Most gardening shows, books, magazines and blogs are filled with expansive, lush gardens that enthusiasts aspire to one day recreate in their own large backyards that are just waiting to be turned into picture-perfect gardens. Because everyone has the money and outdoor space to create a great garden, right?
When Gayla Trail was first getting started with gardening, she didn’t have either of these things. Instead, she had to work with whatever she had available — seeds leftover from her food, her apartment building’s rooftop, and even a small patch of neglected land between her apartment building and the sidewalk.
Eventually, this passion for gardening would evolve into her blog, You Grow Girl. The site (and the 4 books that it has spawned) have helped Gayla connect with and inspire a community of people that want to grow their own plants, flowers and food but don’t necessarily have the space or conditions that more traditional gardening media assume its readers have an abundance of.
Getting Her Idea
Many gardeners have a very clear source of inspiration for where their love of gardening started, whether it is a parent, TV show or their neighborhood. This was not the case for Gayla.
“I grew up in places that didn’t really have a lot of growing space, even a lot of green space in general. There were no gardens,” she recalls.
Instead, Gayla’s passion for gardening was sparked by an inexplicable desire to dig. She began by digging up a small patch of land behind her garage, but nothing much happened after that. It wasn’t until she moved out on her own that her gardening began to take shape.
Despite living in small spaces in the concrete-heavy city of Toronto, Gayla began growing and cultivating plants in whatever spots she had available: small backyards, balconies, rooftops, and even to the side of a busy street next to her apartment. Even with these unconventional and often harsh environments, she started to see results.
The idea for You Grow Girl came in 1998 from the suggestion of her friend, though for a very different project.
“My friends and I used to make up fake public access television programs,” Gayla explains. “One friend said that I should have a TV show about gardening and that I should call it You Grow Girl.”
Rather than a TV show, though, Gayla saw potential elsewhere — notably, that it was a great domain name that remarkably was still available.
“I thought ‘wow, that’s a great URL!’ and so I registered it,” she recalls. “After that, I started working on a site.”
Bringing Her Idea To Life
Gayla launched You Grow Girl in 2000 initially as a webzine with a small team of contributors, intended to give a voice to others interested in gardening and with similar resources (or lack thereof).
“I just wanted to do a webzine about plants that reflected my experiences that were not what I was seeing in the media,” she explains.
Though there were many other publications intended for small spaces, they did not apply to the small spaces that she had been accustomed to.
“Those spaces were not small in my opinion,” Gayla explains, “and they just weren’t going about it in the way that I was. I felt like there must be other people like me and I wanted to find a community of like-minded people.”
During You Grow Girl’s formative years as a webzine, Gayla found that she was spending more and more of her time formatting and editing each issue rather than what she would have rather been doing: writing and gardening. Around this time, content management systems and blogging became more commonplace and the webzine format was on its way out. In order to best adapt, Gayla decided to turn You Grow Girl into a blog and to go it alone.
Over the years, Gayla has chronicled her adventures in gardening on her blog and in her 4 books: You Grow Girl, Grow Great Grub, Easy Growing, and Drinking the Summer Garden. She has also been published in many major publications including O Magazine, Chatelaine and Newsweek.
Though her many years writing about gardening have established her as an expert in the field, Gayla is quick to point out that she is always learning.
“I learn so much every year,” she explains. “Every time I think I know it all, I’m quickly reminded that nature is in control. I get put back in my place and realize that there’s so much that I don’t know.”
Gayla believes that in order to connect with your audience, you need to be real with them — even if that means that you don’t have all of the answers.
“Write from your experience and write from where you are,” she urges. “I think that people appreciate the honesty of that and it allows you to be more connected to your readers because you’re not putting yourself at a distance from them.”
This is especially true when it comes to gardening because there is no tried and true method; things are always changing.
“The thing about gardening I’ve found is that it’s very humbling,” Gayla explains. “You can never have all of the answers. You can garden the whole of your life and not know everything.”
Gayla is thrilled that people look up to her for gardening advice but ultimately wants them to know that she’s just another person on the same journey as them.
“I know what I know and I’m confident in what I know, but at the same time I’m just like everybody else. I just enjoy gardening and I enjoy the process of learning.”
Ready to get started on your big idea? Get it a great domain name from Hover: