Starnes raised garden has risen eyebrows

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June Yard of the Month

By Sherry Archie

About 25 years ago, Phonzo and Clara Starnes were searching for an easier method to have a vegetable garden.  Having grown up helping parents and grandparents in their gardens, the Starnes continued the tradition with a 2-acre garden for many years.   They enjoyed the bounty it provided but wanted to find a way to reduce the bending, stooping and work it required. Their solution came from an old PBS show where they learned about square-foot gardening.  These gardens featured raised beds that eliminated hoeing long garden rows and made weeding and harvesting a cinch.   


“My grandmother had a raised garden until she was in her 90’s.  She would ride her scooter between the wider, shorter beds planting, picking, and weeding easily,” said Clara Starnes.
Betsy Folks and Sheila Robinson of The Lancaster Garden Club selected the Starnes garden at 3321 Shiloh Unity Road as the June Yard of the Month.  The Yard of the Month is sponsored by the Lancaster Council of Garden Clubs.  Winners receive a $25 gift card complements of The Home Depot.
“Their raised bed gardens are wonderful,” said Folks.  “They are filled with a variety of vegetables during the summer months.  The rest of their yard is also beautiful, but we selected their yard as this month’s winner based on their garden.”

Now the Starnes have gardening down to a science.  With eight separate raised beds and soil heavily enriched by leaves fallen from their many hardwoods, they grow vegetables from spring until fall.   With cabbage and spring onions now slowly fading away, squash (yellow and zucchini) and cucumbers are now picked daily.

To make sure they have a continuous supply, the Starnes seeded or planted in stages.

Now with several squash plants about to mature, younger, vibrant ones are just beginning to grow and spread their vines.

Three of the beds hold a variety of healthy tomato plants filled with slowly ripening tomatoes.  Clara makes sure they are harvested promptly with the surplus preserved for future spaghetti sauce or vegetable soup sure to warm you up even on the coldest winter days.  
“I still use the canner my mother used in the 1940’s.  I even still have the original instruction book for it. It’s been a part of my family for so long it just brings back so many memories when I use it,” said Clara.

The gardens also include asparagus and brussel sprouts.

A large plant grows heartily, about to produce tiny sprouts.   

Their rich composted soil provides their plants with all the nutrients they need without adding any fertilizer.

Layers and layers of leaves are added and blended each year to the garden soil and side yard compost pile.

The decaying leaves fill the soil with nutrients perfect for gardening.

“We actually had a sample tested by the Clemson Extension Agency and they told us the soil has all it needs.  We didn’t have to change or add a thing,” said Phonzo.

If you would like to nominate a yard for Yard of the Month, contact Patty Noll at (803) 285-6232.