Gestalt Gardener

A couple months ago a friend turned me onto the Gestalt Gardener Podcast, out of Jackson, Mississippi. You maybe wondering, why would anyone who lives in California listen to a garden show out of the old south… but it’s absolutely addicting! I listen when I’m working in gardens, when I’m driving, when I’m walking the dogs, etc. Felder Rushing’s southern twang is addicting and hilarious. In past episodes I have literally heard a caller ask how to get rid of wild hogs that keep coming and tearing up his front lawn!

Felder’s approach to gardening is much like my own, laid back and whatever works for you… except for his deviation from organic products. Below is the email correspondence in which we met. (Please read… good stuff) From those emails a podcast interview with Jenn was born! You can check that out on the radio’s website or by searching iTunes under Gestalt Gardener. It’s the September 4th 2009 Podcast and I’m 17 minutes into the hour long show.

My Original Email:

Hey Felder –

My name is Jennifer, and I’m a landscape designer/farmer in Half Moon Bay, California. I want to say, a month ago I was turned onto your podcast and absolutely love it. When I’m not at a client’s house getting obscenely dirty – I’m in my office drawing designs and listening to you.
Today I heard you suggest to a man to purchase …. it’s hard for me to even say….. MIRACLE GRO!

I think I’ve heard you mention that you are not a die-hard organics fan, but I was surprised to hear you suggest that. (It’s sooooo 1990’s, circa when know one cared about the environment!)
As you know, not only harmful to plants and the environment, the corporations involved with Miricle-gro are very damaging to the environment.

Do you think there is a multi-purpose organic fertilize that you could recommend to your listens?

Above is a link that may be helpful…. I’m sure you know all this just thought I’d spur you away from the dark side!

Thanks for your great show. Enclosed is a pic of me putting some worms on my broccoli seedlings… Jenn

Felder’s Response:

thanks for writing – i a lot of work on the west coast, and am even familiar with your part of the coastline (i often stay with a friend in Los Altos).


and yeah, i mostly try to stick with natural or organic (i’m past vice president of our state’s organic growers association, and have had several articles and one book published by Rodale Press/Organic Gardening magazine. i use locally-produced organic compost (what little in need, after making my own – i even vermicompost in my home), locally-produced organic cotton seed meal and catfish emulsion… heck, i even own and have read – and generally agree with – michael pollan et al.


in short, i am well aware of both the benefits and challenges of using all natural approach to gardening, as well as the BIG problems created by the production and overuse of synthetic materials. i am aware of the serious and negative impacts made on the world by agrichemical corporations.


but i am not vapid or shrill about it – too many well-meaning folks get their shorts in a knot over narrow, sometimes zealous approaches to life, and end up alienating their audiences and becoming marginalized and ineffective.


so, just as i occasionally kill a little part of the world’s resources by sometimes driving to the grocery store instead of riding my bike or walking, and by planting a few mediterreanean plants like daffodils and fig trees in with my native flowers and fruits, and by supplementing the rainwater i collect in my 300-gallon cistern with stuff from the faucet, and by not complaining when my dear wife sometimes uses the dryer for some of her clothes (while i put on scratchy underwear dried on our clothesline), and by feeding our dogs good quality food while people even in my own community are starving – isn’t EVERYTHING a slippery slope? – i find the occasional use of SELECT synthetic garden products – at least those that have relatively marginal side effects – perfectly acceptable. even if it means i am supporting agribusiness to some degree.


in short, that particular caller needed a quick “pick me up” fertilizer; because natural fertilizers have to be broken down by soil organisms, they are generally slow acting – better for the LONG haul – so i recommended a shot-in-the-arm approach. and i feel okay about it.


but i REALLY do appreciate your concern and your own efforts at doing what is best. in fact, i would be most happy to have my producer call you some friday morning (between 7 and 8 your time) for us to yak for a few minutes about how you use your red wrigglers to jazz up the soil in your seedlings… really!


meanwhile, here’s to chipping away at agrichemicals rather than pushing back and getting squashed!




been to my website ( ? it’s pretty funky. looking forward to your gettingt something up on!

In the Garden

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