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The King of Horticulture and Social Media in Chicago

Earlier this week I was invited by Mike Nowak to be a guest on his Chicago gardening radio show. Being a regular listener of the show I was excited about the opportunity, but really scared. It is a weird feeling to be asked to come around from behind the computer and be "MrBrownThumb" in person. The first time that happened I had the benefit of going in with other garden bloggers and it feeling like someone had my back. Part of the reason I don't like to do it, besides people not asking regularly, is that I'm not sure the "MrBrownThumb" shtick translates outside of blogs and 140 character tweets. So, after being invited to be on the radio show I quickly had to improvise another security blanket to help me cope with the stress.

I asked Mike if I could bring my laptop in and perhaps incorporate Twitter into the segment. He agreed and this morning I headed down to the radio station extra early. I got there so early for my segment that I  had time sit down to read Waking Up in Eden and was a couple of chapters in when Mike's producer came running into the room I was waiting in and said I was up.

The next thing I remember I'm sitting in a studio with a microphone in my face and my fingers tapping at the keys of my laptop posting something on Twitter. Mike introduced me as something to the effect of the King of Twitter (honestly, I can't remember exactly what he said) to which I replied that I was the Court Jester and that Ron Wolford, having way more followers, deserved the title.

The rest of the half-hour segment is as much of a blur as how I got into the studio and into the seat but I was fortunate to once again have gardeners who had my back. Several garden bloggers and gardeners on Twitter were listening to the show and they became part of the live radio show. Here is a list of those that tweeted at me during the segment:

The Yarden 
UrbanGarden (The King of Horticulture and Social Media)
Kiss My Aster

Even some gardeners outside of Chicago were listening.

BG_Garden (Ohio)
SJones71 (Connecticut)
IndoorGarden-er (Washington DC)
Get In The Garden (Western NY State)

If you're looking for a fun bunch of people to follow on Twitter give these tweeple a follow. If you don't do Twitter visit their Twitter account any way and check out the profile links because many of them are gardeners and bloggers too. My favorite part of the segment was seeing some of them get a kick out of hearing their names said on the radio.

Garden Corporate Shill

The one part of the show that wasn't a blur was talking about how I like to blog about seed saving and seed starting. Right after that Mike asked me if I had started my seeds yet. I answered that I hadn't because I had yet to check out what the "big box" stores were carrying. I said this right as he was segueing into a commercial for a local garden center that, get this, had their seed supplies ready for customers.

Did I really go on "Chicago's Progressive Talk" on a gardening radio show with lots of local gardening sponsors and mention that I shop at "big box" stores? Yes, yes I did. After the show I had almost convinced myself that I hadn't committed such a fabulously idiotic faux pas. I had almost talked myself into believing it hadn't happened but then I checked my phone and saw a message from a gardener who noticed that I gave an unintended shout-out to the "big box" garden centers. At least @TheYarden benefited from hearing about Sid's Greenhouse and said she was going there to shop. Maybe that will balance out my karma.

Why I like Twitter 

I know Twitter isn't for everyone and not everyone will "get it" but I really like it, for now. Besides it being a place where I can get the validation my parents never gave me as a child, I think it is as great place to meet fellow gardeners. As I mentioned on the show; I like how I was able to connect the Cook County Master Gardeners with Renee's Garden and seeing the donation of 500 seed packets she made to them. Twitter made that possible.

I hope the interactions that Mike had during his radio show with gardeners on Twitter propel him to add social media into the programing. I know sometimes when I'm listening to him & Beth Botts I feel the urge to chime in but don't feel like picking up the phone. Being able to send a quick question or comment to the show would be great. Plus, there's the ability to tap into a national audience that could be listening online like those gardeners from outside Chicago were doing today. We may not all live in the same gardening Zone but we all speak plants.

