As the 2020 gardening season is starting to wind down, I have been giving a lot of thought about FrostyGarden.com. I usually start doing this around the end of gardening season, and here we are.
This post isn’t about gardening, per-se. It’s about the future of this site. If you’re interested, keep reading, but our feelings won’t be hurt if you skip this one.
I am considering making a major transition of the site into something a little different. We thought it would be a good idea to communicate what’s coming.
Don’t worry! We will, of course, continue to focus on cold climate gardening techniques and topics, but we’re considering some major changes to prepare for 2021 and beyond!
What Is The Plan For FrostyGarden.com?
I am thinking about transitioning our site more towards a static content site, as opposed to the current blog format.
The idea is that it will be centered around various gardening topics, with an obvious focus on subarctic gardening. The idea would be to convert our current content into pages that are intended to “live forever” and be a true resource of a given, particular topic.
What I’ve realized is that I want this site to be a resource for northern gardeners. I don’t necessarily want to blog about gardening, I want to create a resource on the ins and outs of subarctic urban and semi-urban food production. I want this to be a place where any cold climate grower can come and find interesting information on something they are interested in.
The idea is that this change would more easily allow us to iterate on a particular topic, particularly as we learn (or remember) things. Examples of the content goal might be like our very popular posts on growing tomatoes and peppers in the subarctic. These are posts that we have continually refined over the years – and they’re decent topical references now.
Site navigation would be built around this entire concept, guiding readers to the content they want to read. We want to make the information out there more easy to find.
This shift will make particular topics a lot more accessible. It will also make it easier to find interrelated topics that share a similar theme. The limitations of using categories and tags to organize content, like we do currently, is less than ideal.
We might retain a small blog for posts, such as this one. We still want a place where we want to communicate with our readers, but for information not important enough to make it static.
What Is The Problem With Frosty Garden Today?
When we started FrostyGarden.com, the vision was to have it be a blog of sorts. We wanted to document our growth process as we learned about subarctic gardening. There was a large gap of information out there when we wanted it, so we sought to fill that gap as we learned.
In the last several years, we’ve become better at figuring out what our readers want. Coincidentally, we’ve also become better cold climate gardeners. What is clear is you want us to write focused content on specific topics. We’ve managed to write some pretty popular posts that get often get hundreds of hits per day. That’s exciting for us!
The problem is, the effort of content creation is incredibly hard. It is difficult enough to write clearly and concisely on a regular basis. It’s also extremely hard to create an “authoritative” article in one pass. That’s the kind of content we want to deliver. Good stuff that you want to read, that helps you be a better gardener. It might answer your questions or simply explain how we do it.
What Our Readers Want Versus What We Deliver
Another difficult thing we’ve faced is integrating new content into existing content. Our blog is all over the place sometimes, depending on where we’re at with things. Often we can’t write about the success of a technique until well after the results are in. Or we’re writing about certain things after you should have all ready completed that task.
We’ve also learned that over the summer, we have very little time to devote to blogging. Our time is primarily spent outdoors, not on a computer, and the time we have available is outside of the gardening season. We want our content to be timely, there for you when you need it most.
A format change would allow an iterative approach, helping with some of the stress of trying to hit our content goals. It would also help us to better understand what we need to write about. That’s important, too. I’d like this site to be fairly comprehensive on the subject of subarctic gardening. Such a thing should exist, we’re just the first people to attempt it. (And we want your help!)
The Internet Is Changing, Too!
The web is changing, too. Blogs are a lot less popular than they used to be. They are less organized and make it difficult to find the information you are looking for. They’re great if you’re invested into that writer, less good if you’re trying to learn about a topic. When a post from 2016 is exactly what you want to read about, how exactly do you go about finding it? If it’s from years ago, is it still relevant to today?
Social media has also become the primary driver for traffic to our site. We have put a lot more effort into our social media presence in 2020 and that effort has paid off.
While we’ve had a FrostyGarden Facebook page for years now, we’ve only recently been putting a lot more effort into regular posts about what we’re up to. We appreciate our followers and commenters, a lot! It’s also easier for us to just throw something up that we’re doing or thinking about without having to take on a blog post.
It would be helpful for us to have content ready to go that we can post on our social media channels that are specific to that particular time in the season. Time to top your brussels sprouts? Here’s our link on everything you need to know about sprouts in the subarctic! This format change enables that on a much better scale.
Will There Be A Migration Plan For Frosty Garden?
I should be clear. This effort we’re talking about is not exactly small. It’s a major undertaking involving both new and existing content. This is the kind of architectural decision you make at the beginning of a website, not five years after it’s created.
We can’t afford to lose the work we’ve put into this site or the “status” that we now have with search engines and external links. Every content transition will have redirect links established, as appropriate. Internal links for relevant content will eventually follow. Every attempt will be made to ensure our content is retained and accessible, especially so the search engines can find the updated content.
