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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Niche Organic Gardens: Creating Custom Backyard Gardens

Feb 28, 2022 11:00AM ● By Suzie Agrillo
During Ashlie Thompson’s childhood, her mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers had gardens that she would tend. When she was a teenager, she had a vision of owning and operating an orphanage in Africa that was self-sustained farmland. This vision culminated in her pursuit of a degree in Non-Profit Management. As Thompson finished her coursework at Arizona State University, she decided she needed to fully understand how to grow food for the orphanage.
As a result, Thompson pursued and received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona in Agronomy, with an emphasis on crop production. After graduation, she worked for one of the top grass seed companies in the U.S., only to become overwhelmed with disgust due to their practice of spraying harmful pesticides. With her upbringing, education and experience, it only seems natural that Thompson would gravitate to open a company with the goal of creating and maintaining gardens using natural and safe techniques.
While her dream of owning and operating an orphanage has not yet been realized, she espouses the concept that school gardens can be an amazing contribution to the educational system. She advocates utilizing school gardens to teach concepts such as photosynthesis, as well as hands-on education in the garden to learn what it takes to produce healthy food. A school garden can help our children develop into the next generation of conscious eaters and environmentalists.
With Niche Organic Gardens, Thompson’s business objective is to provide a very personal service for the home or business, with a traditional gardener who prides herself on using the most efficient practices, while prioritizing our health. Finally, she gives nutrients to the soil so it may, in turn, enrich our lives for decades to come.
Thompson uses her gardening expertise to turn clients’ wishful thinking into a healthy, thriving garden.

Q & A with Ashlie Thompson

Do you have a personal philosophy that made you enthusiastic about organic gardening?
I’ve never enjoyed the thought of chemicals used on the food I ate. I’ve been a strong believer in organic food since understanding the term as a teenager. In my undergraduate studies and after graduating, I had internships and jobs that required me to spray chemicals. I would wear masks, hold my breath, change my clothes afterward—until I decided enough was enough. My eldest daughter was a newborn and I decided to find my own path with organic agriculture. Niche Organic was what I came up with!

What was the genesis of your business, Niche Organic Gardens?
I started with Niche Organic Landscapes, in which I took care of clients’ landscapes using organic practices. I thought I needed to cut grass and trim bushes to get my foot in the door  to hopefully take care of their vegetable gardens, my true passion. After months of negotiating with myself to get out of bed each morning to cut grass, I decided to change the current lucrative business into exactly what I wanted to do: tend fruits and veggies. I transformed Niche Organic Landscapes into Niche Organic Gardens in February of 2019 when I was six months pregnant with our third child, and I haven’t looked back.

Tell us about the process of installing an organic garden at a client’s home.
The process starts with me coming to the client’s home to help them find an excellent location for the garden. We also discuss design options and I quote out their vision. Our team then comes with their large trailer packed with garden beds, soil, irrigation supplies, plants and seeds. The installations are completed within the day (usually). We go from a blank canvas to a fully functioning and planted garden within hours. From there, most of our clients opt in for our maintenance program. Our gardeners come out every two weeks to take care of the gardens. From pruning to harvesting, we do all that’s needed to have a thriving ecosystem within each garden space.

Is it best to plant in containers, raised garden beds or in the ground?
All are equally great! There are pros and cons to each, but I’ve been able to successfully grow gardens in containers, raised beds and within the ground.

What are the easiest vegetables to grow for beginning gardeners?   
Spring/Summer: zucchini, peppers, basil, eggplant, sunflowers and okra
Fall/Winter: spinach, broccoli, lettuce, radish, beets and carrots

What are your tips for planting in the desert climate?
Have the garden set up on irrigation, use the best organic soil you can find and the sun is your friend when you are growing the right crops within the right season.

How does organic farming deal with insects and plant diseases?
Organic farming has options when it comes to dealing with insects and plant diseases. Three options that we use are beneficial insects, beneficial plants/flowers and organic sprays such as neem oil.

Do you have any original recipes for people to make after the harvest?
I have many. My mother is a great cook; she taught me well. My children love when I make steamed Brussels sprouts with a little salt and olive oil to finish. We also love roasting a combination of golden beets, carrots and Brussels sprouts.

What is your favorite quote or motto?
The worst someone can say is no, so I might as well take the chance!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Now is the perfect time of the year to start or revamp a garden. I prefer that all of my gardens be planted by May 1st at the absolute latest. Arizona gardening can be tough for a beginner, but it’s more than possible to grow a bounty all year-round.

Connect with Ashlie Thompson at 602-577-7017, [email protected] or

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer in Tucson, and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection. Connect at [email protected].

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