This year has forced all of us to grow in ways we never imagined. So I figured, why not find a way to grow a little together? I’m partnering with my friend Natasha Nicholes to challenge all of you to commit to growing something—ANYTHING. It doesn’t matter if it blossoms, bears fruit or vegetables (or dies). Our only goal is to grow something together and learn from the experience.
My own gardening journey started three years ago, with a total of two garden beds and a few chickens. Eleven beds (and SEVERAL more chickens) later, here we are. Taking the time to plant, to water, to prune and to pick different herbs and fruits and veggies has given us an amazing opportunity to connect with nature and each other. I love that our family garden has allowed us to experience firsthand how much care it takes to cultivate—and how satisfying it is to watch something we’ve planted grow into something we can eat! We’re fortunate to have this special connection to the food that sustains us. It’s something I deeply value, and I find relief and comfort in the sense of independence it gives me.
It’s something everyone should have access to and why I have so much love for Natasha and her work with We Sow We Grow, an urban farming community in Chicago. The nonprofit grew from the garden Natasha cultivated with her family in an empty lot in her neighborhood. It’s now a thriving community (in person and online) that focuses on food education and teaching people how much they can grow and learn—no matter where they live.
“Gardening became a status symbol for a long time. Urban farming especially became something else that was gentrified in a way. It’s important for people to stick to their roots and know that they don’t have to have some glorious backyard or expensive setup,” says Nicholes. “So many people come to us unsure about being able to grow their own food, especially those talking about having a black thumb, and now they are proudly showing off their flowers and houseplants and the edible stuff that they’re growing during a time of pandemonium for so much of the world—it’s pretty neat to see that level of peace.”There is real power in growing our own food. Beyond the personal satisfaction and health benefits of gardening at home, it can plant the seeds for social change.
In this country, more than 23 million families live in areas without access to supermarkets or other stores selling affordable healthy food options. These “food deserts” cause environmental health issues that impact families for generations. Gardens provide an oasis, beautifying neighborhoods and bringing people together to learn valuable life skills. Community gardens can also create jobs and volunteer opportunities, promote healthy eating and empower communities to be self-sustaining by growing their own resources. (The documentary Can You Dig This? by Ron Finley is worth a watch if you want to learn more!)
Whether you live in the backcountry of Idaho, the suburbs of Austin or a 4-story walk-up on the South Side of Chicago, let’s prove that we can all learn how to grow.
Natasha and I will be going live next week for GISH, my friend Misha’s global scavenger hunt, to answer all your gardening questions and share what we’ll be growing in our own gardens and window sills over the next month. Invite as many other people to join you in growing something at home and use the hashtag #wesowwegrow to share with us so we can follow along and support each other. I’ll be posting information on how to join us for that discussion soon!
Not sure how to get started? Here, a few helpful hints:
Find your zone
At the risk of stating the obvious: Not everything grows everywhere. Before you pick what to plant, consider climate and sun exposure. For guidance, plug in your zip code at Garden.org to learn your “hardiness zone” and find a suggested planting calendar. Additionally, ask someone at your local garden center for tips on the best native plants for your region.
There are lots of things you can grow that don’t require a ton of space. “Herbs like basil, cilantro, sage and dill can grow easily inside your home and provide a great source to cook with,” says Nicholes. Spinach and chard can easily be grown in pots and are a good option as the weather begins to cool. “Most leafy vegetables wilt under the heat of the sun; their sweet spot is about 75 degrees and below,” adds Nicholes. If you’re looking for seeds, try contacting your local college before hitting up the big box stores. Many universities have agriculture programs and can hook you up with free seeds, or even free gardening classes. We also love Seed Mail Seed Co.
Check on growth daily
“You can’t plant seeds and ignore them and hope it works out. They require daily work and attention,” says Nicholes. She advises putting whatever you’re growing somewhere where you’ll be forced to look at it each day. “If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind,” says Nicholes. Need another reminder? The Planta app can send you friendly notifications when it’s time to water and clean your houseplants or Seed to Spoon let’s you track and keep notes on all the plants in your garden to stay organized.
What are you hoping to grow? Share in the comments below!
