The Garden Life with Donnella Whitacre
Sunny California Native Goes Green and Back to her Roots with Garden Project
Donnella Whitacre has a free and gratitude based spirit that has found the true joy in the nature, beauty, and life that is represented in her growing garden.
A true Southern California girl, with sunshine in her hair and the beautiful blue of the sky in her eyes, Donnella decided to begin to plant her garden in June of 2013. Her motivation came from a friend, who had an organic garden he invited her to experience. Since then, her garden has become a very important part of her life, and it shows in her story and images.
PUSHLiving interviewed Donnella, and we hope you enjoy her insight, advice and love for her Garden Life!
What is in your Garden?
This season I have a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes ranging from small salad tomatoes to larger purple, green and red tomatoes. I also have about seven types of peppers from sweet bell peppers and peperoncini to spicy jalapeños and habaneros. I have a few types of corn, which also have pole beans growing up them. Scattered throughout the garden, I have a variety of flowers because they attract bees and other insects. I also have two butternut squash vines. I have a separate section dedicated to herbs. My herb garden includes different types of basil, mint, lavender, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage.
How have you made it wheelchair accessible?
My friend Brian helped me dig two paths and arrange two-inch by eight-inch redwood planks in each. The planks are spread far enough apart to let water drain properly, but also close enough to allow my wheelchair to roll in and back out smoothly.
Have you enjoyed any of the edible plants yet?
Well, this is my second season of gardening, so I previously enjoyed everything from last season. This season is just coming into harvest, and I am overwhelmed with tomatoes. Everything else I am growing takes a little longer to fully ripen.
What do you do when you are not gardening?
Honestly, I try to live like any other 24-year-old. I go to a few bars where I usually play pool and socialize. I also like to paint with acrylic and canvas. I take any opportunity I get to try something new, like skiing and modeling. I just like adventure and trying new things.
How do you think one could start their own Garden? What do they need?
With a seed, water, dirt and love. In reality, this wouldn’t have been possible without the help from friends and family. Being in a wheelchair with a garden in the ground, versus above ground in planters, makes a huge difference in what I can do on my own. You have to assess your capabilities and fitness levels to determine how big your garden will be, what will be planted, and where it will be planted. Then, you should think about what your favorite fruits and vegetables are and start with those. I always start my garden from seed because in my opinion it is more rewarding. But there is nothing wrong with going to your local nursery and picking up a few seedlings. A garden always starts with healthy soil. From there it is about getting the seedlings in the ground at the right time of year. Living in Southern California, is awesome because the weather is almost always perfect for growing. In my opinion, the most important thing any gardener needs is commitment to the garden. You constantly have to be watering, checking for harmful bugs, trimming dead leaves and branches, and harvesting when needed.
What resources, websites or pages do you follow to help you learn more?
This season all my seeds came from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which can be found at www.rareseeds.com. Their story is interesting; their magazines are extremely helpful, and their catalogue of seeds is endless. I also follow a various bunch of gardening pages on Facebook.com and Instagram. They give me ideas, inspiration, and can be extremely helpful.
What gardening tools do you use?
A hose, small shovel and clippers are the tools I use most frequently.
Are you able to do it all independently?
If my garden were all in pots or above ground planters, I could do it by myself. I am lucky enough to have a few friends that are also interested in organic gardening which are willing to help me whenever I need it. So, I would say that I do about 90 percent on my own and get help about 10 percent of the time.
How would you like to see your garden progress in the future?
Honestly, I would like to expand but I am running out of space and with more garden space comes more work and expenses. For now, I would like to see my garden grow and flourish. I am still learning the fine details so just perfecting my harvest would be amazing.
It is our hope that this feature and these images she has so proudly taken will inspire and motivate you to create your own garden, be it in a box, planter, a raised bed or the ground like Donnella.
Check out the slideshow of images of her garden:
See more images of Donnella on PhotoAbility
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