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Around River Falls, mid-summer gardens bloom with colorful splashes

Bob Ebert (left) and his wife Mary sit in a gazebo type area that Bob built and set up in one of the many gardens the pair tends at their home on North Pearl Street. Both say gardening has been a big part of their lives, and is something they enjoy doing together (River Falls Journal photos by Gretta Stark).1 / 2
Bob Ebert and his wife Mary have put up several places to sit in their gardens. Bob said he’s also re-purposed some items he finds at estate sales, and garage sales and similar places for the garden. 2 / 2

As summer warmth flourishes, so do summer gardens. When driving through River Falls, a person is likely to see vibrantly colored gardens on Second Street, and quite a few colorful gardens in residents’ yards.

One such garden belongs to Bob Ebert and his wife Mary.

They moved into the Ole and Emma Ostness house, built in 1907, about five years ago. They spend much of their free time working on their many gardens outside their house on North Pearl Street.

“It gets you outside,” Bob said. “I think the best part is when you’re all done and you come outside at night and have a cocktail or something or have a cold drink and sit and look at it.”

For him, gardens are a way to get outside, get some exercise, and continue to learn.

“And of course the beauty of it,” he said. And the wildlife.

Bob said he and Mary see all kinds of creatures in their gardens, from bunnies, to bluebirds and everything in between including fireflies, squirrels, and chipmunks and monarch butterflies.

Bob and Mary have a variety of gardens throughout their yard, including vegetable gardens, flower gardens, some prairie grasses and plants, some fruit and other trees.

“Everything in the garden is for cooking except the flowers,” Mary said. And even some of those flowers can be eaten, such as nasturtiums.

“There’s nothing better than the taste of fresh everything,” Mary said. “Everything tastes better out of the garden.”

And growing their own vegetables saves the couple some money, Mary added.

What they don’t grow in their garden, Bob and Mary said, they like to try if they can to buy locally.

Though Bob and Mary have expanded greatly on their gardens, Mary said there was one there already when they moved in.

“I think that’s what made me fall in love with this house,” she said. “There were perennial gardens all along the house... I just keep adding to them.”

Bob’s and Mary’s gardens grow with teamwork.

“I get the bed ready,and then she’d come out and plant,” he said.

Both pull weeds at least once a day. They also both take time to step outside and savor their surroundings.

Bob has also set up more than six rain barrels set up in the yard, and around the house. They catch rainwater, which Bob and Mary use to water plants. He said the air-temperature water is better for plants.

Bob has also repurposed a number of items that now decorate the gardens.

Bob also built a small greenhouse, which Mary uses to start her own flower plants. She starts seeds indoors in the winter, then grows the sprouts in the greenhouse until they’re ready to plant in a garden.

Mary said the best part of working in the garden is the relaxation it offers.

“I can come out here and all of a sudden the noon whistle blows and it seems like I’ve got got out here. I love it,” Mary said.

“I went to school... for retail floral, and I think that’s when I really started liking flowers,” Mary said. “But growing them is way funner.”

Bob said he got into gardening in 1993 or 1994 when he became involved with the Community Supported Agriculture movement. His interest in gardening grew from there.

Bob and Mary have plans to expand their gardens. They’d like more space to garden someday, but for now, they’re enjoying the gardening they have and the wildlife it brings.

Bob and Mary said they don’t use pesticides and avoid fertilizers to be kind to the wildlife that use their gardens.

“We wouldn’t want to hurt the bunnies,” Mary said.

Bob and Mary said they’d encourage others who are thinking about starting a garden to give it a try.

“I think it is popular now,” Mary said. “When I first moved to town we were really involved inGrow to Share (community gardens located near Hoffman Park).”

Bob said it’s a good idea to start small, if you’re a first time gardener.

“I just encourage people to plant some stuff in their yard,” Bob said. “You don’t need... grass everywhere.”

For more on this story, see the July 28 print issue of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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