Cultivating Change: My Path to Sustainable Gardening

Bobby Nabili shares how he transformed his city backyard view from his desk into an eco-friendly pollinator oasis.
Cultivating Change: My Path to Sustainable Gardening
Apr 11, 2024

By Bobby Nabili · Director of Americas Sales at Acacia BU · U.S.

with Helen Gall

3 Minute Read · 5 Minute Listen

Gardening has always been part of my life. It started with my grandfather's colorful garden when I was four. My mother and aunts also had a strong love of plants.

Yet, it wasn't until my wife and I got our first home with our own backyard that I really started to learn about gardening. We tried to make our garden look nice, but it was harder than we thought.

So, I started looking for better ways to make a garden in the city.

I researched ways of creating an urban garden, and I found helpful gardening lessons at a local store from a group called UC Master Gardeners.

UC Master Gardeners are volunteers who are trained at the University of California in taxonomy, plant pathology, soil science, entomology, sustainable gardening practices, and integrated pest management. They share their expertise in sustainably growing food and gardening with their communities so people can help protect California's natural resources.

A honeybee enjoying the nectar of a purple lavender flower.
Presence of pollinators boost a healthy ecosystem to keep away harmful pests in vegetable beds.

They taught me to see gardening in a new way. For example, I learned that garden pests could be signals of something being off-balance in the local ecosystem, not just a bug killing my plants.

That’s when I realized that — similar to a healthy lifestyle — sustainable gardening is a choice and practice. You continue to learn new things, make small changes to your practice, and adjust your practices as you learn more.

Last year, an exciting and challenging opportunity came after we updated our driveway. As a result, we needed to update the landscape around it, and I jumped at the chance to leverage my learnings to create our dream garden.

My wife got her hydrangeas on the northeast-facing side. I got the pollinator garden and vegetable bed in the sunny section.

Watching hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees from my home office is a treat to watch. The presence of the pollinators also boosts a healthy ecosystem to keep away harmful pests in the vegetable bed.

This garden is an example of how a garden can be beautiful and vibrant while being sustainable.

The most common misconception about sustainable and water-wise gardening — especially in California — is that you can’t achieve a pretty garden. To the contrary, if you select the right plants for the local climate and garden location, they can thrive and look great.

Purple and pink flowers line a sidewalk with trees along a fence.
View from Bobby’s home office. By encouraging pollinators in gardens, you help the local ecosystem and encourage beneficial insects to protect your fruit and vegetable crops.

UC Master Gardeners provide a vast array of online resources and their staffed helpline answers home gardeners’ questions.

In our modern lives, so many of us are glued to computer screens and spend our days in meetings, working on projects that take a long time to show any results. I find gardening so rewarding because it offers a different kind of satisfaction.

When I garden, I see the immediate changes as plants grow and bloom. It feels good to touch the soil and to be around living things. It's a refreshing contrast to the digital world, and I want to share this experience with others.

Thanks to the transformative experience of my driveway garden, I have fully embraced the principles of sustainable gardening.

I decided to take the next step, and now I'm currently in the process of getting my UC Master Gardeners certification. That way I can use my Time2Give to dedicate my time to this nonprofit organization that aligns with my values.

It’s my way of helping others discover the joys of sustainable gardening and encouraging them to step away from the screen to connect with the earth.

For those in California, explore your county’s UC Master Gardeners resources to learn about their local programs and activities.

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