My name is Steven Petersenand I live in Mesa Az. I deliver mail for the United States Postal Service during the day. Before and after work I’m someone unseen and unknown by many of my job colleagues. It is at this time my life gets temporarily transformed into a new person; the person I want to be. Instead of being called Petersen, I am usually called Steve or dad. Some may even call me Pete. Others may refer to me as "The Gardening Grandpa".In other much smaller circles I may be known as Fatboy from FatboyFarms. FatboyFarms is my ultimate future dream farm. For now fatboyfarms is my backyard gardens. These backyard places may look like gardens to some but to me they are the beginning to life, love, learning, liberty fantasy, excitement, expectation and a giant experimentation lab. Throughout many years I have read extensive amounts of books, listened to public speakers and podcast all on the subject of gardening. I have observed natural plant progressions in college and in everyday life with love and enjoyment. I have been a hobby gardener since the 1960’s.
My spirit was drawn to gardening when I was still very young. I was a little boy in Staten Island New York when my unexpected long journey began. I was the youngest boy out of large family. One spring my mother told us children, “whoever can make a garden and get the best vegetables, will win a family contest prize of $5”. Growing up some may call poor, I thought this was a great opportunity. I worked very hard that summer changing an un-used area in the yard to what I thought was a beautiful small farm with neither the use of fertilizer or pesticides. Luckily I was too young to afford the chemicals sold as fertilizers and bug killers. I moved big rocks; tore up the existing grasses turned the soil. While my brothers gave up, I kept going.I got the gardening addiction. I ended up that year with some of the most beautiful veggies. That year and was very fun and excited to me. My mother forgot about the prize or probably couldn't afford it, but that didn't make a difference to me. I was in love with my new hobby and just kept going every summer from then on. I was hooked. In winter I would get seed order mail catalogs and start dreaming of the next year’s garden. As soon as I got seeds from where ever I could get them, I would try to sprout the seeds indoors. This way I could get the plants in the ground at the earliest time possible. I often would gamble with Mother Nature on her last frost dates. Success in the garden comes and goes. It’s all fine to me because the outcomes taught me lessons on how to be a better gardener today. Now, more than 40 years later, living across the country I still have the gardeners bug. I have changed with the times on how to care for the nutritional needs and other needs of my soils but still for the most part have little use for chemical insecticides or fertilizers. Not because I can't afford them any longer, but now because I continue to find ways to work around the need. Don’t get me wrong, I have used miracle gro in the past with much success but I feel these chemicals are not sustainable to the average Joe gardener and should only be used in limited quantities when there is no other alternative. Now being a home owner I continue to put gardens everywhere. I mix the flower and cacti landscape in the front with Jumping Johnnies, peppers, and broccoli. Supersonic 100 tomatoes continue to come up every year naturally like weeds along with the basils, parsley, dill, oregano and cilantro. Not to mention all the other volunteer lettuce and tomato plants. All this food is sometimes hidden within the perennial and annual flowers and trees. No one can see the onions and mustard greens unless they know what they are looking at. When I have family over I take a walk with them pulling leaves and beans that they don't notice. It's become almost like a game for me to camaufage the food. In my backyard I have eleven small main beds of all designs. Some beds have potted plants hanging from the nearby shade trees. Some gardens are designed old school. Most of these gardens use vertical space as well as flat horizontal. Two of these mentioned beds are modified “hugelkultur” beds. I buried some cull wood I got from Home depot with steer manure. On top of that, I placed peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and compost. This method should lower the watering needs. With the deserts hot temperatures, water is especially important to conserve and use slowly. For now I'm growing peas in these areas. I will to chop and drop these plants. This should give the new soil some much needed nitrogen and mulch for my next crop. The plan is to grow San Marzano tomatoes in one of these areas later in the spring. I plan on canning some tomatoes sauce with these.My tomatoes seeds have just sprouted this week and it is very exciting seeing the birth of my idea really happening. In another raised bed I have a small formed Koi goldfish pond which attracts all kinds of birds which add their fertilizer to the beds. When the water gets to dirty in the pond, I empty it into the garden bed. The vegetables seem to love it. Last year I had a bumper crop of cucumbers in this bed. I made some homemade dill pickles with fresh dill, cucumber and garlic from this garden that I shared with the neighbors and my family. Another raised bed by the pool got so much reflected light, my eggplants were the size of a humans head. The eggplants were so big I even took a picture of one with a baseball cap on it. Anyway It’s hard to believe that there is anyone who has as much passion in backyard gardening as I do but I’m sure there’s someone out there. Not many people understand the gardening passion but I ashore you my love of gardening comes from my heart. Thanks for reading my book of techniques, stories, poems and philosophies. Perhaps someday we can meet each other trade seeds, stories and a few laughs. If I have moved on to the after world perhaps you will think of me with good thoughts through the spirits of the garden. As for now, accept my best wishes for luck with your gardening journey. God loves you and so do I. Your gardening grandpa and friend, Steve Petersen AKA Mesafatboy aka "The Gardening Grandpa" from Mesa’s very own fatboyfarms (My backyard garden).