Local workers grow together at Sonic



June 4, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Most workers, when they have a break, love to get out of the office. Staff at Sonic Equipment/Kneisley Manufacturing are no different, but their motivation may be.
Instead of rushing off when they have free time, many of the employees head behind the building on Miller Road to a large and bountiful garden.
Begun last year, the garden boasts almost every vegetable one can think of. Broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, yellow peppers, yellow and red tomatoes, squash, peas, beans, potatoes — the list goes on.
“Eric Olson, director of operations, really pushed this because he wanted to encourage people to learn how to garden,” said Jody Allen, one of the garden team known as the Green Thumbs.
Allen, along with other Thumbs, said the two primary gardeners are John Harris and Joe Carver.
Carver concurred. Having grown up on a farm in a family of eight children, he has been gardening his whole life.
Still, Carver said, “We’re all learning.”
One thing the Thumbs learned from last year’s rainy summer was which way water flows on the company’s property. That prompted a re-orientation of the garden this year, from east-west to north-south. Also, Carver said, “We dug a trench around the edge so the rainwater can flow around the garden rather than through it.”
For times when rain is scarce, “John and another guy came up with the idea of the sprinkler system,” Carver said. Sprinklers were placed atop fence posts at intervals throughout the large plot and connected with yards of hose.
The system is connected to a switch that allows the rows to be watered from above, mimicking a gentle rain shower.
With recent hot temperatures, Carver noted garden plants — and weeds — are really taking off.
“We get so excited to plant stuff, but we don’t have time to cultivate,” he said.
Squash seeds planted last Thursday are already up; some are even unfurling secondary leaves. Cilantro returned as a volunteer after a failed crop last year. And cherry tomatoes grown from seed look as good as purchased plants.
In another plot, dubbed the Back 40, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin and cucumbers all face the sun. Yellow squash and acorn squash reside there, too.
All the gardening is done on workers’ break time, Carver said. One man brought a load of manure to act as fertilizer.
Another natural method used by the Green Thumbs is crushed red pepper flakes to ward off rabbits.
“The rabbits just gnawed them off,” Carver said of the garden’s pea plants. But “as soon as we sprinkled that around the peas,” they were safe.
Carver related other tips, such as sprinkling human hair amidst the plants to keep deer away, or hanging urine-soaked rags throughout a plot.
If the garden proves bountiful, Carver said, some food will be donated to those in need. It will also go to a company picnic.
“Last year, we had a roast with potatoes, carrots and onions out of the garden,” Carver said.
They also had cow peas.
“The vines got six feet tall,” he said, and “the peas had purple pods.”
This year, the garden’s beans look anemic and chewed on.
“I’m disappointed in them,” Carver said.
But then, there’s that volunteer cilantro, and four pumpkins that came up in the company’s compost heap.
As long as it keeps growing, the garden should produce enough for a summer feast.

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