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Growth spurt: Roslindale teen's garden featured in West Roxbury tour

Posted by Your Town  June 23, 2011 04:31 PM

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( photo by Kim Foley MacKinnon)

Alessandro Ferzoco, a 15-year-old Roxbury Latin student, in his garden in Roslindale.

Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, garlic and numerous herbs.

This isn’t a grocery store shopping list. It is just part of 15-year-old Alessandro Ferzoco’s garden crop this year. His meticulous backyard gardening skills earned him an invitation to be featured in the Evening Garden Club of West Roxbury’s 2011 tour Saturday, June 25. His garden so impressed the club, the fact he doesn’t even live in West Roxbury didn’t matter.

Looking at the Ferzoco’s family’s house on Metropolitan Avenue in Roslindale, passersby could never guess the bounty hidden behind the backyard fence, which besides the garden, is home to chickens, rabbits and Ferzoco’s latest gardening experiment, fig trees.

“I only grow what I’ll eat,” said Ferzoco,” sounding like a natural-born farmer, which in a way he is. His great-grandfather kept cows, pigs, goats and a large garden in Hyde Park. One of his sons, Ferzoco’s grandfather, helped to feed his 17 kids from his half-acre garden, and passed on his love and knowledge to Ferzoco when he was quite young.

“I was well-versed in proper watering techniques, which bugs were bad for a garden, not to harm bees, what was a weed and what wasn’t by the time I was six or seven,” said Ferzoco in a very matter-of-fact way.

This isn’t the first time the Roxbury Latin School student has won accolades for his work. Last year, he won a first place prize in the annual Mayor Menino’s Garden Contest, which recognizes amateur gardeners in the city.

Ferzoco doesn’t seem fazed by his award or from the attention he’s gotten. His motivation comes from something else. “I want to preserve my family history a little,” he said.

He is proud, however, of providing “clean food for my family, neighbors and friends.” His garden, mostly grown from seed, is organic, with no pesticides or chemicals used. Sometimes family members will help out, but the lion's share of the work is done by Ferzoco alone, who says on average he works about an hour a day in the garden.

And while his grandfather passed away years ago, Ferzoco actively seeks out his elderly neighbors for advice, many of whom have firsthand knowledge to pass down. “I pay attention to success more than science. What works in one part of the country might not work in another.”

It’s too early for the high school student to say what part gardening will play in his life as he gets older, but he was asked to help create a kitchen garden at his all-boys school, which might be incorporated into a curriculum requirement.

“Sometimes guys have a misperception about gardening,” said Ferzoco, who brings friends over to show them it’s not “just kneeling and planting flowers. When they see I did all this work with a pitchfork, they change their minds.”

Ferzoco added, “Once you start producing your own food, you get hooked.”

The Evening Garden Club of West Roxbury’s self-guided tour is Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets are available at various locations in West Roxbury as well as at Village Books in Roslindale. Visit the club’s website for more information or call 617-469-3368.

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