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How can our plant hobby make this world a better place? For me, learning to care for plants was the gateway drug for becoming more aware of how much growth opportunity I had when it came to caring for the earth. I've discovered that there are so many ways to lead a sustainable life, especially with our plant care journey. In this episode, I invited back Nick Cutsumpas, aka Farmer Nick, to further guide us in making small shifts that have a big impact on our planet’s wellbeing.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [00:52] Maria’s fall updates
  • [01:56] What today’s episode is about
  • [05:53] Who is Farmer Nick?
  • [08:04] Nick shares his plant journey from backyard gardener to plant coach and landscaper
  • [13:42] The most important value to your plant number
  • [15:22] Applying approachability and relatability to our plant care
  • [18:05] Why houseplants as a hobby encourages us to keep learning
  • [19:42] Dealing with plant death and adjusting your plant care
  • [24:28] What is the concept behind ‘mindful neglect’?
  • [26:42] Where to get the best grow lights to get your plants through winter
  • [27:57] How to reduce your food waste and garbage footprint
  • [29:45] On the misconception that plants can be stressful and take up a lot of your time
  • [34:47] Tips for a more sustainable and eco-focused plant parenthood
  • [39:43] Nick’s plant setup in his new home
  • [42:30] How houseplants can jumpstart our journey to sustainability
  • [45:46] How growing plants lessened Maria’s meat consumption
  • [47:24] Why every step for a sustainable lifestyle matters
  • [50:10] Where to find Nick and his book online
  • [51:33] A thank you to new Garden Party members

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Sustainability & Plant Parenthood

Who is Nick

Nick Cutsumpas is a plant coach turned landscaper, host on Netflix’s Instant Dream Home, and author of Plant Coach: The Beginner’s Guide To Caring for Plants and the Planet.

Nick’s mission as a plant person and a plantrepreneur is to leave the earth “greener than when he found it” by providing people with accessible and relatable knowledge, empowering them to create their own planty spaces to contribute to environmental action and social justice.


Is Your Plant Number Important?

With our social media feeds filled with living spaces lush with different houseplants, there is a certain pressure and impression that you need to have hundreds of plants in your home to be a good plant parent. For those who are just starting to grow and figure out their plant collection, the number of plants you have may seem like an important part of your plant parenthood journey. 

But here’s the truth: your plant number does not matter. For Nick—and from Maria’s personal experience—the most important thing about having as many plants as you do is if they are healthy and they bring you joy. What matters is the connection you make with nature through your houseplants, and it will not depend on whether you have two or 200 plants.


Approachable and Relatable Plant Care

Whether you’re an expert plant parent or someone who’s just gotten their first houseplant, there is no denying that there is a lot of data and information to sift through when it comes to plants and their care. That’s why Nick advocates for plant care to be approachable and relatable to avoid overwhelm, or even in extreme cases, a complete disinterest in plants.

Plant care can be fun, educational, and far from stressful when we receive information that is easy to understand and apply to our collection. On the other hand, there is always something new to learn about our plants, which certainly helps sustain our interest in this hobby.


How to Deal with Plant Death

A lot of us might have called ourselves—or still do—a ‘plant killer’ because we’ve had plants die in our care. Nick believes that green grief is real, and it’s okay. How do we deal with plant death without turning it into something negative about ourselves?

Setting proper expectations for yourself before you even begin your plant parenthood journey is essential. This hobby of ours involves a lot of trial and error and learning opportunities, which can sometimes be a plant dying despite our best efforts.

Nick recommends doing a ‘pre-work’ on your home environment and making sure the conditions are optimal for our plants to thrive. We should see our homes as living, breathing ecosystems that we need to understand so that we can choose plants that are best suited for that environment – or at least give them the best chances.


What is Mindful Neglect for Plants?

Spending minimal time on your plants can seem like neglect. However, Nick would like to differ. If you’ve done your homework and put in the necessary conditions for your plants to thrive, your regular plant care routine won’t take up much of your time.

Is that neglect? Nick says no. It is being mindful. You are still checking in on your plants and ensuring all their needs are met while acknowledging that they are living creatures that have survived millions of years without our intervention.

Another beautiful thing about this concept? Mindful neglect also goes for our human relationships. We don’t always have to be fussing about the details, as long as we’ve created solid foundations for our relationships with other people. We are our own beings, who just need some help from time to time.


Is Plant Care Really Stressful?

You might have experienced it yourself or have seen it from other plant parents: we tend to overcomplicate our plant care out of fear of failure. The usual symptoms are there: overwatering, constant checking on our plants, and even buying more plants in the subconscious anticipation of losing some.

Here’s the thing, plant friends. Taking care of plants should not be stressful. A big part of getting houseplants is, as Maria puts it, chilling out and letting those plants adjust to your home. Plant parenthood does not need to be stressful if you don’t want it to be! You can set your own schedule, choose the plants you are willing to care for, and reserve plant time as your me-time.

So much of our anxiety in taking care of plants lies in the belief that they need us to survive. Once we let go of that idea and start looking at our plants as self-sufficient beings, our plant care will be much simpler and easier for us to maintain.


From Plant Parent to Earth Champion

As we learn more about our plants and deepen our connection with nature, living a sustainable life might be next on our list. Like Maria, going from having no interest at all to now composting their household food waste was possible through houseplants.

These potted plants living in our homes can be a gateway drug to reconnecting us with nature and realizing we want to do more to save our planet. Just having plants, that are part of this big living ecosystem, already contributes to our bid in making a greener world, but what are other practical and easy sustainable practices we can apply to our plant parenthood?


Tips for More Sustainable and Eco-focused Plant Care Routine

We don’t have to immediately start living a low-waste lifestyle or join an environmental organization—though those are also good. We can start implementing small habits in our plant care that make a big difference. Here are three tips that Nick recommends:

  • Collect rainwater

           You can easily install rain barrels to your gutter system to collect rainwater for your plants. Not only will your plants love it, but you also consume less tap water.

  • Reuse nursery pots

          We’ve all been there; buying new plants means nursery pots that we don’t know what to do with. They’re not conventionally recyclable and they rarely get repurposed. Nick suggests reusing them for your seed starting or using them on plants that are placed in pots without drainage holes – for easy watering!

  • Create your own plant sliders

           To avoid getting scratches on your floors, especially if they’re hardwood, without resorting to store-bought felt pads that come in big plastic bags, reuse your old shoe soles and glue them under your big pots.


Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsors:


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