Interview

The Creative Vegetable Gardener Interview

Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 in Gardening, Interview | Comments Off on The Creative Vegetable Gardener Interview

Jenny: Hi and welcome to the Grow Better Greens show. This is Jenny Prince and the big, huge surprise here is that usually Liz Brazier is your host but today things are a little bit different. Liz is not here with us, so I’m taking over. Watch out! And, also, this is our very first interview episode. Today we’re interviewing Megan Cain of the creative vegetable gardener.com. So, let me bring Megan in and let her say hello.

Megan: Hi Jenny. Hi everybody. I’m happy to be here.

Jenny: Excellent. Let me make sure that I said your website correctly. It’s creativevegetablegardener.com. Correct? No “the”?

Megan: That’s correct, yes. My business name is The Creative Vegetable Gardener, but you’re right. The website is just creativevegetablegardener.com.

Jenny: I had that issue with a business once. I had The Sandwich Garden and I had to be like, “But it’s just Sandwich Garden” for the website. You know how that can be.

Megan: Right.

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Jenny: So, if you don’t mind, I’d love for you to just tell everybody a little bit about yourself and your business and what you do.

Megan: Sure, I live in Madison, Wisconsin, a cold climate, like you do. My business, I’m all about helping people get the most out of their vegetable gardens. One of the ways I like to do that is to help people master the basics of gardening and then, what I think is the most fun part, is delving into the details that make gardening such a fun and colourful part of life.

Jenny: Excellent. Yeah, I’ve actually been all over your website, which looks terrific. Let me tell you. I think it looks pretty awesome.

Megan: Thank you.

Jenny: I’ve noticed a few things. First of all, on the “About” page, I’ve noticed so many things that we have in common. For example, I notice that you’re going to New Zealand.

Megan: I am, yes.

Jenny: It’s too bad Liz isn’t here because she is from New Zealand and she just recently moved full-time to the United States, but she was living half and half for the past few years.

Megan: Oh, wow.

Jenny: I don’t know how long you’re staying, but I think she is heading there. I don’t know, maybe February, maybe January, but that’s her big trip this year.

Megan: Okay, yeah. We are really excited. My husband and I are going together and, actually, my sister’s going to come for part of the time and we’ve never been there before, so we’re really excited. We’re going to be there for about five weeks.

Jenny: And do you know whereabouts you’re going? Everywhere or…?

Megan: We’re going to spend most of the time on the South Island. We’re usually not super trip planners, we usually just show up and then figure it out. It is going to be high season there and it’s summer so everybody is going to be out of school and it’s also the holidays, so we’re doing a little bit of planning, maybe booking a few things around Christmas and New Year’s just to make sure we have somewhere to stay.

Jenny: Sure. That makes good sense. Excellent.
The other thing that I noticed is that you love art shows, art fairs.

Megan: I do.

Jenny: Yes. That was my career for 10 years. I drove around the country selling my artwork at street art fairs, including the one in Madison, the Art Fair on the Square.

Megan: Oh, cool.

Jenny: Yeah.

Megan: That’s awesome. That’s a hard lifestyle, to do that. It’s fun to go to them. I always think, “Oh, it’s kind of hard to be an artist that runs around,” but you didn’t think so?

Jenny: No, I quit. It was kind of hard. It was hard to stand on the pavement for that many hours, especially after you were sitting and driving in a van for a lot. Physically it was very hard and then, also, you couldn’t predict the weather, so you could be like, “This is so great. I’m going to make so much money and I can finally pay all my bills.” And then it would just be tornado warnings or watchers, or whatever. That was never very much fun.

Megan: Right. Sometimes the one in Madison, it’s really hot because it’s in July, so it could be 70 degrees or it could be 102 degrees. You never know.

Jenny: Totally. I definitely remember a big windstorm coming through that one that wasn’t so much fun, but it sure spelled out for me where I wanted to be, which was at home and specifically growing food.

Megan: Right.

Jenny: Because actually that part of the country, once you get west of Chicago, your options really dwindle if you’re driving. I imagine Madison is pretty much like Burlington, Vermont and that you have health food stores and co-ops and Farmers Markets and you can get pretty much any kind of vegetable.

