What is Sustain Champlain?

Sustain Champlain is a campus-wide initiative strives to infuse sustainability concepts and practices across Champlain College by coordinating and promoting best practices within four areas: our institution, academics, operations, and culture.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Going Mindful- Part 1: The Joys of Gardening!


How have you been my fellow Beavers? P. Phil has spoken, or looked, I guess, and spring is coming soon! I’m not sure how much I believe him, due to the fact that the snow gods have been dumping loads of fluffy piles on us, but nonetheless I’m excited. Spring means warm weather, shorts, and the end of school. As we near, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about gardening! As you know, I’m all about eating high quality produce, and gardening for yourself will ensure said quality. You’ll have a closer connection to what you’re eating, and you’ll probably have a bit of fun. Plus, if you enjoy eating cucumbers you can grow them and not buy any at the store, thus saving more funds for other foods, beer, yada, yada.

I’m lucky enough that my apartment has a back yard, but still, I’m too scared to ask my landlord if it’s okay to dig up the lawn to grow vegetables. Have no fear. You don’t need rolling hills of green to grow vegetables. And let’s face it, we are college students and probably won’t be growing every variety of lettuce, potato, and pepper known to mankind. This actually makes our lives much easier, because we can start container gardens. Container gardens are as the name implies; they are gardens you start in containers. I’m planning on going to a hardware store and buying plastic buckets, tubs, ceramic pots, etc, in order to cultivate some tasty treats. Just make sure all your containers have some drainage at the bottom so your plants don’t drown when you water them, because plants in containers need to be watered more than plants in the ground. Avoid using darker containers too, since dark colors attract more heat, unless you have a shady growing area. Naturally, larger vegetables will need larger containers to grow in.

After figuring out what you want to plant, and what you’re going to plant it in, research your vegetable. Some seeds work best if you start them from little seedlings inside and transfer them into your soil. Don’t just go to the store and buy the cheapest seeds you can find. Treat this excursion as if you were shopping for a new car, laptop, etc. One gardener suggests buying them from a reputable seed magazine. This will also work to your advantage because some companies have hybrid veggies that grow smaller than regular varieties. The end of April is generally the time for people to start gardening. That is, however, if your apartment (or dorm room), has adequate light (about 4-5 hours per day). If your seeds aren’t strong they might falter once you move them outside. If you are lucky enough to have a window sill that allows for natural light place them there. Also, open the window for a bit. Plant stems need conditioning, and If you put them outside without being used to wind they’ll have a hard time. This is called “hardening.”

So don’t fret, I know I just threw a lot of concepts out at you. If you are interested I encourage you buy some books on the matter (the Goodwill on Shelburne Rd. has a lot of $2 gardening books) or ask someone in the community that seems garden savvy. If all else fails, check out Seven Days Newspaper to see what beginner seedling and gardening classes are going on in the area. Many are free or only ten dollars!

Now, say you want to try growing a variety of foods and don’t want to go buy a lot of containers. Well, just like certain people live better together than others, some plants will thrive in the same container and others will not. Plants that go well together are called companion plants. If you love tomatoes try growing them with cucumbers, peppers, and carrots. But don’t try to grow them with corn, potatoes, or…kohlrabi . I know, you were just dying to grow some of that kohlrabi weren’t yeah? You can easily find lists of plant companion’s and enemies through Google. I said it in my first blog post to take baby steps, and the same applies here. Just start out growing two or three items this year. You’ll feel just as much satisfaction and won’t be overwhelmed. Finally, keep an eye and ear out for information pertaining to the Champlain College Community Garden that will hopefully be up and running this summer!

Don’t be afraid of tackling this project. So what you couldn’t keep the petunias alive that your aunt sent you. Besides being pleasing to the eyes and nose, petunias offer little value. Food plants, on the other hand, provide you with sustenance, so I’m going to bet you’ll take better care of them. And if they die, or it’s a bad season, all is not lost. Now, take a five minute breather since I just threw out a lot of information and websites, and come back in a few minutes to read the second part of this blog post which will tell you about the joys of composting. Here’s a final hook. Come back and you can find out how to have lots of (safe) sex and save the environment…dun dun dun!

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