BERRIES AND PEPPERS TO HIS HEART'S CONTENT
Retiree Phil Stoker loves fresh-picked berries, so he planted of a wide variety of bramble fruits----blackberries, red and black raspberries, loganberries and others. Apparently, he has a green thumb, because his expanding supply of established plants led to selling them at the Botetourt Farmers' Market this spring. New to Virginia seven years ago, his California background didn't prepare him for gardening in rocky clay. His first seedlings were planted in the native soil of his hobby farm north of Fincastle. As his gardening skills progressed, he began amending his soil to improve his berry plants. He also planted a 13-tree mini-orchard, ever challenged by ways to deter deer and raccoons. In his spare time, he and wife Christy maintain a long stretch of Adopt-a Highway for trash pickup.
Phil also loves hot peppers (and nothing as mild and mundane as a jalapeño!), so he began growing exotic varieties----such as Mayan Love, Zimbabwe Bird, Punjab, Japones, Wrinkled Old Man and Tepin. Originating in much hotter climates than Botetourt, these peppers require 4-6 weeks of 80 degree temperatures to germinate----a challenge he solved by germinating the seeds in his garage. Again, this prolific gardener brought his excess plants to the Botetourt Farmers' Market at very reasonable prices. Although he also markets his berries and other produce through Craigslist, he enjoys his time at the market (held every Saturday at Ikenberry's parking lot on US 220 N from 8am-1pm or sellout), looking forward to special events such as music by the Black Twig Pickers on July 18. Phil "the Berry Man" Stoker is also reachable at his farm at 884-3015.