Meet the gardener

Cristina, with the last basil harvest of the 2010 gardening season.My name is Cristina Santiestevan, and I am a rule-breaking, HOA-snubbing, renegade gardener. I am also a writer and photographer, and regularly combine my passions for gardening, science and language by writing for publications like Organic Gardening Magazine and Smithsonian.

As a child, I became so attached to my plants that I insisted my dwarf pie cherry tree move with us when my family relocated from one Virginia town to another. Never mind that the tree was a stunted little thing, which produced the sourest cherries imaginable. That didn’t matter. That was my tree, and it was going to come with us. And, it did. I was an amazingly stubborn seven-year-old.

If anything, my plants are more important to me now.


  1. I found you and your blog through the magic of the Twitters! Kindred spirits, we are. My city tells me what I can and can’t plant, forced me to hire a ‘planner’ (whose plan failed MISERABLY), and made me put up $5,000 in cash as a survival bond on the (now mostly dead) plants. I shouted ‘do overs!’ and made up my own plan. I hope you visit my blog, I know I will be back here a lot. I am jealous of your vegetable and herb growing. Best,

    • Hi Calvin – Glad you found the site! A survival bond on plants? Wow. I’ve never even heard of that before. Glad you shouted “do overs,” and hope you stick with it — native woodland gardens can be stunning, and you’ve sure got a beautiful piece of land there. Challenging, I’m sure, but beautiful.

  2. Cristina – First off I would like to congratulate you on that garden what a delight, it’s absolutely stunning ! Second the photography is one to admire, I was just curious as to what camera do you use to capture such clear & crisp images ?


    • Thank you, Maria! It’s been wonderful to watch the garden come together this year; such a transformation from last year, when most of its area was still lawn. As for the photos… I use a Nikon D300s, which I absolutely adore.

  3. I just found your website via Pinterest and I love it! Way to go with breaking the rules, I’ve been laughing for over an hour while reading your posts out loud to my boyfriend! πŸ™‚ I am your newest reader, and just in time because I’ve been starting my own edible garden here in Miami, in addition to my obsession: succulents and cacti (I blog about it). We’ve always grown Rosemary or Basil, but now I am growing Thai Basil (mmm Thai Volcano Chicken with tons of it!) and am building a large planter box for lots more herbs and veggies. I look forward to learning more from you… πŸ™‚

    Inspire Bohemia

    • Catherine –

      Thanks so much for the great comment! It’s always fun to hear about how people find the site, and I’m really glad I gave you something worth laughing about. I won’t ask whether you’ve been laughing with me, or laughing at me… πŸ˜‰

      Also, I LOVE Thai basil. So tasty, and so crazy beautiful. You’ve reminded me that I need to get a second crop of it going. Thanks!!

  4. Just wanted to tell you that I LOVE your site, just found it today. I have a feeling that I’ll return often for inspiration. Great work!

    • Thanks, Andi! I’m glad you’re here!

  5. I am happy now to find out that young people can have the gardening bug also. I’m 73 and have gardened in the near in suburbs all my life, using the food to nourish bodies and souls of a lot of children we took in. We got into Thai basil and lemon grass, luckily, when we had Vietnamese foster children. They also turned us onto better varieties of eggplant. We have chickens too, and all built with free materials. We need to educate people who mistake neat with healthy and a society willing to sacrifice organic farms for soccer fields. (Mont. Cty Md.) I’m beginning a project with local elem. school to teach composting, gardening, chicken keeping along with paper making from materials grown on site. I learned a lot from your site and your photography is wonderful

  6. Cristina; Could you please list some fall veggies that will also be good on into winter, would like to know of ones that can be started now as i have not even lined up a space let alone got the stuff, also could start with seed or would it be better to try to see if i could get plants? i live in the deep South GA., almost into Fla. so do not see much cold weather but a good bit of frost, hardly ever Snow or ice, but occasionly we do. I figure that what can be grown in VA. can be grown in GA. unless they require really cold weather most of the time. Thanks for all you do in listing hints & such for us “Green Thumb Gardeners”.~~~

    • I’m just guessing here, Alice, since you’re so much further south than me, but… I’d think anything that’s a late-fall crop here might work as an over-winter crop for you. Things like spinach, kale, chard, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Also, maybe some of the more cold-tolerant lettuces or other greens? I also think I read recently that folks in the south can start their onions in the fall, for early spring harvest. But, you may want to research that a bit more. I’m not entirely sure.

      Things to avoid would be the real heat-lovers, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or squash. Beans would also be a no-go, but, maybe peas?

      Mostly, I’d encourage you to experiment. One of the best things about vegetable gardening is the ease (and relative low cost) of experimenting!

      Good luck! And, please report back on your success with the winter garden!

  7. Alice again;
    Cristina could you also list a group (& how many) of things i could grow in ‘Earth Boxes’ for winter that would be through in time for sumer(spring) planting? I have 2 boxes.


    • Hmm… I’ve never done the Earth Box thing. I’d think you’d want to avoid the big root crops (carrots and parsnip, for example), but that most anything else would work. And, if you want stuff that’ll be done by spring, maybe look for the faster maturing crops: spinach, lettuces, kale, chard…

      Good luck and happy gardening!

  8. Love your site.
    I’m an Aussie in SE Queensland .
    Can one cut sweet potatoes into pieces (with an”eye”) to plant directly into the ground.
    I want to try them as a crop for foraging pigs.
    Any advice greatly appreciated.
    Cheers david

    • Hi David β€” So glad you like the site! I’m not sure about cutting sweet potatoes and planting them like regular potatoes. It’s generally much harder to find the “eyes” on sweets, and they tend to cluster their growth around the tips of the roots. But, you could certainly give it a try! You might also want to start some slips in water, just in case those experimental sweets don’t survive. If you haven’t already seen it, this blog post gives some tips on starting your own sweet potato slips:

      Good luck! And, if you do try planting the “eyes,” please report back. I’d love to know how it goes!



  1. What Freelance Success Says » Making essay writing pay - [...] Success subscriber Cristina Santiestevan is one of those writers. The bulk of her business is creating material for environmental…

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