12 Questions with Local Gardeners: Patti and Bruce

Patti Hartmann and Bruce Plenk are the garden coordinators for the Gregory School Garden, part of Community Gardens of Tucson. Bruce is Chair of the Board and the Chair of the Garden Operations Committee of Community Gardens of Tucson. Patti is a Master Gardener who arranges the education component of the monthly meetings at the garden. They are both long-time gardeners and are very generous sharing their knowledge with the community. 

When do you first discover your green thumb? 

Patti: My mother and grandma were good gardeners and passed the gene on to me!

Bruce: My Hungarian grandma was one of those up at 4 a.m. in the summer to tend to the garden, but it was really the 60's and the "back to the land" folks that got me interested in growing food.

What is your favorite time of year (season) to garden?

Winter in Tucson!

Biggest gardening success? Biggest gardening flop?

Success - abundant spinach!! Flop - Brussel sprouts with more aphids than brussels.

Do you grow from seed or starts? 


Favorite recipe for your harvest? 

Patti: Butternut lasagna!

Bruce: Eggplant caponata.

What special challenges do you face gardening in the desert?

Summer insects and critters.

What are you growing now? 

Greens, peas, lettuce, carrots, beets, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, artichokes. Our winter crops are in!

Planting dates, do follow religiously or do you tempt fate and experiment with when to plant?

We don't follow it religiously but we basically use the Community Gardens of Tucson Planting Guide. Go with the seasons, which are definitely changing with global warming. We're planting onions a month earlier than before!

Most indispensable garden tool?

Patti: Good clippers and my weeder.

Bruce: Hula hoe!

What’s your favorite gardening book?

We can't remember things from books anymore!!

If you were a plant, what plant would you be and why?

Patti: Jojoba bush. They grow well here and are disease free and desert friendly.  My beans are super useful! 

Bruce: Kernza, a new/old perennial wheat that can feed lots of folks without tilling, replanting, etc!

Are you seed savers?

Yup!! Thanks to Pima County Public Library, we've gotten the seed saving bug.