Kelly Emberg Holding a basket of Vegetables

Years ago, when I was a model in New York City back in the early 1980’s. I purchased a home in Ottsville Tinicum, Pennsylvania to get away from the madding crowds of NYC. It had 13 ½ acres with a 100 year old barn and a quaint old house.  I rented out the barn to my neighbors so they could board their horses.  One weekend I drove to the country with my old friends Momo and Jean Pillard.  There was a grassy area right off the side of the kitchen from the main house. I took my wheelbarrow and shovel and pulled up all the grass, tilled the land and made my first herb garden. My friend Momo was an avid gardener and helped me along the way with how and when to plant things. I used to travel all over the world for my modeling jobs but I couldn’t wait to get back to my little 12’x12′ garden. I didn’t have a sprinkler system and depended on mother earth to keep my garden alive while I was away on my travels. The property I bought had Concorde grape vines covering the split rail, wood fencing which bordered my property and my Momo taught me how to make jam from scratch.  I will never forget the time when my boyfriend came to my house for the very first time. He was so impressed that I had made grape jelly and had my very own herb garden. Well that was my first experience with gardening.

Over the years, I have purchased and sold a number of properties and I always loved to garden no matter how small or large the garden was. Something about being outdoors with nature, planting things that actually grow and become something so beautiful is incredibly rewarding. I never had time to research how to pick the right plants for the appropriate place or how to fertilize and feed them so I ended up killing a number of innocent plants. I was just too busy with raising my children, going to school for interior design or working, to truly spend the needed amount of time to have a the garden I wanted. Some things worked and some things didn’t.

Years later, after a few mistakes that weren’t only to do with my garden, I finally met an amazing, caring man and got married. I sold my house in LA and he sold his in Rancho Santa Fe and we purchased our dream home in Fairbanks. The house came with 3.72 acres and a lemon grove with 250 trees.  I remodeled the house from top to bottom and then started on the exterior. I had started saving the orchid plants that my husband would throw away once the blooms had faded.  I googled how to take care of orchids and wah la, I got them to bloom again. That’s when my husband suggested we get a small green house for the orchids. I was reluctant because I was already extremely busy with my interior design business and my children and I didn’t need another project. Mike, as he always does, talked me into the greenhouse and thank God he did!  We then had to clear a space for the greenhouse and that’s how it all began.

We took an area that was overgrown with weeds and shrubs and tucked the “Sunshine Greenhouse” next to a pair of pine trees that was the first stage.  Soon I found out that the greenhouse was too hot for the orchids and had to add outdoor fabric to the roof, to screen the sun’s harsh rays. After a little tweaking I finally found the right balance.  I realized that I needed a vegetable garden to go with my new greenhouse.  Near the greenhouse was a sloping piece of land. I rescued broken concrete from the dump, recycled it and used it to build the most amazing looking stone walls and the materials cost me nothing! I put chicken wire under the beds for the gophers which are abundant in Rancho Santa Fe and installed a watering system. I filled the terraced beds with fertile soil, vegetables plants and herbs. Needless to say the orchids have taken a backseat to my vegetable garden.

I have been gardening for a while now and I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to have it. I feel so capable and aware of nature. I can do it!  My success comes from researching gardening books and YouTube videos. I have googled everything I have ever needed when it comes to gardening from composting, plant diseases and pests to when I should feed my tomatoes.  I realized there is so much more access to information today that it makes almost anything possible. It doesn’t take that much to have a garden and it gives you so much back.

I recently thought about what I wanted to do next. I have traveled the world as a fashion model and had a successful career. I went to college at age 30 and studied interior design at UCLA for 3 years from 1990 to 1993.  I worked with one of the most successful interior designers, Michael Smith in 1994 and then had clients of my own from 1995 – today, such as Julianna Margulies, Patricia Arquette, Pam Dawber, Mark Harmon and Rod & Penny Stewart and now I wanted a change. I wanted to do something that matters to me and the environment that might possibly make a difference. People need to know what they are eating and where it come s from. If we only understood that we would make different choices with the food we feed our families.  Growing is fun and gives you so much back.

My garden keeps getting bigger and so do my dreams.  I have been working on them for two years now and hopefully some of them will come true.  I constantly upload pictures of my garden and any information I think might inspire people to grow through my Facebook, “Kelly Emberg The Model Gardener”.   I  would love to see what is in your garden too.  Don’t be shy.

Who knows, one day I might even have my own garden show that will inspire you to grow too!


Kelly Emberg