As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve watched our community grow as well. While we all play have a passion for farming and gardening, there are many of us who express that through the content we make to accompany our practice.
This month we sat down with one of the content creators we’ve collaborated with recently to hear a little bit about his journey as a gardener.
Matthew Ingram is a gardener based in Ohio. He grew up in Alabama at the foothills of the Appalachians. “Where the woods were thick, the night sky sparkled, and the tea was sweet.” He waxed poetically. He moved north to Southwest Ohio in 2016 to follow his dreams, starting a garden along the way.
Matthew tells us his story.
I did grow up at the very bottom of the mountains where the Appalachia ends in northeast Alabama. My hometown was Piedmont, which literally means "the base of a mountain.” My grandad (“PawPaw," as I called him) was an incredible gardener and grew some of the biggest fruits and vegetables you could imagine. I've attached some very old photos from the 90s and 00s for fun (or sharing). He grafted fruit trees where different fruits were growing from the same tree. He knew the name of pretty much any plant you could pick out. All things that he taught himself. It really was incredible for someone with maybe a 6th-grade education who couldn't read or write. He had to help out the family at a very young age - as most kids did in his generation.
I can't say that I learned much from him because I was just so young, and the garden wasn't as magical to me at that age as it is now, but I was always curious. Fast forward. I stayed home for undergrad college. But, when I went off to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for law school, I started a patio garden almost immediately. I grew tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket and a combination of herbs. From then on, I always had a small "patio garden" with flowers and veggies. I moved to Ohio in May 2016 to take the bar and started my career that fall in Southwest Ohio. It really was a dream.
We purchased our home in September 2017. There wasn't time to do anything that Fall, but I immediately put in a small cedar vegetable garden from the big box store in the Spring of 2018. Vegetable gardening is where it all began. As we ripped out most of the overgrown and aging shrubs in the landscape in the fall of 2017, I swore I would never replant anything ornamental in those spots. Who wants the upkeep, right? My, has that changed.
I then turned my attention to lawn care. While it didn't seem important at the time, I think it was a very important step in my learning process. I unknowingly was learning all about what a plant (grass) needs in more detail - specific lighting (shade, part shade, sun), water, fertilization (NPK values), pruning (cutting), dormancy, etc.
Then the gardening bug really bit me, and I discovered who would become my very best friend, Jess from Roots and Refuge Farm, on YouTube in a Summer Garden Tour she posted in 2018. My dad and I spent the fall of 2018 putting in new vegetable garden beds (replacing the ones I had just installed earlier that Spring). Winter rest came, and for the first time, I started growing plants from seeds. It was many vegetables; tomatoes, peppers, the usual. But, winter 2019 was the first year I grew geraniums from seed. My mom always loved geraniums, and so they've been pretty special to me. No special variety at the time. Just an open-pollinated packet from the big box store for $1. But I also grew lavender, coneflower, herbs, Egyptian walking onions I had discovered on Etsy, and so many other things.
From the Spring of 2019, it has been a whirlwind. My friend Jess encouraged me to start my YouTube Channel in December 2020, and it's just been storytelling since that time.
Now, I have over 100 hydrangeas in my garden of various varieties because I really love an impactful bloom, and it reminds me of home. My grandad had macrophylla hydrangeas back home on his property. They always bloomed blue, and I can still picture them today. I believe this is where my love of hydrangea comes from.
I've turned my focus to evergreens and structure this past year. After having ripped out all of the aging landscaping that existed when we purchased the home in the fall of 2017 (except now two small accent trees), everything is my own creation. I still grow a vegetable garden, but my focus these days is primarily ornamental in nature. I still enjoy growing things from seed in the dead of winter in Ohio. Because my garden is so new and I plant a lot of small plants to watch them grow, it's been nice to be able to show everyone that process and tell them, "this is what a three-year-old hydrangea looks like grown from a 4-inch container."
The garden has doubled in size alone in the past year. It is now my oasis and really my "home away from home.” It's so therapeutic to come home after work and, above all, to look at everything each day and say, "I grew this.”
Follow Matthew on his journey.
On his Instagram @thesouthernsnorthengarden and his Youtube Channel