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Winter Pruning

bug on berries

I feel like I am saying this all the time – winter is a sad time for the gardener. But this is the natural way; the tomatoes get smaller as the summer heat is blown away by the refreshing autumn air, the trees shed their leaves & soon the snow will be falling. Though the winter is an off-season (until we get some land with high tunnels or greenhouses :)) it is one of the most critical seasons for reflecting, planning, & executing a great next season.

There is great pain in destroying all that you created to support your garden, but also great satisfaction in looking back to all that we harvested & enjoyed, and the lessons learned along the way. Just from clean-up I learned 1 thing – I am never using bamboo as a staking method for tomatoes again. Bamboo is a go-to stake because of cost & the sustainability factor, but I ran into a few issues:

  1. Insert the thicker end of cane into the ground, not the skinny end. Once the tomato plants got loaded up with fruit, the weight coupled with wind & rain, caused some of the stakes to actually snap!
  2. A little too flexible for the Florida Weave Trellis (check it out here).
  3. What do I do with all this used bamboo?? Once the season was done, I pulled out the bamboo stakes – 50 from the tomatoes & 60 from the peppers. The labor wasn’t difficult, it’s just the clean-up & disposal that takes time. And the fact that the stakes can’t be reused makes me feel wasteful – even though bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet.
  4. Tying & securing plants to stakes is another area I want to modify. Next year I’ll be moving my plant tying to a Max Tapener Machine – basically, it holds plant tie ribbon in a dispenser & with one hand you can secure a plant to a stake. The tie holds up to the elements, but the main challenges we kill with this machine are labor for plant tying & saving money switching from the ADC bands I’m currently using.

As a gardener, you want to reuse everything; to be the most sustainable & resourceful steward of the land that you can possibly be. But this isn’t always the case. You need to pull yourself from your emotions & throw your old & consumable supplies away to prevent the spread of disease from this year’s plants to next.

When you think of a gardener, you probably envision someone covered in dirt and who isn’t afraid of getting dirty – you wouldn’t think it, but cleanliness of the garden is the first thing on their minds – and it starts in the off-season.

Winter is about reflection, but it’s also about pruning the excess from your life in order to facilitate growth. We must clip dead limbs & branches from our trees & shrubs, opening the plants to more sunlight exposure, managing excessive growth in some parts of the plant, and encouraging new growth in other parts.

It isn’t only the plants that need pruned. Take a minute to examine where you’ve grown so far this year – is it where you wanted to be? Why not? What grew unexpectedly from your inputs & maintenance throughout the year? Or maybe, what stunted your growth?

The most important thing to realize through all of this is that the environment had less of an impact than you think, or less than you want to think. In the case of overgrowth, is this “good” or “bad”? What were your goals? If you wanted to grow, then “overgrowth” is just your first reaction to growth because you’re not sure how to manage it; how to deal with success. There were so many areas you excelled, shouldn’t you leave all that success in place to grow & thrive naturally? We are so scared to cause a flaw, that we would rather let it grow untamed & without a purpose other than rampant growth. You need to take a look and say, this was a great year – what can I remove from this success to make the next year even more successful. It is so hard to cut branches from a beautiful rose bush – but it’s just as painful to watch it grow without a purpose, plan, or care for the aesthetic pleasure.

And in the case of stunted growth we can only ask “why did this happen here”? Is the environment to blame for this?

With my garden, stunted growth came in 3 forms.

  1. Lack of irrigation for plants in Root Pouches. Due to the wet start to the season, I did not set up drip irrigation, so watering depended on hand watering with hose attachments.
  2. Lack of growing space or planted too densely. With the trends of square foot gardening, vertical growing, etc. all touting the benefits of packing plants in & increasing the yields per square foot. This works for certain crops, but not as well for tomatoes that seemed to need a little bit more room – I do this every year because tomatoes start so small & then just grow like crazy and jungle-ize the garden.
  3. Growing location. Growing too closely to other plants cuts down on air circulation, water circulation, and light. This can leave some plants without the proper ventilation, too wet, or too shaded. Next year we’ll only interplant with manageable options like garlic planted with tomatoes.

Environment wasn’t necessarily my issue, but how I was using my environment. In the garden, and in life, our first reaction is to create MORE. More is better, more plants = more tomatoes = more salsa = more tomatoes to sell. We did get MORE, but the quality of the plants eventually suffered. Bugs are natural & expected, and were controlled for organically with Neem Oil, Hot Pepper Wax, & Diatomaceous Earth. But the fungus & disease is what got the tomato plants in the end. We harvested a ton that we used for salsa, pico, spaghetti sauce, chili, and anything else we could use them for, but would we have harvested longer with healthier separation of the plants? Or was the disease already present in the soil?

