Kim is a nine-year-old girl from Vietnam and she moved to Cleveland at a very young age. On the anniversary of her father’s death she felt sad because her father died eight months before her birth, so he would never remember her. The only recollection of him that she had were the stories that her sister and mother told her. She felt left out. Since he was a farmer she wanted to show him that she could do what he did. So one day on the way to school she planted six Lima beans in the vacant lot next to her house. She feels that she needs to prove that she is his daughter, and planting the beans reminds her on him and makes her feel connected in a way.
Ana moved to Gibb Street from Romania in 1919 when she was only four years old, and has watched it change over her lifetime. As she watched out her window, hundreds of people came and went. One day she saw a girl burying something but could not see what it was because of the garbage piled up in the vacant lot. She noticed that the girl came back every day and became curious, and thought the girl was doing something she should not be. She went to dig up whatever the girl had buried. Upon discovery of the seeds, she felt really sorry and buried them again. she then buys a pair of binoculars. Curiosity and suspicion brought her to the garden, and although she does not participate, she feels good to be involved in something.
Wendell used to be a farmer in Kentucky but now he lives on the bottom floor of Ana’s apartment building. He works as a school janitor and lives by himself because his wife died in a car wreck and his son was shot and killed. Wendell sort of looks after Ana. When he saw the plants in the unused junk pile, he decided to grow a little garden too. Ana and Wendell are the only white people in the apartment building. He goes to the garden because he feels he can change this little part of the world even though he cannot change the rest of it, or his life.
Gonzalo is a boy who immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala and learned English by watching cartoons. His great uncle, Tio Juan was a farmer while in Guatemala, but here he had nothing to do and had to be babysat by Gonzalo because he did not know English. One day, Gonzalo’s uncle, wandered away and met Wendell tending to his own garden. Tio Juan liked being around the plants and decided to make another small garden, where he grew peppers, in the vacant lot. Gonzalo talks about "Gonzalo's equation... the older you are the younger you become when you move to the United States". Going to the garden with his Tio Juan helps him learn that this is not true.
Leona is an African woman that spotted the people working on their gardens one day. She really liked the idea of a garden, but did not like all the piles of garbage. She complained to the government about it and found out that the lot was owned by the city and got the city to clean the lot up. She grew her own garden of goldenrod in honor of her grandmother.
Sam is a seventy-eight-year-old, white, Jewish man. He says his job is to make people smile and talk together. When he saw the garden he also wanted to plant something, but knew he was too old. He hired a Puerto Rican teenager to grow pumpkins for him and offered him a row of his own. The boy wanted to grow marijuana, but Sam talked him out of it. Sam also started a contest for the kids to see who could come up with the best idea to get water to the garden. A little girl wins and soon they use her idea!
Virgil is a 5th grade boy whose dad is always coming up with get-rich-quick schemes. His dad is a taxi driver and one of his customers told him that fancy restaurants would pay lots of money for fresh-grown lettuce (or "baby lettuce", could be Brussels sprouts), so he claimed a huge "plantation" to grow it on, soon the lettuce began to wilt. When Virgil's dad began to ask his customers they said it was too hot to plant lettuce like that. This was a devastation, but they keep trying.
Sae Young is a Korean woman whose husband died of a heart attack when he was only 37. They owned a dry cleaning store together. Then after he died, she was robbed by a man with a gun and was scared to go out into the world for two years after. She did not even go to the store to start out with, but then she slowly got better. One day she saw the garden, with everyone talking to each other and she wanted to be with people again, so, of course, she started her own garden to be around the other people. She grew peppers in the garden because thats what she did in Korea.
Curtis is an attractive, muscular 27-year-old man who used to have a girlfriend named Lateesha, but she dumped him. He came back for her, but she did not want to talk to him. He remembered that she liked tomatoes and since the garden was right across from her apartment, he planted tomatoes where she could easily see them. He worked hard to protect them after they started disappearing.
Nora is a British nurse. She is in charge of taking care of an old, frail, African-American man named Mr. Myles, who lost his speech after his second stroke. Nora takes him for a walk everyday, and the first time they passed the garden, Mr. Myles got really excited, because it reminded him of his mother's garden. Then Nora said he should make his own garden and so he did; he grew flowers. They met everyone at the garden and became friends with most.
Maricela is a pregnant, Mexican teenager. She gets into a program for pregnant teens that shows how to take care of babies. Penny helps Maricela and her parents so they can learn how to take care of the baby. One day Penny takes the family to the community garden. Maricela is not happy that they are planting radishes (the vegetable she hates!). They also grew Swiss chard and squash. When the green leaves came out from the radish plant a gopher came and ate the radishes. Maricela was hoping for that to happen to her baby. She regrets wishing her baby would die. She later turns her attitude around and looks forward to the baby.
Amir is a man that moved to Cleveland from India. He opened up a fabric store because he is good with colors. He, of course, saw the garden and wanted to be a part of it also and decided to grow eggplants and carrots. On top of that, he became friends with someone that insulted him at his store. He also assisted in catching an armed robber.
Florence is an African-American woman, whose great grandparents were freed slaves. One day while she was walking, she saw the Gibb Street Garden and she stated liking it. She wanted to make her own garden. she walk there every day just to watch. She hated the fall and winter when nobody was there, and worried that nobody would come back to the garden, but one early spring day she noticed Kim planting some Lima Beans.
Royce was a good friend of Curtis. He helps Curtis watch the tomatoes because someone has been stealing them. Also Royce is very good with his hands and repairs people's fences, and sometimes makes them brick paths to their gardens. By the end of the book he is a friend of many who thought he was a thug. Royce is no longer "that black kid", Royce is Royce.