New Year, New Projects!

Many of you already know that I lost my father in October: the famous Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson. Not wanting this great adventure to end, I decided to continue the adventure and keep his blog alive and, therefore, his mission to make gardening simple and accessible to all! Big shoes to fill, you say? More like big steel-toed boots full of mud, I’d say!

A worker operates a roller compactor
Oops! Mathieu, when he was still a landscape worker.

Before taking over from my father, his business and his famous blog laidbackgardener.blog, I was a landscaper. I started as a simple laborer, then I became a specialized worker, a team leader and finally a manager, i.e., a project manager and a garden designer. So it’s been a few years since I traded the shovel and wheelbarrow for a cell phone and laptop.

I’ve worked on many projects, from start to finish, as a laborer, designer and manager. And there have often been moments during the course of a project when I have seen uncertainty on my clients’ faces. Indeed, once the project is well prepared, the contracts signed, the materials ordered, the work begins. And then, it’s total chaos: excavators, loaders, trucks, loudmouth workers (I was always the loudest of the bunch!) They rip out, dig, transport, pile up and move. In front of the gaping hole that used to be their yard, my clients were probably wondering what they had gotten themselves into.

Excavation for landscaping
Excavation is completed on a landscaping project. Looks like holes and a pile of dirt! Photo: S. Davis

The Gaping Hole of My Life!

Well, that’s kind of how I feel about my personal and professional life these days. Sometimes, I look at the gaping hole that my life has become (thankfully, there’s my girlfriend!) and I wonder what $%?&* I’ve gotten myself into. It’s a lot of work managing this blog. I don’t know how my father did it! What a machine!

Then I look back at what we’ve accomplished in the past few months and realize that order is beginning to take precedence over chaos. A sense of pride washes over me: the small team at laidbackgardener.blog managed to publish articles every day, just as my father had done since 2014. Yes, I know, he did that all by himself! I’ve often said we’d need a whole team to replace him. But instead, I think we’ll need an entire community. My father gave us all his time, knowledge, energy and optimism for so many years. That’s in all of us now. And I realize that I can’t do it without you!

The Blog Continues

My plan isn’t quite finished yet. I didn’t expect to be president-secretary-treasurer of a company at this point in my life, let alone a blogger. But as the saying goes, opportunity makes the thief! I am pleased to realize that I have things to say and ideas to implement for the coming year.

I intend to continue publishing the blog 7 days a week, 365 days a year, as my father did for the last 8 years. Of course, I will continue to publish Larry’s old texts, to make his work accessible to the public and to you, his faithful readers.

Julie Boudreau, experienced gardener and communicator, already supports us with her weekly articles on gardening. Biologist Audrey Martel has also joined us, informing and entertaining us with her posts about ecology. Larry’s friend Patrick Ryan shares his thoughts on gardening in Alaska. But I’d love to have more contributions, including from international writers, to cover a broader spectrum of gardening.

In addition, several groups and associations have the same mission as we do to share our knowledge so that everyone can garden. The Urbainsculteurs, a Quebec City-based non-profit organization working to develop productive and accessible agriculture, have joined the team. Marie-Andrée Asselin, horticultural manager, consultant and trainer, has been writing excellent articles on urban agriculture for the blog for several months. The door is wide open for other groups who wish to share their gardening experience.

Preview of the new logo.

A Few Projects

The project that will take up a lot of my time at the beginning of the year is the redesign of the website. Of course, the articles that have served as our reference for years will be retained. My goal is to make the site clearer and the information more accessible to readers. The look will also change. Even before my father left, we had commissioned a logo for the blog, and I can’t wait to show it to you!

While looking through my father’s computer, I discovered his notes for the articles he wrote for the newspaper Le soleil. With them, I believe I can rebuild a horticultural calendar to help us keep track of gardening activities to be accomplished throughout the seasons. The calendar will be linked to relevant articles on the website, the goal being to make gardening simple, even for the novice. Initially, this calendar will focus on the hardiness zones of Canada, but over time and with the help of gardeners from around the world, a calendar will be designed that works for everyone.

Another priority for 2023 will be to produce videos to support all these articles. We all know that social networks put a lot of emphasis on videos. So, we’re following the trend! This will not only add images to the written word, but also attract a wider audience to gardening.

