• Ariel Green

Becoming a Plant Mom to Starting a Garden with Black Girls with Gardens Founder, Jasmine Jefferson

Updated: Jan 27


Houseplants have made a comeback! Well, I'm not sure they ever fell off, but millennials and gen z are filling their homes with more plants than ever! Another lost skill that's making a comeback, is vegetable gardening. Women of color, and black women in particular, are going back to their roots and growing some of their own. With more of us being at home since the start of the pandemic, many of us have wanted to beautify our spaces with plants, but some of us aren't quite sure how to take care of them...


In this episode, we'll be talking to Jasmine Jefferson, the founder of Black Girls with Gardens. We talk about how to choose a houseplant for your space, we share some advice on what to consider when starting a garden, and how to use plants in your self care routine.

Visit the Black Girls with Gardens website

Follow Black Girls with Gardens on Instagram

Follow Black Girls with Gardens on Facebook


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Ariel Green :

Hello, and welcome back to the Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. This show exists to connect black, brown and indigenous women who are interested in sustainability. Our goal is to inspire and courage and educate each other; from gardening to thrifting, to minimalism, to veganism and everywhere in between. We're all on a journey to taking care of our bodies and our planets. I'm your host, Ariel Green.


Houseplants have made a comeback. Well, I'm not sure they ever fell off, but millennials and gen Z are filling their homes with plants more than ever. Another lost skill that's making a comeback is vegetable gardening. Women of color and black women in particular are going back to their roots and growing some of their own. With more of us being at home since the start of the pandemic, many of us have wanted to beautify our spaces with plants, but some of us aren't quite sure how to take care of them. In this episode, we'll be talking to Jasmine Jefferson, the founder of Black Girls with Gardens. She'll be sharing tips on how to choose a house plant for your space, as well as giving some advice on what to consider when starting a garden.


But first, let's read a recent review for the podcast. This one comes from Chips and Salsa. It reads, "I love that the show puts the spotlight on people of color doing good work when it comes to sustainability. So many of these people do amazing work we never hear about ."


This is so true and that's exactly why I started this podcast. Thanks so much for the kind review. Remember to also leave a review on the podcast on Apple to have it featured in an upcoming episode. Now let's get back to the show.


Welcome back to Sustainable Brown Girl. On today's episode. We have Jasmine who is the founder of a Black Girls With Gardens. Jasmine is your everyday multi-dimensional black woman in love with plants and all things growing. She founded black girls with gardens in 2017, and she's dedicated to making gardening easy for everyone. Black Girls With Gardens is a media resource curated to provide inspiration, education, representation, and support to black women creating green spaces, whether you're a plant mom to many, community gardener or just own one cactus, Black Girls With Gardens is for you. Thank you so much for joining us today Jasmine.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm super happy to be here.


Ariel Green :

Awesome. So let's just jump right into it and tell us what led you to start Black Girls With Gardens?


Jasmine Jefferson:

Well, shockingly, well not too shocking, but I've always been surrounded by plants and when growing. Like my grandparents, my parents it's always been a thing to me to the point where I was just like completely over it. I was never interested in it, it was just not my thing. It just wasn't. So let's see, it was back in 2012 when I started taking care of one of my grandmother's aloe plant and it did so well, typically with that type of plan, you don't really see too much growth, but Oh my God! It did so well that at that moment I was just really hooked on growing and wanted to see what else I can do. So I started growing herbs and moved forward and started growing food.


Then ironically, my family was tired of me talking to them all the time about plants. At the time, social media was booming and I was just like, you know what? "I bet I can find other people I can talk to about plants and we can just all talk about plants and no one be completely tired of it." So I did do a little search on social media, looking for my plant tribe and I found a few people. But I just didn't see what I felt like I could bring or what I wanted to bring to the table. I wanted to have like this community where we could just talk about plants, we can learn more about plants, we study plans and just another way to uplift women, black women. And so I just birth Black Girls With Garden in 2017, and it's just been flourishing ever since.


