Interview with Cat Roth - Gardener, Foodie, Crafter

My friend Cat Roth and I went to the University of Georgia together. We lived in Reed Hall and were fast friends from the moment we met. I remember one particular evening full of shenanigans with film canisters of tequila and lime popsicle chasers. We've always loved good food. From the carrot cake at the Athens Coffee House to Jittery Joe's coffee, the biscuits and yeast gravy at The Grit to fries and feta at The Grill, we've shared more meals than I can remember.

Cat extended her love of food to the outdoors and has created a garden to envy. I asked her a few questions about her gardening habits and for a favorite recipe. Maybe her insight will inspire or invigorate your gardening skill. I just planted romaine and spinach yesterday, so I'm slow to start. My intent in gardening is to save a bit of money. With less coming in these days shouldn't we be growing more of our own food?

1. Why do you garden?

I love the processes of gardening, both mental and physical. The satisfaction of clearing a space, the promise of a planted seed, the possibility within the little sprout. The process of discovery over time: controlling elements such as light, hydration, protection, nutrition all to get the most vibrant and healthy plant you can. Seeing a subtle difference from day to day. I like to eat what I plant so I plant what I like to eat, in addition to a few experiments every year. I also love to plant flowers for color and fill in areas of the space that need extra attention or a shift in scene from time to time.

2. What do you plant, and what has been the most and least successful?

When I first moved in I planted perennials because it was fall when I bought the house and I wanted to make the space my own come spring.  Now that I have a lot of the foundation plantings in, I've switched my focus to fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and perennial herbs.  I have a lot of shade in my yard, which makes it a challenge to grow plants requiring full sun. Although I love lilies, tulips, and tropicals I have had to give up on them after many failed attempts. I'm most successful with shade perennials like hydrangeas and hostas, and I've had the most success with lettuces, onions, garlic, and berries that will tolerate some shade.

3. What is your biggest garden challenge?

Weeding and watering. Mulching helps a lot, but it is still an ongoing backbreaking process. We have a lot of wisteria, ivy, and other nasty invasives that are really hard to keep beaten down without pesticides, which I refuse to use. So I pull them out by their roots, the hard way. Next year we're going to put in a drip irrigation system that should solve some of our drought concerns and take a burden off of our shoulders.  We would spend hours watering the garden every week, getting mosquito bites in the process. Every year our garden gets better because we learn more about how to solve our challenges and put it into practice the next time.  

4. What's the best piece of gardening advice you ever received?

Compost everything. You've already got it, why waste it?

5. What tool do you rely on most?

Quality garden gloves. Flexible fabric ones with latex grip fingertips for grabbing evil weeds. No particular brand, but I pick up a new pair nearly every time I hit the hardware store.

6. Would you share a recipe?

I'm making this tomorrow with our homegrown garlic!

Marinated Asparagus

One bunch thin green or white asparagus stalks, trimmed of woody stems
3/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

Blanch asparagus in boiling water 3-5 minutes or until tender, then remove stalks to ice water to cool.

Combine other ingredients and whisk together, pour over asparagus.  Marinate in refrigerator, stirring occasionally, 6 hours or overnight.  Enjoy room temperature or cool as a side or salad topping.