If you asked Sophie Banton about gardening three years ago, she would have told you she’d never planted a single seed.
Sure she had a houseplant or two, but growing food was nowhere on her radar. Three years later her house is brimming with colorful fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and there’s no going back.
When the pandemic hit, Sophie found herself working from home with her young daughter Ari. Like many of us, they were spending a lot more time indoors. So she sat down to think about what could brighten their space. Her first thought- plants. And not just houseplants, fruits and vegetables you can eat. “If you could grow flowers and houseplants in water without soil,” thought Sophie, “Why not produce?” So she headed to the internet and typed in “Plants that grow in water.” A number of things came up, all with the word “hydroponics.” One system, in particular, caught her eye. In love with the “pretty design” and life it brought to the spaces in the photos, she clicked “order” on her first Gardyn, and the obsession was born.
Right away she joined the Gardyners Facebook group. With access to so many plant tips, recipes and help from Gardyn experts, It didn’t take long for Sophie to become a full-blown hydroponic fan. As her plants began to grow, other benefits started popping up. “Just watching my grocery bill, because I eat organic anyway, just completely go down and to have all that access. I don’t have to go to the store if I’m hungry. I can just go to my kitchen!” she says, laughing. Quickly falling head over heels, she ordered two more Gardyns and began sharing brightly colored photos of the plants she grew in the Gardyners Facebook Group and on her Instagram. Photographs of blushing petunias, bright and crunchy romaine, vibrant tomatoes, peppers, beans, and cucumbers invited questions and comments from fellow Gardyners.
Connecting with other Gardyners has been a huge source of happiness. Sophie’s talked with all sorts of people about their Gardyns. Some start with outdoor gardens and wind up switching to indoor hydroponic systems. Others find themselves starting indoors and moving out for more space. A few even use the systems to grow starts they then plant outdoors. “There’s a guy in Alaska,” Sophie says. “First, he started off with lettuce, then he tried tomatoes, and it’s just like “WOW” for him. Tomatoes all year long in Alaska.”
Many of the people Sophie’s connected with have autoimmune disorders, something she and her daughter Ari can relate to. “This is a dust-free house,” she says, referring to her daughter’s asthma. “There are a lot of allergies here.” As more plants have made their way into their home and diets, health issues have improved. Sophie’s daughter’s asthma has lessened to the point that her Pulmonologist gave her the go-ahead to stop medications. “It’s been a complete change,” Sophie says. “You can see the difference in her complexion.”
It doesn’t hurt that her daughter loves the plants, taking visitors on tours, and snacking on cucumbers (her favorite). It’s become a family affair. Sophie’s mom (a master gardener, now a Gardyner herself) comes over to “shop,” Tupperware in hand. “She’ll take all my chard!” Sophie laughs. Cherry tomatoes, herbs, bok choy (the purple kind), red lettuce, lavender, and petunias are staples. She’s grown a full-sized pumpkin and even tried a couple varieties of corn, including a popcorn. “I have so many seeds, it’s crazy.”
What started as something small for her and her daughter’s health and environment has become a lifestyle. Their days are now spent surrounded by bright, happy plants. They eat healthier, feel better, and no longer need certain medications. Friends and family members have joined in, making for a shared hobby, and everyone enjoys sitting down to more beautiful meals together. In those three years, Sophie has found a community she connects with and discovered how much she loves helping others grow. “It’s empowering,” she says. “I mean, it’s all about possibility.” Looking at everything she’s done, I’d say that’s right on point.