Monday, 1 July 2013

Greenhorn to (almost) Green Thumb

Delicious daikon - from garden to table

Gardens are welcoming places full of life. Yet they can be intimidating as well, for those who have little knowledge or experience with gardening. This described my situation as I began my practicum at the Orchard garden; I was definitely more of a greenhorn than a green thumb.
But in the past few days, I have learned so much just by being in the garden and assisting with the various stages of agriculture. From seeding to weeding to harvesting to composting- I experienced many different aspects of gardening.

One favourite memory was harvesting daikons (Chinese white radishes): preparing them to go from the ground to the table. It took quite a bit of work to harvest and transport these daikons from UBC to my house, and then to peel, chop, and marinate them; the daikons from the garden had roots that were split and/or knotted, resulting in some surprising twists when attempting to peel and chop these white radishes. However, the process made me reflect more on how much hard work goes into producing the food we eat, probably more than we think about when we pick a radish off the shelf at the supermarket. Such experiences in a school setting could definitely help students to think about local food, food security, and food waste.

Another noteworthy experience was making a composting mound.  Following the technique of layering straw, green vegetation, and existing compost to make a composting mound, I then covered the mound with straw for insulation. I am still amazed that the pile of “waste” could turn into something so vital to the wellbeing of plants - compost - in one year’s time. It was a great hands-on learning experience to participate in turning even the weeds of the garden into something useful. Such lessons in a school setting could definitely help students to learn about sustainability of gardens and the science involved in decomposition.

Overall, because of the experiences at the Orchard Garden, I can say that I definitely feel more comfortable working in a garden. The plants are no longer just an indistinguishable sea of green where cultivated plants and weeds look alike. I have developed more astute observation skills in differentiating the various types of plants, and have gained many ideas about how gardens could be fertile learning grounds for exposing students to a variety of skills and for a variety of subjects.

--Betty Fei

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