Kip Grant lives in an older, run-down section of Medford that features several condemned houses. Her apartment complex had not one blade of grass, only blacktop and a few dusty hedges. Yet she has created a garden oasis full of vegetables and flowers.
"It's not upscale, not the east side, and I couldn't afford a landscape designer, but I just decided to build a garden on the blacktop, and it turned out very pretty," Grant says. "I don't feel we should give in to our circumstances."
This isn't how the retired senior expected to finish out her life, but she decided to make the best of it. Because she doesn't drive, she had "No Parking" painted on the parking space outside her apartment. That became the genesis for her garden, made of whatever recycled plastic containers she could acquire.
"I started out with four or five plants out here, and now look at it after four years. I have to get out and water every single day and deadhead and pull out weeds. It takes a lot of time. But I have butterflies and hummingbirds, and all these flowers and vegetables," Grant says.
She uses recycled food containers for pots, and asked local restaurants for their used 5-gallon buckets. A local cable company gave her empty spools, and another store gave her unwanted display pieces so she could raise up some of her plants. Another store supplied old, used refrigerator grates so she could raise her pots off the blacktop for better drainage.
"I take a tablet and go to the stores and write down what I want and where it is," Grant says, explaining her shopping strategy. "Then I go back and watch for sales. It takes so much work and time, but it gives you something to look forward to in the morning. I buy most of my things at the end of the season when they are 50 to 75 percent off."
"I bought three sweet potatoes and waited until they started sprouting and planted them," she says. She also buys a few bulb plants on sale and divides them each year.
She reuses potting soil by adding her own mulch and compost, letting the dirt lie fallow for a year before replanting in it.
Although she has containers full of tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and squash, she had no luck growing melons in 5-gallon containers. This year someone suggested she try just planting in large garbage bags full of dirt, and it worked. She lifted one of her baby watermelons proudly to show it off. Her vegetables and flowers are all intermingled, some in shade from the hedges, some in full sun.
Rhianna Simes, Jackson County Master Recycler coordinator at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point, says Grant is the perfect example of what the recycling program tries to teach.
"Something we stress is to reuse," Simes says. "This is a great example how, with a little creativity, reuse can help us accomplish goals we didn't think we had the finances for. Some people feel intimidated, but once they see examples of how to reuse common objects, they realize they can do it, too."
Jennifer Loizeaux, assistant grower at Ashland Greenhouses, also was impressed with Grant's efforts. She said grouping her plants together creates a healthy microclimate for the garden despite the blacktop. She also recommended using black plastic pots for better heat absorption.
"I got seven cups of blueberries off my blueberry bush," Grant boasts. "I'm proud of what I can do. I'm not lazy, and I try to do what I can. People have to not give up."