Kicked Out Of Garden Writing Group?

eddie_ga_7a(8)January 5, 2006

Well not kicked out exactly, but on the verge of quitting. Here is the sequence: Editor #1 asks me to write an article, One hour later KABOOM it's emailed to her, she sends me her comments ( I knew my comments on liming wouldn't fly for a Master Gardener Writers Group especially when one of the four editors (that's right it is reviewed 4 times before print) is the county Agent so I had planned on rewriting that part. Next is my rejoinder to editor number one, then editor #2 sends her comments and puts the nail in the coffin with her comment "Don't know if he (county agent) will buy into all of your soil amendment stuff." ending with my withdrawal of the article. It might help to know my feelings that my previously published article on "Compost" was excellent but it had someone elses picture and name on it when it came out in print.


I miss that you are not writing in this four month block. There is still the article that everyone thought we should include in the spring on preparing your flower beds that you are welcome to write about. It is due February 17th to Pam for a March 7newspaper publish date. Master Gardener Unnamed says he will write it if you do not want that subject. Just want to give you the first shot at it...please don't feel pressured into doing it if you don't want to. That is not my intention. I just enjoy your writing.

Let me know yea or nay, please.

Happy New Year!

Editor #1

Here's the article:

Preparing The Bed by Eddie Rhoades of

It would have nice if we had all thought about planting a green manure cover crop this past winter. My favorite in this respect is crimson clover. If you leave it in the bed a little long it will have beautiful red composite flowers that bees just love so they are great for attracting pollinators to your garden early. It is also a plus that the seeds can be sown fall or winter. Crimson clover takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and fixes it in nodules on its roots. This is good but its main purpose as a green manure is in tilling it into the soil. Personal experience has taught me that you cannot just till in the mature plants, it must first be mown. Otherwise it would wrap around the tiller tines and you would spend all your time cleaning them off. After you mow the clover it must immediately be tilled into the soil. If you leave it overnight it will dry out and defeat the purpose of a green manure which is to add nitrogen to the soil and to attract earthworms.

I like to look at my lawn and play a simple game called Connect-The- Dots. Generally each tree has its own little circle of mulch (a dot) and there may be several of these scattered about the lawn. What I do is encircle them all with one big mulch bed that has a continuous single periphery, not a whole lot of little ones. This makes mowing, watering, planting, asthetics and a few other things better. Next, the Extension department recommends you do a soil test. They will send you a computer printout of ratios and proportions in tonnage per acre that you wont understand so go ahead and lime anyway. In making my little mulch piles into one bed (letÂs call it a berm). I first add available dirt which is generally red clay. Repeat after me "Red clay is GOOD."

GeorgiaÂs famous red clay has lots of minerals and great water holding capacity, it only needs amending to improve it. There are lots of commercial amendments out there and I will name a few but first I want to say that while proportions are sort of important they are not critical until you get into fertilizers and trace elements. But fertilizers and trace elements are not true soil amendments. Think of trace elements and micro-nutrients like putting salt and pepper on an egg: a little improves it, a lot ruins it.

My favorite soil amendments (now remember I said soil amendments not potting mixtures) are: Pine bark mini nuggets, sphagnum peat, perlite. If you use sand do NOT use play sand, use sharp sand or construction grade sand. Not strictly soil amendments but other products I use are water polymers that should be soaked in warm water and allowed to expand before using, greensand which provides trace elements, and any timed release fertilizer. For a strictly organic fertilizer you can try alfalfa pellets which is rabbit food and sold in Feed and Seed stores.

Till all this in and your flowers and vegetables will be stupendous. On top of all this I sometimes put down 4 or more sheets of newspaper overlapping at the edges. One must use small stones, sticks or water to keep the paper from blowing around. The purpose of the newspaper is to smother any grass and weeds. Anything that makes it by the paper should be greeted by Roundup. Next, I collect leaves in the neighborhood and sprinkle a good bit over the paper. On top of this I add a thin layer of pine straw. This straw does two things: it makes the whole berm appear to be solid pine straw plus pine straw doesnÂt develop "lift" like leaves so helps keep the whole thing from blowing around. Let this prepared area lay fallow as long as practical to allow it to mellow and the earthworms to multiply then simply dig individual holes and insert your plants.

