October’s Gardener of the Month - @gardening4gains
What inspired you to start gardening?
I have always been interested in growing plants, but what really got me obsessed was when I starting working as a Salesman at AM Leonard Horticultural Tool & Supply Company. It was easy for me to relate to my landscaping customers because I have done that type of work all of my life, but I didn’t know that much about growing plants; the names, diseases & fungicides - it all sounded like a foreign language. So from that point I decided that I wanted to start a garden to learn about the trials & tribulations of being a grower and be able to empathize with my customers. In another way, I feel like I started my garden to also give me more subject matter to photograph. Even when I had a flip phone, I was always taking pictures of scenes in nature that struck me as profound, and as I started growing plants, I realized that I was growing my own subjects for photography.
Describe your garden.
My garden is the entire left side of my backyard. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy – yet they’ve started a garden too :) Other than that, I would say it is ever-evolving.
As the gardening seasons go by, I make small improvements and upgrades to the garden, and I really feel like this year is the true pinnacle of aesthetics. I was tired of the cheap metal fence we had, so we upgraded to a hardware net type of fence to keep the dogs from destroying the garden. The black of the hardware net looks super clean with the black arbor I was given and a simple metal gate that I found at Menard’s. (Not sure that whole description was needed, but I’m extremely proud of taking the looks of the garden to the next level!)
You have to walk on the brick paver patio to get to the gate and when you open the gate, there is a brick path that is lined with fabric pots called Root Pouches that goes about 10 feet into the garden until you meet a giant Root Pouch full of marigolds that look like scoops of sherbet melting in the sun. What is “aesthetic” on the outside, is actually a bit crammed & messy inside. I thought that it would be a great idea to jam as many Root Pouches in one area as I could - we’ll call it Square Foot Gardening - and it worked well with Lettuces & Spinach, but not so well when you have 8 broccoli plants within 4 square feet. After some reorganization, we found a better balance though! Literally everything we grow is in Root Pouches, other fabric pots, fabric raised beds, a wooden raised bed, and one thing is grown in the ground – raspberries.
The garden is under 1000 square feet, but pumps out a ton of produce – enough that we are able to run a small CSA where we supply about 5 families with fresh veggies & herbs on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
What has been your biggest gardening fail?
Gardening is nothing but failing & learning in my opinion – but I never really think of it as failing like I do with other activities. I think it just feels like, “oh well, that’s the nature of nature.”
With that being said, I did have a few key fails this year. One fail was growing cauliflower. I thought I had it all figured out, everything was growing amazingly, but then it took too long. And then it got up to 90-100 degrees. And the garden smelled terrible because of the rotting cauliflower leaves. And the kale was kicking off a similar type of smell and just wasn’t producing quality kale like it had been, so we had to cut their lives short in the garden.
BUT – the biggest fail this year was with my raspberries. We did everything right – pruned up the canes in the winter, set up a trellis, and cleaned up the rows. This was year 3 of growth, so we should expect a huge harvest - or at least a little better yield than years past! In the beginning of summer the golden raspberries started coming on strong, and the red raspberries followed closely behind. A few small harvests were had, but then I noticed birds sitting on the trellis wire and picking the berries off left & right. To combat this I threw bird netting over the berry patch & that problem was solved. What I didn’t realize was that I installed it incorrectly. I had it sitting on the plants, which then grew through the netting. And the netting clung to the plants and would rip leaves & fruit off. So I readjusted the netting and had it a foot above the canopy. This was great until the Japanese beetles came and started feeding on the fruits. The worst part was that the netting was so close to the plants that the beetles were stuck in the netting and couldn’t fly out. So on the day I actually had to remove the netting, it was the loudest, buzziest bunch of bugs that burst from the plants. I put the netting on to protect from the birds, but trapped the beetles and sabotaged myself – so I’d say that was a fail.
Do you cook? What’s your favorite dish to make with your harvest?
My favorite dish to make with my harvest is actually my girlfriend’s specialty – Pico de Kyla. We do cook other than that, but I am actually a pretty picky eater and prefer to eat things basic or bland. I would rather eat a vegetable natural & straight from the garden as nature intended it; sometimes you don’t need to mess with perfection, & I think there’s something therapeutic about eating food naturally without extra sugar, fat, or flavoring. I also don’t put dressing on my salad - I basically eat it like a giraffe eating leaves off of a tree.
What’s one piece of advice you would give a beginner gardener?
Execute the basics exceptionally well – meaning as long as your plants are getting their needs met of sunlight, water, temperature/airflow, and fertilizer, then you will have a greater chance of success. I think a lot of people try to make it overly complicated and just think themselves into oblivion rather than keeping it simple.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Weight Lifting & Natural Bodybuilding, Biking, Yoga, Hiking
Podcasting – blabbing about Mind, Body, Garden & whatever else comes into my dome!
Content Creation – constantly creating for my Instagram, Facebook, videos, graphics, etc.
Business/Entrepreneurship – my garden and the content I create is my business and my girlfriend Kyla just started a social media agency called Still Market Social so we’re always talking about ideas, concepts, and how we can take things to the next level
Flip Life – (buying things on clearance, garage sales and reselling on eBay)
Peppers. I love the heat & sweet and the overall versatility of peppers. I also love the structure of the plants, leaves, and the abundant yields you can get from one plant.
We have 2 dogs that we rescued from a local shelter.
Twiggy is a 3 year old Black & White Lab/Pitbull mix who loves tomatoes, green peppers, and ground cherries.
We were going to the shelter to “look at dogs” and were actually supposed to meet a male dog. As fate would have it, we were taken to stall #8 which was not the dog we were supposed to meet. When we opened the cage, Twiggy jumped into my lap and arms and that was it. I actually said, “Welp, I guess this is my dog now”.
Basil is a 2 year old Tan & White Boxer/Pitbull mix who loves tomatoes, cucumbers, and her rubber tire toy.
We had been discussing getting another dog for Twiggy, and as fate would have it, Basil kept popping into my life. I remember scrolling through Facebook and seeing her. This cute little scared pupper with sweet face and muscular shoulders. I tried to ignore it but I sent a screenshot to Kyla and said, “I think this is our dog.” We didn’t even meet Basil but agreed to adopt her. Little did we know that she was the sweetest, most loving, loyal dog we could have ever asked for.
And Twiggy has even grown to love her. They are best friends – always playing with each other, cuddling, and even sleeping right next to each other.
Do you know any gardening jokes? If so, tell us one.
I don’t know any gardening jokes but I saw this quote a few years back & love the depth of it, “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.
I have several notebooks full of philosophical thoughts & writings, poems, and journaling but have only shared them with a couple people. I also wanted to be a rapper but never committed to it publicly. I would write verses in my phone or notebooks and would attempt to rap while my talented musician friend Tyler made beats on his keyboard.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Thanks to Burpee for such an awesome opportunity to get the inside scoop on new varieties and allowing me to have the chance to grow these beautiful new plants! (Pictured are Redarling Brussels Sprouts & Lemon Drop Squash)