Ariel Green :

Yes, I love it. That's similar to my story with creating Sustainable Brown Girl. I went on social media, looking for other sustainable brown girls. There were a few, but not really a community. So yeah, having a community is so important.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yeah it is. It's just the idea that if you use Black Girls With Garden hashtag, you'll find so many new people that you're looking for. And I think the same thing with Sustainable Brown Girl, you can do the same thing like I did the same thing . I was like, "okay, this is the community, this is the tribe."


Ariel Green :

Yeah, exactly. You post a lot on Instagram and I guess your Facebook page too, of black girls with their gardens and their plants and stuff. And every time I see a post I'm like "follow, follow". So it's a great way to find like-minded women.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Right.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. So I kind of mentioned in the intro, what types of resources your platform offers, but what exactly do you offer with Black Girls With Gardens?


Jasmine Jefferson

Well with Black Girls With Gardens, I try to provide for certain things to women of color, looking to enjoy gardening, looking to grow something or whatever the case may be. If you're just interested, I want to make sure that I provide inspiration that's something you can definitely see all over our social media platforms of support. We have social media, Facebook groups and different things of that sort. Also want to make sure that there's tons of representation, of course and lastly, is education.


So what I do is with our blog that we have, I try to provide short, sweet, very, fact filled articles so women can find what they want and look for what they're needing. Now moving forward, what we're going to start doing is actually doing workshops once or twice a month. It just really depends on what the community needs and try to provide them, topics on what they need and that's going to be more seasonal. It just depends on the season or what everyone has a little confusion about, but those are different things that we're looking here at Black Girls With Garden to provide to people. So we want to make sure that we get those workshops out, we have timely articles as well and moving forward, we're going to definitely, hopefully if things can calm down a little bit, have more in-person workshops and events where people can get out and actually see and talk to people.


Ariel Green :

Yeah, definitely. I also saw on your website that you have a get up and grow program or a houseplant chat. Is that something that you also offer?


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yeah, we initially started that towards the end of this year, that's going to actually close out because what I want to do is probably start some type of growth school or some type of growth program to be more collective. A lot of people benefit more. So when it's more collective, a lot of people benefit more when it’s more collective so they can talk to other people in the area, so that's something I'm definitely going to start working on.


Ariel Green :

Right. Okay. Yeah, that definitely makes sense. Like I said earlier, having that community is the best, you really can't beat that.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Exactly. It's just so rewarding. I've done so many different things and it's just knowing that you can still get out there, you could still do it, but you still feel some type of sense of lonesome, but like just having the community to that, "Hey, I killed this plant too, or I can't seem to get lavender to scrap or anything." It's just kind of inspirational.


Ariel Green :

Yeah, definitely. I got my first plant a couple of years ago, it was a pothos, it was a gift from a friend and after I got that, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I love all the plants." I just started buying them and it's like really an addiction. But I also hear a lot of people saying that they don't have a green thumb. So what tips would you offer someone who is nervous about getting a plant? Maybe they've killed a plant before or they're just afraid to even start? What tips would you give them?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I get this all the time and I get it, you're trying to get back in touch in growing or just learning. But the first thing I love telling people is that the original green thumb was black. That's just straight up facts. So, you just have to find the right plant for you. By that, I just basically mean when you decide that you want to get a plant…A lot of us just dive right into it. We just start buying the prettiest plant with no ideal concern of, "do I have the life for it? Do I have the lifestyle for it?" things of that sort.


What I try to tell people right before they just dive straight in, is to kind of assess their home, look and see. Do you have one window? Do you have all these windows? Where do you plan on putting this plan? Do you have the light for it? Is your home typically cold or do you keep it warm? Those types of things kind of help you find the perfect plan for you. And it kind of gets rid of when you try to grow something or it just doesn't work for your house.


Then typically you start talking to people who say, "Oh, I don't have a green thumb," they typically bought a plant that just didn't fit for that lifestyle and that plant was just going to die regardless. I have over a hundred plants and there are certain plants that if I bring into my home, it's going to die because I just don't have the environment for it.


