by — Mary Helen Darah
Your Midwest Garden podcast provides listeners with the feeling that they are relaxing around the table with Mike O’Rourke, Toledo’s knowledgeable Garden Guy, and Scott Sandstrom, a neophyte but enthusiastic rookie gardener. The duo hosts a variety of entertaining guests that cover topics on everything from the beautiful but terrifying Lantern Fly to fall clean up advice. It is a casual, easy to listen to podcast with expert Mike conversing with green thumb in-the-making Scott, that gardeners of all skill levels and abilities can appreciate.
Scott is a former employee of Black Diamond where his wife is a family owner. “I am an audio engineer for TV,” said Scott. “I don’t do baseball coverage so in the spring I help out at the greenhouse. Mike introduced me to my wife and we banter like brothers.”
Mike has been known as the Garden Guy on various shows since 1993. “Scott asked if I ever thought of doing a podcast. COVID had shut down Scott’s sports world and he wanted to keep active in audio,” stated Mike. “If you look at the editing of the show, it is so professionally done because of him. I am the brains when it comes to gardening. Scott does the technical stuff, and he plays the ‘dummy,’ which he does very well. Scott likes to say, ‘I am now an expert at knowing very little gardening wise.”
The pair of podcasters stick to the Midwest region with their gardening advice. “We are in planting zone five, stuck between arctic and pleasant,” said Scott. “We have listeners throughout the US, we have listeners in Paris and California and we have a ‘mum lady’ in Wisconsin. We aren’t sure why a guy in San Francisco is listening to two guys in Sylvania. Maybe out of region listeners used to live in the Midwest. We capture our stats and find out where listeners are from and incorporate those areas in the podcast. It makes our listeners feel part of our group.”
Mike is passionate about the podcast and is grateful that he and Scott can provide knowledge to the community. “Since WWII, people have forgotten the art of gardening for sustenance. People listen to us because they want to learn. Helping people grow their own food and teaching them about native plants, and helping people learn about medicinal herb growing like grandma used to do is most rewarding. People tune in and learn that if you have an iron deficiency, grow kale or spinach. Asparagus flushes out the kidneys.”
Mike and Scott produce the show on their “own dime.” Scott said, “Initially I did this to keep my skill set sharp, but our numbers keep increasing. We have internal markers available that tell us how many downloads we have. The last marker was 10,000.”
The duo tends to stick to a format that they have found successful. “It’s trial and error,” said Mike. “We find that when we stick to one subject matter, the numbers jump up. We have planned out topics but often current items that are happening, such as frost and the army worm, will be covered. We also like to interview local people. We have a show coming up about Lourdes University’s greenhouse where they grow tomatoes for food banks. We spoke with Beautiful Blooms by Jen and we discussed centerpieces with Bartz Viviano, which was perfect for the off growing season. We also spoke with Todd Crail from the University of Toledo who is trying to revitalize the Black Swamp. He has been buying Black Diamond soils and having students collect seeds. Bryan Ellis, of Toledo Public Schools Natural Science Technology Center, dreams of growing in space.”
The Midwest Gardeners have been asked to be speakers at a national convention for gardening centers. “I believe we were asked because of our desire to keep the younger generation interested in gardening,” said Scott. “Also, Mike has 40 plus years of experience to share. People who own gardening centers are not normally technological. These ma and pa stores can’t compete with the box stores. I believe we were also asked to help them protect their customer’s assets. To be wanted is very flattering.”
Mike and Scott will keep on covering everything from Lantern flies, honey bees, ponds and killer worms to acorns. Mike stated, “I’ll continue to share my love and knowledge of gardening. It is extremely rewarding having the novice to the pro gardener tune in and learn a thing or two. Even Scott’s backyard has benefited from the show by listening to our experts and our do-it-yourselfers. I think listeners will discover that even the most basic of topics can bring a surprise or two.” Find the podcast at buzzsprout.com/887557
Your Midwest Garden is sponsored by Black Diamond Nursery & Lawn Service which has served the area since 1953.