240. GardenRant | DC Gardens | Susan Harris | Maryland

Susan Harris Garden Rant DC Gardens

Wednesday June 27, 2018. I’m thrilled to introduce this guest, I was visiting my mom in NY and I took this book out of her library and it was called


Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives

And the introduction is by Susan Harris! And she is here with me today and i know you are just going to love her.

I grew up gardening a bit with both grandmothers and mother

I wasn’t really obsessed until I got help

The pay off once I got a little help, the result looked so much better.

I have been a really intense gardener ever since! 

I became very active in my local gardening club, I was writing in the newsletter. Someone said blogging was very easy so the very next day I started my very first blog, I started me in garden writing.

Shortly after Amy Stewart asked if I would like to partner?


Garden Rant

The Tagline is Uprooting the gardening world

pretty nervy

The mission was to have opinionated writing and be able to say what we wanted and not have to worry about advertising. That led to being paid to write for magazines. I’ve written for a lot of gardening companies in my area. It just kind of snow balled from there.

I call my audience green future growers, and I feel like they are like that are more then just gardeners, we’re trying to grow as much of our food as we can for a year so we can massively supplement our produce bill.

Green Future Growers

I know a lot of my listeners have green businesses, either seed companies, or education or not always market farmers but some kind of healthy nutritious business that requires a blog and do you have any tips for making that easier or for starting to becoming a successful blog writer.

Oh gosh

Well back then in 2005 there were so few of us we all knew each other

the event they call the Gardener Blog Fling

They just celebrated their 10th year by returning to Austin. I would say just reading each others blogs and getting together in person we’ve become a pretty tight knit group. I don’t do much blog reading anymore. After 13 years of blogging just posting once a week which is just right, I’m glad I have a platform to post things.

Garden Blog Writing Resources

  • how to get blog reader
  • write specifically for the web
  • there’s much to know about it

jump in

published my first blog

moved to different platforms

find it so easy

enjoy digital photography

You can show them off in many places


still I like the blogging because it’s not just photos because there’s text. I miss the text, if there was just pictures in Instagram. 

I notice similar things. I feel like when I’m on my phone my eyes get tired when there’s mostly just pictures. I like Facebook more because there’s more white space. I’m doing better with Instagram on my computer for looking and posting comments.

A little different tone

ranting quite a bit

Our least favorite home owner association rules that require you to have turf grass

Our least favorite chemical companies that does a lot of advertising that pushes people to have the perfect lawn!

We would often post about our favorite gardening shows on tv were gone!

I learned to garden largely by watching HGTV and watching 

Paul James Gardening by the Yard out of Tulsa

We had a lot to rant about at first.

You can’t keep repeating those same topics.

We’ve gotten a little political with the changes coming to environmental law. Typically you don’t here politics mentioned on garden blogs. Maybe if it’s plant related you occasionally go there.

We have stories.

There are seven of us that are regularly blog there. Some are regular story tellers, some of our contributors. They know a lot more then I do about plants.

I might have to check that out more. I’m a pretty vocal activist, I love that about my podcast I can actually be me. I love that about my listeners who come to be guests and guests who become listeners.

That was the best thing about going to NY was meeting listeners and guests like Elizabeth Leonard and Aiden Finney at Young’s Farms. 

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I just remember that both my mother and grandmother had beautiful gardens. My mother would rather weed then anything. What it did for her.

Emotionally spending time in the garden.

I did a lot with her, but as an adult I attempted to make my yard pretty, but I really needed a professional to really kick start it.

I have happy memories of Central Virginia, but I am from Des Moines. I grow pretty much the same plants. It has a pretty nice family history.

I love that not just like because I am a teacher but also because I took guitar lessons and it was like overnight I could play a million songs. It changed everything! So I’m a big proponent of getting help.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

Joe Lamp’l he was talking about how people learn to garden with the TV shows gone, if you don’t have someone in real life one-on-one. The thing to find the very best Youtube videos that teach people to garden. If you can to find the ones that are high quality that are accurate, you can put the exact search terms in YouTube and get your answers very quickly. 

That’s a great way to learn.