As local plantsman Olen Morgan once said " The secret to successful gardening is not in the plants, itÂs in the soil."


Wow, that was fast!

Well, it will be too late to use a lot of it... especially the clover. They won't be reading it until March is there a way to rewrite it so it will be more timely? It is also 690 words...needs to be 500. There is also the "I" factor that I know editor#2 will say is not for a MG article (she doesn't want anyone to write in the first person). (county agent) won't like what you said about the soil sample...

I certainly sound ungrateful, don't I? Don't mean to be, just see the problems up front before I even turn it into editor #2. Do you want to rework it or forget about it?

Dear editor #1,

Yes, I knew there would be a problem with the way I worded the soil test info and planned to rewrite that part. I disagree with the "I" factor as The greatest garden writer the world has ever known, Henry Mitchell, wrote in the first person and for a newspaper at that. As far as saying it is " too late" to give out certain information, could that not be interpreted as a bit early for next year? There is more I could say but at this point why don't I just withdraw the article as you suggested.

Eddie Rhoades

From editor #2 to Eddie

Well, the article will almost need a rewrite for the paper. First, it is 200 words too long. The clover part won't help our readers this spring. Some of the rest I wonder if (county agent) will approve. He has to approve everything. Don't know if he will buy into all of your soil amendment stuff. I have a feeling he will scratch the lime anyway part. In my recent MG class they really pushed following the directions on the soil test! ( Some of it sounds like it came from the Eddie Rhoades Department of Agrigulture and not UGA. Now, the Eddie Rhoades Dept. of Agriculture is highly successful, I know, but may not be scientifically tested in a state of the art lab.) They are very particular what they will recommend. You will definitely have to speak more favorably of the Extension Service.

All that being said. What do you really want to do? You could ask (county agent) before you started your rewrite? How much time and work do you want to put into it. We would love to have you write for us but wonder if this is the right article.

Hope this helps. Let me know if I can help in any other way.

editor #2

Dear editor #2

After reading editor #1's comments and realizing all the problems with the article I think it would be best to just withdraw it. I knew the soil test info would never fly and would have to be rewritten. #1 said Unnamed Master Gardener would write on this same topic so let's let him.



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Nell Jean

You have a bunch of Sarcastic Editors, there, Eddie. Is it a prerequisite for employment there to be absolutely humorless, except for the slam about the ERDoA?

I thought the part about planting green manure to be appropriate. Anything not done this year is a signal to make plans for the upcoming seasons. I also subscribe to the idea that general liming is okay if you know some lime will be helpful in a particular spot. Plants will only take up what they need, am I correct? I'm still marveling at the dogwood seedling that came up in the middle of some freshly limed dianthus and took off skyward like a rocket.

Perhaps UMG will be able to write using the 'proscribed state of the art lab results' and get his copy in timely, but I doubt it. Why don't they just print the results of the University trials?

Whose needs are you meeting here? We Extension Service Consumers are just a bunch of gardeners who play in the soil. If we want to see the thesis, we read on the University sites. If we need to know what works, we look to somebody who grows where we're planted.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 10:48AM
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clfo(z7 with luck)

I think you overreacted a bit about this one. I understand that you were twitchy after the compost article fiasco, but on this one, you were a bit too sensitive about the editors comments. Whenever a writer is writing for publication they are at the mercy of an editor, and sometimes this is a good thing.

The editors loyalty and interest lies with the publication and the people who support that publication, so sometimes they make decisions that writers dont agree with. I have had articles published that were barely touched during the editing process and those that were entirely rewritten. That is just the name of the game, and if I am to have any peace of mind while selling (or donating!) written work, I must accept it.

It was reasonable for the editors to want seasonally appropriate material for the article; the gardening public usually does not remember unfamiliar details, so the clover information would, in all likelihood, be long forgotten by next fall. And if they want a consistent tone in Master Gardener publications that is their prerogative. In some ways it makes sense because the public often feels most comfortable with a uniform style coming from one organization.

