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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Apison grandmother Dianne Kosarin shows off her vegetable container garden.

Dianne Kosarin is not one to twiddle her green thumbs.

The Apison, Tennessee, grandmother has been busy this spring growing vegetables outdoors in containers.

In time, she will harvest potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, kale, squash, cabbage, beans, snap peas, and more. There will be three varieties of tomatoes and enough herbs and peppers to spice up any dish.

"It's small but so rewarding," she said of her little hillside container garden, "especially when you are homebound."

Kosarin said it's comforting to know there are homegrown vegetables in the pantry in this time of coronavirus isolation.

"It's important to feel self-sufficient," she said.

Years ago, when her now-adult children were young, Kosarin said she cultivated lush, raised gardens with elaborate irrigation systems at her home in coastal South Carolina. Her late husband, Oscar Kosarin, was a former Broadway conductor and College of Charleston music teacher.

Now widowed, Dianne lives in a small house in rural Hamilton County with her friend and landlord, Tonda Snoey. The house is on a hillside behind a grove of trees and the topsoil is shallow and clay-like — so, not good for planting — Kosarin said.

Earlier this spring, though, Kosarin was surfing the internet when she came across a gardening system that was new to her. It involved planting seedlings in 15-gallon bags that are porous enough to drain water but strong enough to be filled with rich potting soil.

A survivor of kidney and lung cancer, Kosarin was intrigued by the gardening bags, which can be used to grow vegetables anywhere there is enough warmth and sunlight. She ordered a supply of the bags and resolved to use her well-honed gardening skills to plant a patch of vegetables.

When the bags arrived, she rented a truck and visited a local nursery to buy mushroom compost to fill her containers. She also got free mulch from chipped trees downed during the Easter tornadoes in Hamilton County. Re-purposing the storm mulch for her garden seemed like a fitting circle of life.

Throughout the damp, cool spring of 2020, Kosarin planted seeds in cups on the deck of the house where she lives and built a terraced foundation for the gardening containers out of mulch. She also discovered that she could move the bags around to optimize sun exposure.

Then, things began to happen. First came an explosion of lettuce. The herbs, positioned in containers from Walmart, began to emerge. Cucumbers and squash are now taking shape, and the first vine-ripened tomatoes just this week began to blush.

Kosarin said that you don't need store-bought gardening bags to make a container garden. Any big containers will do.

She stressed the importance of daily watering, a joyful task that can almost feel like meditation. Evening watering is best for the vegetables, she said.

Her container-garden operation can be summed up in a word: efficient. With almost no money or land, Kosarin has still been able to create a bountiful harvest.

"It helps you to relax knowing that if other sources of foods fail, we can still manage," she said. "I'm thrilled and amazed at how well it [the garden] is doing."

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Small cucumbers are starting to grow in Dianne Kosarin's vegetable garden.
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