I want to see if I can get my hands on some herb seeds, as well as a flower or two! I’ve been thinking about growing things for a while, and this has given me the motivation to do it finally! I’m thinking about seeing if I can grow some sage. Not only is it lovely for cooking but it’s a brilliant herb in cleansing and protection spellwork. Thanks Gen for this challenge!
Gen – can you tell us where you got your chicken coop? Or the plans to build it? I have 12 chickens that I’d love to have a coop/run like yours for.
I love gardening. I have a small veggie garden inmy back yard. Tomatoes, cuccumbersand jalepenos. Notbing tastesbetter than fresh home vrown veggies! When we move i to anapt. At the end of the year, I will be doing container gardening!
Thanks for getting others involved Gen!
I wanted to let you know that you have inspired me so much. I am really learning alot of you about beauty and health and fashion so thank you. I am also growing Elephant Ears, and passion fruit
I`ve already did that inspired by your instagram live in spring. I grew tomato plants out of seeds and they are growing now on my window board. I`m waiting for the tomatoes to turn red now. But I would like to try something else for your challenge. But as it is already a bit late in the year for our climate, I live in Germany. I thought about Kale, cause it is frost hardy. But I like to do that also on the window board or on the balcony and I`m not sure if that is a good idea.
My family and I started a garden about 2-3 months ago and it is already huge. We planted carrots, green onions, tomatoes, watermelon, and pumpkins. The vines are starting to take over half the garden(we expected this) lol. AND… We have a almost full-sized watermelon already! Can’t wait to cut it open!
I love growing plants. Since I had a major surgery in November and was super sick at the beginning of the month with a bug, I seem to be just trying to keep things alive. Hoping to grow some sunflowers outside and basil and lavender inside. Those I’ve never tried.
Great post again Gen – I hope you are enjoying you cross country travelling 🙂 I live in the UK were it rains A LOT!!! I think I am going to look into growing plants and flowers first. I am working on establishing my garden as I am off school for the summer. I think I will go to my local garden centre and have a chat with them like suggested. I think I would appreciate help in what plants/flowers to grow. I will tag you in my developmenrs #wesowwegrow 🌱🌿🌷🌼🌸
I’ve gotten into houseplants during the last couple of months! And now I’m propogating an Alocasia Stingray from a bulb! And some cuttings that I’ve gotten from plant swaps! And leaves from my succulents! So I guess I’ll keep track of them and see how they grow! 😁
I grow veg and fruit all the time, very rewarding. I do it with my 4 year old son who loves it too xx
My family has a pretty big garden this year! We have zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers. It is so rewarding to watch the garden grow and to pick the veggies when they’re ready. PLUS THEY TASTE AMAZING.😍❤
Every year we grow tomatoes, romas if we can find then, and cherry tomatoes. Also, sweet peppers, those have been wonderful. Also have fresh basil, oregano and dill.
Me and my daughter we have a flower bed in front of our house and we grow multiple different flowers we love pretty flowers
I have had a veggie garden in some form since 1988. 13 years ago my husband and I bought a hobby farm. It warms my heart to see people In the celebrity world promoting “grow your own” and getting back to the basics. Keep up the good work.
PS I am in Victoria Australia so we are still in winter. I am currently raising seed in the glass house XXOOXX
You already inspire me and I started to grow veggies with my family on march. It has been such a grateful experience for all of us. We planted pumpkins, yellow squash, green beans, radishes, watermelon, cantaloupe, jicama, bets and carrots. We also plant 4 trees in our backyard two lemon, two oranges representing each member or my family me(mom), Dad, my son and my daughter. I will love to be involved in the challenge thought.
I do lots of flower gardening every year as a artist I love interesting flowers and very colorful planting not bad and watching them grow the worst is weeds lol they grow faster the your flowers once a month I go in and pull pile of weeds. But love it growing flowers is like painting a masterpiece you must take care and plan where it goes so you can grow a work of art.
I have been gardening for about 10 years. This year, it has been my lifeline. I was in an accident in late February and had emergency surgery on my knee. Then COVID-19 hit and my school shut down. My garden became my sanctuary and all the great fruits and veggies have been fueling my recovery. Now if I could just keep the chicken out of the tomatoes!
