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Meet our new gardening expert

A

s a young boy I hung upside down, clinging to a thick branch on a maple tree in my grandmother’s front yard watching her tend the garden.

In a flowered housecoat with purple piping, she carefully watered tomato plants in a place she called the “gully,” between her house and the next-door neighbor’s, in the little town of Lisbon, Ohio.

It was my introduction to gardening.

As I jumped to the ground and ran over to her, she showed me the proper way to water the plants, making sure the foliage stayed dry, but the roots received everything they needed. The aroma of the foliage as I brushed against the plants stays with me to this day, reminding me of her as I transplant my own seedlings.

After returning home, I begged my mother to let me put a vegetable garden in our backyard, inspired by what I saw at grandma’s house. After a week of nagging, she relented, and together we put tomato and pepper plants into the ground on Memorial Day.

It was the start of a gardening obsession which persists today, nearly 60 years later.

While working for newspapers, first in Ohio and then Pittsburgh, I wrote about my passion for gardening, telling stories of the gardeners I’d meet through the decades.

While doing that, KDKA-TV and WQED-TV took an interest and I was lucky enough to win an Emmy for my PBS documentary The Gardens of Pennsylvania.

Every Sunday morning since 2005, I’ve hosted The Organic Gardener Radio Show for KDKA radio, talking gardening, answering questions, trying to help newbies and long-time gardeners alike.

It’s thrilling to get a chance to tell these stories to you through Mt. Lebanon Magazine. What would you like read about when it comes to gardening? And what interesting gardeners should I meet?

One thing to know about my approach to gardening; it’s supposed to be fun and therapeutic. Keeping that in mind when the deer are defoliating rhododendrons or slugs are feasting on hostas is truly a challenge.

But when the stars align and you’re standing barefoot in the garden devouring handfuls of warm cherry tomatoes, it’s all worth it, right? I’m sure my grandmother would agree.