For someone who loves gardening, I can’t imagine a better place to squish bugs than in Joe Lamp’l’s pristine vegetable garden north of Atlanta. August in hot, humid Georgia is the time of year when all the insects decide to show up to the party.
If it has to be insects, who better to tell the good bugs from the bad bugs than Joe Lamp’l, the trusted expert behind the joegardener brand? He’s a gifted garden communicator with decades of experience identifying pests and diseases all the while preaching the gospel of organic gardening. His job titles include TV host, executive producer, podcaster, Youtube and social media content creator, and, of course, gardener. After all, he’s the Joe behind joegardener.
This fall, Joe adds to that impressive resume the title new book author. His book, “The Vegetable Gardening Book: Your Complete Guide to Growing an Edible Organic Garden from Seed to Harvest” (Cool Springs Press) publishes September 6. (It’s his third book; the first two published more than a decade ago.)
The new book is a comprehensive package of his academic, slightly nerdy, long-form take on organic vegetable gardening.
“In this book, we teach how to be successful as a gardener,” he says. The book covers all the basic gardening components, from site to soil to seeds and seedlings and the “down and dirty” for the most popular crops for home gardeners.
The joegardener Origin Story
Joe Lamp’l grew up gardening. In the book introduction, he tells the story of when he was 8 years old, he accidentally broke off a branch of a shrub and stuck it in the ground. A few weeks later he returned to the spot, tugged at the branch, and realized it grew roots. In this moment, a love of gardening and a lifelong passion for horticulture took root. Joe has horticulture and business degrees, and followed “suit” jobs until a serendipitous turn landed him a spot as the host of DIY Network’s “Fresh from the Garden.”
In the two decades since that show, Joe’s cultivated an enthusiastic gardening audience that he reaches through his PBS show “Growing a Greener World” now in its 12th season, the top-rated “joegardener Podcast,” social media platforms, and new courses in the Online Gardening Academy.
The Online Gardening Academy is a community of passionate gardeners who want to learn the best way to start seeds, or nurture their soil, or grow an organic garden, any of a host of gardening topics. The online courses come with lifetime access to content and the exclusive perk of weekly “office hours.” This is the time where Joe answers questions and guides subscribers through challenges in their own gardens. The courses are a combination of personal garden coaching and group gardening therapy.
“Maybe this is unique to the gardening community, but I find that people who garden share and support each other,” he says.
The forum exists on a private platform, not Facebook, a plus because “there’s no politics, no meanness, no advertising. It’s all gardening,” Joe says.
The online community is his way of teaching smaller audiences what he knows best: how to sustainably and organically grow a home garden.
The GardenFarm is the setting for his podcast and video projects. The morning I spent in the garden was perfect. The vegetable garden includes 16 raised beds and he takes advantage of every inch of space through intensive planting methods. Tomatoes and eggplants grow up the famous cattle panel trellises (step by step instructions included in the book).
Joe is a natural teacher and host. Scouting the garden, he found a caterpillar and proceeded to teach me how to use Google Lens to identify the critter. This was new to me and I look up every creepy crawlie that crosses my path now. (We identified an orange-tipped oakworm caterpillar, that is not a pest.)
The Vegetable Gardening Book
The Vegetable Gardening Book is a comprehensive guide to growing vegetables in a home garden. From the first chapter, “Start Here,” to the 12th, “Diseases: Managing the Inevitable,” Joe devotes 116 pages to all the piece parts you need before you start to grow. The location, the light, watering, and most importantly, the beating heart of an organic garden — the soil. That’s in the second chapter, “It’s All About the Soil.”
“…there’s nothing better you can do than be constantly mindful of your garden’s soil. From regularly assessing what you have, to enriching it with the right ingredients, taking care of your soil should be a never-ending endeavor.” (from “The Vegetable Gardening Book”)
The book’s second half empowers readers to plant the Fab 40, Joe’s top crops for growing in home gardens. It covers veggies from artichokes to winter squash, including a detailed section on herbs. Popular fruits like blueberries and melons pop up, too.
“The Vegetable Gardening Book” is a one-stop resource for growing a vegetable garden. Joe says it’s ok if gardeners read the book straight through, although he designed it in digestible chunks for easy searching. Because sometimes gardeners need a quick answer while they’re working and only a book will do. (It’s true. I brought along my copy of Barbara Damrosch’s “The Garden Primer” when I planted my first garden.)
In the Garden
A well-loved vegetable garden is a beautiful thing. It’s a curated environment that is equal parts self-expression and negotiation with nature. You dig the soil and plant the plants and try to stay on the good side of Mother Nature for a season and beyond. It’s hard work, but as the t-shirts say, at least you get tomatoes.
In the garden, August is spent harvesting the bounty and managing the critters that show up. All the while planning for the next garden season. Which, in fact, Joe the gardener is doing. He calls fall gardening, “the greatest missed opportunity” for gardeners. And he’s not missing out — his fall seedlings (greens and brassicas) are ready to go in the ground in the next few weeks.
What’s Next for Joe Lamp’l?
In 2023, he’ll release “Organic Vegetable Gardening,” a course he calls “gardening on steroids” for its content depth and production values. This one is “for the gardener who wants to go deep,” he says, and follow the garden cycle from seed to harvest. It will be offered in the Online Gardening Academy library alongside courses like “Master Seed Starting” and “Beginning Gardener Fundamentals.”
Where to Find Joe
Before I Left the Garden
Before I left the GardenFarm, Joe graciously signed my copy of “The Vegetable Gardening Book” and let me know that mine was the very first copy he signed.
Photo of Joe Lamp’l credit: Tobi McDaniel.