The Garden Girl in a Q and A with the Dirt Diva
By Patti Moreno
PM: Annie here it is, your latest greatest book! How long did it take to develop and how did it compare to writing your first book?
AS: My first book, Annie’s Garden Journal, was more of a memoir styled book about my fear of marriage and the frustrations of trying to turn a new suburban lot into an old English Cottage garden. I had to learn patience and I’m still not happy about that! I had just moved to the Bay Area after growing up in Manhattan. I knew nothing about gardening or long-term commitments. Both made me suspicious. It was the year before my wedding and I kept a journal chronicling the wedding preparations, the challenges in my new garden and the imminent arrival of my loud, eccentric New York relatives who’d be coming out to a tiny, quiet farm town in Northern California to celebrate. After many, many years of failed plantings, horticultural research, training as a Master Gardener and becoming a garden columnist I can now say, without a doubt, that I was the worst gardener ever created! All I knew how to do then was pump a bunch of chemical fertilizer into the ground and spray pesticides on leaves, over and over and over. That’s not gardening.
That’s insanity. So, I hope this new book, Talking Dirt, can help other clueless gardeners to skip all those failed science experiments in their yards and immediately start feeding the soil, not the plant. It’s all about keeping soil microbes happy. You do that by adding compost. If the microbes are happy, everybody wins! The book took over a year to research and write.
PM: You have a really unique voice as a garden communicator, how did you start to develop it? Did it happen from being a witty film set Diva?
AS: The voice comes from two places. First, from my fearless mom, who my sisters and I referred to as “the Queen Bee.” She lived her life rolling her eyes, laughing and sighing. She didn’t believe nothin’! “It’s a man’s world!” and “What a bunch of phonies!” were her daily mantras
Second, I got the gift of ‘doubt’ simply from growing up in New York City and surviving public school. From 6th grade on, walking home from band practice, I remember strangers on the street trying to scam me. You learn at a young age to be a bit skeptical and to not be so gullible. I actually think it’s a good way to go through life. ‘Jaded’ is the new pink! Then when I grew up I found my tribe; the movie business. Now there’s a bunch of thieves, smooth talkers, cynics and clowns. I sharpened my skills in the trenches, starting out as a parking PA and I never looked back. Later on I fell in love with gardening. Poor Mother Nature is probably wondering where she went wrong.
PM: Are you doing a book tour? Can people come and meet you?
AS: Yes, I just listed an event page on my website at www.dirtdiva.com and I’m adding it to my facebook ‘Talking Dirt’ fan page this week.
Most of the springtime book signings are at nurseries in the Bay Area. I’ll be going home to NYC in July to visit my dad, so I may set up some events there as well.
PM: I screwed up a bunch of Persimmon seeds this year, tell the truth now what have you killed recently?
AS: I have no idea what you’re talking about Patti. My garden is perfect. I’m a Master Gardener. Harummph!
Ha! If only. This is the problem with being a Master Gardener. Everyone expects your yard to be prolific and flawless. Mine is far from that, trust me. Let’s see, my most recent failure. Probably the cuttings I made from some Pineapple sage and Butterfly bush. I was hoping to give them as gifts but I forgot about them in my shed. When I went in there half of them had been suffocated in their little baggies because I forgot to go mist the leaves periodically. I still feel guilty about that. A few actually survived.
I also suck at sowing seeds. This all goes back to my skills as a mother. I’m not so great with babies. They’re cute and I love holding them and kissing them but when I’m done, I’m done and I wish they would just get up and take care of themselves because I have other things to do. (It’s truly a miracle my son made it to 13 years old and he seems just fine.) So, my advice to new gardeners trying to sow seeds indoors is to be a doting mother. Keep an eye on those seeds for the first critical month or you too will have to live with all that guilt. Don’t do what I did years ago. I had gorgeous seedlings that I had successfully grown from seed and they were all doing swell till I got a call to go shoot flower farms, for 2 weeks in Napa Valley, with Martha Stewart’s film crew. My car was packed within an hour and I was off. I’m sure those neglected sprouts are still bashing me to this day.
Annie Spiegelman's down-to-earth wit and wisdom create the perfect primer for anyone with a passion for home-grown veggies or fresh-cut flowers, no matter what their skill level, location, or resources. If you don't believe us, maybe you will believe these folks:
"Beautifully combining passion, humor, and a deep-rooted care for the planet, Spiegelman is the organic femme fatale. She understands the importance of our own backyards to build a better future, one shovelful of compost at a time. What a fantastic book."
-Helge Hellberg, executive director of Marin Organic and host of An Organic Conversation Radio Show
"What Skinny Bitch did for vegetarianism Talking Dirt may do for organic gardening. Annie Spiegelman's book is the perfect primer for a generation raised on supermarket food and flowers but who are searching for something fresher and more satisfying. As comfortable among the cabbages as she is in a fashion boutique, Spiegelman succeeds in making the intricacies of gardening without toxic chemicals exciting and rewarding. With a light, swift tone and ample instruction, this is the organic gardening book for busy people."
-Brian Clark Howard, environmental journalist and web editor for The Daily Green
Patti Moreno is the host of http://www.gardengirltv.com and contributor to Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening, the Huffington Post and the Farmers Almanac . She publishes the web magazine http://www.urbansustainableliving.com and she answers questions at http://www.gardengirltv.com/messageboard. She is the Co-Host of Growing a Greener World and the number one gardening expert on Youtube. Buy Patti’s 4hr DVD at www.olivebarn.com
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