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189. Beginner’s Garden Podcast | Journey with Jill Blog | Jill McSheehy
21st August 2017 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:54:13

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Host of  The Beginner’s Garden Podcast and blog Journey with Jill 

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jill McSheehy. I live in Arkansas. I currently am a stay at home mom of two children. My son Drew is 10 and my daughter Alissa is six. 

After I graduated from college I was in the workforce. I was the manager of local Ford dealership. When my daughter was 2 years old I felt like I needed to be home. When I transitioned to be a stay at home mom, I started gardening primarily just to save money on the grocery bills because we were going from 2 incomes to 1. That was my primary reason for starting a garden.


I’ve been wondering where I fit into this. My husband’s more of the gardener. Time is always a big factor for me. I’m more of the eater in the garden. Yesterday I went to to the grocery store and I couldn’t afford to buy any produce or fruit. Then I’ve been trying to buy more organic fruits like strawberries cause Mike’s always saying there’s a nice container of pesticides, so I didn’t buy the strawberries.

So money is a huge issue! And kudos for you for staying home with your daughter. 

So Arkansas is one of my favorite states, I’ve driven through all of the states except Louisiana and Alabama. I drove through Arkansas once and I can still remember  going around each curve. 


Jill McSheehy Journey with Jill Podcast

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

My gardening experience is surprising to most people because I am now headlong into gardening. I did not start out that way. My mom gardened throughout my life and I didn’t want anything to do with it. She would me joke that she asked me to go pick a pepper and I would ask her what that was?

I had no idea growing up!

When I was 30-31  years old, a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to learn so I asked her and she could not help but roll her eyes and think how long is this gonna last? I did not have much experience at all!

But I was determined!

My husband wanted to grow a couple of things. So while I was working full time, he built 2 raised beds and we put some fruit and vegetables in those beds.

I started to get the itch then but not in a major way because I was working 40 hours a week at the time. But I knew I was going to be a stay at home mom full time. I dove headlong into this venture. That was in the fall. I was gonna create a huge garden in one particular part of the yard.

Back to Eden Garden Method

At the time I was studying the Back to Eden garden method that a friend of mine told me about. I didn’t know anything else. I was covering the yard with newspapers and woodchips that fall before I started my garden. That whole winter I spent researching, reading books and blog posts and everything I could get my hands on.

I compare it to college when you have all of this head knowledge but you have no life experience.

So when spring came I had all this head knowledge but I had no idea

  • what pests or what diseases I might battle
  • what my soil would be like
  • rookie year

it started out as an experiment. 

The whole area where my garden was that I had put woodchips on etc was pretty much flooded! What happened was we had a very wet spring I had not paid attention to that area before. And realized this was not gonna work. In the middle of spring we up and created a whole new garden where it was a little elevated.

We ended up having to redo everything! That garden ended up being very successful!

We built a 2500 square foot garden! I did not start small but it worked out really well!

I was hooked! I had to keep doing it every year, I loved it!

I love so much of that. I know your gonna be dropping golden seeds as I call my golden nuggets or value bombs that other podcasters say. I always say newer gardeners have a lot of lessons fresh in their head. Older gardeners have a lot of wisdom and value and different things to add but sometimes they forget those mistakes we all make. I know exactly how that feels and think this is my plan and something doesn’t work. The slope or something about a bed you didn’t count on.

Also, Im sure my mom rolls her eyes when she’s like I can’t believe my daughter has a gardening podcast. She couldn’t get me out there, I don’t like to be out in the hot, I still don’t really like to get dirty. Gardening, I like to eat food from the garden but I’m the same way when my mom goes to pick herbs for a salad when I’m there I’m always like how do you know what to pick and cut. I’m always like you have to come still and show me what to do! 

How did you learn how to garden organically from all that research?

A lot of it was the research in that first year. To be honest, I didn’t set out to garden in an organic matter. My mom actually, my first year gave me seven dust to put on my potatoes to get rid of my potato beetles because mom said that’s what I needed to do. I sprinkled it here and there.

But the more I learned throughout the years, 

  • I want to eliminate chemicals
  • I want to eliminate synthetic fertilizers
  • I started really researching compost

In the past, this will be my fifth year. I have noticed that the amount of bad bugs have really gone down over the year because I try to use methods that encourage a healthy ecosystem where I have

  • beneficial insects
  • birds
  • toads
  • Im sure there are snakes but I try to make my presence known so I don’t see any!

I try to make an environment. where the good bugs will thrive

For me I don’t have to use those pesticides anymore.

I do have some issues with some specific bugs but I learn how to work around it without resorting to invasive methods etc.

I have heard a lot of guests talk about the fact in Montana we have less bugs because we have colder winters that kill off those bugs. I  call my listeners Green Future Growers and you are doing the same thing so I think they will love your podcast etc. I love your story! The way your building an entire environment not just thinking I’m gonna grow some cabbages!

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

There’s one example I can’t exactly wrap my mind around it. We ended up building a few more raised beds within our garden and now it’s about 3000 square feet. We keep adding to it but I think we’re done for a while.