Megan: Right, yeah.

Jenny: That is not true everywhere, is really what I learned.

The other thing that people don’t know is that I’ve actually interviewed you before.

Megan: That’s true.

Jenny: It is true and it’s funny because Liz also doesn’t know that at one point in time I thought I would have a podcast interviewing people and you were the only person that I ever interviewed and I never released the podcast. The name of that was supposed to be “The Backyard Business Podcast,” and it was all about people like yourself and myself who are addicted to growing vegetables or really growing anything and want to have an at home business that means they don’t have to go to a desk job or leave the house every day to do work and that they can earn their income based on an idea out of their own backyard.

And, of course, I think you know the Grow Better Greens show. I can see that title working in that direction someday, greens being money.
But let’s dive little bit deeper and talk a little bit more about, specifically, what you can help people with. I imagine that it’s not just local to Madison, Wisconsin, which, when we spoke before, you were actually about to leave on another trip with your husband.

Megan: That’s correct, yes. We were going to Chile. That was two winters ago.

Jenny: But you had, maybe, at that point in time, officially made your shift in that The Creative Vegetable Gardener was your full-time business and you, at the time, were doing in-person garden installations and classes.

Megan: Right, yes. That’s correct. And then writing a blog and I had a website. But since that time I have decided to expand my reach because, really, anyone who gardens can get a lot out of my websites. I did do a few installations this year, but I don’t advertise it anymore, so people can’t hire me to create their gardens. It’s really just word-of-mouth. If people find me and approach me, then I will often say yes, but I don’t go out and seek that anymore.

Jenny: Yeah, I don’t blame you. That’s super laborious work.

Megan: What I realized during that work is that my passion is to teach people to do it themselves.

Jenny: Sure, absolutely. And I have found, in situations like that, that I always feel responsible for what happens afterwards, which is crazy because there are so many variables. Somehow I feel responsible and maybe I also make them feel as though I’m responsible. It doesn’t matter what happens afterwards, it’s either my fault or my glory and it’s such a personal experience that it doesn’t really work out so well.

Megan: Right, and the hard part is I think once you get more into gardening, you realize how much there is to learn. I think it’s a misconception.
Once in a while people will say to me, “Well, what do you teach about gardening? Isn’t it so easy? You just stick a plant in the ground and you grow food. It just grows.” I actually don’t know how to answer that question.

Jenny: Do people really say that?

Megan: Yeah.

Jenny: Wow.

Megan: “What help would you need with vegetable gardening?” I just thought, “Wow.” What I feel is the more you delve into it, the depth and the details, the more you realize there’s always something to learn. I’m a garden educator. I teach other people and, of course, I’m still learning myself every year. There’s so much to learn. It’s such a huge topic and there’s such a wealth of information.
Jenny: Yeah, I feel like where I end up with that is exactly like you’re saying. There’s just all these different levels and tiers and directions and then I think, “Okay nobody can ever learn this all. It’s just not possible.” Especially when you’re thinking about microorganisms and what’s happening in the soil and then I’m like, “Okay there’s no point in trying.” Which is good. It’s just about shifting your perspective and learning how to respond to it as opposed to memorize it. It’s pretty massive.

Megan: Right. And you think about all different garden educators and researchers out there. So many people have their specific things that they study, like someone just studies Tomorrow diseases or squash family pests. There’s just so much out there that you can have a whole career that you just study vegetable garden diseases or pests.

Jenny: Yeah and people do. Dare to dream.
What I mostly noticed about your site, which I think is so interesting and spectacular, is that you have these awesome eBooks for sale. It looks like you have two main eBooks. One about starting seeds and then one about food preservation.

Megan: Right. The food preservation actually turned into a print book, so you can actually get it as a print book or an eBook or have a bundle.

Jenny: Excellent. Is that print on demand? Do you have a publisher? It’s not through Amazon, where it’s that CreateSpace auto-printing feature, is it?

Megan: I actually did get it printed through CreateSpace. But I have all the books and I mail them out. It’s not printing on demand, I just print them out. I sign every one, if you order.

Jenny: That’s nice.

Megan: The print book, I sign it and then mail it to your house.

