Not everyone has a green finger, but Gayla Trail author of You Grow Girl can help. From her gardening website to her recent book, Gayla offers practical advice to everyone from beginners to seasoned gardeners.
Gayla is also a photoblogger and designer. She recently won the award from Best Toy Camera Photography of a Photoblog at the Photobloggies and was nominated for Best Canadian Photoblog and Best Writing of a Photoblog. She has taken photographs for Spacing Magazine and is part of the PUBLICity show. Gayla talks to Torontoist about gardening and photography.
You Grow Girl can be found at most bookstores. The Publicity Show is still up at Toronto Free Gallery until April 23rd.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
I was born and raised in St. Catharines, Ontario. I have lived in Toronto for about 13 years.
What was the inspiration for writing your book, You Grow Girl? How did you get it off the ground?
Like everything I do, I used myself (my likes and dislikes) as an example and made a book that I would like. The idea was to take the attitude and approach to gardening that I nurtured through the YGG.com site and expand it into a process that people can follow. Of course I prefer to read non-linearly sometimes so I also designed the book to be read like a magazine – you can jump in wherever you want and start from there if you prefer. I wanted to make a book that included all the information a beginner would find essential, while also including projects and information that a seasoned gardener would enjoy. So many gardening books are intimidating so I wanted the information to be approachable, fun, encouraging, and inviting without being dumbed-down.
How long did it take to write?
Well, I was working on designs and photographs while writing it so the process of making the book wasn’t exactly a linear one. However, the entire process including designing and editing was a speedy seven months.
Can you offer any advice for people trying to build a garden on a balcony?
Understand right from the start that rooftops, fire-escapes and balconies are very special environments that have their own needs ֠the information on most plant tags don’t account for this stuff. For instance, balconies are often more exposed to wind and sun than your average backyard. In addition they can be built using heat-absorbing materials such as cement, brick, and tarpaper. Even a shady spot can be too hot and will wilt plants that can’t take the heat. Get to know your conditions and adjust yourself accordingly – some of these so-called negatives can be positives if you understand them. Don’t be discouraged!
Get to know your limitations. Plants look cute and manageable in the spring but can grow into a high-maintenance nightmare by mid-July, especially on a super-sun exposed rooftop. New balcony and container gardeners have a tendency to get crazy, growing too many plants without realizing how much watering they’re going to be doing when the summer heat intensifies. Start out with a few plants in your first year and expand your collection in the second season once you’ve got some experience.
Use containers that are appropriately sized for the plant. New balcony gardeners often make the mistake of trying to grow large vining tomatoes in tiny pots.
What are you planning for your garden this spring?
I’m suffering from the cobbler’s children syndrome this year– I haven’t made any solid plans. I’m looking forward to figuring out a new layout for the deck container garden. My planter boxes were a bit sad last year so I’m thinking of getting something big to add height. I expanded the street garden last year so I need to work more on improving the soil there as well as figuring out a better layout. I just kind of plopped some tolerant plants in there last year and left it at that.
What is your company Fluffco about?
We’re a creative services company. We work for clients to pay the bills but we also create and maintain some of our own projects. In that sense Fluffco is the umbrella company for all the various projects we produce.
How did you get involved in the PUBLICity?
I have contributed a few images to Spacing Magazine and was invited by Matt Blackett (the organizer) to be in the show.
How long have you had your Making Happy photoblog? Do you have a theme your try to keep to?
I started the site in January 2003. I had a weblog on the Fluffco site but felt it needed its own home. I wanted to produce something that didn’t have my name on it to see what happened. Of course lots of people know about it now so that’s not really a factor anymore. When I started the site the idea was to make an online sketchbook but photography took over and that was that. There is no theme.
What’s your favourite part of Toronto to photograph?
That’s constantly changing. I tend to just carry my camera with me wherever I go and take photos as I see them. I spend most of my time in the west end so that tends to be the scene for many images. However we have been making some trips to the east end specifically to take photos – mainly because it’s new terrain. I can tell you that my most hated part of the city to photograph is the downtown core (the business and tourist districts). I rarely, if ever see anything there that catches my eye.