After fire destroyed their first Moorhead home, Sharon and Blair Holverson bought the house across the street and she began gardening where their home once stood.
Teaching herself along the way, simply because she was interested, she has become the ultimate gardener.
“If you are interested, you can figure anything out,” Sharon said.
Sharon not only reaps the benefits of fresh, healthy produce throughout the season, she also gets plenty of fresh air, exercise, stress relief, and time with her husband of 48 years. Garden time in the past has also meant quality time with her children and grandchildren when they were young.
Sharon, who has planted a garden every summer for nearly 50 years, said she has been gardening “forever” and she taught her children and grandchildren how to do the same.
In fact, two of her granddaughters now have gardens of their own.
“One year I didn’t when my daughter was having a baby in Okinawa (Japan), and I knew I wasn’t going to be here,” she said.
Sharon has learned a few things along the way, such as how much of the plant should be above ground to get nice big onions.
“Experience comes from growing things enough,” she said.
In addition to tomatoes and corn, Sharon grows several varieties of lettuce, cabbage, celery, onions, beans, peppers, cucumbers, and squash, often experimenting with new varieties.
Plants are started from organic seed each winter in their home. She begins after Christmas, ordering the seeds and planning the garden she will soon plant. She rotates crops as much as possible, but shade plays a big role in where certain plants are grown.
“Every year my garden is different,” Sharon said. “I do try to be strictly organic. I only use organic soil and seeds.”
Sharon has used a path in the past, but not always. She moves her scarecrow each day, and she surrounds it with dog hair to deter raccoons.
As the garden grows, Sharon refines her techniques and adds fixtures as needed. One year she noticed the store-bought tomato cages weren’t strong or large enough, so she built her own.
“For years they would get tall then tip over,” Sharon said. “We got some fence, and I welded them, and we have had them for five years now.”
These cages are really more for support, as her tomatoes are already more than seven feet tall and rival the height of the corn they are planted next to.
Last year, they added a fence on one side, which is currently being used to dry onions. This year, the six-foot tall sprinkler posts were just not tall enough so they added more than a foot in height to them.
Several years ago, the Halversons built a quaint garden shed. The inspiration for the shed’s color scheme came from a stained glass window the couple found in Rochester, Minn.
“We couldn’t fit it into the house anywhere, so I was going to have it in my garden shed,” Sharon said.
Each year herbs, veggies, and flowers combine to make the garden beautiful and versatile.
“My favorite thing to grow is lettuce. I grow butter head, and I grow a lot of colored stuff – red lettuces last longer.”
She plans to add more flowers next year in the shaded areas.
Occasionally, something will come up in the spring that she has not planted – something that was seeded from the garden the previous fall.
“I will plant around it,” she said. “If it does (grow), I figure it is meant to be. You think those seeds aren’t going to weather over, but they do.”
Once the sowing and tending is done, she harvests herbs, vegetables, and flowers and begins canning for the coming winter. What she doesn’t need, she offers to others from a stand in her front yard.
Last year, as her husband battled esophageal cancer, he helped more in the garden, but because they weren’t sure what he would be able to eat in the future, she didn’t can, she simply gave all the produce away.
“This year, I have a lot of canning to do,” Sharon added.
She loves it when friends and neighbors drive by to see how her garden has changed, and she added that people from neighboring counties even come, often catching her gardening in the evening and stopping to chat.
“I am glad that people enjoy my hobby,” she said. “Around here nobody gardens. I would love to find gardener friends.”
She begins each day in her garden, and ends it the same way, surrounded by the beauty and abundance provided there. She invites anyone to come see, maybe chat, and share in the bounty.
“You just feel closer to God in the garden,” she said.