Summer time is gardening time in Vermont, and several Sisler Builder employees have the gardening bug. They enjoy working the soil, pulling weeds, and reaping the benefits of their labor. We went gardening with Sisler Builders employee, Project Manager Matt Rouleau, who has been gardening since he was a child, annoyed when his mother asked him to help with the weeding of her garden. Now it’s his summertime hobby. He derives great satisfaction from a well-tended garden and passing on his love of plants to his granddaughter.
Matt was happy to discuss his gardening obsession. “I call it my therapy. It relaxes me to go home after a day at work and play in the garden. It helps me unwind.”
Vegetables or perennials?
I have a vegetable garden, but my favorites are fruit trees. I love working with plums and cherries. I just like the fruit, and I like that you have to bring each tree forward to the next year. I have planted one tree a year since I moved into my home. I also like blackberries, raspberries, and grapes. Did you know you can root grape clippings? I started growing them because my daughter-in-law wanted to make wine. I have a couple varieties of Vermont-hardy species.
To keep the wildlife out and the dog in, I have a five-foot-high stranded wire fence around the vegetable garden and a four-foot-high sheep fence around the yard. I’m mostly organic and don’t put anything on the food I am going to eat. I try to pick off beetles, cabbage worms, and other pests, but sometimes you just can’t keep up with it.
Seeds or starts?
I used to do a lot from seeds, but now I mostly buy starts. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapeno peppers for canning. The jalapenos are great in sandwiches. All the rest is from seed.
We have our own beef cattle and as a result have plenty of fertilizer. I rotate manure piles so that by the time I’m spreading it it’s usually four years old.
Most important detail.
You have to pay attention to the soil. I test mine myself with a kit, like Rapitest Soil Test Kit. I like it to be fluffy and crumbly. I add peat and leaves if it gets too dense. I try to keep my blueberries and raspberries as acidic as possible by adding pine chips.
What about mulch?
I use chips for my berries. The veggie garden I weed and cultivate, but don’t mulch. I don’t mulch my trees, either. I just let the lawn come right up to them.
Favorite hand tool.
A regular hoe. Sometimes I use a Mantis. You really have to do a lot of hand picking between the plants or the weeds will take over.
Plum tomatoes for sauces and cherry tomatoes for the kids.
Gloves or not?
I never wear gloves.
What about flowers?
I have some lilacs and peonies, but I mostly grow annuals. Sunflowers are my favorites and I grow lilacs and snapdragons for my wife.