About Me and the Market Garden

Welcome to the Green Zebra Market Garden Blog. Green Zebra is the name of my produce stand at the local farmer's market and is also the name of a interesting and gorgeous heirloom tomato. My goal is for this blog to be a place to document and share some of my experiences with gardening, cooking, crafting, photography, and other areas of interest.

First, you should know a little bit about me. I recently completed my Master's Degree in greenhouse floriculture. The basis of my research was to determine the best practices for growing bedding plants and potted plants in greenhouses. Specifically, my thesis focused on the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) as an alternative light source for greenhouse crop production (but more on that later). You may not know this, but horticulture is pretty big business in the state of Michigan. Michigan ranked third in floriculture production behind California and Florida in 2009 (with a wholesale value of $397.4 million).

I've been gardening as long as I can remember. I have memories of digging furrows and planting seeds with my Mom when I was very young. I also remember finding grubs in the soil and being completely disgusted that our food was growing in the same place. I guess I got over it.  

The first garden that I called my own (constructed, planted, tended, and harvested by yours truly) occurred when I was about 13 years old. When I look back at that first garden, I realize that it was basically a sandbox in full shade. I didn't know much about gardening at that point in time. The plot was completely planted with hybrid tomatoes. I didn't even like tomatoes at the time, so I'm not sure why that's what I chose to grow. I think my parents had a bit to do with the decision since they were the ones who shelled out the cash for my seedlings. It took 10 more years and my first sampling of heirloom tomatoes to change my mind...and over 10 years later, it's still the plant that dominates my garden space.

I've lived my whole life in Michigan. I dream of warmer climates and will most likely leave the state to find work at some point. I can't wait to change hardiness zones and be able to grow a broader range of plants. Gardeners in my growing zone, 5b, are somewhat limited in terms of what they can grow successfully, yet there are plenty of options. Michigan winters are fairly harsh and many crop and ornamental plants cannot survive year round. The seasonal nature of gardening in Michigan can be frustrating for me sometimes. The winter months of November through March are almost completely devoid of outdoor gardening opportunities. However, I keep busy by planning next year's garden, collecting and perusing seeds catalogues, organizing my seed collection, and starting seedlings in my basement, to name a few examples.

About 6 months into my graduate program, I decided to buy a house. I was enjoying what I was doing in school, but I wanted a more permanent place to live and I wanted (needed, required?) a place to garden. Several other graduate students I knew were looking into buying foreclosed properties (there are tons of them in Michigan). It seemed like a really smart financial decision, but I guess that will be determined when it comes time to sell the place. The fact that I bought a foreclosure was the only reason I was able to afford a house at age 23 (and pay off my mortgage in under 2 years)! 
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