Prof’s garden inspired by First Lady

Rachel Morrison/Pioneer
Modern Languages professor Abbie Figueroa poses for a picture beside her raised bed pepper garden. She is holding a tomato, onion, potato and cucumber she picked out of her other beds. Even in the blistering heat, she keeps her vegetables, fruit and flowers alive by watering them every day at 6 a.m.

Modern Languages professor Abbie Figueroa has been the highlight of the news recently with her successful vegetable, fruit and flower garden, growing right in in her front yard.

Figueroa said she started planting a garden late last summer that contains carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, beans, peppers, strawberries, corn, lettuce and much more.

“I’m such a novice gardener, I was just amazed at the success that we have had,” Figueroa said.

She said her inspiration to start gardening came from First Lady Michelle Obama.


“She put in a vegetable garden at the White House and has been saying we should eat more locally grown produce.”

When Figueroa first bought the house, there was no landscaping. She said she started growing flowers and had mixed results.

Then, she got more serious and realized if she really wanted to grow vegetables, it couldn’t be in her own soil.

“I researched raised bed gardens and this book popped up — ‘All New Square Foot Gardening’ by Mel Bartholomew.

“It’s like my Bible,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of reading and tried to figure it all out.”

Figueroa said the book details the process.

“They’re four by four squares, and you put grids on them which helps to keep everything organized,” she said.

According to Figueroa’s reading, the most important part of the garden is the soil mix. The soils are custom mixed, she said. It is composed of one-third compost, one-third peat moss and one-third of another ingredient that acts as the mineral.

“I actually started getting a lot of attention from people who are good at gardening.

“It’s very fun to do, to watch the things grow,” she said. “The kids have been involved in it too.”

Figueroa said she chose to have the garden in her front yard because her backyard is too shady.

“I’m so glad its there because the book says if you put your garden in the back by the fence, then you just ignore it.

“With it being in the front you can play with it, harvest it. I pulled some things from the garden today and had a salad for lunch.”

She said she has thought about expanding but she would have to go into her mother’s yard, who happens to live next door.

“We have probably about as much as we need,” she said. “Unfortunately, my kids are like all kids that don’t eat their vegetables.”

Figueroa said she would recommend this project to others. “I think this is easy to do.

“It was a little bit of work in the beginning to build the boxes … then mixing the soil.”

Figueroa said there is some investment such as lumber for the boxes and, of course, time.

“… But once it’s up and running, it’s great.

“It’s great water conservation, too, because you’re watering right on the plants in the box and there’s no excess water running off into the grass and it’s very little weeding.

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