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Finding happiness and success in the garden

By The Health News Team | April 2, 2021
Nan Sterman, host of the KPBS show “A Growing Passion,” will speak at the 2021 Sharp Women's Health Conference.

Photo courtesy of Nan Sterman.

Nan Sterman is a woman of many hats. She is a TV show producer and host, designer, author, botanist, journalist, educator, international excursion leader and philanthropist. But the widest-brimmed hat Nan wears is that of a garden expert.

“Everything I’ve done in life has brought me to this point,” Nan says. “It all came together with plants. I feel like teaching people about plants and gardening is why I’m here.”

And by “here,” Nan means in San Diego, with an award-winning public TV show, “A Growing Passion,” on KPBS-TV, a flourishing garden design business, an online gardening school and more than a few other plant-related ventures. Nan, who holds a botany degree from Duke University and master’s degrees in both biology and instructional design, is an expert on both ornamental and edible gardens. She is renown for her focus on creating climate-appropriate, drought-tolerant ornamentals, planted properly and drip irrigated correctly for our climate.

Each of her efforts combines age-old techniques with modern technologies and touches on her passion for educating people about gardens, how to create them and how they can feed us — in more ways than one.

A passion for plants
Nan’s passion for plants was stoked by her grandfather when she was just 6 years old. She remembers a patch of dirt alongside her home, “just begging for a package of radish seeds.” Nan planted her seeds and can recall as if it were yesterday the incredible sense of creation she felt when she harvested a single radish.

“Making something that you harvest and can eat — that is a miracle,” Nan says. “Teaching others to grow vegetables that can feed their families and ensuring what’s left for the next generation is what drives me.”

Benefits beyond the bounty
Beyond providing sustenance for our bodies, Nan also recognizes the nourishment gardening provides our souls. She finds weeding and pruning meditative and appreciates the feeling of accomplishment a tended and watered garden can bring.

“Gardening can be incredibly rewarding,” she says. “There’s order restored from chaos and a sense of accomplishment after time spent trimming, watering and pruning.”

And in a period of stay-at-home orders and COVID-related restrictions, Nan has found the extra time she now has to spend in her garden a welcome blessing. Additionally, like so many who have grown weary of binge-watching TV shows and participating in video meetings during the pandemic, gardening has drawn her out of her house and into the San Diego sun.

“Gardening gets you out and is very physical,” Nan says. “It makes you move — you walk, lift, crawl, dig and pull.”

Gardening also makes us use our brains and think scientifically. Nan loves encouraging people to be more observant of what surrounds us, the weather we have and the soil under our feet. She wants us to research the local gardening conditions, learn how to problem solve and understand why gardening in San Diego is far different than gardening in most other parts of the world.

Successfully gardening in San Diego
“There are 5 Mediterranean climates worldwide, and San Diego is the driest,” she says. “It’s why so many people move here. It’s great if you’re a person, but not if you’re a plant. So, we have to choose our plants very carefully.”

And choosing carefully is one thing Nan loves to help her viewers, students and clients do. She relishes being able to help people be more successful in starting and maintaining a garden and encourages everyone to dive in and get their hands dirty, regardless of how much space they have or how little they know about plants.

“Gardening is trial and error,” Nan says. “You have to be willing to fail. Some of your plants are going to die at some point, and that’s OK. Don’t let it stop you from planting more.”

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