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Sub-Region: Deserts
State: New Mexico
Business: Owners - Giannangelo Farms Southwest

Biographical Information

We started growing formal patterned organic gardens on San Juan Island Washington in 1986 creating the first business to not only grow organic food, but do it in a unique way.  In 1993 we moved to Sedona, AZ to design and build two acres of formal patterned gardens for friends in a community.  When we were done with this project we moved to New Mexico to begin another series of formal gardens in the high desert at 7300 feet.  This provided many new learning adventures with a growing season of three months at best, alkaline soil that tested zero for any nutrients, and spring winds that nearly prevented from growing anything.  After we discovered the techniques that worked in this area, we began to share our knowledge with others, started the local farmers market, and the Ramah area annual garden tour.

Please tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.

Sustainability and the importance of growing local organic food. A garden is more than a means for growing food - it is a model of what is possible in a community. There is no need to bring food half-way around the world when each person should be growing their own food and sharing the excess with others and encouraging a local economy.  Anyone can have a container garden, a growing box, or a small 4 x 8 garden that could provide enough food for a family during the growing season. We nurture ourselves as we nurture our gardens, renewing our connection with the earth and her beauty, thereby reducing stress on the worlds finite resources.

Where can members get more of your advice?

On our website - http://www.avant-gardening.com

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.

We are now gardening at 7300 feet in the high desert of New Mexico, in zone 4.  We have gardened in the past at 3500 feet in Sedona, AZ, and at sea level on San Juan Island, WA.

How long have you been gardening?

Over 30 years, together.

What triggered your interest?

The desire to be of service to others, and owing land perfect for growing.

Frank & Vickies Book Recommendations

 by Frank & Vicky Giannangello. It's a compilation of 9 years of writing a monthly newsletter, with photographs by Vicky Giannangelo, and essays about our New Mexico adventures in organic gardening, personal growth, community, and sustainability.

On Good Land
By Michael Ableman - the autobiography of an urban farm in the middle of tract home developments near Los Angeles - the story of one man's fight to preserve a piece of the richest farmland in the world, an example of sustaining our relationship with the earth


A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a story of growing your own food and the rewards discovered along the way.

Frank & Vickies Favorite Websites

Avant-gardening.com Our website, we address the aspects of gardening and personal growth, community, and the importance of sustainability. The website is designed to provide all the information needed to grow your own garden, from soil building to composting, and all the needed information in between.

Organic-Gardening-for-Life.com because you really are what you eat, and it explains the importance of gardening organically and sustainably with a lot of good and practical information.

groworganic.com you can get everything you need to succeed in growing an organic farm or garden.


What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?

Passing on organic gardening information to others. We give spring workshops on how to grow your own organic food and teach you how to do it in a sustainable way. We maintain the website to help others learn the importance of sustainable growing methods for an organic garden and hope that our 30 plus years will be of some benefit to others.  Our motto has always been "You Can Grow"!

What formal education do you have?

We are college graduates, and have learned organic gardening by just diving in and doing it.  "No guts, no glory"….

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.

Making a garden your own by creating your own designs, patterns, raised beds, and what you plant.  Each gardener grown his garden according to his needs.  Your garden is a reflection of your self.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.

That other's don't realize the necessity to grow their own food and how much it would benefit their community and the world.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?

It depends upon the season, and what the garden needs at the moment. It varries from day to day.

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening, such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?

At least two to three hours per day.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?

The Ramah Farmers Market, and the El Morro Area Arts Council which sponsors our workshops….

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?

The immediacy of the process - and the creativity and freedom of expression.

What do you dislike most about gardening?

There is really nothing we dislike - it all is part of the wholeness of the process.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?

It was not an individual as such, it was always wanting to garden but not being inspired.  When we went to Vancouver Island and saw the Buchart Gardens and the massive beauty we knew we wanted to create not only organic gardens, but beautiful gardens.  Plants, we have learned, respond to the garden's aesthetics.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?

Designing a garden.

What is your favorite time in the garden?

Early morning.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?

Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC because it is a vast overwhelming blast of beauty created within old rock quarries.  No one should miss that one. (Although we had folks tell us that our San Juan Island gardens were more beautiful because they were more intimate.)

What is your favorite color in the garden?

The color that is there at the moment.  Gardening is a moment by moment adventure - there should be no judgment involved. It is what it is - what you create it to be.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?

Kale.  It has more vitamins than any other vegetable, and it is easy and delicious, and there are 8 varieties we know of.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?

Garlic has been difficult at 7300 feet and the short growing season.  In May the temperatures can vary from 32 at night to 80 during the day.  On San Juan Island we grew 37 varieties of garlic, one of which is our own variety and is still sold at Filaree Farms.  You can buy it online!

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?


Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?

The three realities of the universe are truth, beauty and goodness.  In the garden this translates to creating beauty by your designs, goodness by sharing your bounty, and truth is in the radish so to speak… what you plant is what you get… as grows your garden, so grows your soul.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?

Why do you garden?

And what's the answer?

That opens a whole can of worms, so to speak.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?

That you can't have a garden without insect damage. 

And, what is the reality?

A healthy soil provides a healthy plant that will be able to resist insect damage because they are not attracted to it.  It is the "Serengeti principle"… the insects go after the weakest plants….

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?

One that really wants to know how to garden.

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started (it's easy and a great way to promote yourself).


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