Sumter Co. man shows off green thumb - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sumter Co. man shows off green thumb

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - For one Sumter County resident, his garden has been a life long passion, and has sprouted some unusual plants. 

 For Bobby Gaultney, his love for gardening came from an early age. "I got started doing this when I was six or seven years old, from my grandmother," he said.

Now in his 70s, Bobby has perfected his gardening technique.  And over the years, he's been able to experiment a bit.

"Every year, since about 1946 or '48 I've always tried to grow a certain type of plant that was unusual."

He's been able to cut down on his food bill by growing most of his own vegetables.  While most of the plants in Bobby's garden are pretty typical size, he also has a 14 foot tall dandelion.  And it has a secret too.

That secret is revealed when you hear it's common nickname: tall lettuce or wild lettuce.

And it's certainly living up to its name.  Normally no more than 4 to 6 feet in height, it's nearly 15 feet tall!  It was enough to impress the folks at the local University of Georgia Extension office.

This is actually one of five varieties of lettuce that grows here, including the kind that you might more commonly see in the produce aisle.  It's not the only unusually large plant that Bobby has grown over the years.

"About six years ago, it was on national television, I grew a seven foot mustard green."

So what's his secret for growing these giants of the garden?  He says it's more about figuring out where to grow your plants rather than what plants to grow.

"That's why I have the dandelions growing in a certain location.  Because the pH there and the plant nutrients were compatible with big growth of plants."

And the experts say that getting the right acidity, or pH, in the soil is a key in determining how well a plant will grow.

"A plant almost needs perfect pH, to achieve almost perfect growth conditions.  Because if its too high or too low, you get deficiencies either way," said Bill Starr of the UGA Extension Service.

In the end, with the right soil, and a desire to get out in the garden, you could raise your own vegetables, and lower your food bill, like Bobby has. 

After all of these years, Bobby is planning to retire from the garden.  He says that the only vegetables that he doesn't grow on his own are turnip and collard greens.

      • Here are some resources to help you start your own garden-

How to start growing your own garden

How to start your own garden

The Garden Helper: Gardening, flower and Plant Care Guides

How to Start your own Home Herb Garden

 

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