I’ve got a few other wacky projects, but that’ll have to wait a bit. We have a lot of work to do already.

Community garden
A community garden in Montreal. A great example of teamwork. Photo: Jiaqian AirplaneFan.

A solid basis: the community

Like a landscaping project, once you’ve excavated, you start building a solid base on which to build the rest. Thankfully, my father left us a solid foundation. It’s time to move on to another stage of the lazy gardener’s adventure. I am fortunate to have a large and active community that has followed my father for so many years. It’s with you that we’ll begin to build the next step. I’m curious to know what you think about the future of the Laidback Gardener. What are your needs? What would you like to see on the website or on our other platforms? Feel free to share your ideas with us in the comments! We may not be able to achieve everything this year, but we must allow ourselves to dream in order to build and grow!

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you for being with us in these difficult times and for staying with us to realize new projects!

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

20 comments on “New Year, New Projects!

  1. As always, your articles are interesting and informative. A daily schedule is labour intensive to sustain. Every other day, or six days a week or just week days (to be read on weekends for those still working!) with special weekend editions from time to time would be sufficient, if it would help ensure quality work each blog and you should not feel bad about that. Quality over quantity is always best, as you know from your gardening. Love that you discuss Canadian weather and planting zones and our extreme and wonderful seasons. Our country is so diverse in climate and every way. So many blogs relate to warmer climates with advice not suited to Canadians. Best wishes for a successful New Year.

  2. You and your team are doing a great job. I have two topics to suggest: winter gardening and urban agriculture. Over the last few years we’ve expanded our edible garden and added some beds to the front yard where we favour good looking edibles. Among these are delicious artichokes that attract a lot of attention from neighbours. We plan on adding more edibles to our front yard flower beds and would love to read about the happy and beautiful integration of the two. Our first attempt at « winter gardening » this year was to seed carrots in late summer for harvest early spring. Looking forward to tasting them. This year we’ll add a cold frame to one of our beds to extend our harvest time. Lots of great info on the web but I’m tired of suggestions to plant kale. Seems it’s incontournable but what’s the use when no one wants to eat it! Wishing you and the team a great 2023. Happy gardening.

  3. Ann T Dubas

    Hi and Happy New Year! We’re 70+ maintaining a 5 acre property almost entirely on our own. We’ve developed some strategies I’d be happy to share. One of these is the incredible labor saving of rechargeable power tools including the magical mini chainsaw -pruner (6 in” blade). One of the others is off-season work. We’re very busy clearing part of our land now. Summer heat is bad for elders. Hooray for fall, winter and early spring!

  4. Marlene Hillard

    I am new to gardening and there is so much I don’t know. For example, I would like to grow a few herbs indoors. Which ones should I try in terms of ease of growing and most useful in cooking? Where can I find a good grow box which has the proper lighting and is well made? How can I easily identify a plant in my garden so I can learn how to care for it? Is there one app that is better than others? How do I deal with the spaces between stepping stones that encourage weedy growth? Fill them in with a permanent filler? Add plants and if so which ones and how exactly do I plant them? I would like pictures, examples, etc. I live in Northern Nevada so water is always an issue as well as the overall dryness. I am willing to contribute to a blog if it is useful.

    Thank you for considering my requests.

  5. Christine Lemieux

    I am so glad you feel proud! The tough transition has gone smoothly, thanks to you. I am at a loss for suggestions for future posts. As a long time gardener I find information on insects very helpful. I strive to grow more and more natives, and plants that support pollinators and birds. I have read much about all of this and more on Laidback Gardener. I have learned so much from your father, including how to be much more laidback in the garden! I enjoy the articles from all of the contributors and look forward to the implementation of your new plans! Happy New Year to you all!

  6. Granny Pat

    Happy New Year and All the Best to you and yours too, Mathieu! From here it looks like you are doing a great job filling those big shoes and breaking them in to make them fit your feet comfortably too. I’m looking forward to seeing your ambitious plans come to fruition.

  7. Josie Margaret Pazdzior

    Thank you for continuing your father’s work, which was and continues to be appreciated by so many gardeners. You are doing a great job!

  8. Happy New Year Mathieu. I only discovered your father’s blog about 6 months ago but have enjoyed the articles. I would like to see more on native gardens. I live near Ottawa so not that much different from your area. I am trying to go more native with plants and trees.

