There are few blogs as helpful, diverse, well designed, and fun as You Grow Girl. Gayla is the author of 4 best-selling garden and food books! Her posts are informative & fun and her blog is borderline addictive! I was lucky enough to interview her for her insights on planning a garden this season & more!
I started writing about gardening back in my 20’s when I launched YouGrowGirl.com. That was 14 years ago! At the time I was growing all sorts of plants on the roof of my apartment building and in a little patch of City-owned land on a very busy urban street. I had been learning by trial and error in these very urban spaces and didn’t feel that my experiences as a young, urban gardener on a very tight budget were well represented in gardening media at the time. My career was in graphic design -- I had the tools and knowledge to build a website, so I did. A lot has changed over the years and a few gardens have come and gone since then, but my perspective is still very much the same. I have grown in many unusual spaces (always on a budget) and my primary interest is still in empowering those who want to garden to try, regardless of the resources (or lack thereof) that they have available to them. I am also committed to expressing the often overlooked and undervalued benefits that come from the experience of tending plants: a feeling of accomplishment and can-do; small or large steps towards independence from the prevailing industrial food systems; connection to the world around us; reconnecting to our child brains in the form of discovery, wonder, and serious play; and so much more.
I couldn't agree more that the value of the experience of growing your own food is what brings communities of gardeners together. Your recognition of this makes your blog truly unique and fun to read.
Given everyone's anticipation of the Spring, I will gear this interview towards preparation for the growing season. When do you recommend gardeners start planning their gardens?
Anytime. You may not be able to do much in the winter months (depending on your climate), but you can still plan and dream about what you want your garden to look like and what you want to grow. You can order seeds and start some of them. I also find it helps to start watching the way that the light falls in your gardening space as well as determining where the cold and warm spots are located. So much about learning to garden is in observation, which has no single season. Of course, you can garden indoors year-round!
When it comes to food plants I think about what I’d like to eat. I also think back to which plants or varieties do best in my space and try to be realistic about how much of the appropriate growing space (think soil and sunlight) I can allot to the plants I want to grow.
With ornamentals I focus on the plants that do well in the growing conditions in my garden with a special emphasis on plants that are useful in some other way (i.e. dye plants or those that attract pollinators) and drought tolerant.
That said, I don’t make many solid plans and tend to leave a lot of room for plants that catch my fancy. I never really know what I am going to grow until it goes into the ground and I tend to over-sow certain crops such as tomatoes since I know I can always find a home for the extras. As a garden writer I place a lot of importance on personal experience so much of my gardening is about experimentation. For that reason I also grow things that don’t appeal to me personally so I can see how they perform and test them in a range of conditions.
Do you have a favorite thing to grow?
Should I be forced to narrow it down to one plant, I will always choose tomatoes. There is so much variety both within the plants themselves as well as the fruit. I figure I could spend my whole life focusing on tomatoes and never be bored. They are also a long-term annual crop so there is a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from nurturing a tomato from seed to fruit.
See her latest "Tomatoes Worth Growing" post here!
Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to recommend readers make with their harvest?
Sure. Since I’ve mentioned tomatoes, you can use this one from my book, Drinking the Summer Garden .