Mike McGrath has spent the last 40 years writing and speaking about gardening. But, he never intended to get into gardening in the first place.
When he was a young man at a party in Philadelphia, a woman caught his eye. They got to talking and she mentioned that one of her favorite childhood memories was picking raspberries at her grandparents’ house.
To impress her, McGrath said he had raspberry bushes at his house. The truth was that he had never grown any raspberries — or anything, for that matter — in his life.
“I had no interest whatsoever in gardening, but I had a tremendous interest in the young woman,” he said. “I said, ‘I can do that.’ ”
McGrath dove into gardening and soon began to teach others what he had learned. He was editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine from 1991 to 1997. He appeared as a regular gardening expert on Saturday morning editions of “The Today Show” from 1993 to 1997. Now, he hosts “You Bet Your Garden,” a nationally-syndicated radio and TV show.
And Kathy, the woman at the party, became his wife.
McGrath will give a talk about attracting insect-eating “allies” to a garden at 12:15 p.m. Monday, July 29 in Smith Wilkes Hall, as part of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club’s Monarch Moments & More lecture series.
McGrath does not use any chemical insecticides, herbicides or fungicides in his gardens. All of his gardening advice explains how people can nurture their gardens naturally.
“When I first started growing food for (Kathy), I realized how easy it was if you had the right sight and leaned into nature,” he said. “I felt compelled to tell everybody to put down your Miracle-Gro and Roundup.”
Using those types of products will only cause more problems than they solve, he said, and create a vicious cycle of using one product to fix a problem created by another, while producing another problem the gardener will have to take care of.
“Feed the soil, don’t feed the plants,” he said. “If you build raised beds, if you continually improve the soil with compost, you’re good. You’re done.”
At his talk today, McGrath will discuss how to attract birds, toads and beneficial insects to a garden. All of these eat insect pests, and serve as a natural pest control.
He said people often ask him a question expecting a quick answer.
“There are no quick answers,” he said. “That’s the issue with gardening in America today. There’s no shortcuts. The more you use these products, the bigger your problems will become, and your problems will increase exponentially.”
Everything McGrath teaches through his many platforms is something he has learned himself through his own gardening experiences. To captivate the audience, he peppers jokes throughout his talks.
“Your approach to gardening has to be fun,” he said. “If it’s not fun, why would you do it?”