Gardener of the Month: August 2020
Meet Our August Gardener of the Month: @gardenaryco!
Describe your garden.
My kitchen garden is 300 square feet in total with about 90 square feet of growing space. I have six beds that are 2.5' x 7' each. I set up my kitchen garden space as part of writing my book, Kitchen Garden Revival.
I use two arch trellises in the space that came to me in a fun way. I own a kitchen garden design company called, Rooted Garden and in 2017, and I'd ordered custom arch trellises for a client's large garden. The trellises arrived in the middle of the summer and were too small for the space, so the designers had to start again. A few months later, it was my birthday, and I remembered those trellises! I called the fabricator and asked if they happened to have the 'messed up' trellises still in the shop. When they said, 'yes,' I decided to buy them for myself for my birthday. I think the trellises are what I get asked about most, especially because I grew tomatoes up and along the trellis, which I didn't realize at the time, but it's a unique way to grow and train tomato vines.
What’s the hardest thing about gardening?
Hmm, I think the hardest part of gardening is adjusting your own perspective. As I've worked with clients and students at all gardening levels and abilities, I've found the ones that enjoy the process the most are the ones that see the garden as a place to learn, experience, and find joy. They're less obsessed with the results. In my book, I talk about the philosophy to “Think About Nature.” I think that perspective helps relax you in the garden-as you realize you're creating your own little piece of nature inside this small space. Nature is wild and unpredictable and beautiful and prolific. And all of that will happen inside your little square. So, as soon as you can come to terms with that, you'll be able to let go and enjoy the process.
If you could have one gardening superpower, what would it be?
Haha, I was just thinking of this last night. I'm growing a squash patch for the first time in my backyard and was noticing the lessons I've learned from the experience last night. I was bemoaning the fact that I won't get to try the experiment again for another year. So, if I could have a superpower, it would be to get to grow anything at any time, and not have to wait for the right season. Truthfully, I know the seasons are a gift to us and the changes are as well, but many times I want to apply the lessons I just learned right away rather than waiting a whole year to give it a go again.
Your company, Rooted Garden, designs and installs what you call “kitchen gardens” – could you tell us more about this?
Yes, Rooted Garden is based in Houston, TX and we create beautiful raised bed kitchen gardens for clients throughout the city. You can see at least 18 of those gardens featured in my book, Kitchen Garden Revival.
A kitchen garden is a small garden set apart from the rest of the landscape where you can grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit for everyday use in the kitchen. It's tended regularly and harvested frequently.
At RG, our goal is to create kitchen gardens that aren't just productive but also beautiful. So, we use a combination of clean lines and open walkways, raised beds made of cedar, stone, or steel, and beautiful trellises. (You can find out more about RG at rootedgarden.com.)
Where did it all start? What/who inspired you?
I started RG in the fall of 2015. I have four children and my youngest was just starting preschool. It's a long story, but two of my children were attending private school for one year, and we didn't have the budget for it. I'd homeschooled my kids before that, so I felt somewhat responsible to try and find a way to pay for the tuition while also being able to pick my littlest up from preschool every day at noon. I'd been gardening in the backyard with my husband and kids for about five years at that time and absolutely loved it. So, as I looked for work that season and couldn't find anything that would allow me to make enough but also be able to pick up my preschooler each day, I realized I'd need to start my own business. I wondered if it might be possible to combine my love of gardening from a business angle and my first thought was to sell salad greens from my garden (I was harvesting loads of greens each day!)
But a friend advised me to do garden consulting instead, to help others learn to garden as I had. I loved the idea and announced the launch of Rooted Garden in November of 2015. Within one year, I'd served more than 50 clients and earned more than $100,000 in my business. It was literally a dream come true and the impetus for me starting Gardenary in 2017 where I help other women and men start similar businesses around the country. (We now have more than 265 Garden Coaches inside of Gardenary.) You can learn more about the Garden Coach Society at www.gardencoachsociety.com!
What is your best advice for someone who wants to start gardening?
Start! Grab a seed and plant it. Don't get caught up in the results, just get started. And then, hire a Garden Coach or sign up for garden education classes. When most people are ready to garden, they do one thing first: shop. I just discussed this on my podcast, Grow Your Self, in an episode called, “The Problem with the Plant Store.” When we start by shopping, we're almost doomed to frustration.
But if you start with education and coaching, you'll understand the system of the garden and know what to buy (and what to avoid). I really think education is the missing piece in the garden.
So, start by learning and understanding and you'll be a gardener for life.
Even though you’re a garden pro, do you ever still have moments of doubt in the garden?
Of course! I wouldn't call myself a “pro.” I teach the Garden Coaches inside the Society that there's always a freshman class, meaning there are always people who know less than you and would like to learn from you. It doesn't mean you're a senior, but you're at least a sophomore. I'd say I'm a good sophomore. Ha! But I love teaching and inspiring. I had an incredible season in my kitchen garden in 2019, but when I started in April, I truly second guessed everything. I wasn't sure any of it would work. I think that's the magic of the garden. It is unpredictable. That's what keeps us coming back day after day – we want to see what's changed.
As a 2020 Gardener of the Year, you’ll receive 2 sample boxes of Burpee Home Gardens’ 2021 new varieties… one for you and one for a friend! Who are you giving your second sample box to and why?
I'll give it to one of my neighbors. I built my kitchen garden on the side of my home so my neighbors can see everything that's happening there. Over the last year, I've had so many ask for advice with interest in growing. It will be fun to see what they do with the plants!