We caught up with Erika Nolan, founder of Instar Farm, to get some dirt on popular gardening trends, easy DIY projects for spring, and why power tools are a woman’s best friend.
Operating out of New Orleans, Louisiana, Instar Farm is an all-female team offering edible garden building, landscaping and other outdoor services with solely organic products.
Erika’s methods are simple and traditional, based on solid horticultural practices she brought back to her hometown after volunteering at a biological research station in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest.
Believers in preserving our environment, we’re thrilled to be able to share Instar Farm’s sustainable practices with you and pass along a few ideas on intelligent garden design.
What’s the story behind how Instar Farm got started?
Erika Nolan: Instar Farm began in 50 square feet of gardening space in front of a traditional shot-gun house in New Orleans. I was always interested in nature, but at this point, craved it as I knew I would be a happier person with a garden in my life. In order to master my craft, I returned to school to study Horticulture (previously having received my Bachelor of Psychology at Arizona State). I received my Certificate of Horticultural Studies & Landscape Horticulture License.
I grew organic veggies and herbs in recycled pallet gardens and raised beds, and sold them at the local farmer’s market. As business picked up, I purchased a larger property where I was able to grow more food and further explore my landscaping potential. As soon as my raised beds were built, I had immediate interest from neighbors wanting the same thing. I found more and more people wanting to reconnect with growing their own food.
Side note: the term Instar is used in Etymology to define each stage of metamorphosis. I found the name quite appropriate as Instar Farm has grown into an incredible set of gardening services. We build/maintain edible gardens along with ornamental landscaping, butterfly gardens, and garden art installations!
What are the hottest trends in gardening this year?
Erika Nolan: Everyone is curious about edible gardening. To truly taste the fruits of your labor is not only gratifying but sustainably conscious and health conscious as well. Think about it, as soon as a crop is harvested, it immediately begins depreciating in nutritional value. Imagine what nutritional value is left from produce grown on the other side of the country and even worse, outside of the country. By growing your own food, you’re receiving the highest quality of nutrition. On top of that, we’re creating a healthier food economy. Double win.
What’s a good project for a homeowner to undertake this spring?
Erika Nolan: Butterfly gardens offer a beautiful assortment of blooms to enjoy in the springtime. It is absolutely possible to have hundreds of butterflies/hummingbirds fluttering around you, that is, with the proper host plants installed (read more about how to attract butterflies here).
What are some common mistakes made by homeowners when attempting DIY gardening projects?
Erika Nolan: Choosing the right plant for the right space. I often see mistakes made by not: a) giving the plant the appropriate light b) giving the plant enough space to grow to its potential and c) installing irrigation.
Speaking of DIY projects, what is your favorite power tool to use?
Erika Nolan: I love a good edger. It’s a good workout for the upper body and it saves you time and energy while creating a professional, clean look.
What advice would you offer to women about taking charge of their own lawn and garden?
Erika Nolan: You are strong… and the potential for you to get even stronger exists within you. Work in the garden, enjoy the sweat, fresh air and nature’s beauty. Learn what you don’t know yet. There’s no feeling like being physically exhausted and mentally fulfilled at the end of the day. In time, you will find yourself gaining physical strength and peace of mind. What’s better than that?!?