Earl Sanford lives down a normal, residential city street in Bastrop but does something extraordinary every spring and fall — harvests a garden that would be the envy of many country folks with expansive acreage.
On a small plot of land beside his home, Earl and his wife Andrea grow a variety of produce including butter beans, cayenne peppers, bell peppers, snap peas, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, running peas, banana peppers and watermelons by mixing a bit of ingenuity with good old fashioned hard work.
According to Sanford, he has been gardening since 1960 and working with his current garden for approximately 20 years.
The city farm is marked by cattle panels — spaced between eight and 12 feet apart — that provide some of his crops, such as butter beans and running peas, with vertical growing room, and the beans utilize every inch of it. Sanford also maximizes the space in between each panel by planting an additional row of produce, such as potatoes, while leaving enough space to move through on a riding lawn mower to clear weeds.
Clearing weeds with a riding mower is only one of the tricks Sanford, a retiree, has developed to minimize the stress of harvesting and gathering crops. He also uses a variety of tools, such as a "picker upper" to grab potatoes, to make his work more productive and uses an everyday household item — mothballs — to repel garden nuisances like deer and raccoons.
Earl has also developed a few tricks for preparing their harvest. When Sanford picks new potatoes, he places them in a bucket and sprays them with high water pressure from his garden hose. This pressure blasts off any soil remaining on the potato as well as the outer layer of skin.
According to Andrea, cooks can then drop the potato in cold water, bring the water to a boil and have the eyes pop out of the potatoes.
In addition to providing valuable cooking tips and gardening pointers, the Sanford's also share their harvest with family, friends and the occasional reporter who stops by for a chat.