We start an experiment today based on our audience telling us what they’d like to see on our platforms: a gardening column specific to conditions in Northeast Ohio.
Why gardening? I send out a text message each weekday morning to just under 1,000 people who subscribe for free, discussing stories we have in the works and questions we seek to answer. Sometimes, I ask for help, as I did a few weeks back. I noted the signs that people were burning out on all the bad news around them and asked what kinds of content people would like to see for relief from the news. (You can subscribe to the texts at https://joinsubtext.com/chrisquinn )
The text subscribers responded as they usually do, in large numbers with lots of good thoughts. In this case, they mentioned gardening. A lot.
As it happened, we had a candidate at the ready. Last year, we put out the call for people interested in writing freelance Metro columns for us, and one of the people who applied discussed gardening in her letter. When we interviewed her, she said she would like writing a Metro column but in a perfect world, she would write a gardening column. She said she would approach gardening the way our travel editor, Susan Glaser, approaches travel writing, by taking people along for the journey.
We’re granting her wish. Susan Brownstein’s first column appeared Friday on cleveland.com and is in the Metro section of The Sunday Plain Dealer. It’s not an introductory column. She dives right in, with everything you need to know about growing tomatoes for the first time. (She’s trying to grow San Marzano tomatoes from seed, but I’m sticking with what I did last year, growing San Marzanos from mail-order plants grafted on vigorous root stock. I had one that filled a space 8 feet long and four feet high last year.)
Susan is not a university extension agent. She doesn’t work at a garden center. She’s an engineer who has done technical editing and writing. She moved her family to Cleveland from Southern California three years ago after a nationwide search for the best place to raise a family. She chose Cleveland, in part for its parks, museums, low cost of living and lack of traffic but also for its thriving Jewish community. She’s working on a book of interviews of people who are Jewish by choice and their perspectives on Judaism.
What we like about Susan is that she is a hobbyist gardener, like many of us. The aim here is a tour guide in the Greater Cleveland garden, someone who knows a lot but is still learning, just like you and me.
In the weeks ahead, she will narrate her experience with splitting perennials for swapping with friends, shrinking her lawn and creating a native pollinator garden, what she calls the “life-changing magic of not tidying up her flower beds,” growing herbs in containers, battling plant-devouring deer, composting, handling insects and some general philosophy of being in the garden.
This will be a weekly column, part of the effort to introduce people to pastimes they might enjoy. It will also be available only to subscribers to cleveland.com or The Plain Dealer. You can subscribe at https://www.cleveland.com/subscribe/
We also begin an occasional series on other pursuits Saturday, with columnist Ted Diadiun describing his two decades of experience as a rower on the Cuyahoga River. Ted explains what it was like becoming a rower, why he enjoys it immensely each summer and how you might try it out.
Some of the people who received my text made clear that they do not desire this kind of content. They just want news. But the large majority said to bring on content like this, so check out Ted and Susan this weekend on cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.