I'm grateful to Mike and his crew for being so nice and for the opportunity to be on the show. It was scary but it was a lot of fun and now I wish I had a radio show all of my own. :0) You can listen to The Mike Nowak Show on WCPT 820 AM in Chicago on Sunday's from 8-10AM. It is always informative for gardeners and really funny. He has a regular column that runs in Chicagoland Gardening magazine that you should check out. Visit MikeNowak.Net and poke around his website to learn about his articles, lectures and performances. Podcasts of his show can be found here (the February 7th show is the one I'm in). Oh yeah, and support those local advertisers too.

Thanks for going on The Mike Nowak Show with me.


  1. MBT - you did a great job today! It was a lot of fun listening and yes, it was cool to hear my blog's name on the show. YAY!

    Sadly, I was late to church on the count of listing to you this morning. My first prayer was Dear God, it was all Mr Brown Thumb's fault.

  2. Way to go, Mr. BT!!! How exciting! I am so glad you had your backup Twitter peeps out there for you! That is just amazing!!! I need to get your autograph are bocoming quite famous!!! :)

  3. Mr.BT is way too modest. He is drawing average people into gardening, while disseminating important information. I know you were a little nervous today, MBT, but hey, think how I felt having a social media darling in the studio. It was amazing "talking" to so many people on Twitter. Next time, we will actually answer gardening questions. You are welcome back to the show anytime! Mike Nowak

  4. Mr. Brown Thumb

    It was great to hear the voice of the person that has been helping me to get my ducks lined up in the gardening/ blogging game, and yeah it definitely was cool to hear My name on radio, for that I am grateful. I enjoy twitter very much for the same reasons you do and believe it would be great if Mike Nowak did incorporate tweets into his radio show.

    You did a Great Job! and look forward to hearing you on the radio again!

  5. Congratulations Mr. BT! I would love to hear you speaking ... so will go and try to find it. It does dishearten me to read often on other blogs about folks shopping at big box stores. I am not sure if they have no options or why? I can understand your angst with that plug ... though not intended. One of the problems when doing live shows... you cannot go back and edit things out! ;>)

  6. Sorry I missed all this, but I just don't twitter so often! There's something about being recorded/broadcast that is scary! I can speak in public no problems but the thought of being recorded, or even live broadcast on radio, scares me (though it does seem like fun, too!). Fortunately, I'm too obscure for that ever to happen. And about seeds, I also buy some seeds at big box stores and have admitted it in public. Glad you did mention it on the radio. It's not a bad option (esp. if one doesn't take many seeds out of a seed swap, for example!).

  7. I listened to the podcast during the Superbowl (sound off on TV - didn't have to hear the announcers!) and it was a lot of fun! It was a little surreal listening to people twitter and talk about the tweets, only 9 hours later, because I was actually on Twitter during the live show and seeing those tweets in real time and now I've heard the audio that goes with them. Anyway, weird! As to seeds at big box stores, I was at Lowe's (Touhy Ave) on Saturday and not only do they have a ton of seeds, they have a very nice display of seed-starting materials and kits also. HD had some things but they seem to be devoting most of their space to Valentine's orchids right now.

  8. Don't worry too much about the "big box stores" thing. I think most of us pick seeds up there, even if we don't admit it in public. I end up buying seeds at Lowes and HD all the time. (There, I said it!) Target, too.

  9. MBT, I wasn't able to listen live, but just listened to the podcast, and really enjoyed it. You did great, and I hope you'll take Mike up on his invitation to come back anytime. You didn't seem nervous to me, and I thought there was a very nice energy between you and Mike's on-air posse.

    As far as the big box thing goes - 1. there aren't a lot of great options in the city that don't require a car or public transportation, 2. as much as we might all like to frequent only independents, sometimes budgets don't allow for that, and 3. there are plenty of big box critics who secretly shop them but don't admit it.

    It didn't sound to me like you were promoting big box stores. One of the things I've always, since getting to know you, respected is your honesty. Scr*w political correctness - I've unfortunately met my fair share of people who say 'all the right things' in public and live lives of quiet hypocrisy. That's not you, and that's just one of the reasons I'm proud to know you.

  10. After Garden Girl tweeted the link I clicked onto the podcast this morning - loved hearing your warm & elegant voice after years of reading your words. That Karate Kid story got me a little choked up!

