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Planting the seeds for organic gardening to flourish

March 21, 2013 - Gloria Young from Colfax Record

For Patricia Boudier, organic gardening is the natural way. That’s what she wants to get across as a seminar speaker at this week’s San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.
Her seminar, “Organic Gardening Made Easy,” is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Boudier and her husband, Eric, both avid gardeners, are the owners of Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in Grass Valley.

This is Boudier’s first time to speak at the show, but she has attended as a vendor and as a visitor.

“What stands out to me is that there’s not that much emphasis on organic gardening,” she said. “There are fabulous gardening showcases and a couple of edible gardens. … I think what I’m finding is people are ripe for wanting to learn more about organics and edible gardens. They realize there is an opportunity there to do things a little differently and they are eager to go in that direction.”

Boudier’s talk will emphasize the importance of healthy soil.

“If you have healthy soil, you’ll have a healthy garden,” she said.

She’ll also cover how to take care of gardening problems without reaching for chemicals.

The San Francisco show is the third largest in the U.S., after the Philadelphia show and then the Northwest show (in Seattle). After the San Francisco show there is a big drop in prestige down to more “regional” shows,” Peaceful Valley marketing assistant Charlotte Germane said in an email. “... The big draw this year will be the revolving globe made of succulents, echoing past displays of a pavilion covered in succulents.”

As a yearly visitor to the show, Donner Garden Club member Wanda Webb says she enjoys all aspects of it.

“They have every kind of plant, yard tools and many other items for sale.  The succulent seminar last year was good,” she said in an email. “The San Mateo Event Center is huge and takes all day to see and enjoy everything there. I buy succulents for my mom, and I buy tools for the yard. The landscape displays are really nice. Their theme seems to be water resistant plants, shrubs and grasses.  (At a previous year’s exhibit), one landscape had a huge olive tree in it. We were amazed at how (the landscaper) got it into the building. 

“The bus trip is really nice, and we meet new people from other clubs.”

Peaceful Valley was established in 1976 and the Boudiers purchased it in 1996.

“We were anxious to leave corporate America in Houston, Texas, and find a business we could believe in and enjoy and be capable of managing,” Boudier said. “We were lucky to (acquire) Peaceful Valley from the second owners.”

The focus of the nursery has been on organics from the beginning.

“The store was established because the organic gardener who started it couldn’t find any organic input available in the foothills on a small scale,” she said. “He ended up developing a kind of co-op with other farmers and started getting soil amendments — things that foothills soils really need.  … Little by little the business grew into a catalog and newsletter company. … He then sold the business to an employee, who developed more of the catalog sales in terms of a national mailing list. When we bought the business, we took it to the next level. It has always been 100 percent organic. We do not sell any synthetic products or harsh chemicals for the garden.”

The nursery has its own seed-pack line of organic vegetables and flowers.

“We package them all at our facility and distribute them nationally,” she said.

It also has its own line of liquid fish and liquid kelp products. Both are from a producer on the Northern California coast. The Boudiers have been carrying the two fertilizers under a private label ever since they took over the nursery.

“The fish is a great source of nitrogen. The kelp is more of a micronutrient,” she said.

Creating educational materials is also a major undertaking at the nursery. For the past two years, the Boudiers have been making videos on various aspects of gardening.

“What happened is we have so many questions coming in on the phone and through email,” Boudier said. “People want to know how to garden organically. So we decided to do the videos and input them to the Website — little by little answering questions before they are asked.

Peaceful Valley’s marketing department created a full-time position to write the scripts and produce the videos. Boudier is the narrator and demonstrates each technique.

“We train our employees (with the videos), we train our customers with them. We learn new things,” she said. “We do all university-researched-based topics. We’re not winging it. We’re really giving people facts and not just what we think you should do.”

The first videos were on planting bare-root fruit trees.

“It was in the winter and that’s what people were doing at the time,” she said. “We then moved into early season weeding and fertilizing in the spring. We tried to talk about the most common topics and gear (the topics) to the season.”

Over time they’ve gone back and repeated some of the themes, adding more details.

“Trees and grapevines are really hot topics right now,” she said.  “I think the blueberry planting was one of the most viewed (videos). At one point, there were more than 10,000 views in a very short period. There’s been more than 1.5 million on our Grow Organic channel.”

The nursery sends a weekly mailer to 85,000 subscribers. It includes a link to a video every week.

“All those people are watching them and other people just happen upon them,” She said. In recent weeks, a video on how to plant a goji berry plant has been a real crowd pleaser.

“It’s a kind of new antioxidant-type of berry you can grow very easily in our area,” Boudier said. “By the next day, we had sold out of goji berry plants. It just kind of proves people are really eager for new things to plant in their edible gardens. We’re going to keep looking for those kinds of products to be able to offer them.”

Boudier estimates she has been gardening about 16 years. She completed Master Gardener program classes in 1997.

And her favorite part of gardening?

“I like eating the homegrown vegetables and fruits,” she said. “Getting the final results is the most fun. I love being outside and being in nature and I think most gardeners have the same feeling as I do.”

Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia

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