Myself, I’ve enjoyed as a professional, being a garden coach for people

in person teacher

go to someone’s yard

jump start

give them design ideas

plant suggestions for what to put in the ground. Especially pruning is a very intimidating garden job and hard to learn. When you’re hacking away at their overgrown forsythia. 

one on one teaching

I personally didn’t get much of them myself. 

Paul James used to have this great gardening show who was very much an organic gardener and ornamentals!

I don’t grow food and I’m not a cook.

I learned so much about how to grow plants!

how to create a beautiful yard! A beautiful garden!


What would be like one tip on what would you give somebody on what they could do to give their yard? Is there a tip you can give?

Well to get some professional help design help, but if you know someone who has a garden that you think is pretty, you could ask them to give you some tips.

It does’t have to be a professional set of eyes, just another set of eyes from someone who you know. 

just an experiences

Visit gardens and garden tours!

free organic garden course.com

That’s funny because when I was in NY I got my mom to finally put a new set of eyes on my Free Organic Gardener Course and she was helpful but it was like we never got past the first lesson.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

We moved to a town house

  • front yard and back yard
  • adopted 5 other gardens in my yard
  • tools in the back of my car
  • couldn’t stop

what’s growing well?


especially in one of them fairly large one story office building and a budget would reimburse me whatever I bought!

To create a low maintenance garden that won’t need a lot of attention for me in a couple of years. 

I think a great technique for a low maintenance garden.

mainly shrubs

that won’t get too big

combination of ever green and flowering ones

grow quite quickly


My favorite shrub now that I am putting everywhere. IS called Ninebark.

It is native in this part of this world. It grows fast and has purple foliage! So it really contrasts with another favorite of mine which 


So you have all that color without having to rely on flowers

color in the leaves

Some old evergreens I have incorporated.

Flowers are later in the year.

  • daffodils
  • black eyed Susan’s
  • pockets of perennials in between

couple of years down the road

Well see down the road how much maintenance it really is

good layer of mulch

perennial but mainly shrubs.

little drips and drabs of flowering

At my moms there was a house across the street that had black eyed Susans that looked so dainty etc.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I would like to stop trying new things

stop creating new gardens

I need to cut back

to add nothing more, frankly

Just take care of what I got and stop adopting new gardens! I’m having a lot of fun teaching people in my community to garden. Working with the city crew with the way they maintain city gardens. That’s my focus now. Thinking about that more then what to change in my garden.

I like that too if you can give them some ideas. Especially after being at my moms, and the landscapers do everything. But her neighbor’s do have the little flags that say don’t walk your dog here for 24 hours and it’s strange because it smells so good but it does look strange that there’s not a ton of weeds growing everywhere. They do have a lot of shrubs.

I have to hold my tongue

they’re still putting in dozens of annuals that need irrigation in full sun and a lot of weeding!

They have been doing a lot of

Plant choices

They are not preventing weeds so it’s a mess. Part of what we’re doing is just redesign, so that there’s just a lot less maintenance going forward. That’s the best we can do. It’s very gratifying. As we change some of the city landscapes we can use that as a teaching opportunity to show the residents what the changes are and why.

This is fascinating, I’ll bet listeners are thinking, maybe I should go talk to my town board or give a presentation. Why are they planting those annuals there? Even though guests talk about it a lot but I only think really about by my house, but I am already thinking about there are two places when you pull into Eureka where there are big signs with flowers so I am going to have to look and see what’s growing there. I love perennials. 

Mary Reynolds Movie on Netflix Dare To Be Wild

I was going to ask have you seen that movie Dare to Be Wild? On Netflix about Mary Reynolds? She wins like the Chelsea Flower Show in England. My mom just stumbled upon it. It’s about this real woman. She’s like the first woman and they just made a movie about here. It’s all about Native Landscaping.

Shrubs like Nine bark, Oak leaf hydrangea and Spirea Ogon

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.


Deer eating sedum

got a ground cover junipers

junipers do really well here and they are native

Giving up on salvias and tall sedum because of the deer.

Deer can be a challenge. The only that grows here they don’t eat is the peonies. Our place is kind of like a sanctuary because our neighbors are always shooting so the deer are all over so Mike has built nice fences.

