How This Mom of 4 Monetized Her Passion for Organic Gardening and Sustainability

Misilla Dela Llana's love of organic gardening became a source of income when she began sharing her passion on YouTube. Here are her tips to teach kids gardening and growing a sustainable, budget-conscious garden.

Born in the Philippines, Misilla Dela Llana's family immigrated to the United States when she was 10, eventually settling in the Pacific Northwest. Her mom, who grew up on a farm, had a flower, vegetable, and fruit garden. In turn, Llana was inspired to follow in her footsteps.

"I grew an affinity for nature and plants, and it's just something that I enjoyed," recalls Llana. "Through adulthood, I became more interested in it."

When Llana became a young mom, her husband worked full-time, and she was able to stay home and work part-time in retail, eventually homeschooling their children. It was the early 2010s, and with YouTube growing in popularity, Llana saw an opportunity to begin sharing online what she was passionate about: gardening.

"After two and a half months, I made $5. And even though it was so little, something was better than nothing," she notes, remembering that she thought, "Wait, if I keep uploading and try to be more creative, maybe that'll turn into something people will watch, and I can create more revenue."

Eventually, she was able to quit her part-time job and pursue gardening and content creating full-time. "The gardening industry exploded, and that's when opportunities started to come," says Llana.

Her YouTube channel Learn to Grow steadily attracted a loyal viewership, as did her other social media channels. "From then on, I started getting offers and opportunities to partner with companies to promote their brands," she explains.

Sharing her knowledge online allowed her to contribute to the family's bottom line and financial security—something she felt grateful for. The funds that she brings in from her content creation goes toward a retirement fund and kids' savings accounts.

Llana says her journey with gardening and living sustainably has made a positive impact on her family. "The kids are actually more aware of things, like they remind me, 'Oh, this goes in the compost' or 'Recycle that,'" she says. "They love the wildlife. They appreciate nature in general more. We are grateful to have the opportunity to grow our own food."

Earlier this year, Llana also published her first book Four-Season Food Gardening: How to Grow Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs Year-Round. Here are her best tips for starting a sustainable, budget-conscious garden and saving money in your own household.

Start Small

If you want to start a home garden, Llana recommends trying an herb garden. "Herbs can be very expensive, especially fresh herbs," she points out.

You can save on herbs by growing your own, which will come back year-round—in other words, they're perennial. "They'll stay dormant in the winter in some climates, but you can grow your own or garden and never have to buy herbs again," she explains.

For beginner gardeners, Llana also recommends fast-growing crops. "So, you have your radish, which mature in about 21 to 35 days, leaf lettuce about 40 days," she explains. And what about the trendy kale? "You can pick the baby kale leaves in 30 days, but it matures between 50 to 75," she adds.

And then after that, you can move into tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, explains Llana. "You always want to just start with a little bit," she says. "And then add as you go."

Use Seasonality To Save On Groceries

Llana says she and her family set a budget biweekly on their grocery bills, use coupons, and try to shop the sales or what's in season.

"Especially if you're wanting to buy organic fruits and vegetables, you'll want to try to buy them when they're in season, because they're not as expensive," she points out. "I won't buy a watermelon in a winter because it's not in season, and it's going to be more expensive because it's being imported."

Llana recommends buying apples in the fall, berries in the summer, and leafy greens in the spring.

Strive for Sustainability

Llana believes it's important for people to learn how to live sustainably in order to not only save money but create less of a negative impact on the environment. For instance, she recommends that gardeners practice mulching—covering or surrounding the ground with mulch in order to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, and enrich the soil—to preserve water. "You'll also save money on the water bill," she notes.

You can even turn veggie and fruit scraps into compost, which will reduce food waste and fertilize your garden. Llana also recommends reusing and repurposing items around the house, such as food containers, which you can use to start seedlings.

Teach Kids About the Origins of Their Food

It's important for parents to teach their children where food comes from, says Llana.

"A lot of the conventional foods that we buy are processed and packaged, and you could be surprised how some kids have never been exposed to a garden or where real food comes from," she notes. "I think that's so important—something that should be passed down to your children."

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