Misilla, known by her popular Instagram/YouTube handle @LearnToGrow, is an organic gardener, mother of four, and homesteading enthusiast living in the Pacific Northwest. She learned the importance of growing your own food at an early age living in the Philippines, and has passed this on to her own children through tending to their productive gardens in Washington. We chatted with Misilla about her garden, how she got her kids involved in growing, her advice for new gardeners, and much more. Misilla has dedicated her platform to teaching people how to grow and we’re thrilled to be able to share some of her wisdom with you!
How Misilla Started Gardening
My mom, aunt, and uncle were all gardeners and I learned to garden from them from a young age. I lived in the Philippines when I was a child and food was scarce, so anything that grew around the yard we took advantage of. We had fruit trees and a variety of other edible plants that fed us. That really stuck with me — something about growing food and having access to healthy vegetables has carried with me and it’s something that I really want to instill in our children.
One Thing Misilla Wish She’d Known When She Started Gardening
Soil health. Even just the basics! When I first started, I just used a potting soil mix and didn’t really do any soil maintenance, assuming that the plants would keep growing and produce. Knowing your growing medium and type of soil where you’re growing is so important.
A Virtual Garden Tour
We live in the Pacific Northwest, which means we can pretty much grow year-round, we don’t have a more temperate climate in the winter. In the winter months, we use row covers or hoop houses and you can grow cool weather crops like leafy greens, kale, spinach, carrots, and others. They can be harvested in the wintertime or early spring; so you can pretty much grow throughout the year but you have to time it right and grow the right crops within each season.
We grow in all sorts of different ways; we grow in-ground, in containers, and in raised beds. We have a variety of perennial crops including fruit trees, collards, and other leafy greens. We grow a variety of vegetables, flowers, herbs, and plants for natural pest repellent in raised beds. We also have a grow tower which is great because you can keep rotating it every day for light and we’re growing strawberries in there.
Besides our various perennial herbs, berries, trees, and vegetable crops, we also like to have a lot of flowers in the garden. We have a lot of spring-blooming bulbs like Daffodils, Tulips, and Crocus. I also have Peonies and then for summer-blooming flowers I always like to plant Dahlias, Calendula, and Marigolds.
Why Misilla Loves To Garden
It’s so rewarding. You get fresh food and it’s so therapeutic. It’s a way for me to relax and relieve stress and it’s also great exercise. I learn so much from gardening and watching my plants grow — it teaches me so much. I think overall it’s just good for your mind and your body.
On Misilla’s Kids And Gardening
We have four children ranging from 5 to 23. Our 23-year-old does his own thing but has always loved to garden.
It’s been easy to get my kids interested in gardening — I tell them it’s time to go outside and they can play in the yard and garden. I give them their own tools and they really get into it. They follow my lead and I talk to them about all of the different plants and which ones are edible and they really pick up on it. I started them all out young in the garden and they really grew to love it. I think it’s important to be an example and showing and explaining to them what you’re doing out in the garden. They’re always observing and they’ll ask a lot of questions and you can naturally teach them that way — hands-on is the best way to learn anything I think.
Her Kids’ Favorite Things To Grow
They love cherry tomatoes, berries — especially strawberries — and they love when we harvest the rhubarb because I make strawberry-rhubarb bars. They are all about the edible crops; really whatever they like to eat they like to grow. So I always grow things that they like, while mixing in a few things just for myself, too!
I also think that the kids were more interested in trying different vegetables because they came from our garden. They would get excited to harvest something and then try it.
Misilla’s Advice For Parents Trying To Get Their Kids Involved In Gardening
Definitely start small! Maybe try growing in containers and choose to grow vegetables that your kids like to eat. Strawberries are always a good one to start with because most kids like them and they are easy to grow — you can usually find starter plants at your local nursery. Peas are also really fun and easy for kids to grow as well as leafy greens which are super fast from planting to harvest. Flowers are also a really fun thing to start with — especially sunflowers — because they’re so pretty and they can really see the progress from seed to flower. Also, get your kids their own tools. They’ll have a lot of fun being able to easily help dig, weed, or do other projects if they have tools the right size.
I really think starting small is a big part of it — you can always expand if things are going well.
C-BITEs In Misilla’s Garden
This winter I used C-BITEs to make something similar to a low tunnel, but I constructed it with garden fabric, stakes, and C-BITEs to protect my crops from the snow. It was so cool; it worked so well! The plants went crazy and just kept growing; they really flourished in there. I’ve also made a pea trellis, I’m going to use them this spring to help support my Peonies that always flop over, and also use it for my Tomatoes (of course) and even my blackberries to keep them off the ground.
Misilla’s Advice For New Gardeners
Like getting started with your kids, new gardeners should always start small their first year. People get so overwhelmed because they’re trying to accomplish so many things at once and it can frustrate them. If you start small you can always expand each year. Also, grow things that you know you’ll want to eat. You don’t want your veggies to go to waste so start with some of your favorites at the beginning.
I think herbs are a great beginner plant for people. You can grow them in containers or in garden beds and everyone uses them in the kitchen. A good tip for growing herbs is to make sure you group herbs that prefer the same soil together. Things like lavender and rosemary should be grouped together because they require the same well-draining, sandy soil. Herbs like Chives, Cilantro, and Basil should be grouped together because they like really rich, moist soil.
Misilla’s Favorite Plant To Grow
It’s so hard to choose just one! But I really love to grow herbs and have them scattered all around my garden. Most are perennials in my area and they have so many uses; I use them for cooking, I have made tinctures, I’ve dried them. I think for their versatility they are my favorite to grow.