In someway, Eddie, such "heavy handed" editing protects you, the author. In our litigious society it is not unheard of for someone to sue if they take advice and something untoward happens. The material the extension publishes is approved by extension agents, so they are the responsible party should someone decide his or her plants died because of your recommendations. Its sad that we have to consider these things, but we do.

It sounds to me like you really dont care to write for this MG group right now, and if thats the case, you dont need to fight in order to separate.just tell them that you need a break. If thats not how youre feeling, ask the editorial board what subjects need to be filled for summer publications and start working on one.

You have a great deal of knowledge to share, and you do it with such personality that its fun for the readerit may just not always be a good fit with every publication. Post your piece on your blog, and move on to the next.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 12:41PM
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Nell, I told them as much at a meeting that if we could not write in the first person from personal experience then why write new articles? Just send in Extension literature that says: Plant seed A in hole B at depth C on date exciting is that?
CL, I think you got right to the heart of the matter with all your comments but saw things even I didn't realize when you said "It sounds to me like you really dont care to write for this MG group right now, and if thats the case, you dont need to fight in order to separate.just tell them that you need a break." That is good advice. Thanks for your compliments at the end about my knowledge and personality. The one comment that made me decide to pull the submission was when editor #2 , speaking about the County Agent said " Don't know if he will buy into all of your soil amendment stuff." I really don't understand that because in spite of the other problems about lime and crimson clover, I thought my recommended soil amendments were good.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 4:24PM
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Nell Jean

Uh, Eddie!

I want to nominate C.L.'s web sote for the 2006 Greenthingie Award, even before I finish reading every page.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 4:44PM
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clfo(z7 with luck)

Your recommendations on soil amendments WERE good who knows what the editor meant by the statement that the agent might not buy into them. The problem with emails - and Im assuming this was an email conversation - is that you dont get the same information that you do from a face to face conversation. Face to face you would have said "What do you mean he wont buy into them?" and they would have explained and then you could respond etc. Email always leaves people on both sides of the exchange with a whole lot of assumptions.

In any casehave you thought of writing for a place where personality and the first person voice is valued? A monthly column for your local Sunday edition of the paper, for example. Or better yet, how about a weekly - or monthly - recorded piece for a local radio station? You could talk to local garden centers and ask if they would be willing to sponsor it, and you could do a two minute advice segment, which would be introduced by your song "Workin in the Garden till I Turn Green." (A two minute segment is about 310 to 330 words, and you can pack a great deal of info into that length of piece.) If you are interested in pursuing this, and want advice about writing for radio, let me know.

OR, as I said before, maybe you are just ready to focus on something other than writing for awhile. This is my suggestion: its almost spring where you are you lucky dog so its the perfect time to use the energy of the season to grow something new, in your life as well as in your garden.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 11:10AM
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Rule #1 when writing for MG, or anything as a MG, you are obligated to do so according to the approved policy (been there done that bit - almost got kicked out of MG and put me off writing anything for 2+ yrs). Furthermore you knew it wouldn't fly, so why submit it??? that was a waste of effort.

Editing for content and grammar is one thing, what your editors seem to be doing is editing for personal opinion as to what should go in the article. Four editors plus agent is overkill INHO, though. Perhaps you should all retire to your personal corners for a while, then assess the situation and talk about the system in general when everyone is a little calmer and less defensive.

For the record though, I would keep the green manure and general amendments - they are all relevant to the subject.

See link for my first, and only piece for the Ext agency!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 10:36AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Oh, Eddie. I USED to write a monthly "Things to do this month" column for the MG. It went to Editor#1-#3, then to the CEA AND the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, then on to the newspaper! (I swear this is true, I am not making this up) The EDITOR-IN-CHIEF would rewrite the whole thing, inserting her own flowery and un-necessary language, rendering my version of 'February is time to cut the roses!' absolutely ridiculous! I had a fit, flatly stated that if she was going to rewrite it, then she could/should/would remove my name and insert whatever she wanted. Do you believe I was denied the privilege of writing the column soon after that incident?

It worked for me, maybe it would work for you too.

Life it too short. The CEA can never be happy, it is part of his job, and the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF............well, never mind.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 9:46PM
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Little Dani, I feel your pain.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 5:43PM
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