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Meet a Gardner (and Parent!): TJ Sondermann

By Michelle Riggen-Ransom

This “Meet a Parent” is a little different than usual. To kick off a summer of gardening, I interviewed my friend and avid gardener TJ Sondermann about his gardening habits. TJ is a librarian who is currently at home with his almost seven-month-old son. He’s also a committed urban gardener, a fount of techie and greenie information, and an all-around nice guy. Let’s meet him!

 TJ Sondermann on kid o infoWhere do live?
TJS: Providence, RI

What are you planting this year?
This year we’re removing lots of lawn to make room for perennials. In the veggie garden, we’re planting corn (which we grow mainly to make the dry stalks into fall decorations as the squirrels always eat all the corn), lots of assorted greens, eggplant, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, our regular assortment of herbs, and we’re experimenting with Brussels sprouts.

We’re also planting a neighborhood BYOS (bring your own scissor) herb garden on the side of our house this year. Come on over for a sprig of thyme if you need it.

Where do you garden?
The first day we looked at the house that would become our own, my wife was asking all sorts of appropriate questions about taxes and heating bills. Me, I had my eye on about sixty square feet of space in the backyard that was screaming, “Clear me out and plant some veggies.”

I’m also volunteering a bit at the Mount Hope Community Garden this year. I can’t think of a better way to get your family involved in the fabric of your neighborhood than by standing shoulder to shoulder, knee-deep in compost with the diverse group of folks who generally make up a community garden.

Who do you garden with?
Generally with my wife and a small group of friends whose children range in age from 4 months to 6 years of age. We all pitch in (with advice or manual labor) from time to time at one another’s backyard plots and share the bounty either directly or through weekly dinners. Last year a few of us (kids included) plucked many pounds of basil leaves from stems and had a pesto making party. Everyone went home with a few containers of freshly made pesto.

What is your favorite thing about gardening with your child?
I’ve been hooked on gardening since my grandfather sat me on his lap at age 5 and showed me a cucumber that he had grown inside a beer bottle (Michelob, of course), and I cannot wait to do the same for my son.

Thanks, TJ! Happy Gardening to you and your family.

Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is an occasional column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.

PHOTO CREDIT: From TJ Sondermann’s Flickr account

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