Sweet Organic Solutions owner Donna Hilliard said she believes in using the natural soil and surrounding environment instead of pesticides and artificial gardening techniques to cultivate healthy gardens.
Hillard grew up with her grandparents on their farm in Fredericksburg, Texas and was taught to use permaculture gardening practices. Permaculture gardening utilizes ecological engineering and environmental maintenance to cultivate vegetables and fruits, Hilliard said.
With the lessons she learned on her grandparents’ farm, Hilliard opened Sweet Organic Solutions in 2008 in Pearland to pass her knowledge on to local residents.
“I never imagined I would grow up and teach people how to grow vegetables because that is what we did [growing up],” she said. “With that kind of knowledge and how I grew up, I just kept rolling with it.”
Sweet Organic Solutions sells gardening tools and edible vegetation as well as nongenetically modified organisms, fertilizer and plant feed. Hilliard said she only sells edible vegetation because she believes in cultivating and harvesting sustainable gardens.
“There are some flowers that are edible and some of it we cannot eat, but the hummingbirds, the bees and the butterflies can eat them,” she said. “They have a symbiotic relationship with the garden and we need those.”
As a licensed master gardener and Texas Certified Nursery Professional, Hilliard works with customers from Pearland and across the state to design and maintain edible gardens. She consults with customers by offering free pH soil testing as well as identifying harmful bugs and plant diseases to further instruct how to rejuvenate gardens.
“If you regulate the pH of what your plants need, you can get everything into line and prevent any mishaps,” Hilliard said. “Instead of trying to amend it into something more useable for vegetables, why not grow your blueberries there and save some money and maximize things?”
To help customers fertilize and grow new gardens, Hilliard maintains a half-acre lot filled with edible herbs, fruit trees, bushes and vegetables. Sweet Organic Solutions also sells more than 200 different types of vegetable seeds to sell to up-and-coming gardeners.
“The main thing is I cater to the gardener, not the landscaper,” she said. “There is a big difference in learning how to garden and just learning how to throw some [flowers] on the ground.”
Looking forward, Hilliard said she wants to install a greenhouse to expand her inventory as well as expand to a larger lot. She said she wants to continue teaching customers how to utilize permaculture gardening techniques.
“I want to help people utilize the little bit of ground they have,” she said. “You do not have to have a couple of acres. You can use just a standard lot to grow stuff on. In this day and age, it takes a lot of work to do that.”