Before we get to the root of things let’s thank our sponsors and affiliates!


~ Seed Voyage ~

Remember you can get the  2018 Garden Journal and Data Keeper to record your garden goals in ourhttps://amzn.to/2lLAOyo

You can  download the first 30 days here   while you’re waiting for it to come in the mail. 

Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

My least favorite is applying any product of any kind. That’s kind of why I don’t use the term organic gardener for myself particularly I try to avoid products whether they’re synthetic or either one even if they are harmless. 

I find it a hassle, I know I am not a lazy gardener. Buying some products that 

just don’t do it

just get rid of plants

if your growing food

Maybe there is a payoff in fighting the bugs or attacking your crops, if it’s ornamental I just say is get rid of it because it is just not worth it

I’ll ever apply is mulch

in my pots ~ I do feed my pots once a month

A fish-based fertilizes.

I like that. We’re kind of that way too. Even if it’s something mike is growing we just throw it over the fence or the chickens or the chickens get it for the bugs and then the deer will eat it.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

Definitely just looking at it everyday. Look at my garden, walk around with my coffee, tweaking it in my mind

in the growing season

Winter is frustrating because nothing is different

In the growing season it’s such a thrill something is different!

5 other gardens!

Just enjoying the garden

scheming for changes is my top thing to do is more active.

Renewal pruning

Tackling an overgrown shrub and bringing it back to life. It’s not like sculpture where you are making it a certain shape. With pruning you just encourage a plant to grow a certain way. 

pruners garden tool

Wow, there is a lot to think about it. My mom makes it look easy. She did send me the most awesome pair of CutCo Pruners. It did make it a game changer.

I have a couple of different of hand pruners, all different brands. My big thrill in the tool department is a

lopper by Fiskars

go through branches a couple of inches thick. Just like butter! It’s a big thrill. Idk why I struggled with a bad lopper for years when a lopper that does a good job you can have

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

To repeat I think it’s to get help. Get design help from a designer.

paid help or from a friend, I just think in my community here last year we organized little garden visits. Like consultations where experienced gardeners would go and the other club members would talk about how to improve their gardens. It was fun. 

My top tip is to have a few pairs of eyes. Get some other ideas. 

Especially if you’re doing something like pruning

Master gardeners will have workshops and demonstrations on pruning

I told my mom to make me a list of things I can say besides I LOVE THAT but I do especially with my Free Organic Gardener Course, lesson three is talk to your neighbors and other gardeners. I just talked with one of my listeners who just moved to Idaho from California and she said she wished she did talk to her neighbors because she talked to the nursery people but not the organic neighbors and she planted the wrong grass that requires a lot of water. 

I was gonna say, something else

My non-profit about lawn care

Lawns has been one of my top interests as a garden writer because I really think if you look at the big picture in this country. Americans do more harm than any other single practice. To make them perfect and weed free and green then they need to be


good enough lawn

freedom lawn

mix of weeds

which is fine

Even the extension services

lawn care advice now like Cornell

If you are managing a golf course or country club

For most people low maintenance, low input, organics is going to be good enough for you!

So don’t jump when the adds are on tv in the spring run out and by some synthetic product! 

The over-fertilizing is worse then the pesticides as well! People are surprised at that.  I encourage people to go easy on their lawn

have a decent lawn

without a lot of money and work

set their sites

good source of guidance

Maryland Extension


That’s so important. So many more droughts or floods, and wildfires, and that’s one thing that pointed out that’s where your dogs run, that’s where your kids learn to crawl, that’s where your kids run around and play. That’s the last place and a healthy soil isn’t gonna need water. 

I’m in the east where there’s enough rain. It’s reasonable to have lawn here, IDK what I would do in a dry part of the country.

Talk about kids on the lawn

People with kids especially need lawn

IDK what you do out west in a fairly sustainable way?

I live where we have enough rain. 

I know where my mom lives, everyone’s got a sprinkler that pops up still to water every morning. 

too much product

if we adjusted our expectations we would

brown is the new green, so if you have a bright green lawn in August you’re doing something wrong.

