The power of respect

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Journey with Jill in the Garden

His warm voice on the other end of the call immediately eased my clenched stomach. Both excitement and nervous energy pulsed through my body as I prepared for the biggest interview of my life.
I am a new-ish gardener from Pottsville teaching other beginners how to garden through my blog and on my fledgling podcast, The Beginner’s Garden Podcast.
He is an Emmy-winning TV producer and podcast host. You might have seen his show on PBS, Growing a Greener World, or listened to his podcast, The Joe Gardener Show. He’s on a first-name basis with the person who named the world-famous Cherokee Purple tomato and keeps highly-respected agricultural experts on speed-dial.
And yet he agreed to be a guest on my podcast. In the height of the garden season. In the middle of filming Season 10 of Growing a Greener World. Days away, I found out, from learning if his show will receive a second Emmy this year.
To describe my body as a bundle of balled-up nerves when I hit the “call” button on Skype would be an understatement. At the same time, though, I couldn’t wait to ask Joe Lamp’l, who himself gardens in Atlanta, Georgia — a similar hot-humid climate as ours — some of my most pressing tomato questions.
The questions I chose to ask were ones I hear most frequently myself, especially in the height of the summer. Most gardeners find their lush tomato plants begin to lose their vibrance in July. Whether due to disease, heat, blossom-drop, unmanageable growth, blossom-end rot, or other reasons, we grow discouraged and perhaps give up on keeping up with them altogether.
Not only did Joe give suggestions for those issues, he also posed a solution I had never considered: start a new crop of tomatoes in July.
This was a new idea to me, but Joe explained that starting a new crop in July would allow these tomato plants to escape some of the early-season ailments. With little effort, we could extend and even multiply our tomato harvest.
But Joe doesn’t suggest starting tomatoes from seed again or purchasing pricey transplants at the garden center. Instead, he suggests starting new tomato plants from your current ones.
Simply find a “sucker” from one of your tomato plants, carefully pinch it off, and place it in a pot of well-moistened potting soil. Keep it watered for four weeks to allow the root system to establish in the pot. Then, transplant the new tomato plant into the garden. Depending on the variety, you could find yourself harvesting a fresh crop of tomatoes from late September until our first frost, usually in early November.
I don’t know about your garden, but each year I’m constantly fighting to keep my tomato plants healthy mid-season. Last year I had to pull my tomato plants in August because Septoria Leaf Spot, a fungal disease common in humid areas, overtook them.
This simple method of starting new tomato plants from the first ones before disease sets in holds rich possibility for gardeners wanting to take advantage of our long growing season in Arkansas.
I learned so much about tomatoes and gardening in my conversation with Joe Lamp’l, but I also learned something perhaps even more poignant that went deeper than garden talk.
At the beginning of the call, I wanted to respect his time and was ready to dig into the interview. But before I pressed “record,” he slowed our conversation down and asked me questions. He treated me as an equal, with respect and consideration. During our two-hour call, I felt like I was talking to an old friend.
In those precious two hours, I learned that no matter how “big” a person is in his or her sphere of influence, there’s power in noticing someone, giving of your time, and even asking questions. There’s meaning when we pause from our busy schedules to invest in someone coming up behind us.
Sure, I left that conversation knowing more about gardening and excited to share the interview with my podcast listeners. But I also left with something more — a tangible example to follow and encouragement to honor and respect everyone, no matter how big or small.
If you want to hear this two-part conversation with Joe Lamp’l, the episodes air on July 2nd and 9th at

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