Life Lessons From A Humble Gardening Blog | Green Patches - Mediterranean Gardening

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Life Lessons From A Humble Gardening Blog

I started writing this blog in 2009.  It was then when I decided I wanted to try my hands at gardening. We had just bought our first set of plants, and I needed a way to record progress.

My requirements consisted of a log where I could write my observations, collect information about my plants from other sources, and keep pictures of the plants for comparison.  It was 2009, so I thought, why not create a blog?  And so it began:

The mission: Keep a log of my plants and make sure they don't die.

My plants and my blog were doing well, I was faithfully writing blog posts about every growth spurge, every color change, and every fatality that occurred in my small back yard.

Growing Pains

Two years went by and some of my plants were happily growing, others were dead, and not replaced.  I found myself at a loss for things to write.  Season after season I was writing the same things about the same plants, with the only difference being that they were a few inches taller or wider.  The blog was drying out, and I was ready to call it quits.

52 Page Views and Digital Marketing.

The day had finally come, I logged into Blogger with the intention of deleting my blog, and call it a day.  As I was searching for the delete button I came across the Stats button.  I clicked and saw that I had 52 page views.  Huh? 52 people had read my blog, and they came from USA and Canada.

I don't remember why that was such a big deal for me at the time, maybe because I always thought of the blog as a private journal, not really something that people would come across.  Those 52 page views that I collected in two years were reason enough for me to keep the blog.  I thought if other people were reading, then I will not be the one to stop them.

Something changed however. I found myself checking the stats page a few hundred times a day, willing for those 52 page views to increase.  I started reading about digital publishing, blogs, content, analytics, marketing, SEO, everything I could get my hands on to increase those page views.

The blogging platform was changed, from Blogger to WordPress, back to Blogger.  The template also changed about five times before I settled with this one.  My free time now consisted of following other blogs, reading their posts, commenting, and linking back to my blog.  The numbers started to rise, slowly but surely.

I soon realized, however, that there was one fundamental problem that I was faced with.  I had a great design, I knew a lot about the marketing, but I had no knowledge about the subject - gardening.

Content is King - and the plants?

So apparently content is king in this business.  Well, my content consisted of very detailed accounts of my dear plants, and, therefore, not very exciting.  The topic was gardening so I started reading and researching topics for my blog.

Container gardening was my niche, so I focused on writing interesting, evergreen, keyword rich, search engine friendly articles about container gardening.  I also knew I had to do this three to four times a week to beef up my blog.

In the meantime I had to keep up with the marketing, so I published my articles on gardening sites, registered my blog in directories, read my fellow bloggers' posts and commented, checked out google analytics and webmaster tools, ...... who has time for gardening?

After about a year I had over 90 posts, over 3,000 page views a month, a trickle of adsense income, and no garden.

I eventually abandoned my fellow bloggers's posts, in part because they made it look so easy. One post a week, and they got so many comments, so many page views, so many awards.  I failed to see the mark, and I crashed. I was exhausted, frustrated, brain dead, and hated gardening at that point. So I quit.

Social Green Patches

Part of my social media strategy for my blog was to create accounts with every possible channel, I had a twitter account, Google Plus page, I posted on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and also created a group on Facebook.

One evening I receive a message on Facebook from a fellow gardener who found the group, and asked me if it was still active.  He encouraged me to start posting on the group, and told that that there was a real need for it in Malta.  I agreed to try, and in a matter of two days I had over a hundred members.  Like an addict, my first thought went back to the blog, maybe this was the audience I was waiting for.  I soon realized however, that Facebook is a different medium.

Facebook is a medium of instant gratification.  You need help with a plant? Post a picture, and you get all the help you need within a few minutes.  It was no place for me to post lengthy blogs about the difference between clay and sandy soil.

Today my Facebook group has over 2,000 members, and we have started getting more active doing some fundraising for trees in parks, and caring for public gardens around the island.

... and the blog?

My last entry in my blog was in May 2014, when I was trying to write about my visit to Butchart Gardens, and never quite got to finish the series.  I still get over 1,000 page views a month from the articles, and a few cents from adsense.

I do believe that the biggest lesson I have learnt is not to force something to be what it is not.  Who knows, had I continued to write about my plants I would have become a better gardener, and content would have increased naturally.  Now that I am more active with other gardeners out there I have more stories to tell, more adventures that I want to share with people.

This is what those blogs that I abandoned were trying to tell me back then. Those blogs didn't share recycled content derived from summarized online articles, they shared the writer's unique experience, which is something truly worth reading about. Maybe it is time to start gardening.


  1. Ironic how the stats game diverted you from your original interest, which was gardening. Perhaps now with your new friends at Facebook you'll be able to do both-garden and write about it. Good luck!

  2. It's so tempting to compare yourself with other bloggers and it almost never generates a positive feeling. I used to do that as well, but not anymore. It just got too depressing! Its important to love what you do, and forget about what everyone else is doing. Who cares about blogging awards anyway?