Ariel Green :

Is there a certain plant or type of plant or something that you tell people to look out for when it's their first time?


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yes. I always tell…Because if I don't know what's going on in their house or what type of light or if I don't know anything of that, the first thing I'm going to tell them is get the pothos.


Ariel Green :

Yeah.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Because it can take bright light, it can take low light, it's very adaptable. I've definitely encouraged... If I don't know anything else get pothos And the beautiful thing about it is that it's so rewarding. It lets, you know, when it's thirsty, it kind of hangs out for a while, like, "Hey, help me out." There's so many different varieties, so you can feel like, I have this huge jungle. I don't have the same plant over and over.” It's just, it's a really rewarding plant. And a lot of times when people think back on it, this plant was in their grandmother's house or it was in their grandma's friend's house. It has so much sentimental value.


Ariel Green :

Yeah, that's so true. And since the pothos was my first plant, and like you said, it's really easy to care for. I did feel empowered after being able to take care of it at not killing it, I felt more empowered to get other plants. And then my second plant was a Bird's Nest Fern, and that died within a month.


Jasmine Jefferson:

I can imagine , they have two different types of needs, so I can see how that can happen. I know I talked to tons of people and I'm just like, "Hey, look, what I did is I did dive in and kind of hard, but I learned that I'm going to master caring for one particular type of plant, whether I get all the varieties or not, that’s based on your addiction, what you like. But, I learned how to care for a particular type of plant before I moved on to a different one. I started off with [ inaudible 13:14] . So this is a very thirsty, dramatic type of plant. So moving on to a plant, like a pothos because they don't really need to be watered as often as cactus or sansevieria. They don't need to be watered as often, so if I apply the same thing, of course I would kill it and I did. Actually, multiple times just because I was over loving it because I was just used to that type of plant. So those are things like a lot of people have to take into consideration as well.


Ariel Green :

Yeah, exactly. My third plant was a snake plant and I kind of overwatered it and started like seeing the decay on it. So you're right. Every plant kind of requires something different. It's really important to just keep an eye on it. Google, you know, Google is your friend and kind of troubleshoot all the problems that you're having with it.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Exactly. It's just like a friendship though. You know, you have these different types of plants, it's like dealing with different types of people and you have to learn, what can you apply, what doesn't apply here and things of that sort.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. In addition to plants, houseplants and stuff, you also have a lot of information on your website about gardening. So can you tell us ,what's been your experience with gardening?


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yeah, I started off, like I said, with the aloe plant, like a house plant and then I moved to growing herbs outside, and then I started growing food. So I am really into all things plants. I grow food all year round. I am in Florida so I have the ability to grow all year round. I grow all things, I just try new things out for my family to try to eat, or just to be able to share with Black Girls With Garden, "Hey, this work, this is something you could probably try to grow whatever the case may be." But yeah, when I grow, I grow a lot. I really dabble in a lot of things. When I say I really like growing, I dabble in a lot of things. I have a raised bed garden in the backyard. I have five raised beds that we're going to be adding maybe three more soon. I also grow indoor hydroponics gardening, and that's basically just growing completely in water with no soil. I do that as well. I do indoor gardening. I do a lot of things. I'm really into this.


Ariel Green :

With the hydroponics. Do you have one of those garden towers?


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yeah, I have two large garden towers.


Ariel Green :

Okay. So what is your favorite thing to grow in the garden?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I absolutely love growing cucumbers. I love eating cucumbers. I love seeing them flourish in the garden. I love seeing like a little small cucumber and by the end of the week, it's huge. I just absolutely love growing those. I love trying different varieties. This past summer, I grew lemon cucumber and it took off, it was so delicious and very crispy and very prolific, there were tons of them. So that's definitely something I'm going to be adding to my garden every year now. I love peppers. I like diving into the different types of peppers and I love absolutely growing different types of herbs.