Jenny: Okay, well tell me a little bit more about it because the past few episodes that we’ve had have been on a similar subject matter. I think the last one we did was compost, but we were talking about garden preservation because it’s fall and you’re in a hurry to harvest everything.
Just from leafing through this, I think that you and I have a lot in common in terms of our take on how this should be done, which is completely fast, easy and with no real hassles or heat in the kitchen during the summer.

Megan: Yes.

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Jenny: I think you’re saying that this is for fresh, frozen and refrigerator food. Did you also do drying techniques?

Megan: I didn’t, no. I don’t do a lot of drying at home. It’s not one of my areas of expertise, so I didn’t talk about it. I’ve done a little bit in the past, but not a lot.

Jenny: Okay, I felt like you listed four different methods, so maybe I’m just making one up.

Megan: You’re right. I do talk about it, because I talk about herbs and I think \ one of the best ways to preserve a lot of herbs is drying. So I talk about it a little bit with herbs but not really with vegetables and fruit.

Jenny: I see. Tell me a little bit, because what intrigued me the most was refrigerator food. I actually don’t think I make the most use of my refrigerator. I’m really about shoving it in the freezer and maybe Madison is similar to Burlington in that part of my motivation is that my food choices at the store in the wintertime dwindle so much that I feel better. It’s like I have gold bars stacked somewhere. That’s how I feel about the food in the freezer. I know that I’m into it and I don’t have to worry because spring, summer and fall, I can source local food that I trust. But in the winter it gets pretty dicey.

Megan: Yeah, it’s the same here in Wisconsin. We have a Farmers Market, a really good Farmers Market the goes until about Christmas and then we still have a Farmers Market after Christmas, but it’s very small. It’s the smallest it is the whole year. And, actually, growers in my area are getting better at having more fresh food year-round. But January, February, March, I always say, are the dark times of the year here.
In our house, we like to eat locally as much as possible all year round and, so, over time we realized if we want to eat a wide variety of local food…And I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat. Meat is a very common local thing you can eat all year round in Wisconsin, but I don’t eat meat…So we store a lot of our own food so we can just tap into our own storage.
And the other thing is, we shop at the food co-op in our town and a lot of the fresh produce is very expensive in January, February and March, because it’s coming from so far away.

Jenny: Yes, I’ve absolutely noticed that. How are you using your refrigerator? Is that like a shorter time period that you can store stuff there? What’s the philosophy?

Megan: My two favourite things to store in my fridge are carrots and beets. I keep them in my garden as long as possible. Sometimes that’s Thanksgiving, depending on the year. I’ve had a lot of problems with voles eating things that I’ve tried to keep in the ground, so I like to get things, carrots and beets, especially, out of my garden or they’re going to be just decimated over the winter.
What I do is, I harvest them, I cut off the tops, I leave the soil on and then I pack them into plastic bags and I shove them in the back bottom of my fridge. Usually the whole bottom of my fridge is carrots and beets. I’ve used them up until, usually, we go through them all by May of the next year and they’re fine. Actually, last year I found a couple of little beets in the back of the fridge in July, from the previous fall.
So, they store well, and I leave the soil on because, I’m sure you know, and probably a lot of listeners do as well, a lot of vegetables have a waxy cuticle that helps preserve them. A lot of times when you’re scrubbing something, you’re washing off some of that protective layer. I just leave them undisturbed, leave the soil on and then I’ll just take out a few at a time or a handful at a time and wash them up and put them in another bag and those are the ones that we grab for cooking or snacking on.

Jenny: We drink a lot of carrot juice and it always is brown and I know that it’s just dirty. Have you ever done those brix tests with a refractometer?

Megan: I never have, actually.

