Bob Zache says one of his favorite rewards of gardening is as simple as a tomato. Specifically, he says, “A fresh tomato that’s still warm, with a little salt on it….”
Gardening season is upon us. For those who are new to it, starting a garden can seem like a big undertaking. Yet, considering all the gardeners who live in Globe-Miami, an easy introduction to gardening could be as simple as collecting a few tips from one of these knowledgeable locals.
Take someone like Zache.
Zache is a familiar figure at the Globe-Miami farmers market—a tall, rangy man wearing a wide-brimmed felt hat. He often sells tall stalks of garlic and pine saplings in containers, along with a variety of vegetables.
Zache points around the area of his yard where he grows squash: “Pumpkins over there, spaghetti squash over there, and big sweet banana squash over there.” A few spaghetti squash from last year are still sitting under a bush. Zache says he’ll give them to his chickens.
Zache grows a wide range of vegetables, has a flock of about a dozen chickens, and keeps bees. One of his favorite things to grow is peanuts, which he says do very well in Miami’s climate. He harvests a wheelbarrow-full most every year. He says he grows almost all his own vegetables and only goes to the grocery store for citrus and a few other fruits and vegetables he can’t grow himself.
Zache points to the garden beds in his “winter garden,” where a friend recently planted seeds for chard, cabbage, and an assortment of other vegetables. (Zache couldn’t do the planting himself because he’s recovering from triple-bypass surgery, but he expects to be back working in the garden soon. He’s already returned to leading hikes in the Pinals and Anchas and plans to hike the Grand Canyon this spring.)
The winter garden is an area where Zache built walkways from slag, which capture the sun’s heat and keep the soil warm. In these beds he can plant early and garden until late in the season. In the center of the winter garden is a fire pit; next to it is a bench where he can sit and warm his toes.
Zache was born in Miami and has been a gardener since he was a young boy, helping his father with chores. His great-grandparents moved to Miami in 1911 and had a dairy farm in Miami Gardens, about a quarter mile from where he lives now. His grandfather gardened in plots that the mines made available, giving Miami Gardens its name.
Among the garden beds in Zache’s yard, there’s a fish pond surrounded by a stone patio. Mint growing at the edge of the pond scents the air, and small cattails wave in the afternoon breeze. Zache built the pond in 1996 as a gift for his mother on her 80th birthday. Instead of 80 candles on her cake, Zache’s sons stocked the pond with 80 goldfish. The descendants of those fish are still living in the pond.
He points to an area at the back of the yard, where a swinging bench hangs from pine trees that Zache planted himself, decades ago. “It’s pretty to sit out here in the evening on the swing,” he says, “sip some red wine…”
When he lived in downtown Phoenix in the ‘70s—working as a proofreader and then a reporter for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette—he had a tiny garden in the only space available, a six-foot-long plot between his garage and a wall.
Zache says you can garden practically anywhere, and in the Cobre Valley’s climate, you can do it just about anytime, too. “This garlic I grow,” he says, “that stuff will grow anywhere and it grows year round.”
In 1977, Zache received a job offer at the Van Dyke mine, and he and his wife, Joanne, moved to Miami Gardens. He started gardening right away.
He points to a pine tree near the house. “That was our first Christmas tree,” he says. It’s sixty feet tall now.
Over the years he’s expanded the gardens, and even purchased two adjacent parcels so that he could turn them into garden space.
Zache fertilizes his plants with manure and doesn’t use insecticides. He says, ”I don’t like [insecticides] at all. It’s all lizards and other bugs eating these bugs.”
What you can grow depends on where your garden is located, Zache explains. “A friend of mine has lemon trees on Cedar Street right up above Broad,” he says. “He gets lemons every year. He’s on a wall that faces south, a little protected area.”
Zache’s garden is flat, part of it shaded by pines in the afternoon. Tomatoes do well in that area, he says. Peanuts prefer full sun, so he plants them in the open area that gets sun all day.
Bob Zache’s advice for people who would like to learn to garden is: “Get a shovel and start digging.” He says the best way to become a gardener is to “just do it” and learn as you go.
He also suggests that new gardeners ask for help. He says there are lots of resources for information. “Ask the co-op, ask a master gardener, ask a friend, go to the nursery,” he says.
The co-op Zache is referring to is the county Cooperative Extension Office. This office offers free gardening assistance over the phone, and organizes workshops in the spring and fall that cover topics such as composting and raising chickens. The office can be reached at (928) 425-7179.
Chris Jones, the extension office’s agricultural agent, can also connect budding gardeners with master gardeners—graduates of the Gila County Master Gardener Program. This program requires a four-credit-hour class in home horticulture and 50 hours of community service. Graduates become resources for the community and are able to pass on information about plants and gardening methods that work in the local area.
When Zache became a master gardener, his community service project was to install brick paths and patios in the courtyard at the Cooperative Extension Office. Other students planted trees and flowerbeds to beautify the space.
Jones says one place new gardeners can get help is at the Globe-Miami farmers market. The growers who attend the market are usually happy to answer questions about how they garden, Jones says.
Another resource for gardeners in Globe and Miami is the community gardens program. Community gardens provide space for people to garden and help people connect with other gardeners. In Globe, community gardens are being developed by a group called Copper Canyon Community Gardens. CCCG is a nonprofit that was formed by gardeners Paul Buck, Amber Riordan, and Adrian Marks in 2014. The group’s mission is to create edible gardens around town.
In 2015, CCCG created a community garden in Globe behind the Nob Hill Grocery at Devereaux and Bailey, on land made available by Nob Hill’s owner, JP Cruz. Five garden beds are available, and anyone is welcome to participate. There is no charge, except that gardeners are asked to contribute to the water bill. Buck estimates that will cost just a few dollars each month for each gardener. Gardeners must supply their own tools and gardening materials. CCCG also set up a 1,500-square-foot garden at the Gila Community Food Bank, with the possibility of expansion to 5,000 square feet. To learn more about the community gardens, call Buck at (928) 812-3208.
At this moment, the garden beds at Bob Zache’s house are just blank expanses of fertile soil, but in a few weeks they will be filled with rows of green, growing plants. By summer, the garden will be a cornucopia, abuzz with bees and hummingbirds. Then Zache will have his hands full, weeding and harvesting.
Some of his vegetables will go to the Globe-Miami farmers market, which will open June 4. The market is held at City Hall in Globe and is now in its sixth season. Home gardeners who have a surplus can sell up to one bushel of veggies at the community table, or, with larger amounts to sell, can rent a booth for $10 for one Saturday or $120 for the season. The fee supports the market and helps to pay for promotion and signage. Sellers are also required to contribute 5 to 10 percent of their sales, which goes to the market manager. For more information about the farmers market, call Holly Brantley, market manager, at (928) 701-3097.
With the weather growing warmer, Globe’s gardeners are tilling their soil and planting their seeds. Some do it for the sake of healthful food, savings on grocery bills, physical activity, or the chance to get their hands dirty in a garden bed. Some gardeners do it to earn extra money by selling at the farmers market. For some, the best reason to garden is the taste of a warm, fresh tomato—with a little salt.
Patricia Sanders lived in Globe from 2004 to 2008 and at Reevis Mountain School, in the Tonto National Forest, from 2008 to 2014. She has been a writer and editor for GMT since 2015. She currently lives on Santa Maria island in the Azores.