a lot of money my way for some tasteful advertisements or sponsorships, I can be bought for the right price. Thank you.
Do you work in horticulture or food?
Hah. No. I am a marketing research consultant, which means I work with clients to identify and understand problems and potential solutions through surveys, focus groups and interviews. I do not even have any horticulture- or food-related clients.
How many animals do you have?
We currently have two Papillons (little hairy dogs) and eight hens. Our 18-year-old cat, Miss P, has gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Time marches on and we had to say good-bye to our Papillons and also the chickens. We adopted Jenny, a Heinz 57 dog, in December of 2018.
Where else can we visit you?
I also blog at Eggs and Chickens, so visit me there for more chicken stories and recipes. Gone! On Twitter I am @robinripley: https://twitter.com/#!/robinripley. I am also on Pinterest as SoVeryFresh. My Facebook page is here. You can also drop me a line using the contact form.