Q&A With Christy Ross on the Grow Your Own Food Movement

Christy Ross founded Planted Places to help people easily grow their own food in a limited space. Today, people around the country are using the company's gardening systems to grow leafy greens and herbs. Planted Places believes that growing food in organic soil is the healthiest way to do it, so plants grow in soil with Planted's home garden kits. We interviewed our founder and CEO to learn more about the inspiration behind the company and share it with you.

How did you become interested in gardening?

I’ve always loved to be outdoors in nature—whether running, hiking, or just enjoying time with friends and family. Gardening was often my go-to pastime, and my garden has always been my happy place. Bringing a garden to life is really fulfilling, and gives me the energy I need to manage the stressors and non-stop motion of working and parenting my three boys. 

Why did you start Planted Places?

I’ve started businesses before and knew that there is nothing more satisfying than creating something from nothing and seeing it grow and thrive— just like a garden! When I realized that I could combine this passion with my increasing passion for gardening, I decided to take the leap.

What really struck a chord in me, was a stat from the National Gardening Association, that 35% of American households grow food at home so that they can eat healthier and tastier meals. I thought if 1 in 3 people are doing this, then why not more? 

But here’s the clincher—I knew how to garden, but I didn’t know how to grow food—embarrassing but true. So I got to work to figure this out for myself. For me, growing food at home used to consist of lots of herbs. I’m guilty of going to the nursery, buying a basil seedling, potting it, and watching it do great for two weeks. I lacked the knowledge and guidance to accomplish a successful harvest, but I now was determined to learn! I went straight to experts Steve Masley and Pat Browne of Grow it Organically.

In 2019 we went straight into test mode, testing over 250 seedling varieties in the wall while we looked for taste, color, texture, and variety! The key is organic. 

Our mission is to make organic gardening flavorful, easy and accessible and have our customers succeed in growing their own food!

Christy Ross, Founder & CEO  of Planted Places

Now nothing makes me prouder than seeing the photos our customers send us, of themselves next to their Planted Walls, with big grins on their faces because of how proud they feel that they are growing successfully and producing healthy food for their families.

Can you tell us about the Planted Wall?

We launched our company with the Planted Wall, our first vegetable garden product. It's a vertical gardening ecosystem that makes it super easy to successfully grow the healthiest and best tasting organic produce in living soil. Yes: living soil. 

A lot of people see the wall and think it’s a hydroponic system because of the water tank and water movement. But no, we want the rich, microbial activity, the nematodes, the soil bacteria, all working together in a soil food web. The roots bring all those rich vitamins and minerals from this soil food web straight into the leaves that you get to eat! Healthy soil also helps fight off diseases and pests that many gardeners struggle with. It results in highly nutrient-dense plants that shine with bright color and radiance.  People will ask me ‘Are those real?’ That’s how vibrant the color is—people cannot believe their eyes.

What if someone is interested in growing but isn't ready for a wall?

We've expanded our offerings to container gardening for people who want to experiment with growing their own food before committing to a Planted Wall.

Why did you choose soil as a growing medium?

About 95 percent of our food comes from the soil. Soil is extremely important when it comes to mitigating Climate Change by absorbing the carbon in our atmosphere. Soil also plays an important role in water filtration.

Chemical-heavy farming techniques destroy the soil. We only have 60 years of topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture is a way to conserve and rehabilitate our soil. I believe that if many of us participate in regenerative agriculture on a small scale, we can have a huge impact. Planted Places incorporates regenerative agriculture into our gardening systems. We actually teach our customers how to regenerate the soil we provide in our kits. If any of our readers are interested in learning more about topsoil, the documentary Kiss the Ground is a phenomenal resource.

Has growing with Planted Places really changed people’s eating habits?

Yes! It really gets you to eat healthier. I’ve got three boys, and now my 16-year-old, every morning, walks out to the yard and scopes the wall for Swiss chard, kale, and some arugula and puts them in his scrambled eggs—it’s totally crazy! My favorite quote from him is: “Mom, once you have a wall salad there is no going back.”  Love that! Creating and sharing this with my family has been huge for me. Learning about our food, where it comes from, knowing it’s healthy, and knowing it’s organic.

I’ve also learned about the longer-term benefits of eating this way. For example, eating fresh produce not only can improve physical but also mental health. Everyone can benefit. Our vertical wall and container garden kits help give many more people a way to access healthy eating and help them succeed every step of the way.

Additionally, growing food empowers our customers to take nutrition into their own hands. Just-picked produce contains the most nutrients. Once a plant is harvested, it immediately begins to lose vitamins and minerals.

Any advice for people who feel they don’t have a green thumb?

Many people think this is hard to do, maybe because they weren’t successful in the past and are afraid to try again. Turns out this is often because they were set up to fail- they didn’t have irrigation set-up correctly, chose the wrong location for their raised bed or pots, seedlings were not healthy, the soil didn’t have the right nutrients, etc. We help people avoid all that- some of the solutions are built into our Planted Wall unit, and others into the membership plan, which delivers fresh seasonal seedlings of your choice, to your door just as you need to replace your older plants.

What new things can we expect from Planted Places?

We are constantly working in our test gardens, and getting back to you with invaluable custom guidance to ensure your success. 

We are so excited to take and guide people on their grow your own food journey.