Several things in this segment of Bird By Bird tickled me. The first was her woeful attempts at becoming a gardner. I have been known to have plants outdoors and they usually thrive. It's the indoor ones that never survive. Take spider plants they always grow and send out new little babies - for everyone else, not me. I also had this wonderful cactus that existed in my house for years. Carried the thing from Texas to Pittsburgh and finally to Nyack. Then the new cat attacked the plant and killed it.
Several things Ann Lamott said about settings rang true. Your characters need to be located in time and space. Details are wonderful when describing a character's space but not too many. The setting should reflect the character's ideas. I know she calls people and asks them. This is a good way to learn. I also have some aides - books of house plans and even some of apartment plans from early houses to the modern ones. I also have books on gardens and places. The internet can also help when creating a setting for your characters. What she suggests is seeing the setting like it's a set for a play or a movie. Maybe this works for some people. For me, word pictures does it. Words work to bring a setting alive.
In my current book my characters are spending a lot of time in a forest. Remembering what it was like to walk in the woods can bring the smells and the scenery to life. And if you've never been somewhere and have no friends who have been to that place of in a home like that, one can delve into books on many things and allow the words to spin dreams in their heads.