Want to tap into your inner creativity and create a garden of plenty? And do it quickly, easily and in any space? Then this Ron Finley MasterClass could be what you’re looking for.
This gutsy ‘gangsta gardener’ took on the system and turned neglected LA wastelands into fertile arcadias. And in the process transformed not just individuals but entire communities.
So, this seems like a unique opportunity. An opportunity to learn gardening from someone who can grow stuff anywhere and has absolute conviction that doing so changes lives.
The Ron Finley MasterClass promises to walk you through all the know-how and tools you need to use any soil, in any spot, to create a thing of beauty and feed yourself.
But does it live up to its promise? This balanced Ron Finley MasterClass Review will help you answer that question – and many, many more.
I’ll be sharing what I loved and learned and one or two areas where it fell a little short.
But first, the highlights:
Learn how to:
- Grow “your own damn food!”
- Get creative in any space (no matter how small) and make it beautiful
- Appreciate the holistic benefits of nurturing a plant from seed to fruition
- Identify your climate zone and create your own microclimate
- Understand your soil and how to improve and enrich it
- Create planters out of almost anything
- NOT kill your plants
- Use various techniques for energizing, regenerating or rescuing plants
- Multiply plants (and save money) using propagation
- Direct, clear no nonsense teaching style
- Carefully structured with clever content
- Proves you don’t need a garden to garden
- Great selection of plants to demonstrate different techniques
- A fairly short MasterClass
- Lacking in advice on pest control
- Lots of cussing! (This doesn’t offend me at all but it’s worth pointing out)
Course length: 10 lessons, divided into four sections. In total, the run time is 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Best for: Beginners to intermediate gardeners, and anyone who thinks gardening isn’t for them – but is open to the idea of giving it a go. Ron’s down to earth passion and no nonsense style will convince even those who think they have ‘black thumbs’ that anything’s possible.
Overall: A punchy, motivating MasterClass that gives you everything you need to get started on your gardening project. Straight away, quickly and easily (view details).
Now for my more detailed Ron Finley MasterClass review, here’s what I’ll be covering:
- A look inside the Ron Finley MasterClass
- Pros and cons of the course
- Who’s the target audience?
- Is the content unique?
- Is there anything better?
- Verdict: Is the Ron Finley MasterClass worth it?
First the basics:
About Ron Finley
”For the last ten years, I worked to turn this food desert into a food forest.”
Ron Finley shot to fame following his 2013 ‘guerilla gardener’ TED Talk. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth ten minutes of your time:
In it he describes how he took on the LA Authorities and risked his freedom for the right to turn abandoned public land into fertile oases.
It took guts, passion and great powers of persuasion (as well gardening know-how) to succeed. And he did.
Making him the perfect person to teach a MasterClass on gardening.
By fearlessly lobbying the city to allow communities to garden neglected spaces Ron started a flourishing food forest movement which has transformed communities in cities all over the US.
In the years since then Finley’s fans have multiplied exponentially.
With his message that “drive-thrus are killing more people than drive-bys” Ron is inspiring people everywhere to take control of what they eat, defy the fast food giants and bring beauty to the world.
His mission is to make the next generation see gardening (not guns and gangs) as cool – as gansta. In his words, he’s, “changing the vernacular.”
That’s how the legend of the Gangsta Gardener was born.
And if you haven't seen the trailer for Ron Finley's MasterClass I highly recommend you watch it:
“Online lessons from the world’s best”
MaterClass was founded in 2015 as an online learning platform dedicated to giving everyone access to genius.
Unlike other online courses, MasterClass is headlined by those receiving A list celebrity status in fields of expertise.
With more than 85 classes from teachers such as Gordon Ramsay, Neil Gaiman and Martin Scorsese, MasterClass provides a unique opportunity to learn from some of the highest achievers in their fields.
That being said, MasterClass definitely isn’t for everyone.
So in this Ron FInley MasterClass review, I hope to highlight both what I loved and learned, as well as what I thought needed improvement. The aim is to help you decide whether this is the right course for you.
Inside the Ron Finley MasterClass
“Gardening has taught me more about myself, and this planet, than I could ever learn in any book”
The Ron Finley MasterClass contains ten lessons which vary from about 5-20 minutes long.
In total, it runs for 2 hours and 11 minutes and is divided into four sections as follows:
- Meet your instructor
- Starting and Maintaining a Garden
- Growing Your Own Food
- Gardening for the Greater Good
I’ve summarized these below to give you an idea what to expect.
Section 1/4: Meet Your Instructor
“When you’re in the garden, it seduces you. There’s magic in creating something with your own hands.”
Ron has an absolute belief in the transformative power of gardening.
And you can literally feel it, right from the outset.
He starts by explaining what he means by ‘gangsta gardener’.
