Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gardening with Caleb Warnock

As a mom, I struggle to find a balance with my time, skill , and money. None of which seem to be abundant. I want to provide healthy nutritious meals for my girls. But with my husband currently unemployed, my budget tends to lend itself more to Dino nuggets than fresh fruits and veggies. If only I knew the secrets of my Mormon ancestors. Well, what do you know, there’s a book for that.

Caleb Warnock does nothing by half measures. He’s a teacher, an author, and a gardening master. He combines all of these together in his national bestselling book, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers.
       Caleb Warnock 
This Saturday So What is brought to you by the letter G and the number 2. That’s because it’s a 2 part interview with Gardening Guru, Caleb Warnock. After reading G is for Garderning, hop on over to my blog to read Part 2, G is for Writing Guru.

This week I sat down with Caleb and this is the gist of what he had to say.

Betsy: So first off, where the heck did the gardening come from? Natural green thumb since birth or something you discovered later in life?

Caleb: My great-grandparents had huge, gorgeous gardens. As a child I loved to visit and we would gather eggs and pick raspberries and eat all the vegetables we collected for dinner. And then there was their root cellar. That was really neat. Growing up, I just figured that everybody’s grandparents lived like that.

Betsy: What do you think are the 5 biggest gardening mistakes?

Caleb: 1. Choosing the wrong crops for the season length you have in your location.
          2. Spending money on stuff you don’t need like expensive fertilizers, a drip system or fancy grow boxes.
          3. Not knowing the difference between a family garden and a hobby garden. The point of a family garden is to be economical and efficient. A family garden might not look (or cost) like Martha Stewart’s, but when done right, it will put food on the table.
          4. Not planting the things your family will actually eat. Like planting more zucchini than you could ever possibly use. It doesn’t matter if it’s easy to grow if no one in your family will ever eat it. Beginning gardeners especially tend to get discouraged if they grow things their family doesn’t want to eat.
          5. Going too big, too soon. You might think you can “make” the kids water and weed, but by the end of the summer you’ll be doing most of it yourself. Be prepared for that.

Betsy: What does living self-sufficiently mean? For me, that means doing my own grocery shopping. Why should I care?

Caleb: Not everyone does care, and that’s okay. But with the economy collapsing in 2008, a lot of people are really struggling to stretch their money. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of ways you can “give yourself a raise.” The mortgage, the car payment, insurance -- all pretty fixed. But if you can grow some of your own food, you can cut your grocery budget. Most families with kids spend between $400 and $1,000 a month at the grocery store and eating out. If you can cut that by a quarter, or half, that’s real money. If you do decide to live self sufficiently, you can have better tasting  and healthier food at a fraction of the cost. You can literally save hundreds of dollars a month from the grocery store and eating out. If you are willing to put in the work, you will have money saved and give yourself a raise in other areas.

Betsy: So can anybody do this? Or do you need to live on a farm?

Caleb: If you want to do it, you can, no matter where you live. I’ve gardened everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve grown lettuce in pots in the windows of BYU student housing. I grew a garden as a newly married in married housing, in a condo, and now we have an acre and a half. I’ve used community gardens, or sectioned a little piece of bare ground behind an apartment complex. You can do it. Start in the summer and have at least part of one meal a day, or a week, be from your garden. You can start simple and move up. Now, we try to eat at least part of one meal a day that comes from our property. And on some days, we eat three meals a day from our property -- garden veggie omelets, soup, roasted vegetables.

Betsy: After reading your book, my mom calls you, “The Chicken Whisperer”. I understand you’ve had a number of chicken consults recently.

Caleb: Someone called me last week, sure that their chicken had gone blind overnight. It hadn’t. It was just focused on brooding on the eggs in the nest. But it’s not just chickens. I get emails on everything. Yesterday I got an email with pictures of someone’s grapevine. They were sure there was something wrong with it. There has been so much knowledge lost from our pioneer ancestors. I can’t get to everyone’s questions, although I am much more likely to answer emails if they mention they’ve bought my book. They guilt me into it.

Betsy:  So is this book just a how-to gardening book?

Caleb: Definitely not. It’s how families can eat self-sufficiently 365 days of the year. And forgotten knowledge. For example, 93 percent of seeds found in garden catalogs in the U.S.  in 1903 are now extinct.

So tighten your belt and buck up your courage and give gardening a try. I’m going to start small with 
strawberry pots and squash. No chickens just yet. Caleb Warnock’s book, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, is available here at,  as well as Utah Costco stores, Deseret Book, and Seagull. His next book, The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast: Breads, Pancakes, Waffles, Cinnamon Rolls and Muffins, is now available for pre-order on
And as I’ve already said, Caleb is not just a gardener. He is also an amazing Writing Guru, and pretty much the main reason I’ve got three book contracts. Yep, Caleb taught me most everything I know. Pick up a few tips and hop on over to Part 2 of this interview- G is for Writing Guru


  1. I think I'll support my local church bookstore and go down and get this book. I'm one of those who tried to do a garden 3 years in a row and ZILCH came up, so I stopped. I realize I need to do it, but I felt it was because I didn't have a dripper or raised beds that it never succeeded. Maybe this book will help. I live in Arizona, by the way.

    1. Oh my, good luck Heidi. I was in Arizona 2 weeks ago and my daughter was amazed at all the cactus. Made playing I spy pretty boring :) Good luck with the gardening. I am still trying to move past the seed starts stage.

  2. Great post and a lot of good tips. Thanks:-)

    1. Thank you Jewel, even if I can't take credit for the tips. It's acceptance by proxy :)

  3. I love books like this- I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about a family who decided to try to eat only food grown/raised within 5-10 miles of their house in rural Virginia, which included the food they grew on their farm. The book talked a lot about the environmental impact of consuming so many products that come from so far away (the grapes in my fridge came from Chile, I'm ashamed to admit) and how eating seasonally can be not only healthy and tasty, but also good for the environment and your local economy. Definitely something to think about!

    I will be putting this one on my must-read list!

    1. It's hard to even find grapes in my fridge :) I've decided I really want to provide better nutrition for my family and hopefully this will help

  4. I knew Caleb was good at gardening. Great tips that make so much sense. I have grown a garden every year for many years and sometime it does awesome other not. Thanks for the post Betsy.

    Anna del C. Dye
    for tales of Elfs & Romance

    1. Thanks Anna. My husband is still working on the tip number 5, thinking a little too big. :)

  5. I tweeted, google+ and put your post on facebook AND I'm going to buy his book as soon as I can! Great interview! ~Theresa Sneed, author of No Angel and its forthcoming prequel, From Heaven to Earth

    1. You are the best Theresa! Looking forward to your prequel



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