MOTHER's Newsworthies: Derek Fell, Ruth Stout and Patrick Rivers

Learn more about gardening from Derek Fell, Ruth Stout and Patrick Rivers.

| November/December 1976

Brief: Derek Fell

If the name Derek Fell means nothing to you, it's only because you've never seen Derek on NBC's Today Show, or read his best-selling How to Plant a Vegetable Garden (Countryside Books, 1975), or heard of the gardening column he writes for more than 5,000 newspapers and magazines nationwide.

You'd think that a guy like Derek — who, until recently, was the director of both the National Garden Bureau (an information office sponsored by the American garden seed industry) and All-America Selections (the national seed trials — wouldn't have time to appear on talk shows, write books and newspaper columns, edit seed catalogs, and do the zillion-and-one other things he does. But (as we've already explained) Derek Fell is no ordinary guy. When he needs time, he makes it!

Considering Derek's myriad accomplishments in the field of horticulture, it perhaps comes as a surprise to learn that Mr. Fell's own personal garden (from which spring forth the vegetables that feed his family of four) measures only 12-by-20 feet. His explanation: "When you're retired and you have all day to spend in the garden — or you want to take on a vegetable garden as a full-time hobby — then a 50-by-50 foot — or larger — plot is fine. But the average family man doesn't have all that time to spend." Quite a statement, coming from a fellow who's about as "average" as a 312-pound pumpkin.

Brief: Ruth Stout

"Over 7,000 people have come to look at my garden," says Ruth Stout, "and I'd be willing to bet a bale of hay that most of them think: 'Good grief, is this little patch what I came all this way to see?'" Actually, Ruth's visitors are more likely to have come to see Ruth herself. Her unpretentious organic garden — famed as it is — can only be a bonus.

Ms. Stout began gardening in 1930 when she moved from New York City to her Redding Ridge, Connecticut farm. But Ruth, mind you, didn't just garden ... in typical Stout style, she ignored custom and tradition and pioneered an entirely new technique for raising vegetables.

Instead of plowing, cultivating, weeding, and watering her soil, Ms. Stout began mulching her garden all year round. She continually blanketed the vegetable patch with 6-to-9 inches of organic waste, leaves, hay, and cornstalks ... and then just let nature take care of the soil-building work that most gardeners spend hours doing themselves.

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