Six hundred twenty-one, give or take. That is my best guess of how many garden columns I’ve written over the years.
I’ve had a nearly 40-year connection with The Spokesman-Review. I worked full-time for 20 years, starting out in classified advertising before joining the staff in the reference library and eventually landing in the newsroom. In 1996, I was part of the team that developed the newspaper’s first website, Virtually Northwest. That was back when the Internet was a nebulous concept that none of us completely understood.
In 2002, local garden guru Phyllis Stephens – who had written the garden columns for a number of years – decided her schedule was getting too busy to continue writing them. The features editor, Susan English, came to me and said, “I really enjoy your writing style and would like you to start writing the columns.”
My first reaction was “I have a writing style?” which was quickly followed by confusion over how she had even seen anything I’d written. It turns out the Inland Empire Gardeners – Spokane’s largest garden club – had been sending her their newsletters, which contained the short columns I was writing.
I jumped at the chance. I also went through Spokane County Master Gardener training, which taught me the importance of using science-based research in my writing, among other valuable skills.
I recall that after my first year of writing the garden columns, I felt a sense of panic. “A new garden season is starting up and what in the world will I write about?” I was sure I’d already covered everything there was to know about gardening. It makes me laugh when I think back to that moment, especially considering how many columns I’ve written since then.
Unfortunately, there was a hiccup in my column-writing career. I clumsily crashed my bike, which led to shoulder surgery and a lot of physical therapy. I can remember sitting in the newsroom with a bag of frozen peas perched on my shoulder, just so I could type on the keyboard for 10 minutes at a time. When you consider how much of my workdays involved this activity, that was a problem.
I decided to take a break from the paper in order to fully heal, all the while missing those garden columns. Two years later, a chance encounter with editor Cheryl-Anne Millsap during a Spokane Symphony intermission changed the trajectory of my life.
“I want you to write for me,” she said. When I asked what she had in mind, her reply was “Anything about gardening!” I soon was writing both garden columns and plant profiles as a correspondent.
Over the past 16 years, I’ve met so many talented gardeners and enjoyed sharing their stories. I’ve encouraged folks to grow a garden using organic methods and written about local events such as Garden Expo, fabulous plant sales and garden tours. I’ve written two books and co-authored a third. I’ve also produced over 500 videos to help gardeners be successful.
As you probably have guessed, this is my final garden column – not just for the season but from here on out. This part of my life has been a joy and a blessing. I would like to thank my wonderful editors over the years for this fantastic opportunity. To my readers, I want to thank you for faithfully seeking out my columns each week. Gardeners are the nicest folks on the planet.
Susan Mulvihill is author of “The Vegetable Garden Problem Solver Handbook” and “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook.” She can be reached at Susan@SusansintheGarden.com. Watch Susan’s videos at youtube.com/susansinthegarden.