Friday, April 8, 2016

Spotlight on: Bryce Lane & the Importance of Soil

The key to a gorgeous planting is soil. Photo by Brian Wells.
By Sarah Leach Smith
Visitor Services Coordinator

If you love plants and have never experienced a class taught by Bryce Lane, then you have no idea what you are missing!

In just a couple of weeks, Bryce Lane will teach "Soil," a 3-hour workshop focusing on the most important part of your garden. Bryce will take you through the process of understanding soils, learning how to build and improve your soil and how to prepare a bed for planting. The workshop will include hands-on activities and soil tests that you can use over and over again in your home garden.

Not long ago, I was a student of Bryce's in the Department of Horticulture Science at North Carolina State University. I can tell you that he is the most charismatic and engaging teacher I have ever had. Soil may not sound like the most interesting topic, but I must admit that I have signed up for this class myself, to have a useful refresher about soils, of course, but also to have the opportunity to experience another class taught by Bryce Lane.

I reached out to Bryce recently to find out more about what he has been up to and what he hopes to cover in this course. Our Q&A is below.

Will you tell potential students a little more about your background and your experience? 
Bryce Lane with one of his 3 Emmy awards.
Photo courtesy of Bryce Lane. 
I grew up in Western Massachusetts, where I first discovered my passion for plants and telling others about them while working at a local garden center through high school and college. I earned my B.S. in plant science from the University of Massachusetts in 1979 and an M.S. in horticulture from The Ohio State University in 1981. I came to the Department of Horticultural Science at N.C. StateUniversity as a lecturer, teaching in both the two-year and four-year programs. In 1987, I became the undergraduate coordinator, serving the department in that capacity for 26 years. In the past 30+ years, I have taught more than 20,000 students! I also hosted and produced a three-time Emmy winning UNC-TV public television show called “In the Garden with Bryce Lane”, which was on the air for 11 seasons.

Though I retired from N.C. State in January of 2014, I have enjoyed pursuing public speaking opportunities and teaching part time. I have actually been teaching soils workshops now for three years, and it's a regular winter workshop at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh every year

What can we expect from your class? What do you hope participants will gain from it?
Expect a dynamic, entertaining, yet scientifically packed presentation about soil, soil profiles, soil chemistry, soil structure, pH, organic matter, soil and bed preparation and soil building. I’ll also talk about container media and how it needs to be different, and treated differently from outdoor soil. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of soil, and how to apply the science they learn to create better garden soil for all their gardening endeavors. They will learn how to build soil and make it better for the environment, their gardens and their plants.
Bed preparation in the Discovery Garden. Photo by Lindsey Fleetwood.

What are you most excited about with regard to this class? 

I am most excited about how this workshop enables gardeners to be more successful growing plants in their gardens. By learning some soil science and committing to using that knowledge to improve soil, gardeners will be equipped to improve all their gardening practices.