Good thymes at the garden

I’ve never prided myself on having a green thumb. I used to garden with my mom, but living in a coastal area, our yard was primarily sand, so we mostly grew herbs and the occasional tomato.

The most I remember successfully gardening was when I was 10 or so, and my mom enlisted my help to tear up bunches of beach grass from an adjacent lot (that was going to be cleared for a home in the next month) so she could transplant them into the walkway in front of our house. Those bunches of beach grass are still around to this day, so I guess you could call me a professional gardener.

But recently, as part of an APPLES service-learning course focused on sustainable food, I’ve started to volunteer at the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG). The Carolina Campus Community Garden is a program of the North Carolina Botanical Garden located on UNC’s campus that provides free, sustainably grown produce to UNC’s housekeepers.

As is a requirement of all APPLES service-learning courses, I’m required to get 30 volunteer hours. And naturally, as a second-semester senior, I procrastinated on getting these hours until the week before Spring Break. So now, I currently volunteer four hours a week at CCCG, and am working on getting hours with Edible Campus UNC, another on-campus organization dedicated to enhancing local food access.

Honestly, I originally viewed these hours as a burden. I’m a busy gal. I work almost 30 hours a week, especially when you include me two-hour roundtrip commute, which I rant about in a previous blog. I also run a pretty large on-campus organization, Relay for Life of UNC, which I also talk about in a previous blog. (We love shameless plugs!)

But now, even after I only just completed my fifth time volunteering, I realized that gardening is like…really fun. But not just the planting. All of it is incredibly stress-relieving — weeding, composting, digging, pulling up ivy, you name it, I’m into it.

Here I am harvesting cilantro on my first day at CCCG, when the North Carolina temperatures were still unruly.

Now that the weather is starting to warm up and we’re just crossing into Spring, I’m actually starting to look forward to sunny days turning the compost. There’s something about physical outdoor labor that’s just really rewarding and satisfying. Not only that, but I find myself leaving the garden exhausted, yet excited to come back.

This might not sound surprising, because researchers at Texas A&M University actually documented several of gardening’s positive effects on people. According to the study, “people who spend time gardening outdoors have better mental health and a more positive outlook on life than those who spend most of their time indoors.”

Not only that, but gardening of course brings out a more environmental side in people. If you’re actually taking time to care for plants or chop and layer compost to become soil, you’ll start to get a greater appreciation for our planet and go out of your way to treat it better.

Working in a garden and just getting outside has really been a great addition to my weekly schedule. Rather than being cooped up on my computer at work and in class, I’m forced to spend several hours each week working outside and appreciating what nature can do.

While I still in no way consider myself a high-quality gardener, — I often have to ask the garden manager which things are weeds and which are plants — I definitely feel more empowered to take on gardening in the future. And this time, I’m talking planting my own beach grass instead of stealing it from the neighbor.


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