Green Gardener Spotlight
Specialty Gardening – Barry Rossington
Not a cloud in the sky as the day approaches midmorning, allowing the sun to cast vitality into Barry Rossington's front-yard garden in Goleta. The light adds vigor to potatoes, beets and carrots, snap peas, apples and blueberries, and lots of guava – white guava, strawberry guava, red and pineapple guava. A hand-written sign on a piece of cardboard at the curbside mailbox says "Free Tomatoes," and in a flat cardboard box below, a half-dozen young plants look for new owners out of four-inch pots. Tomatoes grow wild in Rossington's garden, so he uproots the seedlings and offers them to passers-by.
Organic fruits and vegetables are Rossington's specialty as the owner of Specialty Gardening. He keeps the garden out front where the sun is. In the back, which was once all lawn, he tends his sustainable garden, replete with palms, succulents and an avocado tree with low thick branches so snarled as to be the envy of climbing trees.
He was among the first of those to be trained as Green Gardeners in the 9-year-old Santa Barbara County Green Gardener Program, and remains on a relatively exclusive list of gardeners trained as Advanced Green Gardeners.
Rossington is a khaki and green blend who smiles through a goatee under an adventurer's brim hat. He wears an aged leather pouch in his belt loops to keep his red shears within reach. The fingers of work gloves hang out his back pocket.
He was strolling around his garden, talking, when he noticed a twig had just broken off of his snap peas and fallen to the ground. Continuing with a description of compost tea, he leaned over, retrieved the twig, picked at it and popped parts in his mouth. "The shells are good, too," he said, peeling open a pod and offering fresh peas to his visitor.
Long before Rossington was brewing compost tea, he was studying ornamental horticulture at West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills. It was 20 years ago when Rossington, wearing a respirator, felt discomfort using chemicals to rid greenhouse plants of pests for one of his classes. No physical sensation. Just an uneasiness. "I never liked it, even then," he said.
Rossington started his business right after completing the program and relocated to Santa Barbara County shortly after, anticipating a demand for landscapers and wanting to distance himself from the Los Angeles area.
About a dozen years ago, Rossington signed up a disabled client who would ultimately get Rossington to think about green gardening. First off, the client insisted that no chemicals be used for pest control or fertilizer because he didn't want to risk aggravating his disability. The client had maybe 10,000 square feet of land with numerous fruit trees. At one point, they were looking for a spot to plant another orange tree. Rossington suggested pulling up a coyote bush to make room for the citrus. But the client protested, pointing out that he liked native plants. Native plants and no chemicals, which are two elements of green gardening.
After Rossington had that client's business for a couple of years, the Green Gardener Program was created. Rossington was in that first class.
About the same time, Rossington began to shift away from lawns and shrubs to pursue his passion: fruits and vegetables, until his business has grown to the point today that most of his clients have a fruit and vegetable focus. Some of his clients even purchase his homemade blend of compost tea.
Among a list of soil tips he was discussing came only a partial list of the ingredients for his compost tea. He purchased a bin just for the purpose of brewing. The tea requires aeration, like an aquarium. In fact, fish and kelp pieces are parts of the mix. So is Mycorrhizal fungi, which forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of certain plants to help the plants better absorb nutrients and water. He also adds worm castings and azomite, a trace mineral fertilizer.
Another of his soil tips is to mulch, and the mulch itself doesn't have to be fancy. For landscaping areas, he prefers the free mulch available at the County's South Coast Recycling and Transfer Station at 4430 Calle Real.
The mulch helps the soil retain moisture, as the sunlight adds vigor to hot peppers, sweet peppers and bell peppers, to lettuce, spinach and fig, in Rossington's front-yard garden in Goleta.
You can find Barry, and other Green Gardeners, on the Green Gardener list!