Brie Arthur is the edible gardening guru we all need. The Michigan-born horticulturalist is a published author, foodscape consultant and speaker who believes everyone can develop their green thumb.
Besides being a leader of the foodscape movement, she’s also the Vice President of Horticulture for Gardenuity, and online gardening company, and has served on the board of several gardening organisations. Keep reading to learn why Brie’s a huge advocate for growing garlic and grains and why gardeners shouldn’t be afraid to get political.
What got you into gardening, was it part of your upbringing?
I was fortunate to have Czech immigrant grandparents who gardened so it was something I saw as a child and my family valued. I was also an active member of 4-H, a community-based agricultural club. That was the organization that truly introduced me to horticulture and the opportunities in this field.
What do you think are the values of gardening and why should everyone be involved?
Gardening provides an outlet for creativity, experimentation, and exercise. It also makes you slow down and appreciate the small things like a seed germinating or the big things like harvesting a meal to share with your family. Gardening is truly the best way to spend your free time, as an individual or family.
Often gardening is associated with a hobby only retirees are interested in. Why do you think that is and why is the younger generation starting to pick it up?
Gardening takes time and money, especially to get started, which is why it seems to land in the retirement category. I worry that young people aren’t introduced to practical gardening information and advice, which can also make the experience more difficult and costly. Knowing how to garden smart, not hard, is something you learn over time.
Foodscaping and food revolution has become your mantra. Why do you think it’s so important, now more than ever?
There are a lot of reasons why growing some of what you eat is important. First, we have a massive food miles crisis globally. (Food miles refers to the distance food travels to get from farm to consumer.) Secondly, the way we farm is often at the expense of the environment. Another reason is simple- just to get people to gain an appreciation for the resources we all take for granted. It wasn’t that long ago when people HAD to garden to supply their families with food. Now we live in a world where grocery stores are open 24/7 and people forget that is a fragile resource.
Where do you see the future for urban gardening and food scaping?
If you could dream up a scenario what would it be? I wish every balcony, wall and roof were transformed into growing spaces. I wish the landscapes around municipal building and schools were planted with food crops to feed the community. There is so much potential that isn’t being tapped into. I have faith the next generation will not squander these opportunities.
Gardenuity seems like a dream come true for the Urban gardener. What do you feel is the biggest frustration/problem people still face?
In urban areas, just having access to a store that sells gardening supplies is a challenge. And then if you don’t know what you need, ordering online is intimidating. That is why at Gardenuity we supply you with everything you need and education/support throughout the growing process. We want to build your green thumb confidence.
‘For every garlic garden you buy with Gardenuity, we will donate one to a teacher!’ Why garlic?
In the US 90% of the garlic sold in grocery markets is shipped from China. I wanted to do a food miles initiative and this seemed perfect. Garlic is an easy to grow cool season vegetable that most people eat. It grows well in a bag and it will teach people how they can make a difference in the way food is transported.
Is there anything or anyone in particular in the gardening world that really impresses or inspires you?
Rosalind Creasy is my hero. She has written 23 books about edible landscaping and is the true motivation for everything that I do.
What do you think would be needed to help that scenario manifest itself?
This is a grassroots movement. People first have to develop an interest, once they do there is no stopping them. Growing your own food is empowering, and we all deserve to feel empowered.
What is your main area of interest food gardening wise currently and what do you think is going to be big in 2019?
GRAINS! I have been having a love affair with growing my own wheat, oats, barley, rice, etc for several years, but I am thrilled to have my second book, Gardening with Grains, published in 2019. I am already planning the book tour and would love to take it internationally!
You talk about planting garlic to deter voles, growing rice instead of ornamental grass. Do you have any other examples of plants being used in unexpected, new ways?
I love to plant my bed edges to deter small browsing mammals like rabbits and groundhogs. Arugula, Onions, Peppers and potatoes are all great for this. Bed edges are a great opportunity to grow edibles because it is easy to plant, easy to water and easy to harvest.
How do you keep track of your garden?
Now I have a fabulous Green Conspiracy journal! I actually use Instagram to keep track of a lot through images and short captions as well as facebook.
You seem to be quite actively trying to get people to register to vote. Why do you think the gardening world is a platform to get people into politics?
Well, first of all we are a mess here in the US currently and every LOGICAL vote counts. I like to think my garden-inspired followers will be thoughtful in how they cast their ballots, thinking of environment, human rights, world peace… the list goes on.
‘I don’t have a green thumb’ thoughts?
It’s there, you just haven’t gotten dirty enough! Everyone can have green thumb confidence… just start small and learn from your mistakes. And remember anytime you kill a plant its an excuse to go shopping for a new one!
Stay tuned for her new book Gardening with Grains, coming to Amazon in 2019.