The Root of the Problem
Roots. The networks that make up various types of plant life, drawing in water as well as nutrients and leaving complex compounds behind. These intricate systems have been the foundation of every civilization known to man, yet our generation has voluntarily chopped off it’s green thumb in favor of whatever is most convenient. Convenience is rarely a good measure of worth, and it is unsurprising that this mind set has led to mass produced nutrient deprived vegetation and soil, as well as very little awareness of how to fix the problems that we have created. Learning the skill of planting has never been more relevant, or more inaccessible. How do you bring gardening to people who don’t realize why it is important, or even if they did, don’t have an area to grow one? To build a garden, all that is needed is a little bit of healthy soil, a little bit of space, and only a few pots and planters to start with. In many cases, an urban garden can be found locally. Such is the case here in Charleston SC, where there is an urban garden at MUSC. The most important thing of course, is to learn how to keep plants healthy in whatever environment you may find yourself… even if that’s a sweltering hot and humid 102 degree Charleston during the summer!
During week 1 of the Garden apprenticeship it became clear to me that I know much less than I realized. We spent two full days talking and learning about compost. A complex subject that we barely scratched the surface of, including how to use worms to do it for you. We also learned the science that is sheet mulching.
Week 2 we all met with Carmen at the aforementioned MUSC urban garden to lend a hand, but also to learn about the role that pH plays in soil composition and plant development. Carmen knows a ridiculous amount of stuff about plants, so…
Week 3 we met with Carmen again to get more hands on experience, and to talk about planting schedules as well as growing plants from cuttings such as those that are definitely not from your neighbor’s lemon tree.
Week 4 we focused on what is now one of my favorite topics, bees! We visited Blue Pearl Farms, a small farm on the outskirts of Mt. Pleasant that has managed to grow blueberries naturally and profitably. After careful instructions we were allowed to pick berries and taste test a few. After listening to the owners of Blue Pearl talk about their experience with their farm, we had an opportunity to wear some HAZMAT worthy gear and get up close and personal with the busy bees themselves, who are responsible for much of Blue Pearl’s success.
This is when we found the Queen Bee!
It wasn’t until week 5 that we covered planting seed with Lexa and Katie from the grounds department, and using compost that is made on site at the College of Charleston, we planted a handful of plants to be re planted as tiny sprouts in roughly a month’s time. Until then they are being kept in the greenhouse behind grounds.
Because many plants are grow more efficiently in communities, or guilds, this week will be focused on learning about companion planting among other things.
When I applied for an internship at the Office of Sustainability, with only a vague idea of what sustainability meant or how urban gardening could make an impact on it, I thought I was making a decision to be more conscious of my effect on the environment. In reality however, I am learning how little I know about the pressing problem of food production in the United States, of chemicals and GMOs, and many other very real threats being posed to our society, by our society. Returning to our roots, our networks and communities, to find support and knowledge is the best chance any of us have of making any permanent change to these harrowing conditions. Like a plant, it is from our roots that awareness and the impending reform necessary to continue our way of life will grow.