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She takes the fear out of gardening


Tri’Nai Johnson always wanted to have a vegetable garden. She yearned for the luxury of walking into her backyard, carrying a basket over her arm and filling it with good things to feed her family.

There was just one problem.

“I was super intimidated,” she said. “I could barely keep houseplants alive.”
But that was before garden consultant NaTasha Lax and her 31 Eden business helped change Johnson’s wariness into confidence. Lax oversaw the creation of a box garden, complete with winter crops and herbs, and patiently helped Johnson learn the process herself. Lax regularly checks in to help with any problems and provide tips for future planting.

“My goal is to create a confident gardener,” Lax said. “And put myself out of a job.”
After all, contrary to what magazines and other people’s yards would have us believe, not everyone is born knowing what to do with compost, soil and seedlings. Not everyone is born knowing how to cultivate juicy summer tomatoes and plump hydrangeas.

Lax refreshed much of her gardening know-how through educational videos, but she also figures she came by her gardening prowess naturally, having come from a long line of people who knew how to work the land. Her maternal grandfather and his mother were farmers in South Carolina, and though she grew up in Colorado, she remembers summers spent with her cousins eating freshly picked cucumbers, sliced and sprinkled with sugar.

Sugar? Cucumbers?

“I don’t know where we got that idea,” she said. “But we loved it.”

Lax started her garden consulting business as an offshoot of her appreciation for sustainability and being able to face any potential food shortages head on. The way her business works is that she assesses a potential client’s space, locates the best spot for a garden and designs a three-dimensional plan.

Once approved, she sets to work. She can work within the confines of anyone’s space, whether in a large yard in a row garden, in raised beds or in containers ideal for backyard decks.

“I think everyone should have a garden,” she said. “No one should give up on their garden. What they’re lacking is knowledge, and I’m here to provide it.”
Vegetables are her focus, but she adds carefully selected flowers designed to ward off bugs naturally or to attract butterflies and bees. Herbs, too, are beneficial.
“Cinnamon basil plants are amazing,” she said. “I always plant them next to tomatoes. And I always plant marigolds in the spring.”

The basics, Lax said, are most important. Start with good soil, she advises, then adjust the right amounts of sun and water. She suggests that beginning gardeners start with seedlings rather than seeds. Among the easiest crops with which to begin are beans, beets, chard, lettuce and squash.

The 31 Eden name of her garden consulting business is a nod to the biblical virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. Lax, a mother of three children who sometimes serve as her assistants, does her best to uphold that ideal. She also has a bakery business, The Sugar and Sage, that stemmed from a chocolate cake that drew raves when she brought it to a potluck supper. On a recent afternoon, she had produced a tray of decorated cookies for a baby shower at her church.

Her clients can attest to her work ethic. Thanks to Lax, Tri’Nai Johnson said she had enough collards, kale and bell peppers to share with family members.

“She did an excellent job,” Johnson said. “My plants are doing wonderful, and if I have questions, she’s always available. She showed me it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was.”

For more information, go to 31 Eden.com or find 31 Eden and The Sugar and Sage on Facebook or Instagram.

NaTasha Lax, 31 Eden