We make tools for artists because we’re artists ourselves, so side projects are especially important at Big Cartel. Inside Out features projects that feed our creative appetites outside of work.
Karen Kenney was Big Cartel’s first customer support employee, and she’s still an indispensable part of our team. She has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of everything Big Cartel, and she’s also the person you want with you in case of a zombie apocalypse: Karen can spin her own yarn and turn it into clothing, make soaps and lotions from scratch, and to top it all off, she never runs out of fun activities for her two kids. I caught up with her to ask about her latest endeavor: a thriving home garden.
Get me up to speed! What have you already accomplished in your garden, and what are the big plans?
I finished building a greenhouse in July 2017, and after building the shelves, I loaded it up with the plants I’d been taking care of for the previous month. Some I’d bought as small plants, and some I’d planted as seeds. They were already doing well, but ever since they were put in the greenhouse they’ve just exploded. I did a bit of succession planting with the carrots, and then a third planting a few weeks later. I wanted to see how far into winter I can get root vegetables to grow from seed. Apparently you can turn any potato into a seed, but you have to roll them in wood ash and let them sit, so I started a round of potatoes in September.
Right now I’ve got basil, oregano (the nursery said that bees love oregano, so I got it for the bees), Jack Be Little pumpkins (amazing!), Cheyenne Peppers (devils), California Golden peppers, Black Prince tomatoes, Brandywine Orange tomatoes, Juliet tomatoes, strawberries, Sugar Snap peas, multi-colored carrots, corn, and Green Fingers cucumbers. I’ve gotten a fair amount of stuff off the plants, especially for how new all the plants are.
What’s been your favorite thing about this project so far?
I’ve enjoyed all of it, from dropping seeds into the dirt, to watering everyday, to seeing what we’ve grown on our plates, to searching for the frogs that live in the greenhouse. (I wasn’t careful one day, and grabbed a strawberry that a frog was napping on! Dude went flying, but was OK.) I’m even planning on expanding and building a fenced-in garden next year complete with raised beds, and a sweet setup for berries that’ll have them in half pipes mounted on the fence so that the bunnies can’t get them.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about gardening?
Gardening is awesome! My sister has loved gardening, and has had a garden, ever since she was 24 or 25. I didn’t really get it until we moved to Washington and I started helping with her garden. “Wait, you can just eat the corn right off the stalk?!” Her garden was the shit, and still is. She can grow anything and, while I’ve taken on this project mostly by myself, it’s nice being able to ask her why the peppers aren’t turning color or why the Brandywine Orange tomatoes are getting smooshy while they’re still green and on the vine.
It also takes the mystery out of growing your food in a good way. It’s pretty cool knowing you can put a seed in some dirt, and it’ll grow, and then you get to eat it. It’s also really fun to watch everything grow, bloom, and change color. And homegrown food can taste better. I never believed people when they said their garden tomatoes were so much better than a store-bought tomato, and I still can’t tell the difference with tomatoes. But I’ll tell you what, there’s NOTHING like a homegrown carrot! Same with cucumbers. I kinda hate cucumbers, but I eat them so that my kids will too, and homegrown cucumbers are good. I don’t even have to use that much ranch dressing to choke them down.
Anyone can garden; you just have to pay attention to your garden, and make adjustments to your care when you see signs of things like overwatering, drying, or lack of nutrients. In the short time I’ve had my own garden, it’s been pretty easy recognizing the signs so it just takes a bit of practice and attention. And knowing that you’re eating something that came from your own backyard is pretty cool.
See what else the Big Cartel team is up to these days.