David Shenkenberg lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, surrounded by trees and near several lakes. The local scenery includes walking trails and bike paths. Frequently, David sees birds outside his window, including blue jays, finches and woodpeckers. Deer are a common sight, as are rabbits.
The temperate climate of West Bloomfield is a wonderful place to grow plants, whether in the backyard or on a farm. Although David Shenkenberg often buys locally grown produce, such as apples and salad greens, he gets the most joy from what he can grow himself.
The natural surroundings and the garden are wonderful places to escape from the daily grind for a while.
What is your hobby?
I love gardening. I particularly enjoy growing herbs such as basil and mint because they can be used in cooking. I also like to grow Echinacea (coneflower) because it can be used to treat colds.
How did you get started with this hobby? What inspired you?
My interest in gardening began at a young age. I used to work in the garden with my dad. I pulled weeds, trimmed bushes and trees, planted new bushes and trees, and watered and mowed the lawn. As an adult, I am inspired to pass on my love of gardening to my own children.
Tell us what you love about it.
I love to watch my hard work planting seeds or small plants turn into beautiful mature bushes or trees. I love to see the results of my efforts literally bear fruit.
Are there any groups you’re a part of or events that you attend related to your hobby?
Although gardening clubs do exist in my area, I mostly share my love of gardening with family and friends. I bring them over to see my plants, and I admire their gardens as well. I also share my harvest, and they often do the same because several of my friends enjoy gardening as well.
My township has a community garden that I am thinking about using in the future. It might be a fun way to share my love of gardening with others.
Have you had to invest in equipment and if so, please share some of the things you’ve bought.
Sure. I have bought everything under the sun. Some basics for gardeners include a lawn mower, a shovel, a rake, a trowel (a small shovel used for digging), and soil. You also want to have a good sprinkler system, especially if it gets dry where you live. Just remember that plants usually need three things: light, water and soil. In the summers, at the height of the growth season, plants usually need fertilizer. I also have experimented with hydroponics. In the case of hydroponics, plants do not need soil; they actually grow in water, although you need to provide the nutrients in the water that would normally be found in soil.
Where do you buy most of your supplies?
I do most of my shopping at my local Meijer store. Meijer is a Midwestern big box store headquartered in Michigan. It is a lot like Walmart and Target. I prefer shopping at Meijer because it is based in my home state. For specialty items, I go to my local nursery, English Gardens. I also have purchased Aerogarden hydroponics kits direct from the seller: www.aerogarden.com.
Are there any good books for beginners?
One good book is, Better Homes and Gardens Gardening Made Simple: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Gardening. I also like the website, Dave’s Garden: davesgarden.com, although I disclaim that I am not the Dave who made the website. You also can learn a lot from family and friends who garden, and I suggest that you consult your local nursery because it often will have knowledgeable staff who can help you with advice for growing plants in your area.
How has this changed your life?
For me, gardening is a peaceful, Zen-like activity. All the worries and cares that I face in the real world just melt away when I am focused on nature. Gardening is a 100% healthy way to relax.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
Start simple. Do not try to grow really difficult plants like orchids right off the bat. Ask your local nursery which plants grow the best in your area. Consider your lifestyle. Are you often home enough that you will be able to water your plants frequently, or do you need to grow something that does not need to be watered often like a cactus or rosemary? Do you have pets? Consider growing plants that they might want to eat, or consider fencing that will allow you to grow your plants without your pets messing with them.
Are there any other hobbies you have?
I also enjoy fishkeeping. I currently have an aquarium with a Sarasa Comet goldfish. The fish has grown quite large, and has lived about four years now under my care. Supposedly, goldfish can live more than 30 years in captivity. However, most people just buy a fish bowl, and the goldfish die right away. Goldfish are like any other fish in that they need to be raised in a clean tank with good filtration.