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MCCC Plants Seeds for Everyman Gardener Mike Podlesny

9/13/10


West Windsor, N.J. - There's nothing Michael Podlesny (A.S. Mathematics '96) likes better than watching his garden grow - and sharing his extensive gardening knowledge with others. Gardening is in Podlesny's blood - three generations' worth. "I have been vegetable gardening since I was a kid," he says. "My dad was a huge vegetable gardener, as was my grandfather. So the skill set was passed along to me through the years."

Still, when it came time for college, the Burlington County resident decided to study computer science and math as a career path and to start his studies at Mercer, where he could get a quality education that was convenient and affordable. He notes that Mercer's flexible scheduling allowed him to fit college into his busy life, which included working full time while going to school full time. He continued his education at Glassboro State University (now Rowan) before landing a job with a software engineering job in Princeton.

These days, Podlesny has returned to his gardening roots as owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises. He has also put all his thoughts, ideas, tips and tricks into a book entitled "Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A guide to vegetable gardening for the rest of us," published in 2009 by Lulu Publishing (available on Amazon.com). According to one satisfied reader, "He explains everything in such a way that someone who has never planted a seed before can become a confident gardener by the end of their first growing season. He goes into such detail about composting in easy-to-understand terms that takes away the intimidation factor." During the past year the book was ranked in the top 100 for books on vegetable gardening.

Mike Podlesny ('96)

Central to Podlesny's business is a comprehensive and attractive website, where he literally grows a community (www.averagepersongardening.com). The site features podcasts, a Seeds of the Month Club, tutorials, information on the gardening industry, essential products and more. A number of writers now contribute content to the site.

Noting the academic and professional skills he brought to creating his website, Podlesny says, "My experience in software development allowed me to handle the writing of all of the code necessary to make the website operational and interactive."

Podlesny is using social media as well. His Facebook page is Facebook's largest for vegetable gardening and he has more than 600 followers on Twitter. Approximately 9,000 people subscribe to his podcasts, which now number 44 episodes on topics ranging from beneficial insects and tomato basics to inexpensive composting.

In a recent message on his website he encouraged gardeners not to give up, despite this summer's record heat. "Now is the perfect time to start planning the vegetable garden for those cooler months in the autumn and early winter," he advises. Among recommended fall crops are radishes, lettuce and spinach. Many herbs are also tolerant to cooler temperatures. Potatoes and garlic can be planted in the autumn and harvested early in the spring.

Podlesny says the seeds for own his evolution can be traced in part to Mercer. "I loved every minute of my time at MCCC. I received a great education that prepared me for the working world."

He enjoyed his classes, especially with Biology Professor Bruce Chorba. "He challenged me to challenge myself and find the answer." Also memorable for Podlesny was the camaraderie among students, who both pushed and supported each other.

Looking back, he sees a progression that makes sense. "Each step along the way helped me learn something new that would better my life and prepare me for the future. All of that would not be possible if I had not started at Mercer."

Podlesny's five-year plan is pretty flexible. "Where will the business go from here?" he ponders. "Hopefully it will be more continuing success and expansion of what I sell, but for now, it's just seeds and information, and that seems to be working great!"

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