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Green Profile: Joe Lamp'l of Growing a Greener World

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Joe Lamp'l, gardener, green media personality extraordinare, and host and executive producer of Growing a Greener World on PBS.  

About Joe Lamp'l

Joe initially got into horticulture as a child, after breaking the branch off a shrub, sticking it into the ground, and seeing a mere few weeks later that it had taken root.  

Joe how he has been interested in sustainability for his whole life, but "there was an a-ha moment."  That moment was when he was using synthetic fertilizer in a hopper.  He hit a root and the fertilizer spilled, and he knew that using more than the recommended about of fertilizer is bad, so he tried to remove some of it.   The following day, there was a huge dead spot on the grass where the fertilizer had spilled.  "That was a huge graphic demonstration to me of what was in that stuff," he said, "It really got me going."

Joe got into media in 2002.  Joe had already been involved in the gardening community, and had a column about gardening.  One day at work, he was looking outside the window on a grey day in an office building in Downtown Atlanta, thinking about gardening.  His column editor forwarded an email about HGTV creating a show on their DIY network about gardening. The show needed a host, and his editor encouraged him to try out.  Joe got the job, and it gave him all sorts of opportunities that lead to book deals, syndicated columns, and appearances on NBC's Today Show.  

Joe lives green in his every day life, from bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, composting everything, and recycling everything.

Advice on Gardening and Sustainability

I asked Joe what kind of advice he had for someone who might want to start gardening but isn't sure how to begin.

"You dont know until you try!"  Joe's advice was to first pick a good location for your garden. For instance, plants that need full sun shouldn't be in the shade.  "Right plant, right place," he said.   Another key ingredient?  Compost!  "Compost is the magic bullet for many things," Joe explained.  So many things in compost help the plant and it's the key to a thriving garden.  Also, pay attention and practice. "the best gardeners are the ones who made the most mistakes because they learn from them."

What about seasoned gardeners who want to move into a more sustainable direction?

Joe's advice is to "get rid of chemicals. You don't need synthetic fertilizer or pesticides.  You need compost and mulch."  For composting, you can can use resources around your house like leaves, debris, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps.  You can be green by "keeping things out of the landfill and turning it into garden gold." Mulch is important because it keeps soil moist, suppress diseases, looks great, breaks down, and allows you to use less water.  

Since I live in New England, I was curious about what I can do to garden year-round in a climate with a longer winter.  He gave me a few ideas.  You could build a small greenhouse or a cold frame to extend the gardening season.  You could also grow indoors, either hydroponically or with lights.   

Where to find Joe

You can catch Joe on PBS, on his show Growing a Greener World.   Additionally, he has a YouTube channel, a podcast, and a blog.