These questions lead me to envision what my future garden would look like – and I’m not even quite sure what that will look like next year. It seems like every year that I garden on, I narrow my growing focus. The first year I grew everything from broccoli to watermelon & this past year I cut the varieties, but still had:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Green Peppers
  • Jalapeños
  • Habaneros
  • Raspberries
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Mint

Okay, so that seems like a lot, but the onion, garlic, and lettuce were mainly in the spring, we didn’t add mint or oregano until late summer, and our main focus was Tomatoes & Peppers. Right now I’m tossing around the idea of growing a slew of peppers next year. There are so many different varieties that I have never tried & think it would be a great talking piece for the Farmer’s Markets.

Leave a comment below with what you want to see me grow!

The garden does have some current tenants – raspberry plants in their first year, blackberry, some garlic, and tree seeds that I planted in Root Pouches. Those trees are: Paper Birch, Japanese Flowering Cherry, Boxwood, and Blue Spruce. These seeds need to be vernalized; exposed to the cold in order to induce seed propagation. I hope that they’ll be okay in the Root Pouches they’re growing in, but may cover them with a frost blanket before deep winter sets in.

I am really excited to see what happens next year. This is my first foray into growing trees & I feel like a “real grower”. That and I feel confident & curious enough to grow just about anything. I truly believe that the garden is my one small step for Dan-kind – I’m just preparing for my giant leap!

Learn more about that Giant Leap here & help support us by becoming a member of the Gardening 4 Gains Community Garden below!

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1.7 Minutes of Motivation

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Take Time to Make Time

Running out of time

And make time to be there!

In this world, everybody wants every thing.

Right now.

ASAP.

Yesterday.

Give yourself at least an hour every day to just.. Be.

Put your phone down & step away from your computer.

Do you remember what it was like before the world was so toxically interconnected? Do you remember reading labels of food, shampoo, or maybe even books on topics you were interested in?

People have FOMO from social media, but while the focus lies there, they are missing out on Real Life – you know, the stuff that happens when you look up from your anxiety-inducing, glorified tracking device.

We all want to manage our time; make the most of this short & limited time we have on this Earth right? There is so much we can do all the time! I HAVE to check my Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. right? Stay up to speed on my emails?

It all comes down to time – and managing time.

Most of us are terrible at this task for a few different reasons:

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of understanding your value
  • The insane obsession our culture has with multi-tasking & quantity of output versus quality of that output

Time is valuable but placing value on time can be a dangerous thing. Don’t place such a high value on your time that nothing is worth your time; you’re managing your time but in those moments you must make the most of what you’re spending your time on – you didn’t go to a baseball game to scroll on your phone.

Placing value on your time also makes your interactions transactional – not relational; functional, not pragmatic.

As with anything with value, its value depreciates over… yep, Time.

What I’m trying to get at is the fact that we need to STOP IN THE MOMENT.

Stop to listen to what people are saying to you; hear their words & read their faces.

Stop talking to advance yourself to a sale; ask questions & listen.

Really listen when people talk to you – THERE IS A REASON THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU!

In my experiences in life, people are attracted to certain people because they trust them; they can unload some of their fears & anxieties on them – and this is a huge honor! Everybody is walking around with a million thoughts flooding the brain, so we can’t solely think of moving towards the sale or towards our ultimate goal in talking with someone.

Sometimes the most important connections made in business are made because of things completely unrelated to business.

Structuring your day & managing your time is an important task that has to be done. But as you’re going through your day, don’t lose sight of what is truly important in life; make the most of your minutes by diving in & being highly engaged with people.

Be something we need more of – a real, genuine, & caring person.

 

 

 

 

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Limiting Language & Thoughts

Why does the weekend fly by?

Why do you let it?

How you talk to yourself is limiting you. “I can’t do that.” “I can’t understand that, did you see how long the contract was?”

How you think about activities is limiting you.

Exhibit A: I hate Mondays.

What are you waiting for?

What are you afraid of?

Why?

Whether you dream of starting your own business or taking your career to the next level, we all have obstacles standing in our way to achieve our goals – and most of them reside between your ears.

That’s right – it’s your fault you aren’t where you want to be!

Who else can you blame?

As soon as you do place the blame outside of yourself, that is where it will reside forever. What an easy solution!

Your job isn’t to find the barriers, it is to find a way around, over, or through.

What’s your path today?

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9 Ways Sales Changed My Life

Does working in sales change your life? I stumbled across a LinkedIn article with this title by Adam Honig (check it out here) the other day & was immediately drawn in.

The cover picture is a before & after of a salesman. Pictured is a polished Shia LeBouf ‘First day in sales’ & a more rugged/unkempt-looking picture of him for the ‘One year later’ photo.

