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I've had my hands in the dirt seems like most of my life. My grandparents and parents were both avid gardeners. Some of my fondest memories are working in the garden along side my Dad, Mom, or grandparents. Sundays in the spring always meant a trip to Hilger's Nursery for more goodies for the yard. When it was time to pick an Eagle Scout project, it just seemed natural to plant something.

With the help of my Dad and the great people at Hilger's like Joe, Carl, and Tex, we got started. With some help from some of my fellow scouts, we designed, installed and maintained a small section of a nursing home where the bed ridden people could see it from their windows. Numerous bird feeders and bird baths were included because both my Grandmas always taught me to be sure and feed the birds! I was 13 years old at the time. When I turned 15, I began working at Hilger's Nursery. I would stay there for the next eight years. My life with my hands in the dirt was just beginning!

Over the next few years I would start my own landscape/maintenance company, interior tropical plant Maintenance Company and eventually my own retail nursery in Rockwall, Texas.

 During my years at Hilger's I learned all about chemical pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. For some reason I was always uncomfortable about using these chemical products. That's not to say that I did not use them, because I did. That's just how things were done, or so I thought. No one ever talked about organic and natural products there. Many nurseries are still that way even today.  Hilger's did sell a product a product called Milorganite. This was an organic fertilizer manufactured in my parent's hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I brought some home to my parents just because it was from Milwaukee. It put a green on their grass like I had never seen before. Little did I know, this was to be my first encounter with "Organics".

Let's fast forward to 1987, my brother convinces me to move to Rockwall - one of those fresh start kind of things. I spent the following year driving back and forth to Rowlett working for Joe Covington at Covington's Nursery. Day in and day out I crossed the bridge over the lake, looking at all the homes, and thinking about what may be draining into the lake water. Then one day the fish. My gosh, all the dead fish! What could have caused such a terrible thing? I began thinking about all those chemicals we use to care for our landscapes, and yet all I do is not use them myself.

In 1988 I decide to open Tropical Johns Garden Shop in Rockwall. I stock the shelves with all the tried and true chemical pesticides, herbicides and good ole synthetic fertilizers. This is how I was taught, even though deep inside I kept thinking about all those fish floating on the surface of the lake. At my house in Rockwall I began to have a major problem with fleas. My dog Onyx, a black lab, was totally miserable. So I did what I was taught to do, break out the diazinon and dursban. First the liquid, then the granules. These worked for awhile, but soon the fleas were back. So it was time to treat again, then again, then twice as strong, (my gosh these fleas are hard to kill!). Then, finally, my common sense began to kick in. What was I thinking? If I was over doing it like this what was everyone else doing? There's got to be a better way!

I had been listening to this guy on the radio talking about doing things the "natural way." I liked his way of thinking, so I figured it was time to try a new approach. At this point I had nothing to lose, my poor puppy dog was miserable, not to mention sitting in the middle of a toxic dog run. So I got this stuff called diatomaceous earth, and my, my, my, what a difference. Seven days later the difference in my Onyx was amazing, and thirty days later she was just as happy! My quest had begun; there was no stopping me now.

If this D.E. worked so well, then what else could be out there? Soon I was buying and trying all sorts of organic products. That fellow by the way: Howard Garrett, the "Dirt Doctor". He opened my eyes and the eyes of many, many others. I would not be where I am today if it were not for "The Man" who taught us all the Natural Way.My customers were hesitant at first, but my new found passion for healthy non-toxic products came through. I told anyone who would listen that for anything we used to do chemically; we have an all natural or organic product that works as good or even better. By the end of my second year in business I loaded all of my remaining chemical insecticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers into my truck and took them to a chemical disposal company! The transition was complete, and Tropical Johns was now 100% organic!

Twenty years later I closed the shop and began working with a local distribution company selling and promoting organic products across North Texas. I am now the "Organic Specialist" with Southland Supply, a distribution company that now covers a six state area. I spend most Saturdays doing Organic Seminars at some nursery, feed store or just about anywhere else someone will listen. I continue to landscape Organically in the Rockwall area and with the help of "Ms. Daisy", my partner in life, we have started a one acre Organic garden. So, I look forward to updating you on the blogs here and answering any questions you might have. Until next time: Keep your hands in the dirt, save our Planet and GO ORGANIC!