Jenny: Sometimes when I’m doing them, I’m intentionally looking at two different kinds of carrots and mine are always so much browner. It looks orange to me but when I put it side-by-side to supermarket carrot juice, it looks really funny.
I leave my carrots in the ground all year, but I don’t have a vole problem. Briefly I tried to do that with beets but, early on, I didn’t realize that carrots and parsnips, which I have never grown, admittedly, are the only two things I can think of that really can tolerate frozen ground. So, turnips, beets, celeriac, all that stuff that I’m so into, I have them let them go into the winter and they just turned to mush really fast. I wish I had known that before.
I’ll try to make some room in my fridge. We have so many nuts in the refrigerator that I just struggle to do that and I know that people will buy an entire second refrigerator just for using as a root cellar. We don’t have a basement or a crawl space or an unheated shed, so I can’t really store root vegetables anywhere but the refrigerator and, for some reason, I haven’t dedicated that much room to them.

Megan: Yeah, it’s funny. That comes up a lot in my classes where people say, “How do you have room in your fridge?” And I always say, “I don’t understand how no one has room in the fridge. We don’t really have that much stuff in our fridge.”

Jenny: I’m trying to think right now what is in there that is taking up so much space. Because I don’t even refrigerate eggs, so I feel like I have all these big jars of nuts and I probably don’t use them as often as it merits to take that much space. That’s really silly.
Then I guess that you and I are on the same page for the most part about canning.

Megan: I actually wrote a blog post last summer, “Why I Hate Canning”. The only thing we can every year is salsa. We eat a lot of salsa. We eat a lot of rice and beans, especially in the winter. And salsa is a nice gift to give, if you bring it to someone’s house. I had frozen salsa before and I just don’t like the consistency.

Jenny: Interesting. I just froze a whole bunch this year, but I’m only literally using it to just pour half and half onto beans, so I’m not too worried about the consistency, but I get what you’re saying.

Megan: Yeah. We do can once, maybe twice, depending on how much salsa we can get done in our first session. Other than that, I’m totally into the quickest and easiest possible way to get something into the fridge, freezer or, I do have a basement and I store some things fresh in my basement.
Really, my first choice is, “Can I store it fresh?” Second is, “Can I store it in the fridge?” Then, third, “Can I store it in the freezer?”
Certainly, the biggest selection of things that you can store in the freezer, that’s the longest list. But if I have another choice, that’s how I’ll store them and, for me, I leave things in my garden as long as possible because that’s really the natural storage area.

Jenny: Totally. I think people miss that pretty often, but you’re right. Don’t take it out of the ground if you don’t have to…or off the plant.

Megan: Right. Fall is one of my most favourite seasons in the garden. I still have a lot of food in my garden and, this time of year, it’s all the things that really can sit for quite a while and things aren’t really growing very quickly or at all, eventually.
So, things just sit there and I can go out and harvest and take things out as I need them. I do think a lot of people miss the opportunity to have a really robust fall garden. Certainly, walking around at this time of year and looking at people’s gardens, they’ve either cleared it all out and it’s totally empty or there’s not really much left and I think, “Oh, you’ve missed the opportunity to have a whole other season, really.”

Jenny: I totally agree. I have a huge fall garden right now and it’s mostly greens. Like you said, it’s just going dormant. And there are a few things, because we actually have only had one frost where I live, we’re still waiting for some of our winter squashes and stuff to really cure, so they’re still out there. I’m always paranoid about how long I leave them out there, but I think I’m doing the right thing.

Megan: Yeah, we’ve only had two frosts back to back last weekend. Not this past weekend, the weekend before. But other than that it’s been pretty mild.

Jenny: I have to admit that I do can a couple of things, but I feel the same exact way that you do. I’m really opposed to it, but I always makes zucchini relish, because we’re addicted to it. Zucchini is just so prolific. That’s a big one.
Then the other thing that I always make, and I haven’t really told very many people this, this is my big, huge brag…You and I were both travelling and we just both missed each other in Washington DC. I was gone for maybe two or three weeks and when I came home, I found out that my bread and butter pickles won the blue ribbon at this big state fair in Vermont.

Megan: Awesome.

Jenny: First place at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. But what I learned about making bread and butter pickles is that, basically, I slice them and salt them in ice overnight and then I rinse them and I air dry them for 12 hours. Then, all that I do is I pack them in jars with onions and I pour the hot brine on top of them, and I do have to put them in the boiling water canner. But what I really hate about canning is making that sticky, sugary vinegar mess where you’re stirring and ladling the stuff. I actually don’t mind that process as much. I do make an exception for a couple of things, but generally I am anti-canning.