I love (and hate) that people have this perception of sales! However, Mr. Honig did not write an article about how hard sales was & how it will kill your spirit, but laid out the foundations of what it takes to be a salesperson, the pros & cons of being in sales and how it will ultimately change your life.

Currently, I am an Account Manager with AM Leonard. That’s a fancy title for salesman, but it is definitely much more than sales; it is customer service, accounting, marketing, being a shipping specialist – simply put, anything to ease our customer’s woes & make their lives easier by seeking out & providing solutions.

So how has Sales changed me?

  • Helped me structure day / manage time – I’m not well-known for my ability to plan things out – I usually go for the wing-it approach, or following my gut. But in sales, you need a little more method than madness. Intuition plays a pivotal role, but without a clear end-goal supported by a detailed roadmap, you could be driving in circles and not even know it. As a younger salesperson, I am finding balance between continually cultivating relationships with existing customers, hot, warm, and cold leads – and different customer types. All of these demographic titles assist with the structuring of my day, but once you know your customers, it becomes much more than a demographic – it is a living, breathing thing that needs to be cared for.
  • Forced me out of my comfort zone – I believe that the best in people is brought out when they’re outside of their comfort zones. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching ‘The Office’ in the mornings – it’s incredibly comfortable; I know I’m going to laugh, be able to relax, and enjoy myself. On the other hand, if I don’t do my daily morning yoga, my body will be in so much pain that I won’t be able to sit still. I won’t write anything creatively for myself or for my blog; that incompleteness to my pre-conceived plans will leak into the day and be that nagging “thing you wanted to do, but didn’t have time”. You have time. We all have Time if we have a desire strong enough & are willing to endure an uncomfortable situation for the Greater Good.
  • Understanding my value – this was a little bit of a tough one at first – I understood my value, but I also understood why people were mad for me calling them, or that they were busy. And conjoining those two ideas is where I find part of my value – I know I can help you AND I understand that you are busy or get sales calls all the time, what can I do to best help you. The biggest value that anybody can provide is a promise to back your value AND then delivering on those promises. Communicating value by words is how a business relationship can begin, but actions speak louder than words.
  • Improved communication – once you understand your value, communication is easy. You have supplies. Your customers need supplies. They need your supplies because x, y, z. Necessity is another thing that improved my communication. In sales, you’re always looking to expand your offerings to customers & key accounts and communication is crucial in maneuvering through organizations to reach all potential decision-makers. The more communication, the more you will expand your business; the more you will become an asset to your customers.
  • Feeds appetite for knowledge & continued education – this is the nerd in me speaking out. I love learning. There is so much to learn in the Green Industry between landscapers, growers, government agencies, universities, and all of the processes involved in their businesses. I’ve always had an interest in gardening & growing plants – both of my science fair projects in 5th & 6th grade were based on growing plants with different variables. I didn’t end up studying in any of these fields (no pun intended), but love that I’m in the industry learning so much about growing plants in the field, in greenhouses and watching it in my own garden. Learning is important to me – and quite frankly, it should be for everyone. If you’re not learning, you’re staying stagnant; you’re limiting yourself. The world is changing & moving too fast for us to sit still!
  • Patience – like losing my first draft that I thought was great; greatness lies only in execution though, not intention.
  • Handling rejection & objection – sales is rejection; life is rejection. When I first began my journey in sales, there was a lot of rejection – maybe it was the way I was saying things, my tone, maybe I don’t have what it takes for sales. When you find your value, rejection looks a lot more like objection – and in objection, there is opportunity. This isn’t so much a ‘no’ as it is a ‘this better be good’. When someone asks why you’re calling, you better have a damn good reason!
  • Picking up the phone – for inside sales, for a lot of sales, we live by the phone, we die by the phone. This is the most convenient, ‘personal’ touch you can have without a Skype or video call. Lots of writers on LinkedIn seem to think the phone is dying, but when you’re in business, you’re in the people business. A live voice will provide a lot more comfort & promise than a colorful flyer that was blasted into every one of your accounts’ emails. Not that email blasts are bad – it all comes down to the value you provide to your customer. In my experience, the phone is the best way to handle tough situations that you need to fight for. In the case of negotiating pricing, delivering bad news, or anything serious – your customers need to hear your voice. They need to have the opportunity to be pissed at you. This is just an opportunity. How can you make this right?
  • Finding a way – this is the simple secret to sales & to life – when you want something bad enough, you’ll carve a path that leads you to your destination.

As a psychology major I never saw myself going into sales – I’m pretty sure I vowed to never take a sales job, but look where we are now! I love the industry, learning about my customers’ processes and all of the relationships I’m building all over the country along the way. Sales has changed me in a way, but I think it also just forced me to become my best Self – continually seeking knowledge & improvement to fully understand my customers, the industry, and ultimately, my Self.