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Getting Dirty

Ron Finley

Lesson time 16:47 min

Ron offers tips for turning compacted, nutrient-poor soil into fertile ground for healthy plants, and he teaches you how to maintain a compost pile. He also gets into soil testing and how to use bioremediation to decrease soil toxicity.

Ron Finley
Teaches Gardening
Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - What you should know about soil is every damn thing. What you should really know about soil is that we're soil, we're carbon. That's kind of what this is. But I'm going to take you guys through some of the different kinds of soil. And this is really what's going to allow you to be able to plant some healthy shit. Let's start with the bad. So let's start with this compacted soil. And see this? The only thing that can basically grow in this is weeds that don't take a lot. But you can see how crumbly this is. So it has no water retention whatsoever. And then we have clay. And with clay, actually, this is the same stuff that they make clay pots out of. So it holds too much water and it doesn't release it, which is bad for your plants. See how this clumps together? And then we have sand, which this is good if you have succulents and things like that, where you want to lose a lot of the water because you don't want too much water to be held in your succulents. And then we have this is really what you want. You want loamy soil. But you can see a lot of the organic matter, how it's broken down in here. And this is what you want. It even has rocks, different minerals. And you can see that it holds moisture, but it also breaks up. And what this does is it lets your roots-- they don't have to fight so much to get through the soil, so they use that energy to get more roots rather than using the energy to fight through soil, which you get a bigger plant. The bigger your roots are, the healthier your plant is. So what this basically is is kind of a combination of all these soils because you want some of these characteristics in the soil that you use to plant in. So basically, most of you guys probably have this hard, compacted shit in your yard. It has no nutrient value whatsoever, and it's going to be hard to even work in this shit. What I'm going to try to get you to is this beautiful stuff right here. So let's recap. This is something I'm going to do throughout the class to highlight the important shit you need to remember. First, just because you have soil in your backyard really don't mean you can use that shit. Your plants have to thrive in it, so making sure your soil has everything they need is really important. It needs to retain enough water so the roots can get to it, but it also needs enough drainage so they don't become waterlogged. So you want a nice, loamy soil that has both clay for water retention and sand for drainage. Finally, it's important to make sure that your soil has enough nutrients for the plant to absorb. The good news is composting-- yes, composting-- which we're about to discuss, is a great way to do just that. So starting a compost pile. I know you asked, what the hell is compost, first of all? It's the best thing you can do for this planet and it's the second best thing you can do for your garden. This is compost. This right here is fuel to the fire, a view of your healthy plants...

Plant a revolution

When Ron Finley first grew a garden on a curbside dirt strip, he got cited—and then a warrant was issued for his arrest. He fought back, got the laws changed, and started a movement. Now the community activist and self-proclaimed “Gangster Gardener” is teaching you how to grow your own food, keep your plants alive, and find beauty and freedom in gardening no matter the size of your space. Start planting a revolution.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Knew nothing about gardening, but Ron has inspired me to start! Super informative and great presentation.

Thanks Ron, it was the foundation needed for a successful beginning in this art!!!

Loved it as I've started my summer garden and wanted some tips and refreshers. Great class and reminder that we already have the tools and innate knowledge to grow.

This MasterClass will not only allow me to grow my own food, but help to grow food in my community.


Melanie R.

Great basic lesson. It saved me tones of time by answering questions I had without getting lost in dozen of books and articles to find out.


I really like the clarity of instruction. Just enough but not too much information. As a hobbyist gardener I know that you can apply only so much at a time and gardening is about doing not studying. So I really appreciate the brevity while not losing any substantiality. And the presentation is just sympathetic!


I really appreciate the clarity of instruction, especially the recaps. And the presentation is gorgeous!

A fellow student

Super authentic. Get's straight to the point and entertaining to watch. Yes there's profanity, but that's part what pulls you in.

A fellow student

Very disappointed with the language. I love gardening and was hoping to learn beneficial ideas/information. Gardening was the subject that interested me most, but it isn't worth it to me to listen to the bad language in these lessons.

Cindy K.

What about paper towels and shredded newspaper? Any paper product that isn't treated with toxic chemicals?


Really, to put this out as a valuable teaching lesson, please, clean up the language. There is no educational value in profanity. I can't even watch this in front of my kids, who are always around these days.

Janice M.

I love the story and I am so eager to see the other lessons. I downloaded the work book and my sis is taking the class. First class Gangsta ................

A fellow student

I wish he had shown how he put his vegetable/fruit peels, how they look while decomposing and how they eventually turn to loamy soil.


How long does it take for bioremediation plants to completely remove toxins from soil?