We interviewed two students from the Purdue Student Farm Organization on their experiences gardening in their homes while at Purdue
Meet Natalia Rodriguez, she’s a sophomore majoring in Food Science & Biological Engineering whose currently living in Windsor.
She took part in a plant science internship on edible plants native to Florida that sparked her interest in gardening before she arrived to Purdue. The program helped her understand the types of plants you can grow depending on the area you live as different environments affect growth. She actually taught us about the USDA hardiness zones, which is a great resource for growers to determine what plants or vegetables thrive best in different regions.
In her dorm, she’s growing Mexican oregano, succulents, and chocolate mint. Last year when she lived at McCutcheon, her room had more sunlight so she was able to grow peppers, Italian basil, thyme, carrots, and mint.
She highly recommends growing herbs as they are very resilient, easy to take care of, and do not take up a lot of space. For beginners, she warns of learning how to watch out for signs of pests or diseases, know how to prune your plants, and don’t over water them. Natalia notes the importance of everyone learning the basics of gardening, farming, and buying local produce. She states “Education of sustainable agriculture could help so much with food insecurity, availability of produce, knowing what is seasonally available, and what you should be eating. It can help you reduce your environmental impact too and it’s important to help out local farmers.”
At the end of our interview, we asked her why she decided to grow plants in her dorm to which she replied with the fact that working with plants is very smoothing for her and she can see the “fruits” of her labor. She wants to encourage you guys to take up a similar hobby, especially as students in this pandemic, it can be a good stress-relieving activity where you get connected with nature.
Meet Chris Layug, he’s a senior majoring in Plant Genetics Breeding & Biotechnology whose currently living at the apartments at Village West.
He got inspired to begin gardening himself after seeing his grandma cut and propagate new plants. While on a trip to Japan, he saw how green it was everywhere even in such a limited space that made him interested in beginning to raise house plants himself.
At his apartment, he’s growing succulents, mushrooms, green onions, sweet potatoes and a tomato plant. Sadly, his tomato plant is under attack from a racoon that climbs up to his balcony on the third floor. He is also growing more vegetables at his girlfriend Susan’s place. They are growing peppers, squash, watermelon, kale, potatoes, and bitter melon as well.
We asked what has been the hardest hurdle for him to overcome when growing plants in a limited space and he said it’s been choosing what plants go in the right spaces as certain plants thrive better in different temperatures and different amounts of sunlight. He recommends learning what types of stressors can effect your plants and if you have limited sunlight entering your room, supplement with a grow light lamp.
As for his tips for beginners, he says you should pick a plant you like first so you’ll be more inclined to take care of them. Then, you can do research on plants that have similar or different care patterns for you to add to your mini-garden. Chris encourages those with an interest in growing plants and the space for it to do so as it can save money and provide a continuous supply of produce. He noted with herbs at the supermarket, they can be really expensive while you get so little so just grow them at home and if you have a little extra just share with friends.
When asked why he thinks learning about farming is important and any other sustainable practices he can share, his response was “A lot of people take it for granted, many don’t know how hard farming is so if they can learn the basics they can appreciate and value it more. As a student, you spend 8 hours a day, every week on school while farmers could spend that time growing one crop.” As for sustainable practices, his advice to all of you is sometimes it’s better to buy items that are pricier but have higher quality so you do not need to replace them in the near future. Also, learn how to reuse or repurpose items such as containers to reduce waste. Small acts like these can make a difference.