Profile: Born 1949 in Dungarvan, Ireland. Married to Mary, with two grown children, Nina and Lauren.
John has gardened in Wales, Ireland, Minnesota, Arizona, Alaska and the Philippines. In the early 1990’s John invented the Bountea Growing System after years of experimentation.  Using the Bountea system, he went on to win eight World Records for Giant Vegetables and innumerable other vegetable prizes.
John retired to Ireland in 2014.

What is your first memory of gardening?
I remember following behind Granny (Violet Evans) while she was weeding the flowerbeds. I helped push the wooden wheelbarrow to the compost pile when it was full of weeds. My first garden was at Ffrwdgrech Lodge (the Evans family estate in Wales) near the stream. I grew Sweet William to sell at the market. I was about 8, I think.

Why do you garden now?
I garden to get knowledge that I can share with others – to teach others. After Christmas, I get Spring Fever, actually Winter Fever so I have to plant something, even if it is too early. I also garden to get the taste and quality of real vegetables – that is really important.

What is your favorite part of gardening?
Planting mostly and also soil preparation. I like to get all the plants and seeds put in. I am not so interested in continual harvesting but I do like the final harvest.

What do you hate?
I don’t hate anything about gardening, really. Weeding, I suppose – but with good gardening practice that is not a problem. Watering – you can solve that with irrigation systems. Insect problems – now that is much worse in Ireland than Alaska. The caterpillars ate my giant cabbage down to the ribs in a couple of days here. We had moose in Alaska one year but they only ate one third of the cabbages and the celery. The celery came back and won a prize.

What are you favorite types or varieties of plants?
Onions are my favorite; I just love them. I am not that interested in flowers or shrubs, only things you can eat such as vegetables and fruit from trees. I also love leeks – I have grown some perfect ones. The most fun I had with giant vegetables was with the Romanesco Broccoli and the cauliflowers. They look like wonderful works of art. But they are tricky to grow with slow root growth and are very tender to start

What are you really good at in the garden?
Knowing about the soil and understanding soil life and fertility. I can look at any soil and know what it needs, what it is made of, and how alive it is.

What are you still learning?
I am still learning about the soil and all the various interactions in it. I will be learning that for the rest of my life. It’s like the human digestion and metabolism – actually the soil and human metabolism are identical. I have always thought they are basically the same. That is why I am currently so interested in sea minerals. Everything came from the ocean; even the mycorrhizae are like sea organisms.

What is your gardening philosophy?
Everything comes from the soil and everything goes back to the soil. It is all about connections and interactions, just the same as our connections to the planet. If we are alienated from the planet and from the soil, like many people are, we are like an empty stomach. The soil is the stomach of the planet. We cannot survive without the soil; the whole of life comes from it.

What is your practical approach to gardening?
I like the thinking and planning. I do one thing – no actually lots of things – different every year. There has to be new things each year so it stays exciting and you have something to discover. I am obsessed by composting. I like organization and rows so that I can get the work done easily with less effort and have time to appreciate the garden, so I use raised beds to control weeds. If you keep a nice open crumb structure on the surface 1/2″ of the soil, it dries out in the sun and acts as a kind of mulch to keep moisture in the deeper soil. It also stops weeds germinating.

What do you gain from gardening?
Wisdom – the meaning of life – a never-ending journey. There is no end to the knowledge and information that keeps coming. You can never be bored; there is always something new. Humility: gardening makes you humble and that is true wisdom.