Since the start of the lockdowns, a lot of people around the world have discovered (or rediscovered) their love for gardening, myself included! Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a “green thumb” or a natural talent for raising plants. A MasterClass on gardening led by “gangster gardener” Ron Finley could not have come at a better time.
In this unique MasterClass, Ron Finley helps students develop their green thumb as he guides them through the tools and skills they need to grow anything in any space. No doubt that by the end of the class, you will be encouraged to start planting a garden of your own.
Read on for my review of Ron Finley’s MasterClass.
Why I decided to check out the Ron Finley MasterClass
Over the course of the quarantine, I found that I had more free time on my hands because I was stuck at home like everyone else. And, like everyone else who had nothing better to do, I decided to try gardening as a hobby for the first time. Although I have always been interested in plants, I never had the opportunity to care for a garden of my own.
However, I quickly found out that I did not possess a green thumb. I tried planting vegetables such as garlic, tomatoes, and onions — produce that people on the Internet claimed were easy to grow from scratch — but they all died after a short time. It was discouraging to see them wither away for no apparent reason. I really didn’t want to give up, though. I was obsessed with making my garden flourish with plants I could use in cooking.
I came across Ron Finley’s Gardening MasterClass at the right time. Ron Finley is a community activist who advocated for guerilla gardening along the sidewalks of Los Angeles. It was exciting for me to watch his course trailer and read the course description, which promises to teach you how to “grow your own food, keep your plants alive, find beauty and freedom in gardening no matter the size of your space.”
Before signing up for the MasterClass, I read other reviews of the course so I can get a good idea of what Ron Finley teaches. As there are many gardening tutorials available as YouTube videos and blogs, I wasn’t sure whether or not this particular MasterClass was a good investment of my time and money.
What ultimately convinced me was Ron Finley’s unique perspective and strong conviction of what gardening is supposed to be. According to the reviews I read, Ron Finley’s course highlights how growing your own food isn’t a chore to take on just because we’re living in a difficult time. Rather, he promotes the idea that planting a garden is a pragmatic way of life.
Through the course, he teaches you to stretch your creativity and repurpose common household objects into planters. Ron Finley also helps you appreciate the oxygen and water that sustains the environment, as you cultivate food in the most unlikely places.
The overall impression I got after reading the reviews was that Ron Finley’s MasterClass focuses on empowering students to reconnect with and benefit from Mother Nature. And I thought it is way more insightful and reflective compared to watching a random 3-minute video on how to grow my own potatoes at home.
What is MasterClass?
Since 2015, San Francisco-based online learning platform MasterClass has been the top educational hub for creative professionals. With all the course content and materials accessible through your computer or mobile phone, you can even learn on-the-go.
Unlike other online learning platforms that focus on skills like coding or marketing, MasterClass is where aspiring writers, chefs, artists, musicians, magicians, photographers, leaders, and other creatives come to explore new ideas from world-renowned experts. It’s the perfect place for discovering tried-and-tested knowledge or honing your craft.
How much does MasterClass cost?
An annual MasterClass membership pass costs $180 per year. With this membership pass, you can access each class currently available on the platform and any new classes launched within the year.
What Ron Finley’s Gardening MasterClass is all about
Compared to other MasterClass courses, Ron Finley’s take on gardening is short at 10 videos. Each video, though, is chock full of valuable lessons. If you’re afraid to start gardening because you can’t keep plants alive or if you think that growing your own food seems impossible without space, Ron Finley can help you overcome these roadblocks by breaking down the basics of urban gardening. The class can be divided into four major sections:
1) Soils and compost
Ron Finley instructs students on how to turn sterile, nutrient-deficient soil into fertile ground by introducing various techniques. Here, he discusses how soil is “black gold” and how you need to match the right type of soil with the plant you’re trying to grow. You can try bioremediation to decrease soil toxicity or enrich the earth with compost made up of biodegradable scraps. Ron Finley also highlights how a gardener can speed up the decomposition process by introducing earthworms into composting materials.
2) Planters and tools
In this section, Ron Finley shows you that nothing is too small for a plant to grow on. After all, even the cracks in the sidewalk can sustain life. Preparing your garden begins with upcycling common household objects into plant containers. It’s amazing how Ron Finley transforms an old drawer and one shoe into planters, using power tools like a cordless power drill and folding hand saw.
