Green Country Grown-Ups: Grogg’s Green Barn
Carla and Kelly Grogg, owners of Grogg’s Green Barn, located at 10105 E. 61st Street, take pride in offering products and services with a health conscious and earth-friendly approach. From their educational classes, for both adults and children, to the all-organic gardening and landscape products they offer, they are leading the Tulsa area in options for families to easily engage, learn and incorporate green living into their lives.
Getting to know Carla and Kelly Grogg
TK: How did you become interested in opening such a specialized business in the Tulsa area?
Carla: Both of us are passionate gardeners. While we had interest in planting some edibles, a small veggie garden, and some beneficial plants to attract butterflies and other creatures, we mostly focused on annual color. Our “life changing” moment was when two family members were diagnosed with cancer within a year of each other. While going through treatment, they were told to stay away from food containing high pesticides and eat a very nutritious diet to help with side effects of going through treatment. I began researching and finding a lot of information on how our crops are grown and the effects that they can have on our immune system. Immediately, I switched over to an all-organic garden for our family. When doing this, I was not able to find anything or anyone locally who could teach me and tell me about different methods of growing organically. I ordered a lot of items online and, from that moment, we decided that this was going to be our focus and our niche for the Tulsa area.
TK: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Carla: I love not sitting inside at a desk all day. Enjoying the fresh air and sunshine is so fulfilling. I do enjoy teaching customers that they can have a very successful garden by growing organically. We have demonstration beds at the store to help inspire and talk through the gardening process as well as classes every Saturday on everything from veggie gardens to backyard chickens.
TK: What sets Grogg’s Green Barn apart from other greenhouses?
Carla: While we are a full garden center, offering annuals and perennials, we have a much larger focus on edibles (veggies, fruits, herbs and berry bushes), non-GMO seeds and plants as well as we are the only nursery that sells Oklahoma Native plants. Placing Oklahoma Natives in your landscape is so beneficial because they belong here. They are wonderful pollination, as we have had awareness about the Monarch butterflies this year, and are no-fuss plants; they can be neglected and will still thrive.
The largest part is that we are all organic; we don’t just sell one soil that is organic like some other garden centers…literally everything we offer on our soils, fertilizers, veggies/herbs and pest control is all organic. None of our products contain any synthetic chemicals; they are safe for our environment and, most importantly, our families. Also, most garden centers just offer items for summer planting; we offer options for all three seasons: spring, summer and fall.
TK: What other types of products do you offer?
Kelly: We also offer USDA certified organic vegetable transplants. These are not just “organically grown.” These plants and their growing process have actually been certified and inspected by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. In addition, all of our soils, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and soil amendments are all organic. We are also one of the only places in Tulsa that offers hydroponic solutions and displays. We want people to be able to grow year round, and hydroponics allows them to do just that. Imagine tomatoes in the winter and fresh lettuce in the summer. A controlled hydroponic environment allows customers to do this.
TK: What services do you offer?
Carla: Gardening classes every Saturday during the season – all are free (there are a couple that we charge a materials fee for). We keep our classes simple and a lot of fun.
Kelly: We also have landscape designers on staff that can help create beautiful, sustainable landscapes for the Tulsa community. They focus on non-traditional landscapes that help differentiate one yard from another and get away from the traditional azalea, boxwood, hasta, hydrangea landscapes. We have a full crew that is also able to install these creations.
TK: What do you offer for kids at Grogg’s?
Carla: We love teaching the younger generation. We have a lot of family time centered around our Backyard Chicken class and hold a couple classes in the fall dedicated to the kids.
Kelly: We have a “dirt box” in the store for kids to play in. We also have backyard chickens at the store to get the kids interested in other facets of gardening, and are offering a summer camp this year for the first time to create excitement with kids and gardening.
TK: What types of plants/trees grow best in the Tulsa area?
Carla: I mentioned our Oklahoma Native – any selection of these would be the absolute best – no water, fertilizer or attention needed! Some of my favorites are the Lead Plant, an alternative to a Butterfly Bush, Blue Lobelia and Prickly Pear Cactus; yes, it is a cactus but the blooms are gorgeous! We love Blanket flowers, Little Henry Sweet spires and Rising Sun Redbuds.