In this process, we may decide to remove some content. Particularly with some of our early content, we didn’t know what we were doing! While I’ve had blogs before, they had completely different goals in mind. I honestly don’t think anyone will miss anything we choose to remove.
Some content may be most appropriate to split, or move to other sections, so that each page is most relevant to the topic it is intended to address. This is probably the most difficult part of this whole transition. The goal is to have a fairly narrow concept for each individual page on the site with links branching for referenced content.
A Subarctic Focused Plant Library?
One of my other goals is to get a plant-specific database built that would detail the concerns and challenges when it comes to each plant a person might grow. These would have tips, tricks and particular treatments when it comes to each plant.
One of the goals this year was to really detail out the perennial options this year for zones 1 and 2. We accomplished that goal, at least to some degrees.
It would also likely be helpful for new gardeners to have a place to go for annuals as well. It would be awesome to have a cold-climate focused page on practically every annual out there.
Selfishly, I also know that will help with search engine rankings as that’s our most popular type of content from the search engines. We want to be in the top results of every kind of cold climate plant search that you can think of.
We will definitely retain the comment functionality on these pages as we love the community interaction we get from this site. It’s great to see others contributing their knowledge. This will also help us build up those comments in one place, furthering the concentration of knowledge.
We will probably continue to have a blog, for topics such as this one where we want to communicate things to our readers but it’s not important enough for it to be static.
Is A YouTube Channel In Our Future?
We’ve had a few people requests that we get into the video format. While the idea of having a YouTube channel is enticing, we still aren’t sure about it.
We know that a lot of folks like to digest video content. We are certainly among them. That said, there’s a lot of effort, planning and time that goes into video editing and content creation. We just don’t know if we have the time to make it happen.
We also aren’t entirely compatible with YouTube’s algorithms. We would never be the kind of people to release a new video every day. Or even every week. We would seek quality, thorough videos and it would be hard to keep up with what YouTube wants from its content creators.
We are still considering it. The answer isn’t yet “no” – but rather “not yet”.
What Will Frosty Garden Look Like In the Future?
This site has been growing every year. We appreciate our new and old readers very much.
2019 was a good year for us. It was also the moment when we realized we needed to start taking it more seriously. 2020’s season has been great, compounding on earlier success. The more time we’ve put into it, the more of a resource it has become for our northern readers.
We need to position things for the future. The time to make this decision was five years ago when we started this site. The next best time is now.
We are still figuring out a lot of the details. The most important thing is figuring out the structure that will work now and in the future. We have ideas, but they need to be thought through. Fortunately, we have a long winter ahead of us, but the goal is to be relatively transitioned over by next spring.
We hope, and think, our readers will appreciate the change.
Do you have any thoughts on the subject of our reorganization? Feel free to slap them below!
I’m excited for the change. It makes sense to be able to go to your website and find exactly what I am looking for then having to sift through a blog (although I love reading cooking/gardening and other blogs).
If you haven’t covered this topic I’d like to learn more about no till gardening here in Fairbanks. Do people do it? does it work? Also really interested in learning how to convert my awful clay, loess soil (at 800′, southeast aspect in birch and aspen) into a substrate I can successfully grow fruit trees, berries and garden veggies/flowers in the ground. Oh, and do people in fairbanks do Lasagna gardening?f Thanks. I’ve been gardening for 25+ years and still a neophyte!
Thanks for the good ideas Delia! We are about 70% done with the transition now, just need to update a few more articles to be of our “higher quality” standard.
I have heard of people doing no-till, but it is highly soil dependent. Our sandy loam soils don’t support it very well since they compact quite heavily, especially from snow load. If you have good, amended soil that resists compacting, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work though.
We’ve also heard of people trying lasagna gardening (as well as hugelculture) with mixed success. When we’ve heard good feedback, they say it doesn’t work super well. In most cases where we’ve seen people try it, there’s very little follow up – which to me, indicates less than ideal results, but it’s hard to say with certainty. With our experiments in hot composting, we’d say it’s highly challenging here. We have to continually re-infuse nitrogen to get complete breakdown of carbon. We suspect this is because we only really get about 3 months of hot composting opportunity, We’d like to try with a bed some day, just to see what happens ourselves!
One thing you might consider for your locations is to dig a much larger hole and fill it with compost or good soil. You can also use a manure/straw mix, but it needs to sit for awhile to compost properly. That’s how we get our perennials to take and it’s worked fairly well. (Although, we’d admit, any perennial is more challenging here and failure is always plausible.)
Thanks Jeff. I had not thought of our annual snowfalls as impacting soils but of course they would! My goal this summer is too collect as much animal manure as possible (I have a small car so by 5 gal pails!) to layer up with leaves/straw for use the following year. I need chickens and rabbits, lol.