The moment I became a gardener

Alex's Porch

Plants can’t speak, but they’d have a lot to say about weather and climate if they could. I’m a meteorologist by profession and an avid gardener. I’ve been turning my parents’ New York City backyard into a tropical oasis ever since I was 13 years old. Now I grow fresh fruits and vegetables at work and share my success and failures with all our viewers.

As the years go by, the line between my career and my hobby is getting blurry. I’m learning more each growing season about how plants respond to environmental stress, and I’m learning more about myself too. My hard work and patience are rewarded with beautiful plants that give me so much happiness and food!

How fell in love with gardening

The garden bug bit me early. (I’ve been getting bit by plenty of actual bugs ever since, by the way!) I grew up in New York City, but my family would spend a few weeks in Florida every summer. I didn’t grow up around a lot of trees or thunderstorms in the city, but Florida was a total contrast. The thunderstorms were right on schedule every evening, and the palm trees looked so graceful dancing in the gusty downpours. I was hooked! I watched Florida’s palm trees breeze through some of the strongest storms of my childhood. It made me wonder why such resilient trees weren’t growing in New York. I refused to take “it’s too cold” for an answer!

There are thousands of different species of palm trees. Their fruits range from coconuts, dates, and the – currently very trendy – acai. Some species thrive in hot deserts, others grow in saltwater. Palms give off such an exotic vibe, but some, like the Sabal palmetto, are US native and have historical significance. In 1776, the British army’s cannons were no match for a fort on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina that was built using Sabal palmetto trunks. The palmetto has been on South Carolina’s state flag since 1861. The tree is so significant in its own right that many southerners don’t realize it’s just one of the dozens of native palm trees to the southeastern US.

Palm trees can handle a lot of rough weather, but they are a goner as soon as temperatures get too low. You won’t see a New York street lined with palm trees in the middle of winter anytime soon, but our climate is changing. I was only in the 9th grade when I planted my first palm tree in the ground in New York City. That was almost 15 years ago and those palm trees are still alive today.

Spring 2012 VS Summer 2020 in my parents’s New York City Backyard

Over the years I filled my parents’ yard with hundreds of plants. Some of them were tropical, others were really unusual, and a few produced amazing fruit. New Yorkers are known for taking things at a fast pace, but my neighbors would take things a little slower when passing by our front yard. I was able to have conversations with neighbors that would have otherwise passed by.

Gardening & My Career

I moved away from New York in 2017 to take my TV career to warmer pastures, and I took my passion for plants with me. When I worked in Gainesville, FL I had a weekly segment called “What’s Growing On” that featured all the latest agriculture news in north Florida and gave tips to gardeners. At work, I planted flowers and succulents in a courtyard that was previously covered in thorny weeds. Gardening once again proved to be an amazing way to connect with people, but instead of neighbors, I was having conversations with viewers and co-workers.

Right now I’m living in South Carolina where I’m living my dream job. I’m a morning meteorologist, but I’m also a gardener. WLTX’s, now-retired, former chief meteorologist Jim Gandy created a garden space where he shared grew fruits and vegetables and shared garden and climate stories with his viewers. Now I’m gardening in that space and sharing weekly stories about the connection between plants and climate. It’s important for viewers to be informed about how fragile our food supply is and to be empowered to make their yards greener and tastier. When viewers stop me in the store, the garden is the first thing they want to hear about! It’s so popular that I created a garden community on Facebook where I can have conversations with viewers about their gardens and share their advice, questions, and photos on our morning show.

A home garden is one of the greatest investments a person can make. Produce at the grocery stores can come from thousands of miles away in an expensive endeavor that uses a lot of resources and is not often environmentally sustainable. Growing food at home doesn’t have to take up a lot of space or cost a lot of money. Gardeners can choose to grow plant varieties that aren’t available at the grocery store without any added chemicals. All it takes is a pot of basil or a tomato that started sprouting from the compost pile to bring nature into everyday life. The end result is often a beautiful green space that gives more than it needs and can be enjoyed with family and friends for years to come.

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