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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Student gardening rises in popularity

Students find relaxation in growing vegetables while staying at home

A vegetable garden in a raised bed. // Photo courtesy of Carolyn Martin

By Ashtyn Gudgel

Many students stuck at home have turned to new hobbies, including gardening. From growing plants in their homes to vegetables in their backyards, they’ve been using gardens to keep busy.

Western fourth-year student Carolyn Martin has been growing various vegetables and plants in her backyard in Chelan. 

“We have three raised beds that my dad and I made. We’re growing mainly vegetables like onions, kale, peppers and tomatoes,” Martin said. “We’re also convinced that marigolds help get rid of pests, so we have a bunch of those scattered throughout the beds.”

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Martin said she’s also been growing flowers and strawberries in pots throughout her yard.

Martin and her mother usually work on gardening together, but she said the stay-at-home order has allowed her and her father to build raised beds to grow more than they’ve ever been able to. 

“The beds have given us a better place to plant,” Martin said.

Western third-year student Emilia Daanjur has also been gardening vegetables at home. 

“I’m regrowing the roots of green onions that I bought from the store. I’m also regrowing some garlic chives and brussel sprouts,” she said. “I don’t get a lot of sunlight on my porch, so these plants are great because they don’t need a lot of sun to grow.”

Both students said they have had challenges and triumphs when working on their plants and vegetables.

“Working on this has been super relaxing and self-accomplishing,” Daanjur said. “I’ve already had one of the green onion sprouts grow enough so I can chop it up and it started to regrow again.”

Martin and her family have been spending time keeping pests out of their beds.

“We’ve put some mesh netting over one of the beds,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of bugs, but we do have a lot of rabbits and groundhogs that eat the leaves, and we’re currently trying to put more mesh around the rest of the beds so they can’t get to them.”

Even with these challenges, Martin said she is happy how the vegetables have been turning out.

 “I love being able to go out and pick some kale if I’m hungry,” Martin said. “I’m able to just go outside and get things to make a salad.”

In terms of research, both Martin and Daanjur have been learning from past experience and discovering things as they go. Martin has also been researching by watching YouTube channels, such as Roots and Refuge Farm, which follows a family-run farm in Arkansas, and Charles Dowding, a professional gardener.

“I also just like to type different subjects into the search bar and see what tips I can find,” Martin said.

Gigi Berardi, an environmental studies professor at Western, teaches classes on agroecology, or the study of agricultural and ecological processes. In one of her classes, students have to start and maintain a garden. Berardi said she recommends for students who are starting out with gardening to start with planting in soil. 

“I recommend putting sunflowers in a pot. Then, voila! Microgreens and sprouts,” Berardi said. “I also recommend finding any area of the lawn or sod and digging it up. Really work the soil and get fast-growing plants like radishes and beans. These plants are great because they are hardy and can grow in any condition.”

While some businesses have closed during the pandemic, nurseries remain open, and the Garden Spot Nursery in Bellingham has been helping many new planters with their gardens.

“I recommend first-time planters to grow herbs and greens like lettuce and spinach. Herbs are easy to grow and very rewarding, and greens are very low-maintenance,” Marcy Plattner, owner of Garden Spot, said. “Just make sure to give your plants lots of space to grow, read the tags, and just spend your time in the garden every day and discover what your plants need.”

Plattner recommended gardening to anyone who is interested.

“Gardening, especially veggies, is super rewarding,” she said. “It’s a great time to share with your neighbors, and work together.”

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