Enlisting Good Bugs: Nancy Pindilli

“Good bugs live on your plants and keep everything healthy. You know how there are crazy cat ladies? Well I’m the crazy butterfly lady.”

Nancy Pindilli in her Point Pleasant vegetable garden.
Nancy Pindilli in her Point Pleasant vegetable garden.
Photo by Laura Moss.

A lifelong gardener, Nancy Pindilli takes a therapeutic approach to her pastime. She views it as a way to stay healthy. “When I start digging, my heartbeat starts to settle, my brain begins to see through the confusion, I become centered again,” she says. “Whenever life gets to me, I start to dig.”

Pindilli, 55, enrolled in the Rutgers Master Gardener program following her fifth hip surgery. “I needed to heal inside and out,” she says. Her special interest was growing an environmentally friendly garden. “We’re losing bees and butterflies because people are using too many pesticides,” she says. “They are killing the bad things but they’re also killing the beneficial bugs.” Pindilli uses only certified organic solutions to keep her garden lush, such as copper spray on her tomato plants.

“Good bugs live on your plants and keep everything healthy,” she says. She chooses plants specifically to attract these beneficial bugs; milkweed for butterflies, dill and parsley for caterpillars, sunflowers for the bees. For her efforts, Pindilli has a garden full of these creatures, along with ladybugs and several praying mantises. “You know how there are crazy cat ladies?” she says. “Well I’m the crazy butterfly lady.”

A swimming pool occupies the center of Pindilli’s Point Pleasant backyard; every other inch of space is devoted to food. She grows tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, figs, basil, mint and more. “I eat what I grow,” she says. “It’s just healthier.” An avid canner, Pindilli makes her own pickles and fig jam. She cans fresh tomatoes. Whatever she can’t use, she shares with others.

Pindilli shares her pastime with her mother and her grown children, Glen and Megan, who largely install the garden each year. “We all dig in the dirt. It’s just what we do,” she says. Pindilli’s dogs, Bandit and Rosie, are ever-present, often snacking on tomatoes and peppers.

Pindilli’s tiered front yard has zinnias, sunflowers and “massive amounts of parsley and dill,” she says. A magnolia tree, a fig tree and a native dogwood tree complete the picture.

Much to Pindilli’s delight, her gardening bug has proven contagious. “All of my neighbors now grow something,” she says. “I love the camaraderie of it.”

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