  9. Making changes in anything that you previously were satisfied with is difficult. Basement waterproofing became necessary for us three years ago. Before the patio (which my husband had patiently laid out 40 years ago) came out and the digger person came in to dig a swale and lay waste to flower beds around the patio and the side of the house my contractor had this piece of advice. He said “Just remember that until this is finished it will be a really big mess.” Truer words were never spoke. This, I think, applies to many situations when changes, big or small, will disrupt a long standing situation. So your going forward with your father’s blog I’m sure will necessitate some changes and doing so with a plan and course of action in mind will make for a smooth transition.

  10. Happy New Year! I have learned so much from this website! You might think about also publishing on Substack — it’s free but has a much more user friendly comment section. It also allows for an optional subscription fee. You could publish on both places, see how it goes!

  11. David Prigione

    Great idea Mathieu. I loved reading your dad’s blog each morning since I stumbed across it two years ago, and I continue to enjoy it each morning. Your Dad actually helped me a great deal by replying to my email with the answer to a question I had two summers ago.

    To reply to your request of getting input from your readers, I have two questions that may be worth using as topics to help us gardening beginners.

    I grew up on a small farm and quite frankly hated having to work in our gigantic garden as a child, but as I aged I realized I wanted to garden once again. So I have been making plans for what I want in my garden for when I retire in two years.

    Since I am a senior I know that as time goes on, bending over to do gardening will be more challenging. I have been researching different material for building enabling vegetable beds. I want to be able to garden without having to bend over for most of the work.

    I have not found any material in my research that I am satisfied with because I want the material to be long lasting, non-leaching and hopefully not made of wood because I don’t want to have trees cut down so I can garden.

    My latest idea is to build the walls out of concrete block. Then I would fill in the interior with concrete block that is just placed inside the walls for the purpose of building up the height so I don’t use up unnecessary amounts of earth, and also to allow for proper drainage. I can do this work myself so it is not too big a project for me, but I want to know if it makes sense to you.

    Also, I have been busy composting for awhile now so that I have the best earth possible for my future garden in two years. Could you write an article on creating great compost and how a person would know what PH levels and nutrients go best with different types of vegetables and fruits like stawberries and even blueberries. I have read articles on this but it would be nice to have information on this topic in more of a chart form.

    Hopefully my ideas for these two topics have not added to your stress on writing a blog for your readers. I truly appreciate the work you are doing already to keep your dad’s blog alive.

    David P.

  12. I really like all the blogs. Thank you so much for continuing on!

  13. Susan Mitchell

    THANK YOU! Mathieu for your dedication to carrying on your father’s mission to share gardening information with ALL! I am so sorry for your loss (I love the photos of him the ‘children/grandchildren'(?) shared recently). What a lovely, warm man. And WE are blessed to have you taking up his ‘mantle’. Best wishes to you and your team!

  14. Audrey Humphrey

    So glad that you are carrying on your fathers work. I didn’t know him long but loved him just the same. My only thing that I would like to see, and I have sent this already, is when you use measurements – please use your way – mm, cm, and weather c – but PLEASE use ours USA, inches, feet, etc. and degrees. Thank you so much and have a wonderful New Year!

  15. Eager for more of the same plus maybe more on building terrariums, growing herbs, growing vegetables in a small space, growing trees (like avocado trees) from seeds, best potting soil, etc.
    Love to witness your growth (career progression), and that you are going to incorporate more writers. I only began adding shared posts to my blog in 2021 and it has helped grow my readership and save me time. I don’t have a team either and work a full-time job.
    Happy New Year!

  16. Happy New Year, Mathieu! Thanks for laying out your plans for the blog and the community, and all the work and folk it takes. I’m inspired and delighted to have the chance to see how it all unfolds! How fortunate we are in your ‘laidbackness’ — 😉 !!

  17. Jt Michaels

    Yuppers – looking forward!

  18. Bless your heart Mathieu! For all your efforts and your support staff. On behalf of all faithful readers of this blog, thank you for keeping your dads work and memory going for us. Deeply appreciated. Bravo!! And happy new year to all

  19. Happy New Year Mathieu! I am looking forward to your blogs and all your new projects.

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