Along with a renewed interest in knowing where food comes from and how it’s grown comes a revival in the do-it-yourself simplicity of gardening.
Whether it’s vegetables, herbs or flowers, gardening can offer students a relaxing and productive way to procrastinate as well as a practical way to practice environmental responsibility.
Kyle Gonyou, ArtSci ’10, said movements such as the 100-mile diet and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver got him interested in growing his own food.
“There is a much greater emphasis on knowing where your food comes from,” he said. “I always try to buy local. It’s really important to support our local farmers.”
Gonyou said his family always had a garden growing up.
“Having come from a family with a strong agricultural background it just seemed natural,” he said.
Although he grows a number of herbs, Gonyou said his favourite is rosemary.
“I love being in the middle of cooking something for dinner and then just being able to run out to my garden and snip some fresh rosemary and add it in,” he said. “Rosemary is the perfect addition to any chicken or pasta dish.”
In the future, Gonyou said he plans to try growing additional herbs such as dill, basil, chives, sage and thyme.
“I really like to grow things that I use most often in my cooking,” he said. “It makes gardening a lot more rewarding.”
Gonyou said he enjoys the benefits of gardening both indoors and outdoors as the seasons permit.
“Just because you don’t have a huge backyard or the most trustworthy neighbours doesn’t mean that you can’t have a garden,” he said. “Plants are just nice to have around and for reasons unknown to me they always seem to impress people.”
But keeping plants outdoors in the student ghetto has its own unique challenges, Gonyou said.
“It is hard to keep the squirrels out of my basil,” he said. “But keeping a garden is very therapeutic … a great stress reliever. To get your hands in the soil, to water, to harvest—it’s all very soothing.” Ryan Danby, assistant professor in the School of Environmental Studies, said knowing the origin of your food is a social responsibility.
“Gardening gives self-reliance in terms of sustainable food production,” he said. “There are no shipping costs, as picking up your own crop costs nothing and there is no CO2 input to the atmosphere from shipping.”
In terms of food production, Danby said gardening takes the 100-mile diet one step further.
“What’s better than the 100-mile diet is the 100-foot diet,” he said. “Being able to pick your food from your own backyard—or balcony.”
Danby said he has his own vegetable garden and his children get to see how the process works.
“It’s a great educational tool,” he said. “Kids could see the progress from the beginning to the end of summer.”
Like Gonyou, Christina Clare, ArtSci ’10, has a lot of gardening experience under her belt. Having worked two summers in an organic vegetable garden, she discovered her love of growing and working with plants.
“I enjoy growing everything because each type of plant requires something different,” she said. “Plants bring a really good feeling to a room.”
Clare said growing plants is also nice because it doesn’t require that much work—just watering and periodically re-potting them to a larger pot.
Clare said she’s also a fan of growing her own food.
“I love growing vegetables,” she said. “On the balcony vegetable plants don’t require much more than watering, but it’s really great to put all that work into something, watch it develop and then be able to harvest the fruits of your labour—literally.”
Clare said having plants around could potentially brighten up your day.
“It is really satisfying to care for something and watch it grow and having them makes me happy.”
Karley Bureau, ArtSci ’10, said she became interested in the world of indoor gardening because it’s nice to see a little bit of green in the winter when there is no colour outside.
Bureau said when she lived in residence, she wanted something to put in her window.
“I chose to have plants because they are easy to take care of,” she said. “They bring a diversity of colour into the room.”
Although Bureau started her green family to add colour to her room, she said she’s going to continue to expand it.
“I am planning on buying a zebra plant and a dwarf umbrella tree.”
Bureau said remembering to water your plants and ensure that they’re out of the cold can be challenging.
“Start small,” she said. “Try to get a plant that is ideally suited to the environment that you are looking to buy it for. Think about temperature, humidity and amount of sunshine.”
But Bureau said there’s more to growing plants than just the aesthetic experience. She said gardening can teach you a lot about responsibility.
“You need to be responsible for something other than yourself.”
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