It’s about sharing knowledge. Knowledge lost to the lure of fast food. Knowledge of how to “help mother nature do what she do”, transform wasteland into promised land and take control of the food you put into your body.
Finley wants his MasterClass to help you:
- Feel the power and magic of, “growing your own damn food”
- Understand there’s a big part of your life – how to feed yourself – that you can control
- Learn how NOT to kill your plants
- Share the lessons of gardening with the next generation
Section 2/4: Starting and Maintaining a Garden
Ron starts out by taking you through what you should know about soil – which is “every damn thing.”
You’ll learn how to:
- Work out what type of soil you have
- Turn your soil into the best growing medium (loamy soil)
- Mimic mother nature’s soil enriching process – composting
- Know what to put (and what not to put) in your compost
- Encourage worms into your garden to improve soil
- Test your soil for toxins and remedy toxic soil using planting
There’s some specialist vocab used, but it’s explained onscreen. And there are glossaries in each section of the companion workbook which is super helpful.
Another great thing was that key takeaways were displayed throughout the section – and this was true throughout the course – so we’re off to a promising start.
“To me there’s no trash. There’s only art waiting to happen.”
This is a great lesson.
Ron takes everyday items and shows you how to give them new life as containers and planters. He walks you through the tools you need to do this – as well as those that every gardener needs.
He’ll also tell you what materials not to use, especially if you’re planning to eat what you grow!
I loved this lesson. I do have a garden, but it’s given over to lots of very mature plants. So I’m looking to grow food in containers and I was keen to find out more.
This may just transform how you think about gardening — completely.
How Not to Kill Your Plants
The mark of a great teacher is predicting where mistakes might be made and arming students against them.
That’s what Ron does here.
To help you maximize your chances of gardening success, Ron explains why you need to:
- Identify your climate zone and frost dates before you start
- Be able to assess, and understand how to influence, your microclimate
- Know how to use various techniques that energize, regenerate or rescue plants
- Recognize when a plant is under, or over, watered – or not receiving the right amount of light
- Shop for the healthiest plants
Lots of great tips here, but…
One of the best ways not to kill your plants is to protect them from pests and diseases. Ron said nothing about this, and this was an ideal place for him to do so.
Increasing Your Bounty
Ron helps you save a lot of money in this lesson.
It’s all about turning small successes into multiple triumphs using propagation.
Or even better-stocking your garden by propagating someone else’s successes!
Ron demonstrates, and explains, how to multiply:
- Fruit trees
- And succulents
This is a great choice of plants as they are all propagated differently so you get to see a range of different methods for using the technique.
And on the way you learn about their health benefits – including those of sugarcane, which ironically is good for your teeth. Really. Well, at east according to Ron!
Section 3/4: Growing Your Own Food
“I’m gonna show you how to have food on your plate in a matter of a month or so – depending on what you plant.”
In this section, Ron moves on from the basic principles of gardening to how to apply them.
I was super pleased to see him using the containers he made earlier – and bringing to life all that’s been covered so far in this MasterClass.
He discusses a range of vegetables, always talking about their nutrients along the way.
And he carefully explains all his decisions and actions so you know why he’s doing what he’s doing – and what the consequences would be otherwise.
You’ll learn how to plant, nurture and harvest:
- Leafy greens from seedlings
- Legumes from seed
- Sweet potatoes from both the vine and the tuber
- Herbs from seedlings – especially herbs that are good for beginners
And all in an old drawer, tin pot or sack.
The part I found most interesting was when Ron described plants that can be grown together in a symbiotic way. For example, sunflowers with peas- the sunflower provides a trellis for the peas.
There is some coverage of pest control in this section – in terms of companion planting with plants that repel garden nuisances.
But as the bane of gardeners’ lives, I feel this topic needed more help from Ron than just the 2 minutes given to it in this section.
Section 4/4: Gardening for the Greater Good
Planting a Revolution and Finding Your Creativity
“I want people to think the unimaginable. That’s what I wanna do.”
In this closing section Ron shares the David and Goliath story of how he took on the system to challenge a law around cultivating public land. Putting his own freedom on the line to do so.
It’s an inspirational and moving story about building healthy, happy communities and changing lives.
It’s also a hard hitting, no nonsense critique of the food industry. As Ron puts it, a lot of the stuff we eat isn’t making us healthy, it’s making a lot of people very, very rich.
Ron urges you to start growing your own food. Because if enough of us do that, we can affect food producers’ bottom line. And that forces change.
Which is another reason why this is ‘gangsta’.
As he bids us farewell, Ron reminds that the need to be creative is an essential part of being human. And gardening is the way to tap into, and fulfil, that creativity.
What I Liked About Ron Finley’s MasterClass
Direct and Clear Teaching Style
Ron’s no-nonsense style is snappy and engaging.
