A New Radio Program


What was it that F. Scott Fitzgerald said?  That there are no second acts in American lives?  He was clearly no gardener.  We get a new act every spring.  I took comfort in this thought as I planted out seedlings yesterday, musing about my fledgling new career in radio.

One aspect of gardening about which I am passionate is how our craft brings you face to face with the realities of natural systems.  You can’t work with plants without sooner or later noticing how the life in the soil affects the health of your plants and in turn the size of your harvest.  And it’s hard to remain blind to the realities of climate change as, year by year, you notice spring shrubs and bulbs blooming earlier and earlier and the fall frost arriving later.

It frustrated me that the traditional print media for which I worked through my first career, gardening magazines and newspaper columns, were so reluctant to publish anything about these environmental realities.  That doesn’t sell products, the editors would explain, and that makes our advertisers unhappy.  GardenRant has provided a forum for such discussions – along with input pro and con from readers.  But I’ve been looking to expand my reach.

That’s why, for the last year, I’ve been volunteering for my local public radio station, WESU FM.  This spring I took the station’s training for radio hosts, and completed four on-air internships.  I petitioned to produce a half hour program, “Growing Greener” that would bring to listeners leading voices in the environmental gardening community.  Just a couple of weeks ago, the station managers agreed to allow me a half hour of air-time on Wednesday evenings from 6:00-6:30.

It has been a scramble. I’ve had a lot to learn about editing sound files, and how to structure a show.  The station staff, largely students from Wesleyan University, have been very helpful.  Likewise, the people I contacted for interviews have been wonderfully supportive. Dr. Douglas Tallamy, the great entomologist from the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home, took the time to speak with me for my very first program, which broadcast last week.  I’ve had a great time calling gardeners who are my heroes such as Larry Weaner and Margaret Roach, and finding them universally encouraging.  As a result, I can promise listeners a succession of interesting and provocative half hours.

Which brings me back to you. I have come to depend on the GardenRant readers for strong and varied opinions and insights.  I’m hoping some of you will transfer that to my radio program. You can stream it live at wesufm.org, or download it any time you want from the station archive (same web address) under the heading of “Growing Greener”. Every program lists, at its end, a web address where you can submit comments or suggestions.  I’m hoping I can count on you.

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My father was a compulsive tree planter, but it was my mother who taught me the finer points of gardening.

Her homeschooling was followed by two years in the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, and then ten years as horticulturist at an Olmsted Brothers designed estate on the Hudson River Palisades.

I’ve worked as a horticultural journalist for 35 years, contributing to publications ranging from Martha Stewart Living to the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society and The New York Times.  My most recent book is Nature Into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, which is a tour of the lessons to be learned from that great public garden.  I’m currently focusing on my new podcast (at thomaschristophergardens.com) which features weekly interviews with leaders of environmentally-informed gardening.

My special enthusiasms include sustainable gardening, especially sustainable lawns;  heirloom chicken breeds; and recreating vintage New England hard ciders.


Contact Tom by email


  1. Becoming an avid gardener has made me much more alarmed about climate change. For almost ten years I’ve tried hard to maintain a xeric garden. Now I’m finding that my drought tolerant groundcover may not work anymore. Our spring here in Boise Idaho has become so wet that my Veronica is rotting before summer arrives. I’ll have to make some changes but it’s so worrisome.

  2. Glad to hear this news and I will be streaming it. Am sure you will have lots of feedback from this lively, well-informed and (happily) truly opinionated bunch of Ranters and loyal followers. To Jean in Boise, same thing is happening here in the Metro Denver area. We actually are getting too much rain.
    Whaaaaaaaaht’s that I just wrote?
    Yep, too much rain. Unbelievable!

  3. I just recorded an interview, to play on my program in a couple of weeks, with Dr. David W. Wolfe of Cornell University, who specializes in the study of sustainable gardening in a time of climate change. He had lots of insights about coping with the crazy weather. Stay tuned!

  4. I just listened to your Doug Tallamy interview, it was great! Reading ‘Bringing Nature Home,’ and hearing him speak here in Louisville changed my life as a gardener. I would never have known it was your first podcast, you sounded like a seasoned radio host. The declining numbers of native songbirds and insects, the importance of native plants, the dangers of herbicides and insecticides, the challenge of climate change…the list of urgent topics goes on and on. I look forward to hearing more of your shows!

    • Maybe I should devote a program to earthworms– they do so much good in the garden, except when they are doing harm.

      • Your comment expresses the fact that you know, earthworms are a problem “in the wild”. They reduce the leaf litter needed by forests to slowly decompose and provide nutrients for trees and under story plants. They actually are an invasive. Maybe a program would help inform us about this issue. I heard a talk years ago at New England Wildflower Society, Ma that surprised me about this creature we so admire.

  5. I also listened to the Doug Tallamy interview. I enjoyed it and then, again, it made me worry. I’ll try to listen routinely. So, maybe I shouldn’t get my panties in a wad when my blackberry leaves have holes in them or all of the swallowtail caterpillars are devoured by birds…If the birds benefit by eating those insects, then it’s not all bad. I’ve definitely noticed a decline in pollinators in my area, and it has me worried. Am looking forward to your next interview…and like others, last year we were bone dry so I purchased drought-tolerant plants this spring only to be inundated with rain. Can’t seem to win.

  6. I’ve always wanted to garden, but never been able to with the yards we have. I told my husband it is non negotiable for our next house to have a yard where I can have I garden ; ) I can’t wait for the day that I can walk outside and grab a fresh onion and tomato! Oh how I love fresh veggies!! Beautiful post!!

  7. What fun would it be if we knew all the answers?: the weather was totally predictable, weeds, deer and porcupines avoided your garden, and everything grew the way it was predicted?? What a bore. Gardens make us strong, flexible, curious, resilient, passionate, fulfilled, infuriated, delighted, calm, appreciate the pice of beauty, thrilled with something that survived. . .
    what other pastime, career, or vocation does all this? I’d rather stop for a plant sale than for a party!

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