When Tracy Fox moved to Sunnyvale, Texas in 2014, she didn’t know many of her neighbors. Her 26-year-old son Eric had recently died of complications from Cystic Fibrosis and she had just retired at the very young age of 50. She decided to join the Sunnyvale Garden Club because she thought it would be a good way to get to know people in her brand new hometown.
Indeed it has been. Tracy has made many new friendships through SGC, including her up-the-street neighbor and new “bestie,” Barbara Kline. The club was established in the southeast corner of Dallas County in 1960 in what was then a brand new suburb created from four rural hamlets: Long Creek, New Hope, Hattersville, and Tripp.
Tracy had time on her hands, and thought that participating in SGC community projects would be a good way to give back to her community. She attended monthly programs, worked with Beautification Committee members to maintain several public flower beds around town and was mentored by veteran gardener Deborah Stafford who gave her plants to try. Somewhere along the way, she discovered that she has a passion for gardening!
With the help of her husband, Sunnyvale Town Manager, Sean Fox, she created three 12-inch deep raised bed garden plots on the east the east side of her house. Sean even created a homemade irrigation system out of PVC piping. She has learned that raised beds dry out more quickly than traditional beds, so Tracy waters her beds an average of four minutes each day.
Though she still considers herself a novice gardener, she has been mostly successful in growing:
- Cucumbers (which were replaced with Pickling cucumbers this year because they make better pickles)
- Red/White onions
- Strawberries (which she will replace with green beans next year)
- Tomatoes (Roma, Cherry, Celebrity)
Last year, her tomatoes didn’t turn out so well, so this year Tracy added eggshells and Epsom salts in the planting hole, then ringed the plants with Epsom salts. Did it work? You decide.
By July, she had canned 60 to 70 pounds of tomato sauce and salsa, even though she had never canned before in her life! She learned how to can from watching You Tube videos. This year Tracy canned her vegetables using the hot water bath method. Next year, she plans to do “pressure” canning, which is required for acidic foods such meat.
Tracy also made peanut brittle. Sean said it was the “best peanut brittle I’ve ever had in my life.” He also acknowledged that it took 6 to 7 months of work to create it.
One thing in the garden that Tracy doesn’t like dealing with is the bugs. That’s why she planted marigolds and petunias among her vegetables. They are known for repelling bugs. While Tracy doesn’t consider herself an organic gardener, she always uses the least toxic thing possible on her plants. (This is what Texas A&M calls integrated pest management.)
Tracy likes to experiment in the garden. Her attitude toward gardening is ‘Live and learn.’
“I wanted to see if I could make it grow,” Tracy said.
That curiosity and sense of adventure has paid off. While Tracy may still consider herself a novice gardener, the rest of her SGC friends consider her a full-fledged, card-carrying gardener and very much appreciate the produce that she shares with us.