He also takes time to discuss what to look for when buying the right equipment and how to use them safely. While you can still garden without fancy tools, it could be easier if you had a pair of hand trowels, clippers, gardening gloves, a soil scoop, and a round point shovel at least.
The most exciting section of the gardening course is dedicated to the different plants you can grow and how to take care of them. Ron Finley applies gardening principles to legumes, green vegetables (kale, sugar snap peas), herbs, and sweet potatoes. He presents techniques like propagations as well. Instead of buying plants, he encourages students to use cuttings from fruit trees, sugar cane, and succulents to regrow them into new crops. I especially enjoyed the video on how to keep plants alive through adequate sunlight, correct watering, deadheading, pruning, and paying attention to the climate in your area.
4) Creativity and community
The final chapter of the course covers the transformative power of gardening. Based on his personal experience, Ron Finley talks about how you can convert an empty wasteland into a thriving food hub alongside your community. He emphasizes how we lost a lot of our food-creating knowledge due to the unhealthy fast food industry. Ron Finley encourages all the viewers to start gardening and begin a food revolution in their respective communities.
Who is Ron Finley’s MasterClass for?
Gardening is such an inclusive activity so I really feel that everyone can appreciate Ron Finley’s MasterClass. You can learn a lot from his easy-going explanation of practical how-tos when working on a garden. This class is perfect for people who:
- Are curious about gardening but don’t know where to start
- Are passionate about plants and gardens
- Have gardening experience but not in urban areas
- Have zero interest in gardening (but are willing to be persuaded)
Ron Finley ends the misconception that only gardeners with a green thumb can succeed. He suggests that since we share a lot of biological processes with plants, all of us can understand their complexities and learn how to maintain them as we do ourselves. Through his container projects, Ron Finley also corrects the notion that you need a lot of space to grow plants. With this course, anyone can grow their own food on a window sill, a tiny balcony, or a cement yard.
I enjoyed this MasterClass thanks to Ron Finley’s snappy, engaging, and no-nonsense style of teaching. He goes over the points clearly and explains everything well so it’s easy to understand new concepts. Each lesson builds up your knowledge as he shares useful tips on what to do and what to avoid. Aside from the factual points about gardening, Ron Finley has a lot to say about the spiritual and psychological benefits of growing your garden, how you have power and artistry over new life.
If you are looking for an in-depth guide on pest control and plant diseases, you may be a little disappointed with the course as these topics were only briefly addressed. And while I liked that the class was short and breezy to go through, I wouldn’t have minded a longer course either.
Other classes you may be interested in
If you’ve already finished the course and want to enroll in another one (or maybe gardening simply isn’t your thing), there are plenty of other MasterClass courses to look into. With the annual membership pass, you can try:
- Bread Baking with Apollonia Poilâne: Similar to gardening, bread baking is another hobby that found itself in the spotlight during the pandemic. In this course, Apollonia Poilâne reveals the secrets to baking delicious, fresh loaves of bread from scratch.
- Conservation with Jane Goodall: Nature-lovers would greatly appreciate Dr. Jane Goodall’s insights on conserving and protecting the environment. Through this course, she shares a bit about her research on chimpanzees, the Roots, and Shoots program, and how anyone can step up to save the planet.
- The Art of Home Cooking with Alice Waters: If you want to learn how to cook delicious and healthy meals at home, Alice Waters is the best instructor for the job. As one of the leaders in America’s farm-to-table revolution, she teaches you how to prepare food using organic, seasonal produce and how to change your life through your diet.
What makes Ron Finley the perfect mentor?
Ron Finley is known as the “Gangster Gardener” who converted a narrow strip of soil between the sidewalk and the street in front of his house into a high-yielding vegetable garden. As a grower of food in urban spaces, Ron Finley is the ideal mentor for people who don’t have gardening space to call their own.
So how did Ron Finley become the “Gangster Gardener”? He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, a neighborhood that often faced the harsh reality of poverty, gangs, and poor nutrition, thanks to the endless fast-food joints in the area. As a teenager, Ron Finley planted banana trees in the strip of land between his house and the street. However, he was forced to cut them down by L.A. authorities to avoid getting fined.
