Indoor Gardening at a Youth Run Community Centre


By: Lyon Lin

It has been some time now since Check Your Head’s Winter Gardening 101 workshop at the Purple Thistle. My rosemary seeds haven’t grown at all. To be fair, the central heater at my place doesn’t work, and we haven’t fixed it. When it’s negative zero degrees Celsius outside, it can be rather chilly in our place. Mum and I don’t mind but the plant probably doesn’t appreciate the cold or the decreasing amount of sunlight. Still, there are already some indoor plants in our place. My reasons are just excuses, I suppose.

Coming back to the gardening workshop: I remember arriving late and walking into an icebreaker activity, which was helpful in making me feel less awkward and more connected. The bingo that we played had seemingly simple squares to get your fellow participants to answer, such as: “Do you love to cook” and “have you been to a farm” or “define fair trade”. With some thought applied to the statements, I actually found the questions surprisingly difficult, except for the one that referred your multilingual ability to discuss  food and food systems. You say potato, je dis patate or yo digo papa.

Having never been at the venue before, I thought that the Purple Thistle would be an indoor garden but it is actually a youth run arts space. Inside, blunt and honest slogans slapped on lockers and walls such as “feminism is for everyone” were something I really appreciated because I don’t see enough of this upfront honesty from people, online discussions, and mainstream media. The space also had a dark room, silk screen printing, and several computer workstations, among other things.

LeyAnn lead us through how to start your indoor herb garden, one transplant at a time. Seeds work too. She was nice enough to suggest that we go outside for a hands on demo in the dark rainy Vancouver weather. We stayed indoors — not all of us were as  hardcore. Transplanting is the general practice of moving a plant from one place to another. Cloning happens when part of a plant is cut to produce an identical independently growing plant. We were taught how to cut herbs at the stem for cloning indoors and how to trim the bottom or cut it into an upside down “V” shape meant for growing in soil or water.

For the last part of the workshop we were given a selection of different seeds to plant. Some were absolutely miniscule like thyme. We were taught to plant a seed at a depth of twice its diameter. LeyAnn also told us that the herbs we planted would start to germinate and grow in about three days. I don’t remember if that’s always the case for every herb we worked with (sage, basil, thyme, and rosemary), however, but this a useful tool to hold on to in general. Apparently a few hours of sunlight a day in our grey temperate rainforest climate would be sufficient and room temperature ought to be alright as long as the place that you put your plant isn’t exposed to too much cold air. A great tip is not to place your plant against a window.

I was rather surprised that a community guest, a biologist, sensed that I have had a strong interest in farming. We talked extensively about topics like hydroponics, urban farms, farmers markets, farming programs at universities and food security when dealing with climate change and peak oil. Our interaction was great, and it lead to him providing me with career advice. He had great intuition, for admittedly I had seriously considered doing a farming related post-secondary program when I was still in high school. I was reminded that, sometimes, the things we may move away from in life don’t necessarily lead to a lost opportunity.

cloning drawing copy_lyonTransplanting drawing copy_Lyon

Thanks to LeyAnn, Rebekah, Dustin, Aleks, Isabel, the Purple Thistle and Check Your Head for organizing and facilitating Winter Gardening 101. Special thanks to the Youth Philanthropy Council for their support.