Megan: Yeah. When I first learned how to preserve food, I lived on a farm where they canned a lot because we didn’t really have a freezer and some of the things are just not that good, like canned carrots. Dilly beans are good, but if you just can green beans, some of the things we made, they’re not really that good.

Jenny: Actually, we talk about this a lot on the show because I’m really interested in why you grow food and what are you after, and I feel if that’s what you’re doing, you think that the world is going to end and you’re like, “Well, if I can’t eat anything else, I’m going to eat these carrots.” But I’m doing it for, “I just want to be eating the best tasting food all the time.” I have no interest in slimy green beans.

Megan: Yeah, that you cook the life out of.

Jenny: Right. Can we talk a little bit more about your other book because I’m a little bit curious? You have a seed-starting book?

Megan: Correct.

Jenny: Did you write this one first?

Megan: I did not, actually. I wrote the food preserving one first.

Jenny: Okay. It’s just that I assume that it’s timing, so you’re maybe marketing your seed-starting book more in the spring?

Megan: Yeah, late winter, early spring. This time of year, most people aren’t thinking about starting seeds. I feel like for a lot of people, they don’t really think about their garden much from now until January. A lot of people are done with their garden and, of course, it depends where you live.
I live in the northern climate, so we’re at the end of the gardening season. If you live in a different climate, some people are ramping up because winter is a cooler time, but a lot of northern and temperate gardeners aren’t really thinking about gardening that much.
Then January comes and people start getting their seed catalogues and then that’s when you start thinking about planting your garden and starting seeds.
Here in Wisconsin I usually start seeds about the end of February.

Jenny: Yeah. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Actually, right now is a great time to work with certain kinds of seeds if you’re direct seeding them in the garden. You’re trying to plant those seeds that will come up in the springtime and that’s something that I always forget. In the next season you’re like, “Oh, I wish I could grow this or that” and you realize that you completely missed the window. Now is that window and I’m thinking of pansies or maybe even cilantro. Or just seeds that are cool weather seeds and, oftentimes want to spend the winter out in the elements, freezing, thawing, cracking, swelling, bursting and all that. There’s this whole list of them now and I’m just like, “Oops. I forgot again.” But now is the time.

Megan: My friend sows carrots this time of year and she usually has a little hoop set up over her bed in the late winter, early spring and then they just come up when they’re ready to come up. She doesn’t even have to decide when to plant them. They’ll just germinate when it’s time.

Jenny: Totally. I have tried to do that. First of all, I’ve done that with carrots accidentally in that I’ve planted my greenhouse with carrots too late in the fall and they didn’t germinate, but then in the springtime I had this beautiful crop of carrots. Also, there’s a few websites that are totally dedicated to winter seed sowing, where you basically take some to go food containers or cell trays with those plastic-domed lids and you put them outside and you just put seeds on them in December, January, and they’re supposed to just sprout at the right time. But you have to be careful to take the plastic top off because what happens is they fry in the sun. So you have to be really careful.

Megan: I’ve done that.

Jenny: I have too. It was sort of successful but I think that the problem was me not managing the lid correctly.

Megan: I know. I have made that mistake. I had a bunch of things that were under a lid because you forget about them.

Jenny: Yeah, that’s a full-time job.

Megan: I know.

Jenny: Lid management.

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Let me hear a little bit about what is next for you?
Wait, before I do, I forgot to mention one thing and that’s that I saw these really cool little single vegetable guides, which look awesome.

Megan: Yeah, like I said, I really love the details of gardening and I think actually a lot of really true and lasting success in gardening is about the details, diving into the details and really understanding what certain vegetables need to really grow and flourish.
I decided to make three essential guides. One about garlic, one about onions and one about peppers, because those are three things that I hear from my audience a lot, especially onions and peppers, that people struggle a lot with them.

Jenny: No kidding.

Megan: I grow both really successfully but I do think there are very specific things that those plants need in order for you to be successful with them and I have, so many times, especially with friends, said, “Okay, did you do this? Did you do this? Did you do this?” And they say, “No. No. No.” And I say, “Okay do those things next year and then I bet you’ll have a better onion crop.”