His points are clear and well explained. Making for quick and easy learning.
Proves You Don’t Need a Garden to Garden
Ron’s many projects show that you don’t need a garden to grow plants.
His container ideas are especially ingenious. If you just have an old dresser drawer knocking about, you can have yourself a herb garden.
He even shows how you can use old trainers as planters!
And if you have a window sill, tiny balcony or cement yard, literally anything is possible.
Carefully Structured with Clever Content
The mark of a good teacher is to predict pitfalls and help students navigate around them.
Ron seems to instinctively know this.
So he provides lots of useful tips – not only in terms of what to do, but what to avoid. Always backed up with full and clear explanations of the consequences of not doing so!
Each lesson builds incrementally on the next to support and enhance learning.
On screen graphics and definitions also help learning to take place smoothly.
Cunning Selection of Plants to Demonstrate Different Techniques
The plants that Ron uses as examples are carefully selected.
Each one demonstrates a different aspect of a technique.
For example, the four plants Rons shows you how to grow all need to be propagated in different ways. So you get a thorough insight into the art of propagation.
Key Takeaways Highlighted
Most lessons have key takeaways highlighted at the end. This is super helpful as there is a lot to take in.
Great Balance of Theory and Practice
Gardening is a practical activity.
But successful gardening does need to be supported with theory.
Ron does a great job of explaining why he takes the actions he does. And what would happen if he didn’t. So you can avoid setbacks and are more likely to keep progressing and not give up.
The workbook provides additional, more in-depth information to help with this.
The 41 page workbook is a great companion to the course.
It provides more detailed information of the topics covered in the class, glossaries of terms, links to seed catalogues and lots of helpful diagrams to help you make decisions for your gardening project.
There are also lots of really helpful assignments to help you get started with the greatest chance of success.
Strong, Engaged and Responsive Community of Fellow Learners
It was clear from the Ron Finley community that learners were energized and keen to share their opinions on the class as well as their gardening triumphs.
Of all the MasterClasses I have taken, I would say this community is the most engaged. This is fantastic if you are hoping for after class support.
What I Thought Could Be Improved
Very Little About Pest Control
My limited experience of gardening has shown me that your best efforts can be rapidly undone by pests and diseases. Especially slugs and snails!
Ron briefly talks about plants that deter pests which can be planted as companions.
But more advice on this issue is definitely needed – maybe it could be part of the Ron Finley Teaches Gardening MasterClass Part II?
A Rather Short MasterClass
I’ve taken over a dozen MasterClasses and this is the shortest one so far.
There is a lot packed into it, it’s fast paced, will get you started and is well supported by the workbook. But if you’re looking for a longer course then this may not be the class for you.
Quite a lot of Cussing
The cussing does not bother me. I find it part of Ron’s no nonsense charm.
But if you’re offended by bad language or was planning on watching this with the kids, you may want to take this into consideration.
Who is this MasterClass for?
This course would suit anyone who can say yes to one or more of the following:
- Is a beginner or has limited experience in gardening
- Wants to grow plants and/or food in limited or unlikely space
- Has experienced setbacks with gardening and wants the impetus to get going again
- Believes gardening’s not for them, but is willing to change their mind
- Wants to make a healthy lifestyle change
- Is a vegan or vegetarian
- Is interested in growing a herb garden
If you are already an experienced gardener, you probably know most of what’s in this course but may be interested in Ron Finlay’s approach, backstory and philosophy.
How much does the Ron Finley MasterClass cost?
At the time of writing, an all access annual pass is $180 (working out to $15 dollars a month). A professional gardener is going to charge a lot more than that to come into your home and help.
The pass enables you to take every one of the 85+ courses and access the resources and community of learners attached to each one.
If you can find one or two other classes (and I challenge you not to) that interest you this represents great value for money.
Classes that would complement this one are Conservation with Dr Jane Goodwill and Cooking Vegetables with Thomas Keller.
Or you could, like me, train your dog with Brandon McMillan and learn to play the ukulele with Jake Shimabukaru.
There really is something for everyone.
Currently, the only way to buy Ron Finley’s class individually is to purchase it as a gift. The cost of a gift pass to a single class is $90. So if you can find just two other classes that spark your interest then the all access pass represents better value.
Is there anything better than the Ron Finley MasterClass?
There are over 300 gardening courses on Udemy. However, most are very specific – for example Aquaponic Gardening – and not delivered by tutors of Ron’s calibre.