    When we lived in IL, I used to enjoy Kathy O'Malley & Mike Nowak's radio gardening show - how cool to know he's still on the air.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. Finally got a chance to listen to the broadcast. One of the things I like about twitter is that it can be a great way to connect with experts like yourself in a casual way. People are often intimidated by experts and the experts are often not easily accessible. There are astronauts on twitter now. Seems like everything we want to know about gardening and even the stars themselves are right at our fingertips and we can learn about them straight from the gardener's thumb or the rocket ship window.

  12. Especially after Annie in Austin wrote, now I'm beginning to get all choked up. Hey, Annie, how are you? Yep, I survived WGN Radio and I'm still going strong.

    One of the things that has been so gratifying about the social media "experiment" I conducted on my show yesterday is that the conversation is still going! It's continuing online and people are visiting my website to listen to the show 24 hours later and longer. So I should be thanking YOU, MBT (and, I suppose, @urbangarden and @chicagogardener) for helping get me into this world. I think I will have my producer Heather (who is a Facebook, not Twitter, person) keep both my Facebook and Twitter profiles online for questions. There are only two of us in studio (that's my whole staff, folks, except for my sweetie Kathleen, who does most of the magic on my website), and with phone calls, emails, commercials, music bumps and other things, keeping track of social media can be difficult. But we'll give it a go.

    By the way, MBT, even if you went to a box store, you bought SEEDS! Let's put this in perspective, okay? It's not like you went in there and bought a gas-powered leaf blower. I think it says plenty about you that you busted yourself in your post. You probably did more good doing that, by calling attention to the issue, than if you hadn't gone in there in the first place. Don't lose any sleep over this one, buddy.

  13. @Gina, I hope you didn't get into too much trouble with the big guy upstairs.

    @Julie, LOL. I don't know about that. I guess if I ever land on TV or something I'll sign that autograph.

    @Finding My Green Thumb, Glad that the tweets are helping you with your gardening. It has been nice getting to know you across Twitter & FB this winter.

    @Carol, Usually on my blog I'm pretty open about shopping at big box stores. It started because it was my only option (see Garden Girl's comment below yours) and I've continued because they are still the only option nearby and are usually more affordable than the independent garden centers. I try to support both, but the bulk of my gardening budget goes to big box stores. No independent garden centers serving my community. We have a lot in other parts of Chicago, but where I am we got nothing besides the big box stores.

    @Monica, LOL. The next seed swap I'll take more seeds, I promise.

    @Diane, Glad you were able to catch it, even if not in real time. Lowe's is the one big box store I don't shop at much because there isn't one nearby. It is actually my favorite (for plants) but until they move closer to me, they're a "luxury" I rarely indulge in unless I'm out in the 'burbs.

    @Colleen, Thanks for listening to the show. LOL at you coming out and admitting shopping big box stores.

    @Garden Girl, The reasons you mention are why I shop at big box stores. I've blog about it before, but it comes down to it just being convenient. Aside from a couple of hardware stores who sell seeds or annuals and the trucks that park alongside the road there aren't many options in the working class neighborhoods.

    @Annie, Thanks for listening to the podcast and thanks for the kind words. Glad that you've rediscovered Mike.

    @Art, That's for commenting. You hit the nail on the head, that's why I like it too. Following foodies, cooks and ag people like yourself has opened up my eyes to a whole new world of food. So, thanks!

    @Mike Nowak,

    Thanks for the feedback and glad to hear people are visiting your site and checking out what you do in Chicago. I'm a big fan and it was awesome getting to go behind the curtain and experience what it was like to go onto media that I consume on a regular basis. Glad to hear that you're open to expanding the show with social media and hope you manage to strike a good balance.

  14. I just found your site through a link. I am sorry I did not hear the show. I have listened to Mike Novak many times and always enjoy it. I am on twitter and facebook, but I just learning this world of blogging. Thank you for the info.

  15. Sounds like a great show! My dialup won't let me watch videos, but I'm sure you did a fine job. Hope this is the first of many new gigs! :)



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