Jenny: Can you share a couple of things about peppers? I know that something that Liz struggles with is peppers. For the most part, I think I have pretty good success, but I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Megan: I’m actually in the book mostly talking about sweet peppers. I love growing red peppers and it’s one of the things that I feel the most excited about in the summer and the most rich. I always say that I feel so rich when I have this huge bowl of red peppers because they seem so rare and valuable for some reason. I don’t know if it’s because they’re so expensive at the grocery store.

Jenny: Or because you wait forever for them to ripen.

Megan: You wait forever, yeah. I went into Whole Foods one time in Madison in the winter when they were having a “Red pepper sale.” $3.99 a red pepper! I just thought, “Oh, my God! That’s a sale?” I probably grew 100 red peppers in my garden. I just said, “Oh, my gosh. That’s $400 worth of red peppers. That was totally worth it.”
With red peppers I think one issue, especially here in Wisconsin, and probably a lot of other northern climates, is variety. It has a huge, huge amount to do with it.
I think the first thing people say is, “I have trouble growing red peppers.” I say, “What variety do you grow?” And a lot of times, people say, “I don’t know” or “I just got the plant from the hardware store.”
Even in local nurseries sometimes, some of my nurseries have really good varieties. I go in and I think, “I’ve never heard of any of these varieties, ever.”
So, what’s the guarantee? One thing I think, and I teach people a lot, is if you can start your own seeds, that’s great. That’s one of the reasons why I do, because there are very specific varieties that I want to grow, of a lot of things, and I don’t want to leave it to chance that maybe I’ll be able to find that variety somewhere. But, more often than not, I’m not able to. So, for peppers, my favourite variety is Carmen.

Jenny: Me too. Carmen and Lipstick. I love them.

Megan: Carmen, I think, is the best. We have hot weather in the summer. Red peppers don’t necessarily need super, super heat, but no matter what kind of summer we have, I always have red peppers on Carmen plants. They always produce a bunch of red peppers. I think that’s the other thing that people talk about. “I’ve got a red pepper, but I’ve only got one red pepper on one plant.” And I actually also really love Jimmy Nardello.

Jenny: I do, too.

Megan: Which has great taste. It’s long and skinny. You get less volume of red pepper. So, those are the two that I have the best luck with.
I always try new varieties. This year I grew Biscayne, which actually did really well. It definitely gave Carmen a run for its money. It’s a similar long Italian frying pepper to Carmen and had a lot of red peppers on each plant.

Jenny: Yeah, those are both delicious. I haven’t tried Biscayne, but I’ve also tried a couple of the more bell shaped peppers. One of them is Fat ‘N Sassy, Big Bertha and I’ve tried some called Candy Apple and just Apple, which are on the smaller side and they were all delicious. But I just really prefer Carmen.

Megan: I know, it’s hard to compete.

Jenny: Yes.

Megan: That would be one of my big tips and that’s an argument for potentially trying to start your own seeds. Once you really get into it and get varieties that you really like, you realize those things are really hard to find and a lot of them are varieties that CSA farmers grow, because they’re really concerned with production. I discovered Carmen when I worked at a CSA farm.

Jenny: Yeah, for me as well. We had a whole episode about sourcing plants and just giving people an idea if they’re not really sure how to start, how can they find a grower.
Because where I live, most of the CSA farms also sell seedlings, so it isn’t difficult to find Carmen or Jimmy Nardello, at all. I can think of 12 different local farms that would sell them, especially at Farmers Markets, so that hasn’t been an issue.
But I live in a total bubble. We have more organic farms in Vermont per capita than anywhere else in the US, so it’s not a typical experience.
Is there another tip you can give besides variety, about specifically growing peppers?

