Gardener’s Outpost is Columbia’s newest and arguably greenest urban garden center. Carol and Randall Isherwood bring planet-friendly organic gardening products and practices to consumers desiring a sustainable life style in the city.
The garden center stocks products that have been and can be reused and recycled. Earth-toned Eco- Form pots made from rice hulls are a biodegradable alternative to plastic.
Featuring products from local vendors is their first priority to reduce the carbon footprint and bolster the areas economy. Cedar planters, bamboo vases, compost balls, worm castings, Bunnies’ Brew, and more are made in Columbia.
The garden center focuses on helping homeowners and apartment dwellers garden in small spaces, in shade conditions due to trees and buildings, and in midair pockets of sunlight. They can design vertical food and flower wall gardens to extend space, suspend plants in space as flying islands, and create spherical gardens to hang like light features. Or, bring Randall your growing dilemma and his ingenuity invents a solution.
Plant material comes from South Carolina growers. Propagation programs at local schools like Heathwood Hall contribute plants. A dozen freshly potted blue agave had arrived from Bar- clay School. Hobbyists are encouraged to bring plants too. Bedding plants are “In Season and In Bloom” and arranged in clusters of “sun” and “shade” on the main floor of the outdoor garden center. Hanging baskets, window boxes and flying plants are interspersed among pots of herbs, succulents, and vegetables.
The seed rack displays Sow True Seed, an Asheville, NC company featuring open-pollinated, heirloom and organic varieties of flowers, herbs, vegetables, and cover crops.
Conserving and sequestering water are major elements of sustainable living.
The garden center doesn’t just sell rain barrels, rain chains, xeric plants, and ollas but also educates patrons on their uses.
Randall is helping Green Step Schools experiment in using the ancient technology of ollas for watering school gardens. Ollas are unglazed terra cotta pots buried within the soil in a planter, raised bed, or in ground garden. Jugs come in many sizes. The narrow neck of the jug is observable at ground level or a little above for easy filling with water. The jug releases water into the soil through pores in the clay. Water gets to the root zone of plants where it is needed avoiding above ground problems with wet foliage and evaporation. Robin Young, Green Steps coordinator at Summit Parkway Middle School, will test clay pot irrigation with students in the coming academic year.
Rain chains are artistic downspouts, which drain water from the gutter to the ground like a waterfall. They are beautiful to watch and listen to. Rain chains are a series of metal cups with a hole in the bottom or a series of linked chains to distribute the vertical flow of water from roof to the ground. The chain diverts the rush of water to avoid erosion or splash at ground level. In Japan where rain chains originated ceramic or stoneware pots were placed beneath the chain to collect water. The rain chain can be directed into a rain barrel.
Stop in at 709 Woodrow Street off Devine to meet the partnership of Randall the gardener and Carol the businesswoman. He keeps things growing, and she keeps things going at Gardener’s Outpost.