Ill.: Stick.png & depositphotos
By Larry Hodgson
Yes, it’s the New Year, and my little project of a simple daily gardening blog has been going on for 7 years now. It’s nevertheless remarkable that a small daily post from a passionate Canadian home gardener attracts so much interest, but the blog is now read around the world. There were some 2.8 million visitors (yes, millions!) in 2021 visiting the site 3.7 million times. That’s enormous! That’s almost 1 million more visitors that in 2020.
And there have been a few changes over the year. Thanks to my son, Mathieu Hodgson, the blog was completely revamped last winter, with a new format. The blog is now more modern, brighter and more user-friendly; at least I hope so. There is also now the possibility of making a donation to support the blog, something that wasn’t possible in the past.
However, my health is failing. Although I’m “only” 67, it’s unlikely I’ll reach 70. I’ve never really discussed this in this blog before, as health is such a personal thing (and the last thing I want is pity), but I think I owe an explanation to my loyal readers (and so many people tell me they read the blog every day) about what’s happening to the man behind the blog, Larry Hodgson.
I have been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease, for several years now and the last 18 months especially have seen quite a decline in my capacities. I am now on oxygen 24 hours a day and I can no longer even count the things that I can’t do anymore. Getting out of my house, even to take a stroll around my garden, is now difficult and uncomfortable. Going out in public seems almost impossible. I no longer give in-person lectures and am no longer taking any reservations for videoconferences because I can no longer trust my voice to remain steady.
But what about my garden? I’ve spent years trying to create a garden that required the least possible care, but never really thought I’d actually need it to be that way. Well, now I do!
There is still a bit of lawn (my spring garden of naturalized bulbs!), but only a flat surface my wife can handle with our small electric mower. And even if she couldn’t, we could hire someone. The rest is (now) mostly trees, shrubs and woodland plantings of largely native plants. Not much to do there. I have a friend who can come in and do a bit of spot weeding where the natural cover isn’t yet thick enough.
I still tried to keep a container vegetable garden going this last summer, but probably not next year. Just getting to it was quite a challenge, so it received little care.
I still putter about with my houseplants, though.
Mostly, gardening is becoming a question of looking outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature all around, something that makes me feel so relaxed and wonderful.
Writing Brings Great Comfort
One of the few things I can still do is write. And I certainly do! Oddly, the COVID crisis has brought me plenty of work: everything having to do with gardening is booming these days and I’ve picked up more contracts for articles (for magazines, Web sites, blogs, etc.) over the last two years than the five previous ones. I’ve always been a hard worker (that’s why I’ve always needed to be a laidback gardener, I have never had much time to invest in gardening) and still put in 60-hour weeks as I’ve done for nearly 40 years. And so, I continue to make a reasonable living as a freelance journalist.
My nurse (yes, I now receive home visits from a visiting nurse and and also an inhalation therapist while my beloved wife, Marie, is my “family caregiver”) seems amazed that I keep this up, as most people in my condition have had to give up working at the very beginning of the illness and now spend most of their time in a armchair, if not in a bed, reading or watching TV. I would love to read more and watch more TV, but I don’t have time for it.
My thought is: when you’re in declining health, the most important thing is to feel useful … and, with a blog read by millions, I certainly do!
Ensuring the Laidback Gardner Blog Continues
This blog has become my passion. Publishing a blog article every day is quite a challenge and keeps me on my toes (finger tips, actually). I love sharing horticultural information (hopefully correct horticultural information!) with garden lovers everywhere and blogging has become my primary way of doing it. And I would like to see the blog continue after I die.
My son, Mathieu, has agreed to try to keep the blog going, perhaps not an article every day, but maybe one or two a week. On the other hand, I can’t ask him to do that at a loss, because he too has to earn a living. So, we’ve been working together to try to monetize the Laidback Gardener blog and make it profitable.
That’s why you’ve seen an increase in ads accompanying the blog. Already just the fact that there are ads indicates a fairly successful blog, as advertisers are very selective. Even two years ago, mine had none at all; there was no interest. But then a few ads came on board, now even more. Apparently, the Laidback Gardener blog is now more worth their investment. The ideal situation for me would be that the blog bring in enough money to pay someone to maintain it. Well, we certainly aren’t there yet, but we’re working on it!
Also, during the past year, it became possible to make a direct donation to support the blog thanks to the addition of a “donor box” to the site. This is something Mathieu figured out how to do last spring. It doesn’t bring in much yet, but every little bit helps. If you feel this blog has helped you over the years, feel free to make a donation.
Now, About Those &#@$% Gardening Questions
And now for the hard part!
I’ve always gladly answered questions appearing in the comments at the end on the blog as well as questions sent to me by email. Well, maybe I should say “generously answered” rather than “gladly answered,” as there were times when I wasn’t glad at all. Answering the questions now often takes more time than writing the blog. To say I’m often overwhelmed scarcely covers it. There were days last spring (always the big season for gardening questions) when I felt like abandoning everything. I couldn’t see how I could both write articles and answer questions.
And don’t suggest I simply charge to answer questions. That way, I’d have even more work, as I’d feel a need to research each question more thoroughly. The one thing I don’t need is more work!
So, here’s the big decision. As of today, January 1, 2022, questions sent to me will be left answered, at least by me. I’ll still gladly accept suggestions and corrections, plus questions about the blog itself (how to access this or that); plus I’ll read everything that comes through, enjoying your comments, but your gardening questions will be met with either stony silence or a message saying I no longer answer gardening questions. (I’m not sure yet which is better.) I may well use a question that comes in as the basis for a blog article, but I’ll no longer set aside several hours every day to methodically answer questions one by one.
Don’t think I’ll enjoy this. I love answering gardening questions and I’m going to find it hard to stop … but I have to. Otherwise the stress is too great.
Fortunately, there are answers to most of the questions people ask in the more than 2,500 blog posts on the Laidback Gardener website. You can easily check this out by entering keywords in the Search box that appears on the blog. I’d say 3 out of 4 questions I’m asked these days can be answered by reading the appropriate blog article.
Become a Friend of the Laidback Gardener
If you’re a frequent reader (and so many of you are, thank you!), you can help me keep this blog running. You could answer in my place, as you would in a forum, becoming what I’m calling a Friend of the Laidback Gardener.
When you see a question in the comments that follow the blog and know the answer, you can write it there. Or if you see a reader slipping in false information (such a common problem because horticulture is so dominated by gardening myths!) you can, kindly, put the person on the right track, maybe be with a reference to a blog post or to a reliable outside source. You can therefore become a Friend of the Laidback Gardener.
And share the news. Tell friends and family about the Laidback Gardener blog (laidbackgardener.blog). Invite them to read it. Share the blog articles on your network. The more traffic the site has, the closer it will be to financial security.
I know of no benefits to being a Friend of the Laidback Gardener, other than that of sharing solid horticultural information with other gardeners. Personally, I find that very satisfying.
I think I’m going to be well enough this year to keep writing daily. In fact, my goal is to continue this blog until the day I die. My death is not necessarily imminent and I might yet have a year or so, but there is no cure for my ailment. I know death is just around the corner.
Thank you for your understanding … and please realize that I am not depressed (I do not seem to have inherited the “depression gene”). It’s amazing to think that I still view life with such optimism, but I do. And each day is such a joy!
Long live the Laidback Gardener blog!