TK: Do you have any suggestions to prevent bugs and animals from eating plants and flowers?
Carla: A very easy and homemade recipe I utilize for small insects is: fill spray bottle with water, add one teaspoon baking soda (fungicide) and a few drops dish liquid (insecticide) — works great. Another suggestion is to plant mosquito repellents such as: citronella geranium, lemongrass and rosemary. Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) can be used for small insects also, it is 100 percent safe for children and pets — works on grasshoppers, ants, and slugs.
TK: In addition to providing an all-organic line-up of products, what have you done to make your building “green”?
Carla: Our water collection is by far our smartest addition to the garden center! We can collect up to 5,000 gallons of rainwater. All of our windows and doors open to make use of natural wind and air. We use our heating/cooling units maybe only five percent of the year. We have a “Rain Garden” on site that is an educational purpose for soggy wetland areas. Rain gardens are placed between storm water run-off sources (roofs, driveways, parking lots) and run-off destinations (storm drains, streets, and streams). (Note: A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground that captures run-off from your driveway or roof and allows it to soak into the ground.) We connect with many non-profits and local area community gardens and schools in our area.
TK: You mentioned that you have made connections in the community. What local partnerships have you established?
Kelly: We enjoy the partnerships we have made with like-minded organizations. These include, but are not limited to, the Tulsa Master Gardeners, Sustainable Tulsa, Global Gardens, Oklahoma Autobahn Society, and the Native Plant Society. We have also partnered with Riverfield Country Day school where we helped install a hydroponic system in the 2- and 3-year-olds’ classroom, where they created a curriculum around the different facets of growth including science, math and nutrition.
TK: What are your kids ages?
Carla: Nicklaus is 14 and will enter Jenks High School next year, Eva is 7 and will start third grade at Riverfield Country Day School, and our 3-year-old, Isaac, is also at Riverfield.
TK: What do you enjoy about raising your kids in Tulsa?
Carla: Tulsa is a nice size city with a lot to offer. We enjoy the small town feel while still getting the most out of going to a Driller’s game, eating at a variety of local restaurants or heading to Turkey Mountain for a hike.
Kelly: I grew up in Tulsa, and I love how many activities there are to be involved in the community. Tulsa is extremely family friendly, and has a new park or trail to explore on seemingly every corner.
TK: Do your kids enjoy helping out at Grogg’s? If so, what do they like to do?
Carla: Our children are very much aware of the business. They frequent the store on the weekends, and my two younger ones love coming to see the chickens and feed the fish. My oldest is helpful with taking items to customers’ cars and in return getting paid for his services; he is a teenager with a long list of items he wants.
Kelly: Eva loves to play with the chickens. She names them all, and helps collect the eggs. It is not uncommon during the summer months to see the kids in the store helping to water, feeding the fish or digging in the dirt box.
TK: How much do your children understand about the “Green Barn” concept?
Carla: Owning your own business is hard work. We balance family and work life as best we can. They do know that we value growing our own vegetables and herbs and the importance of organics. We compost, recycle and spend lots of time outdoors. We are involved in each of their schools and our hope is that one day, they will continue growing fresh food and enjoying outdoor activities with their own families.
Kelly: For Eva and Isaac, it is all they know. For Nicklaus, it was an easy transition, and he has embraced the idea. We compost at home, involve them when planting our own raised beds and gardens, and recycle. We try to live in the same style that we help customers understand at the store.
TK: When you’re not at work, what does your family like to do for fun around Tulsa?
Kelly: A hike at Turkey Mountain or Oxley Nature Center is a family favorite. We also live by a City of Tulsa nature preserve and there is a walking trail that the kids love to ride their bikes on. Carla and I like to visit some of the new restaurants that have embraced the “garden to table” concept whenever we can have a date night.
TK: When you take a break from the Green Barn, where do you like to vacation?
Kelly: We like to visit family in Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida. Carla and I also had the chance to go to Europe last year, and visited Hawaii in May. We enjoy visiting gardens around the world like Monet’s gardens in France and the Cambridge Botanical Gardens in the UK. The Chicago Botanical Garden is one of my personal favorites because of the “Edible Landscape Island” they have.