When I first started this garden blog in 2009, I had no intentions. I started blogging on a bit of a whim. I started gardening in Austin in earnest three years earlier. I'd built a raised bed or two or ten and planted things in them that actually did what I’d hoped they’d do, and I was very excited about my successes. I wanted a space to write about my garden as it continued to grow and evolve, to keep records and notes on gardening stuff that I could refer back to, and to connect to other gardening enthusiasts, particularly those in Austin.
Despite my numerous garden failures over four decades in Houston, Susie and Chuk’s garden inspired me to give gardening a go in Austin. Susie and Chuk have a huge back yard in South Austin, full of native plants that attract chirping hummingbirds and flitting butterflies, plus a vegetable garden where Chuk grows hot peppers and tomatoes and herbs for making all manner of salsas and hot sauces, plus shade trees and a peach tree, plus open space for fire pits and smokers and setting off fireworks and other hot and festive goings-on.
When I posted on Facebook in April 2009 that I was thinking about starting a garden blog (yes, Facebook came first), Susie said she’d been thinking about starting a garden blog, too. I told Susie her garden had inspired me, and Susie said my garden had inspired her, particularly the things I’d planted in preparation for our 2007 backyard wedding. (The garden did look ridiculously good that spring.)
Then Susie said, “It's settled, we should both start gardening blogs and continue to inspire each other. :o)”
So we did.
And on my very first post, Laura Wills of Some Like It Hot (then; now, Wills Family Acres) told me about the Austin garden blogging community and suggested I contact Pam Penick (Digging, Lawn Gone!, The Water-Saving Garden) to get connected. Eight years later, I’m still blogging, I'm still gardening, and in 2012, I became a Travis County Master Gardener to boot - so thank you, Laura! (Laura just finished Master Gardener training this fall and is starting her internship this month.)
When I first started this blog, everything about my gardening exploits seemed interesting. Every blossom, every new planting, every garden tool, every pest was a topic to be researched, photographed, and expounded upon at length. The words willingly tumbled out of my brain and onto the page. I wrote 73 posts in 2009. Most were several paragraphs long and all had several accompanying high-resolution photos.
Eight years later, I’m still very interested in gardening, yet I struggle to write a post. I wrote five blog posts in 2015 - five! - which happens to be, coincidentally, the total number of posts Susie wrote on her garden blog in 2009 before she threw in the towel. Blogging isn’t for everyone. Some people would rather just do a thing than write about the doing of a thing.
Early on, my blogging was solely focused on ideas and projects and things I was learning about gardening in Central Texas. I had thoughts and plans and I couldn’t wait to get them out of my head and onto the page. Now that I'm a more experienced gardener, blogging seems like an utterly daunting task at times - sort of like gardening, ha ha ha. The prospect of writing paragraphs upon paragraphs of text with A Theme and Reflections and A Takeaway in TextEdit, hauling the Nikon out to the garden for photos, reviewing and processing dozens (occasionally, hundreds) of photos in Photoshop and uploading them to Flickr, then transferring it all, text and photos, to my ancient, glitchy, quirky Blogger template, then deleting the annoying Flickr text overlays off each and every photo, then adding text hyperlinks, then reading and proofreading and spell-checking and re-writing ad nauseam - it's all too much at times, Big Noisy Sigh; just another chore. It's not a private journal, after all; it's a public blog, open to comments, and writing is hard, y'all.
In contrast, it’s easy to write a Facebook post’s worth of words and snap an iPhone photo or two, and quick, too, with almost immediate feedback from friends and family. Facebook might be partially responsible for the obvious decline in independent, personal interest blogging. Facebook has even tried to revamp Notes as a blogging platform of sorts. Alas, the kids just aren't that into blogging; apparently, blogs are for old people. Others point to the death of Google Reader in 2013, or the rise in Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram, or the move from desktop computing and keyboards to mobile computing and touchscreens, coupled with the relentless onslaught of comment spam that caused many bloggers to turn off blog comments, not to mention the noxious blog scrapers, or the malware that redirects your visitors to other sites through seemingly innocuous gadgets... or maybe a little of all of the above. In any event, less blogging + fewer comments = poof! - there goes the community. Sponsored blogs, monetized blogs and blogs largely dedicated to “review and giveaway” posts seem more prominent today. Building an online personal brand, search engine optimization (SEO), web traffic, hits, clicks, page views, social media "strategy" and other PR trappings became Things that indie bloggers were supposed to start caring about and largely didn't, particularly Millennials.
