What does a Walton master gardener grow?

June 14, 2011

John Kratt's backyard in Freeport is a certified National Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife habitat. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A look into area master gardener’s native and vegetable gardens

Many homeowners dream of a beautiful landscaped yard. Making it happen can be a daunting and difficult task. Sandy soils, bugs and Northwest Florida’s climate can be a challenge. However, creating a landscape using native plants, you can be easy on the environment along with inviting wildlife to your yard.

Ever wonder what goes into creating a native garden habitat? Where to start and who to ask? Well, who better to ask than a master gardener. It is no surprise to know Walton master gardeners boast some incredible landscapes.

Here is a look at a few local master gardeners who were happy to share their incredible gardens an knowledge.

Barbara Young – Hewitt Bayou

Barbara Young and her husband moved to Santa Rosa Beach from Michigan more than 12 years ago. When they purchased a lot on Hewitt Bayou, Barbara wanted to build a house and surrounding environment that looked as though it had always been there.

Barbara Young's native garden includes Queen Anne's Lace, coreopsis and Indian blanket. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Leaving all the native trees and shrubs they could, the house truly does look like it has always been nestled in nature along the bayou.

Barbara’s garden surrounds their entire home and is an enchanting and colorful stroll.

“I can’t pass up a plant when I go to a store,” Barbara quipped as her garden also includes a few non-natives that compliment the landscape.

Included in Barbara’s natives are: magnolia, saw palmetto, wax myrtle, river birch, bald cypress, Queen Ann’s Lace, oak leaf hydrangea, chaste tree, turk’s cap, milkweed, indian blanket, cross vine, honeysuckle, royal fern, coreopsis, beauty berry and more.

Several bird feeders and birdbaths adorn the yard, inviting wildlife to the area. Native shoreline grasses snug the banks along the bayou, inviting wading birds as well as protecting the environment.

Muscadine grapes ripening in John Kratt's garden. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors


John Kratt – Freeport

John Kratt has been gardening since he was 11-years old. His first experience in gardening went awry when he didn’t get any results from planting a packet of radish seeds behind a row of bushes. So began a lifetime of gardening and researching organic growing methods.

John’s yard includes a variety of native trees, shrubs and flowers along with a large vegetable garden. John and his wife Ellie’s property gently slopes down to a wetland area along Mallet Bayou. This natural area is the perfect habitat for birds, squirrels, rabbits, armadillos, black and corn snakes. Their backyard is a certified National Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife habitat.

John’s natural landscape includes rosemary, wax myrtle, yaupon, sparkleberry, red maple, magnolia, anise, oak leaf hydrangea, flaming azaleas, prickly pear cactus, muscadine, blueberry and saw palmetto.

John’s vegetable garden includes 10 varieties of tomatoes, 3 types of eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, squash and more.

One of the most challenging to cultivate are tomatoes, as they are prone to the nematodes and fungus.

John uses organic fertilizer from Lowe’s and neem oil as a natural alternative to chemical pesticides and fungicides. He also grafts tomato plants to combine a strong root system with a better tasting fruit.

“If you wait until April, its too late to plant,” John said.

Starting all of his vegetables from seed, planting for the season starts in January for John. Many of his seeds are purchased from Johnny’s Seeds: www.johnnyseeds.com.

Oak leaf hydrangea and fern in Mary Lutz's garden. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors


Mary Lutz – Santa Rosa Ridge

Mary Lutz lets Mother Nature handle the majority of her and her husband Arno’s landscape in Santa Rosa Beach.

Sand pine, deer moss and saw palmetto dominate a piney woods area at their place. Strolling around their front and backyard can be compared to a walk in the forest. Other natives include conradina, wax myrtle, yaupon, sparkleberry, buckeye, magnolia, beautyberry, spiderwort, crossvine and prickly pear cactus.

Before purchasing their home 10 years ago, Mary and Arno lived in a condominium. Wanting more outdoor space, peace and quiet, Mary talked her husband into purchasing their 1/3-acre lot and home in the Santa Rosa Ridge neighborhood. It was on one condition.

“I promised Arno he wouldn’t have to mow,” Mary said with a smile.

Using compost is Mary’s method of keeping the yard sustainable.

“I have a local landscape company drop off grass clippings and I give them a tip,” Mary said in delight as she explained her working relationship with the landscaper.

Beautyberry blooms in Marianne Burbach's garden. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Marianne Burbach – Freeport

First look at Marianne’s well-groomed yard along Mallet Bayou it appears as though it could be on the cover of Home and Garden. What is pleasantly surprising is Marianne’s yard is mostly native flora. Sand oaks, beauty berry, youpan, little gem magnolia, saw palmetto and sand pine adorn her landscape. Native grasses protect the shoreline along the bayou.

Marianne is busy with her Friends of Eden Garden’s State Park and Green Thumb Garden club activities, and also stays busy nurturing her yard.

“Why not let what grows naturally grow here,” Marianne said when describing native plants simply do much better than anything else.

Marianne has added a few non-natives for color such as society garlic to create a picture-perfect landscape.

The Walton County Extension Service offers an abundance of information to help guide a homeowner in planting and maintaining native gardens. You can contact them directly at (850 892-8172).

Here is a list of helpful links and publications:



Additional resources on rain barrels, plant databases and more: fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/resources.htm

Interested in becoming a master gardener?
The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida. The program relies on dedicated volunteers who have an interest in gardening and in giving back to their communities.
For more information about the Walton County master gardener program, go to: walton.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/master-gardener/information

    1. Wow! Very informative and useful tips about how to keep our green gardening beautiful and to keep it green all year round. I think putting up some flowers, barbeque grills and fountain also helps our garden more perfect, and some more types of vegetables. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. You have to see John Kratt’s yard to really appreciate all his hard work and dedication to gardening and the natural habitat of animals. Tender, loving care goes into everything he does when gardening and providing for the wild life. Great article. Thanks.

    1. Walton Outdoors,Wow what a great web site, full of great info, Thank You

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