Ariel Green :

I have a community garden in my town that I live in. And so I had my first raised bed garden this past spring and summer and it was really amazing. One thing that I really like about community gardening, especially as a new person, is that hopefully if you go to a good community garden, that there's someone there to help you learn and teach you things and maybe keep an eye on your beds if you're not able to check on it all the time. I often tell people that if they're looking into gardening to see if there's a community garden near them.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Exactly. I absolutely love community gardens. And that's funny because Black Girls With Gardens, one of the things that we want to do is start a community garden. Right now, I have my eye on a particular and we've been discussing it, but I definitely wants to start Black Girls With Garden very first community garden and then kind of just like scope out different parts of the United States of America and see if we can just get this thing started because like you said, it's really beneficial and it's very good for learning purposes. And especially if you put it in low income areas, that's accessibility to more food and that's promoting sustainability for our neighborhoods.


Ariel Green :

Exactly. What area of Florida are you in?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I'm in Pensacola Florida, North Florida, basically.


Ariel Green :

Okay. Well I'm in Atlanta, so whenever you're ready to move here, I am ready.


Jasmine Jefferson:

I actually graduated from Clark Atlanta.


Ariel Green :

Oh, cool. My mom went there. She used to work in the AUC center and stuff.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Oh really? Yeah I graduated from Clark, so Atlanta is my second home.


Ariel Green :

If someone was new to gardening, what would you suggest that they start with?


Jasmine Jefferson:

If they're new, they can start with herbs. I say, start with herbs because they're going to be very rewarding. It's going to empower you and it allows you to step out of your box and try growing different types of herbs that you're not typically used to. For the most part growing herbs is not hard. You really don't run into too many issues. And if you do, you still have the ability to start over and still reap the benefits of growing herbs. I also say start, even if you want to start food immediately, I say, start in containers, it's affordable, you don't have to really dive in and buy beds and things of that sort and set that up and you’re able to start small. If you're able to focus on one thing, figure out what's going on with it all of your attention can be there.


And it's just like with houseplants, you're able to master growing this and growing that without having the issue of possibly... Sometimes disease happens to food and crops and vegetables and things on that sort so you won't have to deal with that if that happens. In a huge bed, for example, with my green beans this year, it was just like some crazy bug did it, disease happened. They just did not do well this year. And it could be like a blow to the stomach for a newbie. If you see that, you're like "oh my God, what did I do wrong?" And you don't have any idea in reference to that. So I always say start small, start in containers and start with herbs if you can.


Ariel Green :

One of the first things that I did even before I started the community garden, like several years ago, I started some spinach plants on my balcony. And that was so easy to maintain and take care of and just having it to be rewarding and to motivate you to keep trying is I think the most important part.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Exactly, that's the entire point there.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. And also, with container gardening, I've bought some felt grow bags on Amazon. Those are really easy to grow into. I have some in my in-law's backyard growing greens right now. So that's something really easy to start with, they're moveable and all that.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Yes. Actually they're really good because they promote...Well, the reason why they do so well is because the aeration they get on the side of the bag, the soil is able to breathe, the roots are able to breathe and the plant actually produces more in those. So yeah. A lot of people get those great. I have a few grow bags as well. A lot of people get a grow bag. If you don't want to go out and purchase those types of grow bags, you could definitely use, I can't remember the type of bag, but it's like the reusable grocery bags. You could definitely use those it’s breathable, you could probably get maybe two to three years out of those, those work well as well.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. For someone who's starting, would you suggest that they try growing from seed or maybe getting transplants?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I always suggest getting transplants because growing with seeds, it's just a different beast and that's just because everything you grow, you have to understand what the seed needs. For example, celery is almost like my arch nemesis. I can get into sprout. I can get it to grow, but it's one of those things that you can't bury it too deep, it needs to be right on top of the soil, you have the sprinkle just enough, it can't be too wet. It's just really different.