While blogging's hey-day seems to have passed, that isn't necessarily a bad thing; it is what it is. But Lainie's question makes me think - does posting gardening stuff on Facebook achieve my original goals for my garden blog, i.e., a digital garden journal and a way to connect with other gardening enthusiasts? No, it doesn’t. If it did, I would have never started a garden blog. If no one read my blog - would there still be benefits to blogging? Yes. I do want to keep a garden journal, and this blog works well for that. I do look back at old posts from time to time; most recently, to figure out when my garden broccoli started forming heads in past years. For such purposes, I appreciate the chronology and linear time perspective of a traditional blog. (It's much more difficult to find old posts on Facebook.) Also, if I stopped blogging, I wouldn't be a part of the Austin garden bloggers community anymore, and that would be a tremendous loss. But I'm not a natural journal-keeper. I didn't journal a lot when I was younger. It doesn't come naturally to me. And since I've slacked off on blogging, now there are gaps in my garden journal.
In addition to my blogging struggles, my garden is in a wee bit of upheaval as well. After a decade of gardening in Austin (wow, a whole decade now!), some garden areas aren’t really working as well as in years past (read: too high maintenance) and could use an overhaul, tons of plants have flat-out died, and the projects are piling up faster than I can shovel.
We got approval in October 2015 to install a 550-gallon barrel for collecting rainwater off our patio roof and obtain a rebate from the city, but other more pressing concerns this fall and winter pushed that shovel-ready project to the back burner, and I’m not confident we’ll make our late January installation deadline.
This past summer, we came to a verbal agreement with a noisy neighbor to split the cost of a cedar fence, so I took down the raised veggie plots near our shared property line at summer’s end and began removing the bird-planted brush along the chain-link fence. Unfortunately, the neighbor backed out of the deal when he saw the price estimates we’d gotten, so now we’ll have to fund the full cost ourselves. In the interim, I’m struggling with half the veggie garden space I’m used to, and I’m not sure what I’ll do with that space once the fence is up - more raised beds? Stock tank planters? A huge berm? Lots of decisions for someone that's not great at garden design.
Meanwhile, the noise from the neighbor’s gas-powered commercial lawn equipment, 5-ton refrigerated cargo truck and barking, whining Husky pup continues to invade our residence, day and night, through our leaky Sixties-era aluminum windows. Replacing our windows might reduce the noise, but at a significant cost, and our houses are very, very close, so how much noise abatement is actually possible is questionable. Nonetheless, I intend to start saving up to fund that home improvement project, once my car is paid off in a couple of months.
In November 2014, we erected a DIY greenhouse - a short "high tunnel" of sorts - over the lime tree that outgrew the pop-up greenhouse. It works splendidly to keep the grackles off in summer and the frost away in winter. But it needs weeding, too, and the moisture-resistant stick-on zipper doors are not holding up well, so at some point, we’ll need to build proper doors for the thing.
In February 2014, we put in a retaining wall (a project I never blogged about); the builder recommended topping the eroded soil with compost then rock. Two years later, that space has become overgrown with weeds; the front garden is weedy as well. I’ve decided that cardboard under hardwood mulch is likely the most sustainable, low-maintenance and walkable solution for the weedy paths, but weed-whacking and rock removal comes first.
Did I mention the word daunting?
But I digress. Back to the point of the post! I intend to keep this blog going, of course, because the Austin garden blogging community is full of warm and inspiring and knowledgable and generous people, and I want to remain a part of it, in addition to the national garden blogging community, and the Garden Bloggers Fling that the Austin garden bloggers inspired. Toward that goal:
- I intend to write no fewer than one post a season, and ideally a post a month.
- I intend to devote a minimum of four hours a month (an average of an hour a week) toward blogging.
- I intend to schedule blogging time like I would any other appointment.
- Rather than posting on Facebook, I intend to post gardening stuff here, on this blog, then link the post to Facebook.
- Last but most certainly not least, I intend to dedicate an hour a week to commenting on garden blogs I follow.
To reduce the “dauntingness” of blogging, the length of my posts will likely decrease, and perhaps the number of photos. This post took well over 4 hours to write and put together, which pretty much guarantees my future posts won't be nearly this long. There's something to be said for simplicity: more posts, less rambling! Happy new year to all!
Words and photos © 2009-2016 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.