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258. Neighborhood Gardener, Dedicated Mom, and Elementary Educator | Nicole Holohan-O’Shea | Long Island, NY
31st December 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:44:54

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Thursday, Dec 27, 2018. I have an old friend from HS on the line, who is a little bit new to gardening, but has had some early success as a neighborhood gardener and a teacher as well!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an elementary school teacher for 21 years on Long Island.

I’ve always been a renter, love to rent!  I always say, I’m the best renter you could ever have! Then at 47 bought a house with my husband and my daughter. When we bought the house in our price range, we had to look really hard to make sure there were no structural problems.

We wanted unusual things

  • workshop
  • shed
  • shop

skimming things in our price range. We weren’t looking, I thought funny in an ad,

  • landscaping
  • old growth plants

I thought that was a funny thing to put in.

Bought our house dec 31st

never looked outside until the spring when my daughter went to kick a ball, and it landed in some kind of thorn bush and that’s how I got into gardening because we had to do land clearing first!

I never expected to be doing land clearing in my forties! Shock!

You were telling me a bit about it! Like you were joking about your husband getting a chain saw and you had to have 6 guys come in with machetes! Like this isn’t just a little project!

Yes, there was an invasive vine that was killing trees

It was so thick, some of the roots were thick as a leg

very deep into the ground

I had some friends come over who said things from

you will never get rid of it

to it will cost  $35k

To get rid and I sometimes think that was the best thing they could have said to us was you’ll never get rid of it! Because my husband’s an irishman and we took it on as a challenge

It took about 3 years to get all of it

our neighbors were infected too!


Community Neighborhood and Team Work

and we worked together

Got rid of the fence between us and we got rid of this invasive vine!

bundle it

take it to the garbage collectors

It wasn’t easy to do! But we did it! However, once you clear land, then you have these big spaces and you have to put something in them, so then I had to figure out what plants to buy. It was a big project!

And you have such a lovely tiered garden, when I was here in June we got to come over for your solstice party, it’s just gorgeous!

my husband did it


He was very clever, our backyard that is sloped

put in stones! big stones

to create these three tiers

cement steps

easy access the garden

I think that is a big key to make sure that it is very easy to access

stepping over the plants

not gonna fall


in those tiers

I don’t think it would be as easy to access.

And it looks lovely!

thanks, thanks to him!


Tell me about your first gardening experience?

no garden

scary home

we had the home where we left the bicycles

My mother was not a gardener, my father was not.

I think I came into it very late in life!

I think that will be inspiring that you did come late and are doing so well!

You can do anything in your life if you really want to, you’re body might not work as well, but you can do it!

I’m a big believer in that too!

How did you learn how to garden organically?

Well my husband just said no chemicals

don’t want to put in any part of the lawn because they can run down to where we’re growing vegetables

You have to do more weeding that way,

it’s also cheaper so that appeals to me.


I have a daughter

I wanted her to see:

  • how garden grows
  • dormant period
  • the excitement of spring
  • the cycle of life

I hadn’t really experienced myself


That first year

  • we started with tulips

We just love that the colors that come up!

Explaining to her!

Planting the bulbs in the fall is a very good lesson

One thing that gardening teaches to you is

  • patience
  • faith

You’re not gonna get return on everything that you do, but whatever the percentage is, it’s very worth the effort

learned pacing myself

at first we were hoping we would clear it in one year, so we have to be patient! It didn’t take one year to get to this condition

That’s great advice! I agree! My husband is very patient, sometimes I’m like how do you

he has that vision, sometimes I’m like I don’t remember all this dirt!

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

The tulips grew very well


I think in terms of vegetables I really liked the cherry tomatoes

I don’t have as much success with the big tomatoes! But the cherry tomatoes!

they’re so easy

I can make a salad

I make a simple sauce by cutting them up with garlic and basil

My daughter likes to eat them like a snack

They don’t take a ton of room, they grow well where you put them and you can use them so many ways.

