Happy Earth Month, fam! Although we often take this spinning mass of rock for granted, our planet does a lot to keep us alive. Between the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, and the nutrients we eat, there are lots of reasons to give thanks to planet Earth. Unfortunately, we’ve done a bad job of showing our gratitude. According to MIT’s Climate Portal, humans have added over “35 billion tons of CO2” to the atmosphere every year from manmade activity, overheating our planet and contributing to climate change. While most of the onus of improving our pollution falls on major corporations, there are steps we can take to take better care of our planet, such as gardening.

Learning to take care of plants may seem intimidating but it truly is a skill for everyone. Even if you have a couple empty pots and a windowsill, starting your own plant sanctuary is relatively easy to learn, inexpensive and can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Spending quality time with nature provides many benefits, (including but not limited to) improved physical and mental health, not to mention planting in general can do wonders to fight climate change, allow you to grow organic fruits and vegetables, and serve as a source of stress relief. 

Image: courtesy of Amber Grossman

If you’re new to gardening and don’t know where to start, we’ve consulted two experts, including Ron Finley, the “Gangsta Gardener”, and Amber Grossman, founder of Black Girls Gardening. Both gardening afficionados are sharing the powerful soul-affirming benefits of learning to cultivate growth, tips to keep your plants alive and focus on finding joy through this life skill.

Grow your power back.

When it comes to his gardening philosophy Finley declares, "I always say “Beauty In, Beauty Out”. Imagine a world where everyone woke up and saw beauty all around them. I’m a firm believer that growing your own food can positively impact your life, your kids’ lives and their future kids’ lives.” The effect of growing your own fresh, organic food can transform your family’s health, save you money, and equip you with the power of self-sufficiency. “Take the power into­ your own hands to nourish yourself and your body with nutritious food that you grew in your front yard, backyard or balcony. Gardening is a life skill and we all must know how to grow our own if we are to be free.” 

Don’t give up.

Speaking of patience…you might not see a lush and full set of plants right off the bat. In fact, it will take lots of consistency, time, and effort! Stafford shares, “While gardening brings a deep sense of joy, peace and freedom it also teaches us valuable lessons like patience and acceptance. We must be patient with the things we grow as everything takes time to develop into its true self, but we must also accept that not everything will go as planned or intended and that it’s okay to adapt to those changes as well. These simple gardening lessons can relate so much to our everyday life so teaching this to future generations is important!”

Empower yourself and your community. 

"There is a false narrative out there that gardening and farming correlates with slavery, when actually it’s a path to freedom.” explains Finley. While there is a lack of visual representation in the gardening space, this myth couldn’t be further from the truth. Stafford details, “Gardening has always been a part of the Black community. It’s something I grew up watching my grandparents do, it was always just undocumented. Personally, I thought it was very important to start capturing Black women and their journeys to growing their own food and caring for plants. The more people that see this hobby and lifestyle and the joy it brings, the easier it makes it for people to want to try it themselves!”

Image: courtesy of Ron Finley

Build community. 

“The whole goal behind creating Black Girls Gardening was to create a space where I could feature Black women doing what they love: gardening and planting. It’s a space to share ideas, get inspired and encourage people to document and be proud of their hard work!” exclaims Amber. Sure, gardening comes with a whole lot of trial and error, but that’s the fun of it! Building a community, Finley also suggests joining a group, which can be essential to trading resources, expressing frustrations, and sharing tales of progress. 

Start with the basics.

Ready to get growing? Finley shares a short list of valuable tips to keep in mind as you jumpstart your plant parenthood journey.

1. Plant what you will eat. 

2. Make sure you have adequate sunlight for the plants you choose 

3. Plant flowers for the pollinators.

4. Learn how to cook!

5. Share

6. Compost Compost Compost

7. Don't give up. 

8. Buy organic seeds

9. Start a Grow Group

10. Soil Matters.

11. Mulch saves water and protects Soil.