I bought 2 little red bell pepper plants several months ago as an impulse buy at HEB. I’ve only got one pepper on them but it’s almost big enough to start turning red! I’m 56 years old and it’s the first time I’ve grown anything edible! I live in a condo so I don’t have a yard – I call it #porchfarming. 😜 Can’t wait to pick it! I’ll be joining y’all for this. Thanks for bringing us along!!
My family is purchasing a home in Colorado. We need to replace a bush in the front yard…. I have NEVER been good at keeping plans alive. I’m so talented i can kill an cactus. 😒😒 But I’m willing to try!
I srarted a couple small child pool raised beds!! Cucumbers, and jalapeños. I also have tomatoes and celery, onions, green beans, and lemon thyme, and sage. Inhad lettuce but they hot harvested and u am planting radishes and cilantro tomorrow. I’ll post about those!!
BTW first time growing a garden, partially inspired by yours!! So thanx!!
After 7 years of dreaming we finally got our garden going. I love it!
Dawn Marie McGlothin
My summer project this year is growing herbs–I have a container garden on my patio. I planted basil and sage and have been thouroughly enjoying it!
My daughter and I love to watch the bell peppers and jalepeños grow in our garden. She gets so excited when new ones form and then ripen to eat. Also, she loves to smell and use the mint in our garden window and is so excited to cook with me. She’s amazed by our aloe plant and and how it can be used for so many healthy purposes. It’s a great learning experience for her and fun at the same time. I love how kids get excited about watching things grow as much as we enjoy watching them grow and learn how to make their own gardens someday.
I have a beautiful garden and black thumbs😆 great combination lol, but am trying. I’m growing strawberries, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, chives and cucumbers and it’s going pretty well. I live in Iceland, and it’s been pretty cold even for summer so we’ll see. But I love growing my own food, however little it is😊
I have two large flower beds in my front yard and a large vegetable garden in my backyard. People say I have a small farm! I have a mixture of strawberries, blueberries, dill, basil, thyme, green onions, red bell peppers, chili peppers, regular hot peppers, Italian tomatoes, romaine lettuce, curly lettuce, broccoli, and cucumbers!
Great post!! I bought a house back in november and I have big dreams to start a veggie garden! I am going to take the first step and start building my first raised garden bed tomorrow! Thanks for the inspiration!
It’s winter down here in Australia, so we have mostly herbs growing in our garden. We’ve just planted some kale. lettuce and snow peas in the hope of getting a winter crop. At least we’ve had some decent (too much) rain lately and we have a water bore for the dry summer season.
Sadly we don’t have much growing room, but we do have a lot of pots with roses, succulents and bromeliads. My daughter also has a whole bunch of carnivorous plants.
This is the first year I’ve tried growing anything and I think I’m addicted!!! I just got my Subpod growing bed (worm composting) set up this weekend and I’m so excited about turning this Virginia clay into healthy soil!
(Oh, and it makes my nerd heart happy that you linked to a reasearch study; science rules!)
Gardening is always something I’ve done with my two boys they absolutely adore it. Their litte sister passed away and we set up a memorial garden for her. Things we grow dont just nourish our bodies physically but things we grow in her memorial garden help connect them to her and help emotionally too. Thanks for all the handy tips and tricks, looking forward to reading more! 💓
I have a small garden with tomatoes zucchini peppers and basil. I am loving it. I check on my plants every morning and it gives me something to look forward to. Next year I’m I think I will expand. Thanks, Gen
Hi! I am moving in to a new place and I want to start an indoor garden. I would love to grow fruit and vegetables. Do you have any tips or tricks or recommendations of what to grow? I will be residing in Georgia. I want to reduce my footprint. I love your garden that you have showcased through instagram and this website. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you so so much. I hope you and your family are doing well during these uncertain times.
Thanks to you I have a small garden with squash and 3 different tomatoes and some mint and rosemary and cucumbers going in my small back yard. Hope to add to it soon. Keeps me and my kids pretty busy!