Some kids never outgrow playing in the dirt. Peter Kanaris never did and so spent his life working with things that sprout and flower.
He started with his father and then for the last decade with his own company, tending lawns and major commercial properties, making sure grass was lush and vegetation full.
He could perk lawns into verdant fields and nurture plants into showy displays using chemicals. Eventually, though, he began to see things differently.
Personally, he started to eat organically and shied from chemicals and all the substances he that knew were dumped on plants. That spread into his business outlook, too.
“When you’re playing with plants you can only look at them and trim them,” he said. “Cutting grass isn’t sustainable and I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
As the sour economy sapped the landscaping business, Kanaris turned his attention to an idea that’s been around since Stone-Age people settled down and started growing grain or trading with their neighbor for it – growing your own food.
“I’ve been playing in dirt most of my life but never really with vegetables,” he said.
Green Dreams, based in Odessa, brings to the public the concept company president Kanaris followed personally of eschewing chemicals.
“I started in my own backyard and went from there,” he said.
Want to learn about compost? Or how to start an organic garden no matter where you live? How about the more lofty goal of growing a food forest?
Much of what the company does is spread the word about organic and sustainable gardening with classes from the basics to advanced concepts.
Green Dreams also provides individual consultations on someone’s property to analyze the best way to move into organic practices.
Such a review can cover the property layout, irrigation, what someone wants to plant as well as the basics of mulching and enriching the soil with organic methods such as composting instead of adding fertilizer.
“We try to give them all the different methods of growing,” Kanaris said.
The consultation takes a couple hours, and the property owner will get a report to summarize the review for about $130. Sometimes the knowledge and nudge are all the property owner need to get started.
“A lot of people want to do it themselves,” Kanaris said. He also may eliminate the consulting charge if the property owner hires Green Dreams to do the work, he said.
The size of the property doesn’t matter. There are growing methods of gardening on patios to large parcels covering acres.
For those who want to skip the consulting, the company has classes twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Like the consultations, the classes stretch from the general introduction permaculture, or growing without chemicals and using sustainable methods, to intense looks at composting or irrigation.
Each class generally lasts about 90 minutes to two hours and are at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. at the company’s office in Odessa.
One of the instructors is who runs his own online network for green thumbs. Stewart, of Holiday, runs the site Code Green Community with the goal of helping make the Tampa Bay area more energy-efficient and sustainable.
Shifting from the gardening crutch of chemicals to organic takes time and effort, Kanaris said.
“With organic you have to build the soil. It’s all about finding a balance in your garden,” he said. “With chemicals you can get the grass green in a week, but that’s just appearance.”