YouTube gardener grows green haven


Alice Ndisi's backyard garden in Loresho, Nairobi on December 7, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG 

Alice Ndisi is an avid gardener and runs her own YouTube channel focusing on gardening, particularly propagation. We meet her at her home in Loresho, Nairobi.

In her half-acre plot of land, Ms Ndisi has divided her lush and flowery garden into different beds. It is a slightly windy afternoon and the windchimes hanging on her trees make some soothing and relaxing sounds.

Developing the passion

Alice attributes her passion for gardening to her mother and trips to the Coastal region.

“When we were teenagers, every August my mom would take us to the Coastal region. We’d stay in a hotel and she would go around with a pair of scissors getting plant cuttings. We ended up coming back to Nairobi with so many cuttings. My mother would then propagate these cuttings and this would mean that her garden would grow and become very lush.

In those days, too, in the 70s, Nairobi City Council had a lot of nurseries, so every Saturday my siblings and I would go to the City Council Plant Nursery at City Park, with our mother and get some plants for her garden. To me, gardening is all about understanding plants, the soil, the amount of water, and the light that they need.” Ms Ndisi tells the BDLife.


A section of Alice Ndisi's garden in Loresho, Nairobi on December 7, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG 

Alice is also proud to have planted many of the plants along Loresho Lane. “As I do my gardening, I am left with a lot of plants, so all around Loresho Lane that is my garden.

I planted the hibiscus, flowering trees because whatever I was left with here I took it out there. Once a month I contract gardeners to clean up the gardens. I aim to go all around the Loresho Crescent planting more plants,” she says of her dreams.

The YouTube Channel

Alice runs her own gardening YouTube channel under the name Redsoil Gardener. Started two and a half years ago, the channel has grown to have over 12,000 subscribers.

“I noticed a gap (not including South Africa) in the number of African gardening YouTube channels focusing on propagation. This prompted me to set up my channel to put Kenya on the international gardening map; to show the world that we too have amazing gardeners and gardens. I want viewers in the Western world and Asia to see the beauty, resilience, and knowledge that African gardens offer. My goal is to inspire and educate others, especially those who may be new to gardening. I cover a range of topics, from basic propagation techniques and plant care. You know, I thought to myself, people must be buying so many plants and that can be expensive so what if I show them how to propagate? That means I can show them how to take one plant and get 20 more from it,” the mother of two tells the BDLife.


Alice Ndisi poses for a photo at her home in Loresho, Nairobi on December 7, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

While she acknowledges that most of her followers are from the US and the UK, she hopes that soon more Kenyans will embrace gardening.

“On my YouTube channel, I call myself the Redsoil Gardener. I came up with that name because, in Kenya, we have red soil. It was all about paying homage to Kenya's rich red soil and my childhood memories. As children, during the hot summer and suddenly the rain falls on the red soil, the smell of the rain and soil always made you want to grab the red soil and eat it,” Alice reminisces.

The highlight of her gardening journey came when she featured her garden on BBC Gardeners World.

“Being on a platform of such global renown was an opportunity to share the beauty of Kenyan gardens. When Monty Don, the presenter of the show, complimented my garden, it was an affirmation of the hard work and love I've poured into it. It's a rewarding feeling to know that I'm contributing to the gardening community around the world. I believe what sets my channel apart from others is the personal touch and authenticity. I share both my successes and challenges concerning propagation. Gardening is a journey, and I want my viewers to feel like they are on this journey with me.”


Hanging and climbing plants in Alice Ndisi's garden in Loresho, Nairobi on December 7, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG 

Building the garden

When we moved here 18 years ago, there was no plant life. The way I started was to plant the trees. I then made a garden patch and threw in a lot of sunflowers. So there was a lot of yellow in the beginning. You always start with the shrubs, and the bushes, then plant a lot of trees. Through propagation you multiply your plants and get to move things around,” Ms Ndisi tells us of how she set up her garden.

“In the last year, I have changed my garden a lot. I have now decided that I want more flowers. I have pruned a lot of trees because if you have light then you have flowers. I have poinsettias, hibiscus, hollyhocks, salvias, and walking iris flowers. Every spot I have in this garden has an emotional significance to me. Like here (she shows us a spot at the edge of her garden). I have set it aside as the place where my dogs are buried. I have buried two of them there. I do tombs for them, we do a ceremony for them, pray and we send them away with love.”

Her backyard garden

In her backyard, Alice has created her potted garden. “ I set this up in June this year. I created an alley where I have my succulents on one side and the other side my colourful and flowery plants. So here I have the hoyas, coleus, the daisies, and the giant irises. On the succulent sides, I have my cactus and the echeveria.

Vegetable garden

For her vegetable garden, Alice opted for a more raised area where she could get a spot to sit and prune. “Here I have red spinach, mustard spinach, basil, ginger. This is what they call a lasagna garden. I put the cardboard, hay, and compost manures in layers. This way the soil becomes rich in nutrients,” Alice tells us.

Her spending on her garden is very minimal because “I share and exchange plants with my sister and friends.”

For the dry season, Ms Ndisi has a 6,000-litre underground water tank to ensure that her garden remains green. “I have gutters all around my house and I ensure that the rainwater and water from the showers collect in my massive underground tank.”

The biggest challenge that Alice encountered while starting her gardening journey was the lack of awareness regarding the specific needs of each plant.


Alice Ndisi's vegetable garden at her home in Loresho, Nairobi on December 7, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG 

“I used to buy plants based on their visual appeal and planted them without considering their preferred conditions. It often resulted in disappointment when they didn't thrive or produce the expected blooms. Learning about the importance of proper plant placement was a transformative experience for me.”

Her plans for her YouTube channel are to expand the content to include more in-depth tutorials and workshops. “I aim to create a space where everyone feels empowered to grow their green haven.”

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