Ken Murrell has a theory about gardening that he’s experimented with over the past year.
“There are switches in nature,” Murrell said as he leaned over to take a close look at the peppers growing in his garden. “You turn the right switches on, at the right time, and things work.”
For Murrell, 67, his theory seems to have held up through both dry and wet seasons since he first planted his seeds last winter. His plot is one of several in the Fairview Community Garden in Dublin, started last year under the direction of the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.
When he saw the signs on the fence at the entrance of Hatcher Road advertising plots at the garden, Murrell recognized an opportunity to test his theory out. Fairview Community Garden is located next to the Fairview Home Assisted Living Facility, just down the road from where Murrell lives.
Most of the community garden plots sit Fairview Home, Murrell’s 10 by 10 foot garden plot sits in a field adjacent to the building, near about three others. While the ground is overgrown with weeds and tall grass, his garden remains clear of any excess vegetation, containing only the fruit sprouted by the seeds he planted in the winter.
“This is the gist of what I’ve done here,” Murrell said. “During the dry season my plants were healthy, and they’ve been weed free, disease free, and bug free.”
Murrell has followed cultivation principles established in the Farmer’s Almanac to test his theory of a self-sustainable garden, planting his seeds at the exact right point in the year and letting nature take care of the rest. According to Murrell, he tilled the soil once, planted his seeds, and comes down periodically to take pictures of the garden and pick any fruit that may be ripe.
Since sowing his seeds on the 10×10 plot, Murrell has kept a digital record of its progress. The garden is watered naturally by rainfall, and Murrell said that soil is 100 percent organic, as he chose not use chemical fertilizers.
“That’s the purpose of organic gardening, you do it right to begin with, and it’s done,” Murrell said.
Murrell described his experimental gardening process as “labor free.” Although more strategic thinking went into his endeavor than physical strength, the fruits of his labors have grown in plain sight in the garden.
Tomatoes, zucchinis, gourds, chili peppers, and green peppers have grown to full maturity in plentiful numbers in Murrell’s garden. One of the more unique crops found in Murrell’s garden is a Plum Granny – a small melon about as big as an apple, with a taste comparable to a sour cantaloupe.
“I’ve never seen them outside my family garden, except for one time,” Murrell said as he picked the bright, round fruit. “My mother used to grow those when I was a little boy, and for years I tried to look for them, and I finally I found some.”
As Murrell has managed to grow a successful crop on an experimental basis for his first go round, he hopes that others will follow his example and get involved with the Fairview Community Garden as it’s still in its early stage. He pointed out that maintaining a vegetable garden represents a habit of self-sustainability that seems to have withered over the years.
“Fifty years ago, every household through here had a garden, everyone had gardens when I was a child,” Murrell said. “Today, people don’t know how to survive. You can do this in anybody’s yard.”
Murrell, who is now retired, recalled a similar observation from his time spent in the military. He was stationed in Germany, where he noticed that most of the households had 10 by 10 foot garden plots much like the one he currently maintains.
“People in Germany fed their families off of little 10×10 foot plots like this,” Murrell said. “Germany’s a small country, and a lot of families don’t have land area, but the ones that had back yards had little plots.”
As Murrell is harvesting his vegetables after a full growing season, he is already thinking about what he will do next year, as he plans to add on a 10 by 20 foot plot and experiment with other types of vegetables. He also said that he sees the next growing season as an opportunity to organize his existing garden plot better than he did this year.
Overall, he hopes to spread the word of his theory in practice, and hopes that other people will follow his example as they see the first round of crops harvested from Fairview Community Garden.
“For the community, everyone can do what I’ve done,” Murrell said. “I’m just trying to demonstrate that. It’s not at all labor intensive.”