Megan: Well, I think this could be a suggestion for more than just peppers. Plant more than two plants.
I plant usually about 30 to 35 pepper plants. If you plant a lot of plants, and I know that not everyone has a huge garden, but maybe think about making your garden slightly bigger and try a few different varieties. I think a lot of times people put all their eggs in one basket. They buy one variety and maybe they only buy two plants.
Not every single one of my Carmen pepper plants properly produce exactly the same peppers. I didn’t really pay attention, because I have 35 plants and it doesn’t really matter.
Try different varieties at the same time. One of the things that I think is hard about gardening is you buy one variety, you buy two plants, they don’t really work out and you have to wait all the way until the next season to try a new variety.
I think I would say exactly what you suggested. Buy from a local farmer. I would say the exact same thing. My favourite people to buy from are CSA farmers who are growing those varieties in your area, in their fields.

Jenny: Yeah, especially if you live somewhere like you and I do. They want your money to pay for those heating bills because that’s the trade-off.
It’s really hard to start pepper plants from seed because, certainly, I think you were talking about don’t do it on a windowsill. That’s a catastrophe in my opinion, almost every single time.

Megan: Yeah.

Jenny: You’re talking about lights and heat and all of that, but when you’re on a CSA farm, they’re just heating a huge hoop house and it’s a beautiful thing because it has really solid, even light. They want your help paying those bills, so they’re going to start a few extra to sell to you and that could be the most beautiful relationship, for sure.

Megan: Exactly. Right. You did bring up another point, which I talked about in the book. I have struggled a lot over time trying to even get my pepper seeds to start.
They like a lot of heat, which is hard to provide. We have a woodstove, so it can get pretty warm, but it’s not 85 degrees, which is what peppers like. They like it to be 85 degrees in order to germinate. So, that can be a challenge as well. That I hear from people.

Jenny: Yeah, definitely. I think my house might be 85 degrees. It’s super insulated and we have a pellet stove, so it’s always really hot, but it’s really hard to take them outside after that. It just doesn’t pay. I just want a mentally healthy balanced plant, that hasn’t been subjected to all this crazy stuff. Excellent.
One other question about peppers is, “Have you ever heard that they like to hold hands?” Have you heard that term, “Peppers like to hold hands?”

Megan: No.

Jenny: I have, and it freaks me out. Because, generally, my philosophy is give everybody plenty of room. I don’t usually really like the square foot gardening approach. I feel like there’s not enough nutrients in the soil potentially to really share for all of the plants to get exactly what they need.
I want to space things out further, but I keep reading that peppers want to be spaced close together so that their branches cross and touch and I just don’t know a lot about it. So, sometimes I’m like, “Okay, I’ll put them a little closer.” But I haven’t really experimented enough to know if I really stacked them together, how they would do.

Megan: All my garden beds are between 3.5 and 4 feet wide and I grow mine three rows to the bed, 18 inches between plants. So, that’s pretty tight.

Jenny: Yeah, that ought to do it. Excellent.

Megan: They’re definitely holding hands.

Jenny: Yes. Perfect. You’re nailing it.
Okay, is there anything else that you want to let us know? Do you have any big plans coming up?

Megan: Well, it’s definitely the end of the gardening season here. I guess people are thinking about the end of the season. This winter, I’ll be holding a planning your garden challenge.
In my experience, the people who are the most successful with gardening and farming, because a lot of farmers plan their farms, are people who give some thought to their garden before the gardening season starts. Some people wait until that first 60 to 65 degree day in April and then it’s nice and they’re ready to start gardening and they run out to the nursery and start buying seeds and plants and don’t really think about their garden.
I’m not a huge planner, but there are definitely things that I do before the season starts. We’re going to spend some of the winter talking about that.
And I’m going to have a challenge to help people get excited about planting their gardens.
People can find that at creativevegetablegardener.com/challenge. You can sign up for that.

Jenny: Okay, cool. We’ll make sure to put a link to that on the show notes page at growbettergreens.com/episode22.
I also put a link on that page already. I saw a cool video of you on YouTube. It’s you talking, basically, a five-minute TED-like talk about how you became a vegetable gardener. That was a pretty cute story.

Megan: Thank you. I didn’t grow up knowing anything about vegetable gardening.

Jenny: Yeah, I watched your video and I thought we had opposite lives because it shows you meeting hippies on your commune and I feel like that was more akin to how I grew up. Not my parents, but my community and the people that I knew. It was the reverse. And then I went to art school in New York City and I was like, “Oh, my God. I think I need to go home.”