That’s the same problem we have.

they take so long to ripen

animals sometimes they come and eat them.

big rabbit problem here on Long Island

I know there is a big problem, they are everywhere!

They are reproducing like rabbits!


Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I wanna try and put in some more flowers

tried to put in a wild patch of flowers

issue is to try to seed in the pot

I would like to have just a patch of wildflowers but we don’t have that!

I’ve had the most luck with perennials, we were talking about sage last night, things like


butterfly flower – which is like this big red kind of bloom with yellow

Mike does plant the seeds and then transplant them

You know what grows good is calendula and they come up like the dill, popping up all over!

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

The fennel

I thought

it grows beautifully

it seems like a shame when you harvest it

it’s a root vegetable so then it’s gone.

I’ve been just keeping it, it has a beautiful white flower. It does draw bees, we’re always looking for bees

I was just reading that fennel is good for you.

that seemed like

I’d rather keep it like a plant

roses that I had, they were choked with this invasive vine

I haven’t gotten them to go up the trellis but I’m getting there.

Hey interesting fact, I’ve been researching for my garden course is that garlic is a companion for roses, it keeps the fungus away and bugs.

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Let’s Get to the Root of Things

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

I think weeding is everybody’s bug-a-boo

clean out at the beginning and the end of the year

multiple days just to get the garden put to bed

clean up in the spring and I have five yards of mulch that has to be put down!

that’s a lot of mulch!

what’s helped me is having a wheelbarrow

look at your backyard if you have any kind of slope or rocks or bumpy surfaces, it’s worth getting a wheelbarrow with

big round tires

dumping feature.

That’s interesting, I first thought  shovel but then I a changed it to a wheelbarrow and what was a game changer for us was getting one with a flat free tire!

I’ve never gotten a flat, hope you didn’t curse me Jackie!

Yeah! I flat free tire. We have about 3-4, Mike’s always hauling rocks, out of the garden, doing rock work. We live in the Rocky Mountains so they are always coming out of the soil!


What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

harvesting vegetables

going to cook something

We love to cook in our house!

getting fresh herbs

  • we just had Thanksgiving and getting that huge sage from our garden
  • adding the taste of a fresh sage! Seeing my husband’s face!

also, the first tulips

Grape Hyacinths and Tulips in Spring at Mike's Green Garden

the first signs that winter is over and spring is coming and we got through another New York winter

My family always laughs, they’re like you live in Montana and I’m like I hate NY Winters, i come here and freeze!

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I was shown how to prune, I didn’t understand it

the person who was showing me how to prune

I wasn’t understanding where to cut down to!

that’s ok

I realized it was ok to make mistakes in gardening

you’re not gonna get everything 100%

that’s a good thing for a perfectionist like me!

It’s fine to make mistakes!

pruners garden tool

I’m glad to hear that because I often don’t feel like I have any idea what I’m doing when I’m pruning, and she just walks around with her pruners all the time, but she did get me these amazing CutCo pruners and they make cutting lilacs etc just like butter. And also I want to put a mailbox down in the garden so they are protected but always down there.


I did find myself wanting to deadhead more, and I was learning about the chop and drop with the buckwheat last year, which was hard to cut these beautiful flowers but I just kept repeating I’m feeding the soil, I’m feeding the soil!


I wanted to ask you because you said you put down 5 yards of mulch, but is that every year, or just the first year when you pulled out the vines, because we had a cute little 5 yard dump truck once and I know what that means and that’s a lot of mulch!

Yes, you do it one time in the spring!

Wait, every year? Or just the one year?

When we removed all those vines there’s like a trench its the length of the property that’s about 4 feet deep, I put mulch down there, we have some bushes, its gonna take a few years before it’s a full hedge.

I put it there, I put it down where I have hostas I have it all there. It seems we have a lot of borders for the size property we have. I put it inside all the borders, it keeps the weeds down!