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June 24, 2013

As easy at 1, 2, 3 gardening



By Toni Guagenti
The Virginian-Pilot



Throw away that “Gardening for Dummies” book. The Five Points Community Farm Market, through Earth Starter LLC, has an easier way for you to grow your own produce without a lot of time, money or know-how.

It’s called the Nourishmat. Earth Starter co-founders John Gorby and Phil Weiner call it an all-in-one roll-out garden.

For Bev Sell, Five Points’ general manager, the Nourishmat equals opportunity to help people feed themselves, or for business owners and community-minded people to sponsor a mat in areas where hunger and homelessness are prevalent.

“I would love to have other people in the community grow for other people,” Sell said. “It’s a great way to give back.”

For $99, a Nourishmat can be bought, sponsored and then planted by volunteers from the Farm Market at one of the market’s three community gardens in Norfolk. The cost includes the price of printing the sign with the sponsor’s name on it. If you buy one for yourself or family, the cost is $80.

Dr. John Clayton, owner of Ghent Chiropractic, is the first to get his name on a sign at the community garden at Norview United Methodist Church, where two of the mats were recently secured and planted by Sell and three volunteers.

Clayton said when Sell told him about the product, he was all for it: “Everybody should do it, not just anybody with young children, but anybody who’s interested in gardening.”

The mats spell out how to use them, down to detailed instructions along the bottom with color-coded holes that correspond with the seeds that are supposed to be planted in them. A tube holds the seeds, which are encased in a mixture of clay and compost – Earth Starter calls them seedballs – to protect them from drying out, getting eaten by birds or just blowing away. They are not genetically modified.

Once the mat is secured with large, staple-like pins provided in the packet, you just push the seed into the hole, into the earth, leaving the top of the seed exposed. There’s no need for trowels or digging.

“They’re color-coded, so even a 5-year-old can do it,” Sell said.

Clayton knows this to be true. He bought one for his family, and his son, Jack, 7, and daughter, Erin, 9, are helping with the planting and growing process.

“My kids are getting excited about it,” Clayton said. The Nourishmat is “helping them understand more about the food that we eat.”

After everything is planted, the mats have a drip irrigation line, made of a weed barrier, where you hook up a hose twice a day for 10 minutes to make sure the plants get the water they need to grow.

Plants include nasturtium – an edible flower – spinach, arugula, red pepper, eggplant, dill, parsley, basil, chard, jalapenos, carrots, tomatoes, marigolds and onions.

For Gorby and Weiner, working with Sell has helped not only to promote the product but to reach those in the community who need food.

The goal, Gorby said, is “really to cultivate gardeners and educate people on the proper techniques” of gardening.

The 4-by-6-foot mat also helps people know where their food comes from, he said.

“It’s Gardening 101, but it brings a lot more to it.”

The mat can also be reused and seed balls reordered.

To see the mats, visit Norview United Methodist Church, 1112 Norview Ave., or the Five Points Community Farm Market, 2500 Church St., where a Nourishmat was planted two months ago.

Sell hopes to start with getting 10 sponsors to help feed at least 10 people.

“The better off we are as a healthy community, the better off we are overall,” she said.

For more information about the Nourish­mat, or to sponsor one, visit

Toni Guagenti,


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