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. They were installed about seven years ago and are still holding up. Because they are white I find I must give them a good sudsy scrub each spring. At some point I will be faced with painting the fence—but not yet.
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 is useful for keeping the chickens away from tender seedlings. Although the chickens can fly, it hasn’t yet 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.
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. Now I just want to record and share what I am doing or am interested in, so I’m not so much into giving advice anymore. 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 with a custom design by The Blog Studio. Over the years several things in the design have changed. Some of them I did myself but for the hard stuff I call on the help of Blue Penguin Consulting. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They also did the design of my work website.
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), one antique cat and six hens.
Where else can we visit you?
I also blog at Eggs and Chickens, so visit me there for more chicken stories and recipes. On Twitter I am @robinripley: https://twitter.com/#!/robinripley. I am also on Pinterest as SoVeryFresh. My Facebook page is only for friends and family. You can also drop me a line using the contact form.