Nan Sterman grew up in Southern California's San Fernando Valley in the days when the valley was full of horse stables, chicken ranches, and citrus groves.
Among her earliest memories are the tomatoes that her grandfather planted behind her family's garage every spring. "The plants were so tall - or I was so short," Nan says,"that I remember them towering over my head like a forest. More than that," she continues, "I remember the musty smell of the tomato leaves. That smell has never left me."
In early childhood, Nan tried her hand at growing radishes and carrots but with limited success. It wasn't until college that Nan re-discovered a love of all things green.
Nan studied botany at Duke University. In the summers, she worked in the fledgling sustainability movement, though it wasn't called that at the time. She interned at the Farallones Institute's Integral Urban House in Berkeley, California where she was in charge of organic, raised-bed vegetable gardens, compost, chickens, and rabbits. Another summer Nan worked in Washington D.C. for a non-profit that focused on issues surrounding food justice.
After Duke, Nan earned her first graduate degree in the Biology department at UC Santa Barbara.
In the early 90s, Nan and her husband Curt Wittenberg, bought their first home and right away, she planted a garden.
After a second graduate degree, this one in training and education development,Nan spent a decade consulting to Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, school districts, museums, zoos, aquaria, and botanical gardens.
Then came the day that she was asked to review the first generation of garden design software for National Gardening magazine. That article lead to another, then another and before long, Nan was garden editor for San Diego Home Garden Lifestyle Magazine.
Today, Nan writes award-winning articles for the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union Tribune, Sunset Magazine, Organic Gardening Magazine, Pacific Horticulture, and others. She contributed to the 2008 edition of Sunset Western Gardens as well as other books on gardening.
In 2007, Nan published her first solo effort, California Gardener's Guide vII (Cool Springs Press) which is about gardening in California's Mediterranean climate; gardening with low water, climate appropriate plants that grow with little maintenance, little fertilizer, but give lots of reward.
In 2010, Nan published Waterwise Plants for the Southwest, with co authors Mary Irish, Judith Phillips, and Joe Lamp'l. This book expands the waterwise palette with plants from the world's desert regions.
In 2005, Nan and her business partner Marianne Gerdes produced the first episode of A Growing Passion, a television show about ordinary people who are extraordinary gardeners. The show's emphasis on low water, "green" gardens was one of the first and aired on San Diego Public Television. It was followed up with several episodes that aired on cable TV.
Nan is a regular guest on Midday Edition, talk show on public radio in San Diego. She has appeared on national television shows for the DIY network, San Diego Public Television, and Growing a Greener World that airs on PBS nationally.
Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, to garden clubs and botanical societies throughout the State. She consults to The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, California, creating and teaching the very popular Bye Bye Grass class. She is also on the garden's Blue Ribbon Committee.
Nan serves on a voluntary advisory committee for the San Diego County Water Authority, and chairs the Encinitas Garden Festival & Tour. Nan is a founding board member of the San Diego District of the Association of Professional Garden Designers (APLD) on the board of the Garden Writers' Association, manages a 5,000 square foot school garden, and is involved in many other volunteer activities.
In recent years, Nan added garden design to her bag of tricks. She specializes in colorful and beautiful waterwise gardens that are also low maintenance, edible, and environmentally friendly.