The ‘Queen of Compost’ serves fresh garden veggies to her ‘King’
~By Maureen Austin, CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc.
This blue-eyed, fair-skinned gentleman has grown his garden by making people “an offer they can’t refuse”–beginning with his native Sicilian wife.
When Jerry Price asked Joanne to marry him, it was indeed an offer she couldn’t refuse, and in 1997 the couple was wed.
When he moved into her Alpine home, Jerry negotiated with Joanne for a garage to house his antique cars in exchange for transforming the bark-covered yard into the lush paradise it is today. How could she refuse?
As with all gardens, the Price’s is ever-changing, and the most recent big change came as a result of yet another “offer that could not be refused” — this one with the local power company. SDG&E needed an easement on a piece of property owned by Jerry…Jerry wanted some telephone poles and a large spool for a garden project. One day, following a short conversation that Jerry had with SDG&E personnel, a large truckload of telephone poles and a giant spool were delivered to the Price home. Thus began the transformation of a large section of lawn into a productive, organic vegetable garden.
Many of the telephone poles were cut and placed to frame beds, while others were sliced into16” lengths and buried to create sturdy pathway steps.
It is in this new, vegetable garden that Joanne reigns as ultimate queen, which Jerry wisely acknowledges, as he reaps the benefits on his nightly dinner plate. “We have fresh vegetables from the garden every night,” Joanne says.
Although she grows many of the more common garden favorites (chard, arugula, borage, broccoli, lettuce and potatoes), Joanne also cultivates and cooks some unusual greens, such as rapine, seeds of which she got from her homeland of Italy. As one might expect, the Sicilian woman prepares much of her food in the traditional Italian way, lightly sautéing in olive oil and diced garlic, and on occasion prepares one of Jerry’s all-time favorites — whole roasted garlic bulbs, which he “pops in his mouth and eats whole,” she said.
In her garden, Joanne absolutely does not compromise. She does not make Jerry offers he can’t refuse. She simply just gets her way! Case in point–her compost pile. Jerry lamented at the look of the pile of kitchen scraps and yard trimmings that Joanne diligently tended and turned regularly. He referred to it as “a mess.” When she refused to remove it, he ultimately relented and framed it in railroad ties. “It looks better now,” he laughed. Joanne, who said she had never done composting up until about a year ago, said she enjoys it and is amazed at the benefits. “I’m becoming the compost queen!” she exclaimed.
Indeed Jerry and Joanne are the king and queen of this lush 1/2- acre habitat, which feeds not only them, but an abundance of birds and butterflies, as well. Their property has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Backyard Habitat since 1999.
Once a dumping ground for rocks cleared from a nearby development, this “developer’s trash” was turned into a “garden treasure” by Jerry, as he unearthed each stone to build planting beds, pathways and even the creek for a waterfall. “I was inspired by Butchart Gardens,” he said, and he determined to mimic the “surprise around every corner” concept of the infamous Canadian destination spot.
~ More Information ~
Ticket price is $20, which includes admission to all 8 sites.Tickets are available at Flower Sport Nursery in Alpine, online or by mail. For additional information, please visit www.chirp.org or phone