A few years later, he tried to plant tomatoes, melons, broccoli, and kale to feed himself and share bumper crops with his neighbors — only to be cited again. As a repeat offender, he would have faced a warrant of arrest. Instead, he lobbied at City Hall to change the law and succeeded. Ron and the rest of South Central L.A. were permitted to grow vegetables in neglected spaces around the neighborhood, without the fear of getting fined.
After Ron Finley’s courageous actions, communities all over the US began to follow him, starting a revolution towards growing communal gardens to curb unhealthy eating habits.
His rise to fame continued after his 2013 TED talk on his story of defiance, in a place where “drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys”.
As a leading guerilla gardening advocate and community activist, Ron Finley is deeply committed to helping people learn to grow their own food. He understands how empowering a garden can be, in terms of nourishment and beautification. There is no one better equipped to discuss urban gardening than Ron Finley in his MasterClass.
Everything you get with Ron Finley’s MasterClass
Students signing up for Ron Finley’s Gardening MasterClass will receive the following course materials:
- Access to an active, energized, and supportive Community Hub of fellow learners
- A 41-page Workbook PDF, complete with links, glossaries, and other useful information
- 10 video lessons, running to a total of 2 hours and 11 minutes
Throughout the course, Ron Finley also gives out carefully-planned, practical assignments to get you started on your garden without needing to spend too much time or money. As for the 10 lessons covered in the MasterClass, here is the course outline:
1) Meet Ron Finley: The introduction begins with Ron Finley discussing his personal philosophy on gardening and freedom.
2) Planting to Change the World: Ron Finley recounts his personal story and his ongoing project of helping poor communities empower themselves by growing their own food.
3) Getting Dirty: In this chapter, students learn all about the nitty-gritty of soils and how to transform poor soil into a productive one.
4) Creating Planters: Instead of spending money on gear, Ron Finley shows students how to repurpose household items into gardening implements. He also talks about a list of essential tools to have around.
5) Grow Your Own Food: Greens & Legumes: Healthy eating can come from a tiny herb planter or a spacious backyard garden. Ron Finley instructs you on kale and sugar snap peas.
6) Grow Your Own Food: Sweet Potatoes: Study how to grow and harvest nutritious and durable sweet potatoes.
7) Grow Your Own Food: Herbs: Beginners are encouraged to begin caring for a small herb garden in this chapter, as herbs are easy enough to grow almost anywhere.
8) Increasing Your Bounty: After mastering the basics, students learn how to propagate their garden and increase the size of their yield.
9) How to Not Kill Your Plants: Looking for common solutions to gardening problems? In this chapter, Ron Finley covers the basics of keeping plants healthy.
10) Finding Your Creativity: To finish the course, Ron Finley shares how he believes gardening can unlock a deep, creative force within all of us.
Is Ron Finley’s MasterClass worth it?
I wholeheartedly recommend Ron Finely’s MasterClass because it’s a rare course that anyone can learn and find value in. There are no downsides to taking this class because it really is relevant, timely, useful, and well-curated. On MasterClass, students have left glowing comments and a 4.7-star review, so I know I’m not alone in my assessment.
Although there are plenty of gardening courses on other online platforms, some of them are too advanced or too specific. Ron Finley delivers an amazing, complete starter course for beginners. After all, how often will you find a gardening class that allows you to start quickly in any space, no matter how barren or unconventional?
Ron Finely’s thought-provoking, carefully-structured, and totally fun class delivers on its promise to help students start gardening successfully. On my part, I am more motivated than ever to work on my garden. I’m looking forward to the rewarding feelings that I’m sure planting and growing my own food will give. And I learned two more things that I did not expect in this course.
The first is that gardening gives you a sense of quality control over the food we eat. There is a vast difference between picking up fast food versus planting, harvesting and preparing food from our garden. It’s a tradition we’ve neglected as a society and I’m thrilled Ron Finley is bringing it back.
The other lesson I learned is that growing a garden can bring communities closer together. As you share fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you are exposed to more people and ideas. When you work together as a group, you can maximize human resourcefulness and creativity. I loved this MasterClass because it renewed my appreciation for the world around me; I encourage everyone to give Ron Finley’s gardening course a try.