Suburban Haven in Coastal Georgia
Meet Erica of @uniquelyunicorn and Gardening Under the Influence.
After being fed up with yet another round of food recalls, Erica decided to take matters into her own hands and planted her first garden in May of 2019. For Erica, growing food has endless benefits,
"I know where my food has been start to finish - the water it was given and that no chemicals are quietly risking my family's health. It gives me such peace and allows me to leave all my anxiety in the soil. Out in the garden, I just exist. I see my necessary contribution to the ecosystem."
Erica has gotten creative with reused and repurposed materials to expand her growing operation. She uses bamboo sticks, rat tail combs and fishing poles as stakes for plants that need support. After Easter, needing more pots for her plants, she purchased a bunch of marked down Easter buckets at the store for $.09.
"My tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and even pineapples are still very happy in those buckets."
Erica’s garden journey has been inspired, guided and informed by other online growers,
“Mybackyardtxgarden is a favorite of mine. She just moved over to YouTube but her branding and harvests are spot on. She and her family garden and workout in that beautiful garden as a beautiful Black family. It is dope to see. I also adore the content that B Betta Garden churns out. She is out of Chicago and has mastered her zone and the obstacles the weather that way may create. Batavia is the epitome of an urban gardener. She has even transformed her from yard into a vegetable garden. In addition, soulgardener74 is a wealth of knowledge in her instagram videos. She never sits still.”
Erica is in the process of launching her Youtube channel, which will be focused on how you can grow your own food on a limited budget,
"My YouTube Channel will be all about gardening for the low. Not everyone has $500 to drop on starting a garden with just a hope and some water. Growing food does not have to be costly! If you peek in on my garden you will see that I am very unconventional in regards to the items I use to grow our food. I started this garden off of other people's coupons at Lowe's so I did not have much money to spare. There are local gardening groups all over social media who willingly assist others when starting their gardens and some cities/counties have free mulching piles for which to obtain soil/compost for free.”
Beyond inspiring others to grow their own food online, Erica has been sharing seedlings and fresh produce with military families in her community. Her compassion for people combined with her passion for growing fresh produce manifests in a selfless and beautiful way. The pandemic has created more need in her community and Erica’s gifts have helped others cope. Erica has focused her attention on caring for family and herself to make it through this difficult time.
"The current pandemic has me so out of whack. Knowing just how much mental health plays in surviving this time has me hyper-vigilant with my Wounded Warrior and previously homeschooled high school aged son. To weather this time I am focusing on growing my business, storing food for the season and practicing self care while I go through this period of mourning."
Growing in the coastal humid heat of Georgia’s zone 8b, Erica advises new growers to do their research before starting seeds of planting seedlings,
"Grow what thrives in that environment. Understand how much sun and the location of certain plants when planting items that need a little less sun and heat during the hottest parts of the year. For instance, plant your okra and sunflowers in a location in the garden where the sun would cast their shadows onto plants behind them. That will give the plants the break from the sun that some plants need in order to not burn nor bolt.”
Erica has big plans for the next phase of Gardening Under the Influence,
"My 5-year-plan for my garden is to purchase land and cultivate a food forest. I also want to open a vineyard and pair traditional Black American, Hatian, African and Creole dishes with the wines. The garden will be full service from selling seeds and seedlings, to selling produce and contributing both to the dishes and wines that we create. When you garden you're under the influence of subtle antidepressants such as vitamin D, a healthy diet, and perhaps great wine. I envision this place where we celebrate all things Black and dope about us from the Gullah Culture to Zydeco music!”
Thank you Erica for sharing your story with us!
You can follow Erica on Instagram and stay tuned for the launch of her Youtube channel!