Now, what I like to do is that after all these years of growing, I still get transplants for certain things because you just don't want to put… sometimes you just don't have the time to put into all of that things. It doesn't make you any less of a gardener. But I do recommend that they get transplants. First year out the gate, if you want to try one thing, try to grow seeds so you can start learning, definitely that's a great thing, but I do not recommend the entire crop or everything you're trying to grow to start from seed. Just because you want to get out of the gate and make sure that things are healthy and you know what to look out for.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. And growing from seed too it can really take a long time, depending on what type of seed.


Jasmine Jefferson:

You have to plan it out, you really do because you have to be able to understand. Reading the seed packet itself, it'll tell you so many days to maturity, but it doesn't include with how long it takes for it to take off. So you have to really do some math and take some time and think it out. And I just don't recommend, if you want to get into growing, you don't need to do all of that out the gate. Just go ahead and buy some starts and learn from there and then, practice outside of that.


Ariel Green :

Yeah, definitely agree. On your website, you talk about how plants can be part of your self-care routine. How would someone incorporate plants into their self-care?


Jasmine Jefferson:

The great thing about plants is that they're going to be whatever you need them to be. If it's a new hobby for you after going through something very traumatic or a breakup or something to that effect, it's something where you're able to put your attention towards something else. And that's just helpful there so you won't sit there and let anxiety tear at you, and you're worried about what you just went through, what you just left with or if you're just currently going through something traumatic, it just basically allows your mind to rest. Or it can be something where your family gets all into and everybody gets a plant and it's not necessarily a competition, but everybody's learning how to grow and it's a family thing, or it's a home-school activity. Plants just happen to be one of these things that it could be, whatever you need it to be.


But overall, no matter what you guys decide to do with it, if it's just a hobby, it's just for fun, if you use it to sustain your household, it's an opportunity for you to sit and to mindlessly be where.... All the time we, especially as black people, we have to always think about something. We're always worried about something, we're always thinking ahead of the game, we have to do something. Being with your plants, growing anything allows you to just think, just mindlessly be. You can just sit there and water the plant, or if you're fertilizing the plant, but you're not worried about anything else. You have this moment where you are allowing your brain to rest.


And I think that is one of the most rewarding things when it comes to plants, that a lot of people don't realize and I think it powers and motivate a lot of the times when people first get into plants and they learn, “Oh, well I can keep this plant alive,” and they don't know how I ended up buying 20 plants. Well, you didn't realize how much you were able to just sit and be, or you were able to be a better person because you would have this moment, this self-care moment where you felt like you were doing something, you were caring for your plant, but you're really just having some real good self-care.


Ariel Green :

Yeah. So true. I know sometimes when I'm watering my plants, I try to just focus on the plant, so I'm watering it or I'm dusting it and I'm talking to it.


Jasmine Jefferson:

I was telling someone… You will see me right now…I'm in Florida, so we have sunroofs, but we just call it Florida rooms. I have to explain every time because I'm like, “A Florida room" they're like, "what is that?" But most of our plants are there. 90% of our plants are in there.


And now like there's moments where I have to sweep up and do all of this stuff. Because when I'm just caring for the plants I'm cutting the leaves off and throwing them on the ground, I pick it up later or whatever. And I'm able to just be in there, like I've been taking a lot of time out the day to just sit in there, clean up some plants, re-pot what needs to be re-potted and I'm coming out of there and I'm feeling really good. Like, "Oh, I did that job, I'm feeling good out of cleaning this place.” But honestly, I just feel good because I had that moment to myself and it's so amazing, even to hear people's stories and references to this. It's just really good to know that people are taking time out for themselves and care for themselves..


Ariel Green :

Yeah, absolutely. What is your favorite plant right now?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I'm glad you said right now, because it is very subjective on the time. I've always been a lover of monsteras. I've been a lover of them for a while and I love all varieties of them. But right now I have a Thai constellation that is doing very well. And I'm learning that I love my plants that are doing very well. It's doing very well right now and I really like it. But for the most part, when I first came in, my heart really goes out for the calatheas and marantas because those were my first house plants that I took care of and they did well. I like those a lot too. It just really depends.