Megan: That’s so funny. You were like, “Wait, not everyone’s a hippie?”

Jenny: Right, exactly. It was the opposite experience.

Excellent. Well, thank you so much for coming and telling us all about what you do and I certainly hope you guys visit creativevegetablegardener.com because your eBooks really look fantastic. They look above and beyond to me and I think that people in our audience could certainly get some pretty valuable information from them.
I’m curious, also, if you plan to, maybe, over time, add to your Essential Guides?

Megan: Yeah, I’m always looking for input from my community to see what things people struggle with or what things people want to delve more deeply into, specifically.
I would love for listeners to join my community. If you’re not interested in the planning challenge, just go to my homepage creativevegetablegardener.com, and you can sign up for my email list. I send out about one blog post a week just talking about a seasonal topic in the garden. I’d love to have people join over there.

Jenny: Excellent. Well, thanks again, Megan.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food. Remember to enter your first name and email address below to access the FREE Video series.



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Interview with Megan Cain: The Creative Vegetable Gardener

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast, Interview | Comments Off on Interview with Megan Cain: The Creative Vegetable Gardener

In this week’s episode, we’re talking to Megan Cain, The Creative Vegetable Gardener from Madison, Wisconsin. Megan (our very first interviewee!) shares some of her best tips and tricks around preserving the harvest the easy way, using both the fridge and freezer. We also discuss her great line of Ebooks, which go beyond food preservation and into the realm of seed sowing and focusing in on specific crops, such as garlic, onions, and peppers. Learn more about Megan Cain and what she has to offer by clicking play below!

You can listen in here, or download our free podcast from the iTunes store. Want to learn to grow better greens yourself? Sign up for our FREE Video Series below:


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Episode 22:Megan Cain, the Creative Vegetable Gardener

(For a full transcript of our interview with Megan, click here…)

Where to find our more about Megan Cain
The Creative Vegetable Gardener Ebooks
Where to Find Carmen Peppers
Seeds Every Month Survey
Why Do You Grow Food?


And if you enjoyed our podcast, please help us spread the word by leaving your honest review on iTunes.

Want to win our collection of Free Heirloom Seeds?
Fill out our Quick Survey here about our new Seeds of the Month Club

And if you enjoyed our podcast, please help us spread the word by leaving your honest review on iTunes.

Where to Find Out More About Megan Cain

There are plenty of places to check Megan out online – her website, youtube, instagram, as well as other podcasts and interviews.

The Creative Vegetable Gardener E Books

You can find Megan’s Ebooks on her the Learning Center page of her website:

  • Super Easy Seed Starting
  • Super Easy Food Preserving
  • The Essential Guide to Growing Peppers
  • The Essential Guide to Growing Garlic
  • The Essential Guide to Growing Onions

Where to Find Carmen Peppers

As Megan and I discussed, we are both huge fans of Carmen Peppers…. and Jimmy Nardello, Red Marconi, Corno di Toro Rossa and all other Sweet Italian Frying Peppers!

Im fact, we both agree that Frying peppers are way sweeter with a taste more worth waiting for than traditional Bell peppers. They are the just the epitome of summer.

The tricky part, is where to find these varieties as seedlings in the springtime. Liz and I actually go over where and how to source the best seedling varieties each spring on Episode 2: How to Source Healthy plants for a Healthy Garden

The quick advice if your looking for heirloom varieties like Carmen, is to find a CSA farm by searching your zip code at LocalHarvest.org. CSA Farms often start way more field plants than they need – with the intention of selling the transplants to home gardeners.

They are often the best suppliers of properly-cared-for seedlings!

Seeds Every Month Survey

Hey – we’re giving away free seed collections in exchange for 4 short answers from you!

We’re really excited to roll out our Seeds Every Month website shortly – think Seeds of the Month Club meets awesome online gardening classes (also delivered monthly!)

Each 6-seed collection will be paired with a short and sweet gardening class aimed at growing your knowledge – the fun way.

We would love for you to help us out by visiting our 4-question survey here – enter your email address and you could win free seeds!

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week Megan Cain shares her answer with us – thanks Megan!

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food. Remember to enter your first name and email address below to access the FREE Video series.


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