Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 25, 2010

A fruitful experience

Class offers ABCs of organic gardening

by Carolyn Copeland

It isn't difficult to make Pam Scott smile — just ask her about the different types of soil a person can use for gardening and her face will light up brighter than a child on Christmas morning.

Scott will be teaching a class for beginning gardeners on June 26 called "Wisdom Shoes" — what she calls "lessons I've learned from doing something for some time or everything I wish I had known when I was a beginner" — at Common Ground in Palo Alto.

She first began gardening when she was 3 years old under the instruction of her mother and has been taking organic gardening classes for the past six years at Common Ground and College of Marin.

"One of the things I want to get across is that it really doesn't take that much space to grow a garden," she said. "I'd love to spark someone's imagination and help them realize that it's possible to grow a garden in almost any area or climate. I'm trying to make it as 'how-to' as possible."

Scott is used to sparking imaginations in her day job: She launched The Curious Company in 2000, which takes creative approaches to marketing and branding. Clients range from Pepsi-Cola to Sun Microsystems.

But the only thing she's selling in this class is a passion for gardening. Her class is geared toward people who have never gardened before and those who want to brush up on the basics.

"It's going to be a kind of aggressive class," she said. "I'm hoping that people will leave and start their own garden within a few months."

Though she has lectured before on creativity and branding, this is the first time Scott will teach a gardening class. She hopes she will be able to de-mystify gardening and show people that it doesn't take a lot of equipment to start growing their own food.

"All you really need is a hose, a hand trowel and a pair of clippers," she said. "It's amazing. You can grow so much delicious food in one little space."

Scott has a garden in her back yard in Los Altos Hills. While she does grow some flowers to attract beneficial insects that pollinate the plants, her main focus is food. She grows strawberries, herbs, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, carrots, kiwis, grapes, cherries, lemons, plums, artichokes and much more. She spends two to four hours a week in her garden and hopes that someday half the food she and her husband consume will be grown herself.

"The beauty of fresh food is that the taste is so strong," she said. "I love the idea of eating things that are so fresh they were picked 30 minutes ago as opposed to 30 days ago. Things are so much sweeter and fresher and more delicious. If I planted my food and shipped it across the country, a week later it wouldn't have half the taste."

Her decision to pass the torch and share her enthusiasm with others came from her mentors at College of Marin and her mother's passionate approach to farming. Growing up as an army brat, Scott moved to a variety of different locations including Hawaii, Maryland and Texas. Despite the changing weather conditions, she says her mother taught her to adjust to farming in different climates. That's one of the many things she plans to teach her class — how to work with whatever climate or soil they have. 

"I want people to appreciate the world of soil," she said. "It's so important to understand the sacredness of it and why it's important. Nothing matters if you don't get the soil right."

Due to a cooler summer, Scott has found it difficult to make her garden as tall as it was last year. Still, she doesn't let it interfere with the humbleness gardening brings her.

"It's something you never quite master," she said. "It's more of a journey than a destination. You have good years and bad years."

Living in Los Altos Hills where the weather is relatively warm, Scott has the opportunity to continue to garden through the winters. But for those living in cooler areas, she stressed the importance of planting a lot of food.

"The climate in different parts of the Bay Area is very unique," she said. "It's important to plant a diverse garden. Chances are, one of those plants will love the weather and grow well with whatever the earth throws at it."

Even long-time gardeners like Scott sometimes struggle with growing food. Corn is the one vegetable she has had a hard time with.

"I've tried to grow it three times," she said. "Corn just hates me! It's the most difficult thing to grow because it needs to be in bunches. It's hard to plant a bunch of it in my garden."

Scott enjoys planting new things and watching her garden grow.

"I love a garden that has a mind of its own. That's one of the things I embrace," she said.

Scott hopes that her class will be fun and diminish some of the frustrations new gardeners face. Though some people may encounter minor setbacks, she doesn't want them to be discouraged.

"Gardening is so therapeutic," she said. "It requires a lot of patience."

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What: Wisdom Shoes

When: Saturday, June 26, 10:30 a.m. to noon

Where: Common Ground Education Center, 559 College Ave., Palo Alto

Cost: $30

Info: Call 650-493-6072 or visit http://wisdomshoes.eventbrite.com.

DROP QUOTE:

'All you really need is a hose, a hand trowel and a pair of clippers.'

— Pam Scott, on beginning an organic garden

Editorial Intern Carolyn Copeland can be e-mailed at ccopeland@paweekly.com.

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