Ariel Green :

Okay. What do you think is one of the more difficult plants for people to take care of?


Jasmine Jefferson:

I think it is hoyas and ferns. And just simply because for ferns you have to get the humidity ratio to watering ratio, right. You have to understand how dry is your home or how often do I need to water my fern. Because some people can go like seven to 10 days, but I having to water their fern. Some people will need to water them every three days.


I also want to throw in there peace lilies because they're the same way. Peace lilies require...You just got to figure out what it’s likes in your home. I hear a lot of horror stories about those. Hoyas, a lot people have to understand. They're not cactus or snake plants, so they need to be watered a little bit more often, but not as much because they're not going to like it, they're just going to completely die and those are the ones that I get the most grief about and I've had grief with all of them as well. So I understand that.


Ariel Green :

Okay. And what's one of the most common questions that you get from people?


Jasmine Jefferson:

How do I start a garden? or how do I get into plants? That's the number one thing. I want to get into plants but I don't have a green thumb. So that's when I was like, "Hey, look, is your thumb black because it's green?" Those are the main questions. When it comes to how to start a garden, the first thing I ask is, "what is keeping you from starting it?" Because I need to know what mental barriers do they have or what type of myths that they think a garden should be like so we can get over that and then I try to keep it short and be like, "Hey, this is what you need to do or [ inaudible 30:45] like what type of light you get, what type of lifestyle, because that's really important to a lot of people. For example, traveling nurses, if you're not going to be at home a lot, you can't have a plant that needs water every seven days. Verses someone who's working from home, they can possibly over love their plants so those are the things that I try to keep in mind in reference to those questions.


Ariel Green :

Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I guess we talked earlier about what things you have coming up for Black Girls With Garden but what's something that you really want to promote to tell people about right now?


Jasmine Jefferson:

With Black Girls With Gardens, I want everyone to know that we are definitely going to be having online workshops. They're going to be either monthly or biweekly. It just really depends on what you guys need. As well as we're definitely going to have some in-person workshops that are 100% safe. We just have to get those details ironed out, but those two things are what I'm really focusing on, every day I'm working towards those.


Ariel Green :

Awesome. I'm really looking forward to that.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Definitely. We will definitely be in Atlanta.


Ariel Green :

Okay. I cannot wait. All right, Jasmine, thank you so much for joining us. Tell everyone where they can find you.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Okay. Well, thank you so much for having me here first. I've really enjoyed this and I love your platform. I love what you're doing.


Ariel Green :

Thank you.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Everyone can find Black Girls With Garden all over the internet at Black Girls With Garden. I promise you if you just do a Google search, you'll find those everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Where on Instagram @blackgirlswithgardens, on Facebook, we have a Facebook page, Black Girls With Garden. If you go onto the tab, groups, you'll see we have two Facebook groups for house plants and edible gardening. We're on Pinterest. Starting YouTube very soon, a lot of people have been requesting it. So we'll definitely be on there, you can subscribe there. If you go to our website blackgirlswithgardens.com , you can subscribe to our email list. Our email list is weekly now, it's going to convert to bi-weekly very soon, but it's packed with information to help you be a better plant parent, as well as to start your garden.


Ariel Green :

Awesome. You definitely should join her Facebook group. Like the people on there have me rolling pretty much every day.


Jasmine Jefferson:

They're hilarious.


Ariel Green :

It's insane, but also you learn a lot, you make friends, it's amazing.


Jasmine Jefferson:

Absolutely, where plants and black culture meet.


Ariel Green :

Exactly. That's a great way of putting it. Thanks again for joining us, Jasmine.

Jasmine Jefferson:

Thank you so much for having me.

Ariel Green :

Thank you so much for listening to The Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. Be sure to subscribe and share it if you loved it and leave a review. You can find us on Instagram @sustainablebrowngirl and check out our Facebook community. We would love to have you there, until next time. Let's continue to make healthy choices for the health of our planet and the health of our bodies. Thanks for listening.


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