22. Deborah and David Wagner long time gardeners

22. Deborah and David Wagner share their gardening journey from growing up on a farm in western Washington to gardening organically in Eureka, Montana. Their challenges include combating 4 legged terrorists like deer and Montana’s cold weather climate to successful cabbage, zucchini and raspberry plants.

Deborah and I have been friends for almost ten years here in the Tobacco Valley where we have enjoyed working on numerous projects and activities together. I first met “Grandma D” l when she came to head start as a volunteer grandmother who would help out in the classroom. She would read books to the children, share her amazing experiences and knowledge with them, help them create works of art, and encourage them to use their imaginations ~ an essential early reading skill students need to learn in pre-school.

We also shared experiences at the local Creative Arts Center where Deborah taught classes like rubber stamping etc and I taught art, drama and pre-school. Deborah and I are fellow members of our local Toastmasters club where we practice the art of public speaking. Deborah just recently gave a fantastic presentation on repurposing, reducing use and recycling for one of our club contests where she has previously competed in the regional finals.

Deborah is a talented seamstress, craftsman, and painter who has a passion for teaching and educating others. She is a plein air artist and enjoys being in Montana’s great outdoors with her paints. Today she and her husband of 28 years share their knowledge of gardening in our challenging climate.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

David grew up in Washington on a farm, always had a garden where they grew lots of corn with parents and grandparents.

Debra grew up in Pittsburgh. Her father grew lots of flowers so he gave her some vegetable seeds to grow. When she was 8 years old she grew cucumbers that were 12” long. With her grandfather.

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

Using manure on the garden from the cattle and sheep they had.

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

Debra got David away from chemicals.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

When Debra moved to Washington she met friends who taught her everything about gardening and planting. She also read a lot of gardening books including how to use lots of natural things that you have around the house. One secret is using Shaklee Basic H.

Use a styrofoam cup to cut cabbage plant through so the cut worms cant climb onto the plant that way.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Lots of cabbage. Golden Acres cabbage. Grew 45 head of cabbage to make sauerkraut.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

Moving greenhouse to make it closer and easier to access that way. Gonna grow tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

Deer ate the green beans and everything last year.

Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.

Zucchini and raspberries.

Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.

Corn and tomatoes.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.


What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

Harvest and prepare vegetables.

Eating or harvesting vegetables or fruit on time? 

Zucchini – shred and freeze

Raspberries – pick, wash, and freeze and then make jams and jellies at end of the harvest.

Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last? 

Use a real nice canner. Follow guides.

Do you have any special techniques for cooking weird or unusual foods?

Sliced zuccinis and layered pizza toppings to make crustless pizza or pizza casserole.

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

Forever Cabbage – like a sweet and sour cole slaw.

Forever Cabbage or Slaw
This is a Pennsylvanian appetizer that stays on the table for every meal in a Pennsylvanian home.
1 head cabbage grated
1 or 2 carrots grated
1 onion sliced thin or grated
7/8 cup sugar
2/3 cup oil
3/4 cup vinegar
1t salt, 1t celery seed, 1t dry mustard and 2T sugar
Alternate layers of cabbage carrot and onion.  Sprinkle with 7/8 cup of sugar.  Combine oil, vinegar, 2T sugar, salt, celery seeds and mustard bring to a boil.
While boiling hot pour over the cabbage mixture.  Let stand up to 4 hours.  Toss and serve.

Fried Cabbage with onions to steam fry and add noodles. Some people add bacon.

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

Debra – Garden trowel – grow plants from seed and like the fulfillment of putting the plant in the dirt.

David – garden hoe or shovel, a tractor or plow.

A favorite internet resource?

Look up things on google

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can 

Encyclopedia on Gardening and then google to make sure info is still relevant and effective.

Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the earth either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

Public awareness of alternatives to chemicals for gardening, writing letters to the editor, could give speeches, join a gardening club to improve your own garden or others.

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

Imagination is more then important than knowledge. If you can think it you can do it. Imagine a greener earth, if you can imagine that you can find a way to make it come true. Become a good steward for the earth and take action. Give a hoot don’t pollute the earth or your body.

Thanks for visiting Mike’s Green Garden. If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here:


If you have any comments, questions, guests you’d like to see, or topics you’d like us to cover please send us any feedback positive or negative. We’re here to serve our audience and we can only improve with your help!!! Thanks for visiting Mike’s Green Garden changing the world one garden at a time.

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