And you’ll find any number of free YouTube videos on the topic of gardening. But as two people on the MasterClass community commented:
“Why I took this class instead of just looking at youtube videos is that it offers a structure to beginners. There is SO much available already on the internet but production is usually poor (phone camera at awkward angles etc), instructions often rambling and speed of steps too fast. It is also really hard to find the right videos when you are a beginner and don’t know the terms for things to search for (eg propagation).” - Comment form the community
“Really good Youtube videos are hard to find. I hate having to sit through a commercial and then six minutes of “here’s who I am, what I do, here’s my resume, blah blah blah,” only to find out it isn’t what you actually wanted. I think Masterclass is an exceptional learning venue.” - Comment form the community
Ron Finley’s MasterClass: What Others Have Said
I scouted Reddit and the MasterClass community to find out what others who had taken the course thought about it.
I’m going to start with the negatives, of which there were just two.
“It was OK. I would have liked something more in-depth. He’s got a good story and philosophy. The content felt more like trying to get a high school kid to be interested in gardening, rather than an adult trying to get a strong foundation.” - Comment from Reddit
“I wish there was a “clean” bleeped version!” - Comment from the Community
To address the first critique, I would say beginners/relatively inexperienced gardeners are going to get the most value out of this MasterClass.
That said, one experienced gardener in the MasterClass community commented that:
“I’ve been growing my own food for years but I’ve already learned new things watching these classes. Ron is a great teacher and I’ve been inspired by these videos to start my own plants (a first)and grow them again this year.” - Comment form the community
Which demonstrates that this class does seem to have something to offer more knowledgeable horticulturalists.
And as for the cussing, I took that comment out of context. In full, author actually said:
“I absolutely LOVED Ron as the master instructor. He’s captivating, entertaining and extremely inspirational. I dont want him to stop cussing bc I love that about him, but I also wish there was a “clean” bleeped version so I could show my younger kids how COOL gardening really is! Watching Ron gets you so excited to get your hands in the soil and grow some sh!t!!” - Comment form the community
So even the negative turned out to be a positive!
And support for Ron’s delivery, teaching approach and philosophy was well supported in all the other comments I came across in the MasterClass community:
“I'm amazed by this guy. He uses quite a bit of profanity and is very LA, but everything he teaches seems spot on about gardening.” “I am loving Ron Findlay’s class and how he is putting it all together with health, food, the planet, healing our bodies, and our neighborhoods from the inside out.” “I started a little garden on my patio after watching the class, it just blows my mind how many plants that I have. Learning gardening is something that I never believed I would be doing. Now I have potatoes, jalapeños, parsley, onions, avocados, peaches, alfalfa, and cilantro in my garden. I learned a lot. Thank you for the great course.” “I just finished the course and I also want to say THANK YOU! I decided to start 11 veggies & herbs via seeds and my romaine lettuce and beets are already starting to grow! It’s only been 4 days! Many thanks, Ron Finley!” - Comments form the community
Is the Content Unique?
Ron has been part of two documentaries on improbable gardeners (Can You Dig This? and Urban Fruit) both of which you can watch on Amazon Prime.
However, they’re more showcases for his work, rather than providing a course on how to achieve what he has.
But in terms of a carefully curated, complete course on gardening that will get you started quickly in any space, anywhere – no matter how barren – it is unique.
What You Will Need
Ron walks you through the tools he uses in his garden. To get started I would say it’s essential to have the following:
- A set of hand trowels
- Clippers (bypass pruning shears)
- Soil scoop
- Gardening gloves
- A round point shovel
Once you get going you should then invest in a:
- Hori Hori Knife
- Serrated Knife
- Cordless power drill (especially for making planters)
- And a Folding hand saw
Verdict: Is the Ron Finley MasterClass Worth It?
The teaching is clear, fast paced and carefully structured. Ron’s straight talking approach is fun, thought provoking and passionate.
It’s short, but it delivers on its promise to get you gardening successfully, fruitfully and fast.
And it’s timely. If you’re even slightly concerned about the world you live in or the quality of what you eat, it will motivate you to use your creativity to start doing something that will make a difference.
Beginners will definitely benefit the most, but I think there’s also enough for intermediate gardeners to learn from. Especially the unique way that Ron gets the absolute most from small spaces.
Ron’s utter conviction that anyone can grow anything anywhere will have even those who think they have ‘black thumbs’ believing that anything is possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
A MasterClass all-access-pass costs $180 a year ($15 a month). This gives you access to Ron Finley’s class, along with 85+ other courses.
Unfortunately you cannot get the Ron Finley MasterClass for free. But MasterClass has a range of purchasing options and offers refunds if you’re not happy.
Yes, MasterClass offers a 30 day full refund policy. If you purchase your MasterClass pass through another provider you may need to check out their returns policy.
It consists of 10 lessons totalling 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Yes. You need to select the gift option from the main menu, scroll down till you find the Ron Finely class and select it. Then make sure you select ‘continue with a single class’.
Liz Hurley has 30+ years of high school teaching experience and is one of our senior writers here at Learnopoly.