Opening a can of worms and the digital divide



Over the last few years, I have acquired some sort of vague prominence in WNY as a gardening go-to person—not really a horticultural expert, but someone who can answer questions reliably. (This has not led to revenue of any substantial nature.) Somewhat more interestingly, my blogging activities are becoming more widely known. At the end of this month, I will teach the second of two blogging workshops, this time to an adult horticultural class, which meets as part of the horticultural training program based at a local high school.

The guy who teaches it is a longtime member of the state nursery and landscaping association, a CNLP, and a regular at our yearly gardening show. But like many of his colleagues, the world of garden blogging, tweeting, or anything else online is at best a peripheral part of his professional life. He wants to know more, and he thinks that many of the adults in his class would benefit. I agree. I’ve learned a lot more about being a better gardener since I started blogging, but, more important, I’ve become part of a bigger gardening community—larger than I could ever have imagined. When I go to this class, I fully expect that many of my students could teach me plenty about gardening, and I’m looking forward to it, hoping that the information I’m sharing is worth the exchange.

Then there’s Kevin, who’s sort of an apprentice urban gardener. I’ve been working with him for a while, advising on how to attack the delightful but neglected garden areas that came with the house he’s just purchased. He has a lovely secluded patio and several shade beds around the house that were probably very elegant once. He also has a lot of maple roots—to this I can relate. The other day, Kevin came by to pick up a dual batch composter. I had been sent and was passing along to him—I am starting to use him as an equipment guinea pig. “I need worms for this, right?” he remarked, kind of matter-of-factly. “No!” I replied, with emphasis, and then gave him a list of some common compostables, and how to deploy them.

Kevin has written a guide to using the Droid, and is a regular guest on call-in shows about technical gadgets. I have nothing to teach him about being online. But he does need me to stop him from jumping into vermicomposting before he’s planted as much as one perennial. I know his household, and worms will not be a happy introduction there; he needs to stick to coffee grounds, scraps, clippings, and leaves. For now.

I should really get him and the people in the horticulture class together. Maybe they could help him more than I can, and vice versa. It would be fun to watch. My mine takeaway from all this is that if I hadn’t started blogging about gardening, none of this would be happening. And that would be a shame.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Great post about mutual backscratching! The head botanist for the state occasionally asks me gardening questions – which blows me away! I have to remind myself that having a PhD in plant anatomy and classification doesn’t necessarily equal gardening knowledge.

  2. Blogging completely opened the world for me. I was already a garden writer, but I’ve had so many good experiences from blogging about it.

    I’ve also taught a blogging workshop in Oklahoma. That was fun.~~Dee

  3. the photograph is hard to read: is this a composite image…or are those worms overfed?

    You’re right about learning much from Blogs. In winter I spend part of each day reading…it is a great pleasure and I love seeing gardens in other parts of the country, that I have never known.

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