In one of the raised beds. In one of the beds we ended up using native soil from another part of the property and our soil is extremely acidic. It has a lot of clay content. We ended up using the native soil to save money to not have to buy soil. We knew that raised bed was going to be used for tomatoes.

What I did in January. We had 6 chickens and now we have 15. What I did was I took all of the chicken manure and pine shavings and put it on the raised bed in January.  Most people have heard fresh chicken manure not good for fresh plants because it can burn them but if it gets a chance to break down naturally it will add to the fertility so I let that break down naturally. 

I have read that can also be a problem because all the nutrients might leach out. I was just gonna test it just to see. In our area I can plant my tomatoes out in the beginning of April. So I added a fresh layer of compost on top of that. My own  homemade compost. 

Seed Saving Beginner's Garden Podcast

Seed saving

I planted my tomatoes and I started everything from seed this year including some I saved from last year.  so that’s like free tomatoes!

I have been so incredibly amazed at the Romas this year. 

larger then any Roma tomatoes I have grown in my gardening experience. They were bringing down the steaks in high winds. I can’t help but think because I used that native soil that typically isn’t the best quality homemade compost and the timing of putting the chicken manure and compost on top of the raised beds.

That was a big garden success for me this year!

My only concern about putting fresh chicken manure is that the manure has to sit for 120 days before you can sell it at the farmer’s market but since you spread it out in January I think your good.

I began in January and didn’t plant till April and they are just coming ripe now.

Mike always raves about his best garden was on top of a bed he made in Colorado on an old chicken pen. He always uses chicken manure and makes compost tea from it. I always love compost. My mom always had a milk carton of compost on the counter. I even kept compost at school this year. The thing I struggled with was my worm bin but I think the biggest thing was keeping a lid on it, I think they need more air.

I there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

When I think about next season, I can’t think about a whole lot I will do differently next growing season in the spring and summer. This year was a year I did a lot of simplifying because last year I did a lot of test crops. 

I’m all about a trying new things. 

  • simplified
  • growing mainly what we eat
  • trying just a few new things

A lot of that has worked well so I’m going to continue that one thing I am gonna try differently is I want to do more for my fall garden.

Fall Gardening

We don’t get our first frost till November we have a long growing season. In the past I have haphazardly planted some fall crops but nothing real specific or intentional.

I got a good harvest of red carrots in November which were amazing!

I haven’t really taken advantage of our longer season. I’m gonna give a try starting seeds indoors in January…

Did I say January I meant July…

You can’t plant your cool weather out in that heat

trying those indoors and just hoping for a btter fall garden in the past. ….

Starting seeds

I will start the seeds indoors in July or August, that way they have a chance to miss that really hot weather in July and August and I can get them in the garden in Sept or maybe Oct that way the heat has already past and that would be prime time for those cooler weather crops to grow.

Mike and I have struggled with that. Lisa Ziegler who talked about that. The hardest part is thinking if I’m gonna put it in the ground in Sept or Oct I need to start the seeds inside in June or July.

We should probably start them now! It’s June 29th today. If we were going to put brocolli in for a fall garden seems weird now. It seems like such an odd time to plant seeds because we are just planting green beans. Mike just put them in the ground yesterday. And we still have tomatoes that have to be transplanted are in containers here on the counter still.

Summer Break

Mike keeps mocking my summer break! He’s like your time is gone. You’ve had like one day off. I went to a training last week so I feel like my official break didn’t start till Saturday.

People tell you over and over count backwards but it’s still hard to embrace. And I think simplify is a good one. Gardeners we all plant to much get excited. Megan Cain is another strategic gardener you might like! Planning what you are going to eat and being strategic because gardening is a lot of work!

Journey with Jill McSheehy Bean Tipi

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

This has been a challenging season. It’s finally starting to look up. For a while there I was a little nervous. 

We had 2 major issues this spring. 

One was heavy rains this spring. We tend to get a lot of rain and then it stops and we have drought. 

My bean seeds wouldn’t germinate! That area was under water.

I had to replant my pole beans, maybe 3-4 times. Part of that was the rain. 

The second issue was rabbits!

Let me tell you why we had problems with rabbits where we weren’t before. When I first started gardening the rabbits were eating everything. My husband did some research and he put up an electric fence. We had 3-4 lines of electric fence and it worked beautifully. 

When I went out to my garden and all my peas were gone I thought it was a cut worm. Then the next thing I know my beans are gone and then my son was out in the garden and he noticed a rabbit inside the electric fence. We watched to see how he got in. This little ninja rabbit jumped through the fence!

Electricity 101

If you’re not grounded you don’t get shocked. So since he’s not touching the ground he’s not getting shocked! They figured out an easy way into the garden. We put up a temporary chicken wire around the pole beans. Until they could start climbing and there wouldn’t be an issue. But I lost entire pea crop to rabbits and I also had a very late start on my beans! I was devastated! That was very discouraging!