“He is smart and passionate about healthy plants and his family. We are thrilled to have Rich as part of the Gardenuity team.”
With a strong penchant for plants, science, and creating, Rich Johnston is redefining the art of nurturing. Rich has developed unique ‘micronutrient’ products (a.k.a plant vitamins) that encourage healthy, nutritious plants exclusively for Gardenuity.
Gardenuity is changing the way home-gardeners grow and, by incorporating Rich’s expertise and plant-care products, Gardenuity is ensuring our customers more success than ever before.
With decades of growing experience, years of “what-ifs,” and a lifetime of creativity under his belt, Rich Johnston’s brain is one worth picking. So, we did just that. And today, you’ll hear directly from the man himself as he reveals the details of micronutrients, the importance of nurturing, why soil matters, and the inspiring reason behind his lifetime of work.
So, start us out simply. What is it exactly that you develop?
I make plant-care products, which help people grow plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables…lawns to some degree, but I’m more specific to things you can consume.
People are concerned that what they grow and eat are healthy. It’s like kosher in a sense. People who eat kosher want to make sure things are a very certain way. So I do healthy stuff—vitamins, fertilizer—things that help a plant grow better without sacrificing health or safety.
Essentially, you’re making things that help a plant grow?
Essentially, yeah! Both making and finding/sourcing. There are a lot of the products I’ve sourced from the commercial industry that I then I bring into the consumer industry. I know what works from scientific growers at Universities, so I incorporate those too.
Then, I develop some things on my own to create things that help take care of a plant. It’s a science experiment every day. That’s one of the cool things—there’s immense creativity involved. And then there’s asking “what if” on a daily basis. “What if I do this or what if I do that?” I’ve killed plants. And I’ve helped plants grow. But it’s because I tried something different.
How did you get into all of this—the growing business?
I grew up in Northern Pennsylvania, and my grandmother had a garden—mostly fruit trees. It’s just what I did. And then I’ve always been artistic in a sense—I’ve always had an inclination to create and nurture, which drew me to gardening.
Then, when I was in South Florida, I was on a 60-acre mango farm where we grew mangoes commercially. In South Florida, I started working to create micronutrients. That parlayed into farm agriculture to figure out what stuff really works and bring it to the consumer.
So that was the last flip of my career: saying, “How can I take successful products—things that we know work in agriculture and that are healthy for us—to the everyday gardener?” Because, at the end of the day, the average consumer wants the exact same results as agriculture. We all want a good grow.
So, how does this fit with what Gardenuity offers?
From Donna’s perspective, I’m the technical side to helping you grow.
Gardenuity has put certain technology in place that helps me pinpoint what phase of the grow your plant is in, so we can figure out what your plant needs, when it needs it. You apply one fertilizer now, and then when your plant gets to a specific stage, you’ll apply a different nutrient.
Initially, I captured the method at a reactive stage. You show me your problems, I fix them. Gardenuity says, “Here’s your plant, here’s how to grow. Here’s the proactive way so your plant doesn’t encounter any problems.”
So after learning about Gardenuity, I thought, “Oh my goodness, I gotta work with these people! Because they’re doing exactly what I wanted to be able to do, just sooner.” We met recently, but it feels like we already know each other well. And it’s because of our common mindset—our common goal.
What is it that clicked for you about Gardenuity?
The timing is right, the people are right, and the mission is right.
We’re in an evolution now, and the evolution is that we want to have a personal hand in our health choices. Google was created to make things simpler and we use it for everything because we want to be independent and learn on our own. The same change is happening in all aspects of our lives. Gardenuity gives people complete automation and control over what they’re consuming.
One of the things that I’ve learned recently is that, when you have a kid, the organic switch gets clicked (I have a 20-month-old!). You want to be healthy all of a sudden. You kid-proof the house, you lock the cabinets, you worry about new things. People want to teach their children to be healthy, and they want to do things with their kids—which Gardenuity fulfills.
It’s like electric cars gaining prominence. It’s happening because of a specific mindset, a mindset that Gardenuity taps into. I don’t mean anything too extreme. It’s simply people who want to do something good—something fun. And be social while they do it.
Right. So, for Gardenuity, you’ve created what we’re calling a ‘micronutrient’ to our garden kits. Which can be a bit of an esoteric term. What exactly does this mean?
Micronutrients are vitamins—like prenatals.
Prenatal vitamins are what you put in your body so your child is getting everything it possibly needs to stay healthy and grow a healthy child. A plant does the same thing. You look at a tomato plant—they’re producing a child!
Micronutrients are not just fertilizer. Fertilizer is your meat and potatoes. Micronutrients are the supplemental vitamins that help you grow a healthy plant that’s going to produce healthy fruit.
One of the things about our micronutrients that’s really cool is that you can apply them foliar-ly or topically. In other words, you apply them to the leaves, where they absorb nutrients quicker and faster than through the soil. The plant can then sense where it needs what nutrients and send them to the stress points.
Can you give me a specific example of what one plant would need?
Well, no. We offer a well-rounded micronutrient. It’s got everything the plant needs. Like a prenatal or multivitamin, your body stores what it needs and discharges what it doesn’t. Plants do the same thing. The nutrients sit in the soil until the plant needs it.
Speaking of soil…one of the things we talk a lot about at Gardenuity is that ‘dirt matters.’ In your opinion, how important is soil for a plant’s well-being?
Don’t eat dinner for five days and tell me how you feel (laughs). But truthfully! Soil is how a plant eats AND drinks.
Fertilizer and nutrients are to help to create an optimum soil—an optimum base. I say base because the soil is the foundation for what you really want to accomplish: bigger, better, healthier fruit. You gotta start growing somewhere. I say start with the dirt.
Besides plants, what else starts in the dirt for you?
Well, I want to teach my son how to take care of something…how to nurture something. I think about planting a tree in a place where we can take care of it every year. Maybe years and years down the road, my son will wheel me out to the tree.
We’d be growing a tree, but ultimately, we’re nurturing something more: a moment to appreciate, to be respectful, to reminisce. And that starts in the dirt.
Is that why you do what you do?
Yes, but I also enjoy seeing other people succeed. If I can mature and educate and grow alongside you, I have more invested in that. Again, take my son for example. I get joy from getting on the floor with him and seeing him start to grow a little, to build something within himself. When you’re doing what I do, it’s the same thing with an adult. I love supporting the nurturing capability a customer has as they care for a plant.
That’s why I do this—why I believe in the joy of growing.
At Gardenuity, we are honored and excited about having Rich alongside us as we embark on our goals to make the joy of growing accessible to everyone, everywhere. For more information on how we make growing easy and fruitful, visit https://gardenuity.com/how-it-works/