When I first discovered Sophea’s Instagram feed, I was amazed at all of her tomato pictures. Once I learned that she is a teacher, I had to know more about her. This highlight is special for that very reason. Sophea’s passion for gardening easily spills over into her teaching. Shortly after we connected, she started an additional Instagram account featuring teachers who garden. If you are a teacher and want to be featured on the account, use #teachersforgarden on your next post!
For now, read on to find out more about the gardener behind these beautifully photographed vegetables. All photos were used, with permission, from Sophea’s Instagram feed.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I would describe myself as a small backyard gardener in the making who might be a veggie growing addict. About 80-90% of what I grow goes to other people. Sharing is caring! With sharing comes a nice long conversation. I am a very sociable person who loves to talk garden. So it is a win-win for everyone. I get to yak about my tomatoes and greens and the recipients of my goods get to eat them.
Oh gee, I forgot to mention my name and where I live as a proper introduction. Well, my name is Sophea McGuirl. First name is a typical Cambodian name because my parents are from Cambodia. The pronunciation is pretty phonetic. Now my last name is Irish. Yup, I am married to an Irish dude who is handsome as can be. We live in a pretty small house with an alright size yard (not enough for my garden addiction) in Chandler, Arizona. I wish I could have an acreage of land to GROW crazy! Hahahahaha… Actually, I am more than okay with what I have. I am thrilled and feel very blessed with the ability to do what I love (garden) in a space that is mine.
How long have you been gardening?
I have been gardening since 2008.
What are you most proud of about your garden?
I am most proud of my shed, which I built myself using recycled shower doors purchased from Habitat for Humanity. Go GREEN!
What are your favorite learning resources? Do you have specific blogs and/or channels you follow?
I love reading gardening blogs and watching YouTube. My “go-to” YouTube channel is California Gardening.
How do you find time to balance gardening and teaching full-time? What advice do you have specifically for other teacher gardeners?
Gosh, it took me about three years to come up with the perfect garden/daily schedule and lessons. I wake up every day around 4:40am. The first hour and a half is given to my garden and the next hour is dedicated to my two doggies (Murphy and Jacob). Here is the balance with teaching and gardening: incorporate gardening into the majority of your lessons. The kids love it because anything to do with gardening is pretty much hands-on. Therefore, my one advice for other teacher gardeners is to combine the things you love and everything will eventually balance out.
When you have an issue in your garden and you aren’t sure of the cause, what do you do to troubleshoot?
When I am stumped with an unanswerable annoyance that threatens my green babies, I usually turn to Instagram. The garden community on Instagram is super knowledgeable. After receiving a hint from my fellow gardeners in the IG world, I turn to Google for more information. I am a visual and auditory learner, which leads to YouTube realm.
What are you most excited to grow this season?
Now, is this a trick question? I am excited about growing everything! However, the one thing that absolutely brings JOY to me is my Pineapple Tomatoes.
Do you have any other tips or advice? We would SO appreciate it!
Have fun growing! Remember, gardening is not easy if you punish yourself over things you cannot control (birds eating your prized heirloom tomatoes). Go with the flow, experiment, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you forgot to cover a mango tree during the freeze. Oh yeah, don’t forget to find a SUPPORT group to provide encouragement, advice and share your joyous moments.