Gardening tips for newbies from an ex-newbie turned pro – Flagpole – Flagpole Magazine | Directory Mayhem

I feel like it’s time for an introductory column. After all, why do you want to take my advice? Maybe I just popped it in from a buzzfeed-like garden corner of the web.

Well I didn’t. While I’m not as savvy as some growers, most of the advice I’m happy to give and write isn’t for people with a decade of gardening under their belt – it’s for newbies. I love talking to people who are passionate about growing, trying different techniques, doing experiments in their backyards and thinking about what would work best for their soil or climate. You don’t have to build your first garden to take care of these things, but I find that most people who have done things a certain way for a certain period of time are happy to continue doing things that way – gardening like their father or grandmother did. I don’t have much advice for these people. They have a lot more experience, equipment and land than me.

My tilled lot is about a quarter acre and I don’t use a tiller. I identify more with the backyard gardener than with the commercial farmer. Some would say I’m not a farmer because of the size of my property and the equipment I don’t use. “Farmer” feels like I should have hundreds of acres or at least one tractor. To be honest, I like the British expression “plantswoman” best. It reflects my plant knowledge without the “farmer’s” expectation of a farm that spans thousands of acres and feeds America, or the organic, pastoral, multi-generational family business. I am neither.

Some readers may know my byline. I’m a former reporter for the Athenian Banner Herald and Editorial Advisor for The Red & Black. Some readers may know my face. I’ve hosted weddings in the Athens area for a long summer, served at a popular downtown restaurant, and drafted and packaged beer at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. I had several years as a die hard barfly. I’ve probably bagged your beer, poured you a drink, or drank next to you if you’ve lived in Athens for more than five years.

I found farming and gardening after quitting journalism. I wanted to be the boss for the future. I was tired of seeing business leaders make mistakes that I couldn’t control. I wanted to make decisions, assess their success and, if necessary, switch quickly. Farming appealed to me because entrepreneurship is so prevalent in the industry. It is possible to start a small farm without a bank loan. And i love food. It’s such a treat to eat locally grown food. Grocery stores are not comparable.

I started attending master gardening courses around Athens. I completed the volunteer work and decided to look for some green collar work to see what it would feel like. I got a part-time job on a small organic farm in Oglethorpe County. I loved it. I’ve learned a lot. My partner and I bought a house and land mainly because we wanted more dogs and I wanted space to experiment with different farms.

Next, I found a horticultural job as a full-time grower in a non-organic, typically ornamental, business. I learned even more. After 18 months I started to think seriously about my own possible venture. Spring, as you might imagine, is very busy for growers and I faced a six day work week with little time or energy to take small steps in my own business. So I got a job as a product manager on a certified organic farm. The five-day work week guaranteed enough time to make first attempts at selling crops and their own production and to learn more about the economic end of a farm.

Then my father died. Six months later, I quit working for other people and turned in the paperwork for my own Troublesome Creek Farm.

In all, I’ve been a plant woman for five years now. During this time I have learned a lot about large farms, small farms, organic farms, non-organic farms, vegetables and ornamental plants. I’ve worked with people who have degrees in horticulture and with people who are self-taught. I’ve learned from native Georgians, immigrants and even resettled northerners who talk about sweating in 80 degree heat.

This column is, in part, a way to make money writing while I make a mistake by learning how to be a better businesswoman. But mostly, this column aims to teach new and struggling gardeners how to grow plants. I’ve been where you are I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from my friends, colleagues and bosses so we can grow better together.

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