I like that. Brown is the new green, like environmentally green right. That’s cute!

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be..

Loppers by Fiskars

A favorite internet resource? 





good gardening videos

We found about  elected about 800 videos about all sorts of people. Especially for growing vegetables.

One Yard Revolution

Alberta Urban Garden

Somewhere in Alberta. He just does excellent work

They are very up on their research!

I encourage you to find the best

you tubers that grow what your trying to grow

Margaret Roach

her blog is just excellent

Joe Lamp’l

It’s so true! You can totally lost. I was kind of embarrassed when I asked Joe LAmp’l that last question I thought but I watch him every Saturday. I wonder if it’s becasue of youtrube that no one is watching tv anymore.

One more internet source that’s just great

FB Garden Professors

  • science based group
  • evidence based
  • 10-15k people around the world
  • people ask questions that post based on evidence
  • have a lot of respect for that
  • really have to know
  • better have the research to back up what I’m saying
  • pretty strict
  • go there whenever I have a question

if you have a questions that you’ve seen conflicting

I like that because I’m big on science. One of the first videos I made was on the science of Climate Change by 350.org.

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?


Fine Gardening Magazine I know the editor there. I have a lot of respect for his process. He doesn’t just hire a writer, he will choose a topic and find the most knowledgeable person on that topic. He is committed to finding the best sources


I don’t really read garden books anymore. I’m embarrassed to say that because I have so many friends who have written garden books, but I guess I’m just doing now more then reading. 

It sounds like you know a lot and read a lot.

Final question-

If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

Climate change

There’s just no getting away from that, I think even though this is a discouraging time to be living in this country on this topic.

Anything you can do to get people in office that will do things about climate change at all levels. It isn’t just in charge of EPA. Or even who your Congress person is. You can do things at the state level and locally.

We need people elected who will do something about it.

Marie's List GC

My question that my mom and I were wondering is what can we do to get people to vote. She’s on this big get people to vote campaign. She started this little group. I think she’s even at a dinner for the League of Women Voters Right now. And so we are so curious why are millennials not voting? What can we do to get the millennials interested.

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

What would get people to garden

how do you motivate people

I think they are overwhelmed

first garden I was overwhelmed

I focus on helping people get started who wants to help anyone who does garden

someone they know who wants to start garden

Hand Holding

  • draw a little border
  • plant in the corner
  • a little color
  • just get started

Even if it’s just a small part of their yard first

ornamentals which is my passion

hold their hand

get the big pay off

seeing beauty plants growing well

When it comes to growing food I’m no good at inspiring people to grow food, I don’t cook myself.  Leave it to people who know how to grow how.

Well, technically I don’t grow food either, I personally stick to sunflowers and things that are pretty easy to grow. My husband does that. But I do feel like after listening to all my guests if something happened and there were no more stores and I had to feed some people I probably could if I could find the seeds.


Last year I had a guinea pig in my classroom, and I had an emergency and missed three days of work and I realized that I was doing more then I thought because when I came back the lettuce had died. The kids were so used to me doing it. FYI This is where I would often just pour coffee directly in the beds. I’m the eater.

How do we connect with you?



another one in washintgon dc

16 public gardens





You see what the gardens through the seasons a lot of visitors think you can’t see anything except in the spring….

I’ll tell you what I saw on Garden Rant today was pretty informative so reach out if you have a question or want to share. I think a lot of people will be inspired to try some designs and landscaping! Your passion really cam through!

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.


Here’s a post I wrote summarizing the Cornell approach to low-maintenance lawn care.  Would appreciate your helping more people see it.





Garden Professors Blog Facebook Group

Organic Gardening Podcast Group

We’d love if you’d join  Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community!

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

and don’t forget if you need help getting started check out our new 

Free Garden Course.com


 Free Organic Garden Course 

Remember you can get the  2018 Garden Journal and Data Keeper to record your garden goals in ourhttps://amzn.to/2lLAOyo

You can  download the first 30 days here   while you’re waiting for it to come in the mail. 

Organic Gardening Podcast Group

We’d love if you’d join  Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community!

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.