Each year I buy several of my ornamental plants from a small, independent grower named Eli Kubicek. Eli has been organically growing and propagating vegetables and ornamentals in his Brenham gardens for 8 years. Over the past few years Eli has developed quite a following of local people who literally line up to buy his high quality starts and transplants. While it is not unusual for gardeners to line up to purchase high quality transplants from an organic grower, it is incredibly unusual for the producer of those transplants to be just 10 years old!
I met Eli three years ago when he was a second grader in my wife’s class at St. Paul’s Christian Day School. For some occasion or another Eli presented her with a lovely pot of aloe vera that he proudly told her he had propagated himself. Thanks to that gift I now have pots and pots of aloe vera all around my house. We were so impressed with this plant propagating second grader that we have made it a point to buy from him each and every year.
Eli lives on six acres outside of Brenham with Dad Stan, Mom Becky and Duece, their flop eared, yellow guard dog. The Kubicek’s live in a rambling farmhouse that started life as a two room home in the late 19th century. Stan and Becky have spent years restoring the old house and cultivating some very attractive ornamental and vegetable beds around it. When Eli came along, his parents included him in everything they were doing. Around the time Eli turned two they noticed that he had a real affinity for plants. Since that time they have encouraged his interest. Both of his parents are what I would consider craftsmen. Stan (who earns his living as a college math professor) is a fine furniture and cabinet maker . Becky (who is a nutritionist by trade) has created some of the most beautiful cottage beds and garden rows I have ever seen. Working alongside his parents, Eli has developed an eye for detail, an appreciation of hard work, the value of “re-use” and the confidence needed to tackle whatever issues he encounters while building a garden, a bird house or a remote control Lego car.
When it comes to plants, Eli now has free reign as far as his parents are concerned. Each year he selects the plants from the garden he wants to propagate. He and his dad then get a load of mulch from the local landfill. To create his potting mix, and the compost for his gardens, Eli sifts the mulch with a slotted tray from the nursery that was used to hold 8 cell transplant packs. The sifted compost fills his pots and feeds his gardens and the mulch is used to suppress weeds in those same plots.
Each year, Eli’s inventory and sales grow. As he has gotten older he has learned to propagate more and varieties. This year, I went to buy my annual “Eli Plants” at the Brenham Christian Academy Bazaar. His booth was lovely and it was stocked with figs, Turk’s Cap, rosemary, several salvias and lots of succulents. He also had some of the most beautiful Hardy Amaryllis for sale that I have ever seen. Since my wife is an amaryllis lover we came home with all he had for sale.
Eli’s enthusiasm for growing and propagation has been an inspiration for me. While I love to garden it is always refreshing to find someone who shares your loves and passions. Eli is an outstanding young man with so much promise and potential. I am truly glad our paths have crossed and I can’t wait to see where all of his gifts and talents take him.
Name: Eli Kubicek
Location: Brenham, Tx
Years gardening in this location: 8 years (80% of my life!)
Favorite thing to grow: Snapdragons and perennials in general
Best growing tip: Don’t “over tend” your garden. In my garden I don’t do much except weed, fertilize twice a year and water when necessary
Best pest control tip: We don’t have a big problem with pests. However we have had grasshopper problems in the past. For those I pick and smush or let our guinea take care of them. For slugs I pick and smush with a stick. I have a good guard dog name “Duece” who takes care of armadillos and other big pests.
Best weed control tip: Yank ‘em out before they spread
Biggest challenge: Covering and uncovering all of the plants I am propagating before and after a frost or freeze. I also have a problem keeping the guinea (grasshopper control) away from the melons,strawberries and persimmons
Favorite soil amendment: Fresh compost which I make myself! I don’t use that bagged stuff.
Preserving the harvest: Some vegetables don’t make it to the house. They are just too tempting and I eat them immediately. For example, carrots (I just brush off most of the soil and munch away), green beans and bell peppers .
Favorite advice: Don’t let weeds get out of control!
I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop. Be sure to stop by. The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!