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Seminar helps students grow their gardening skills

Starting your own garden and growing your own vegetables can be a daunting project, but a group of Mohawk alumni recently came together to host a webinar teaching the basics of starting a home vegetable garden.

Beet chard grows from a raised garden bed
Gardening builds both skills and friendships.
Credit: Pixabay

Mohawk graduate and Sustainable Food Systems Coordinator Ashley Packer led the presentation and broke down the overall process of getting started. The webinar covered everything from starting out your seedlings, types of gardens and containers, easy to grow vegetables and herbs to resources for weather and the best time to plant.

Students learned the benefits of freshly-grown local food and how getting outside and into the soil has benefits for humans and plants alike.

“You kind of get to see the whole life cycle of these plants and where your vegetables come from,” said Packer. “Seeing the work that goes into that and also how it even happens … it’s something that gives you an appreciation for where your food comes from and it can really connect you.”

There were tips like starting seedlings off by keeping them warm on a radiator, or on top of a fridge. Presenters also shared tricks such as planting taller vegetables on the north side of a plot, and shorter plants on the south side. This helps to prevent your tall plants from casting a shadow and hindering your small veggies. The presentation also touched on what type of plants could be started this time of year, as you want tougher species that can hold up in the cooler weather.

In typical years, Packer was often in the Mohawk College community garden on campus, teaching others how to tend to their very own plot. Students could participate throughout the season and have the chance to make new relationships.

“It’s such a great opportunity to have students from different programs start to meet each other,” said Packer. “I’ll make a group of students that I know will work well together. Or I’ll include international students with students who are domestic, and even from Hamilton, so they can get experience and get to know other people from outside of their little bubble.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the standard of this gardening experience put on hold as the campus has been shut down to most staff and students since early 2020. Despite Mohawk being empty, Packer set out by herself to continue using the space to create a victory garden, donating any harvested food to local food banks. By the end of the season, she was able to donate more than 200 pounds of fresh produce. The college may be closed, and the garden may look different, but the sustainability office continues to find other ways to engage with its community and students.

Moving online has led many of the college’s departments to rethink how they deliver information. Webinars and online workshops have been held and will continue during the upcoming spring and summer months. Topics include waste management, canning, and repurposing old clothes.

Mohawk students and alumni, as well as the wider community, have access to many learning opportunities outside of the classroom and can take advantage of these resources.

“In addition to learning new skills or knowledge on a topic of interest, a webinar like this aims to help alumni as well as students stay connected and feel supported by the Mohawk community, especially during these challenging times,” said Lynn Matisz, alumni coordinator at Mohawk College.

Matisz organized the event with the help of Packer and the sustainability office and together they put on this webinar. The event aimed to engage students and teach a new skill while encouraging them to try something new, as well as introducing the benefits of gardening and sustainability within the community and for yourself. Students who missed or attended this or other events can watch the event back by visiting The Mohawk College Events page.

To see more upcoming events or leadership programs available to students and to keep up to date with the sustainability office, you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram @sustainablemoco or visit online at them online.

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