Herbs in the Dorm Room



Herb garden | Jack Zampino


Seeds at the event | Jack Zampino

The CVC welcomed Sarah Valentine, Farmer-in-Residence, back to SNC on Mar. 6 to teach students—and anyone else interested in going green—how to grow their own resources through her program “Get Your Green Thumb On: Seed Starting a Mini Herb Garden.” 

Valentine arrived armed with soil, planters, and various herbs for participants to get started on their own herb gardens small enough to fit in a student dorm room.

Valentine began by instructing everyone to reflect on what their goals are for this year, whether they have accomplished them or not and to think about their learning experiences regarding their decisions to be more environmentally friendly. Valentine emphasized the importance of growing food based on what a person enjoys eating and how that will limit food waste. She went on to ask the question: What is your canvas?

“I think of growing as an art form,” states Valentine. “If you live on campus in a dorm, your canvas might be pots. If you have more space, then you have a bigger canvas.”

Valentine provided tips on what types of plants are best kept outdoors, such as root plants like potatoes, and those that are able to be taken care of in pots, such as peppers and tomatoes. She talked about her own indoor planting, explaining how different plants require different needs. 

For example, she identified that some of her plants required different levels of heat from her lamps in order to grow properly. Valentine also explained how the most common problem that first-time planters encounter is overcrowding their plants. She went on to recommend the book “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” as a guide to helping avoid such problems and as a means to learn more about the plants someone is growing.

“I like this book because it’s super easy to follow,” Valentine shared.

She noted that gardeners should always monitor their plants to determine when they are ready to transplant them into larger pots or garden plots. 

Some plants take longer to germinate than others and first-time planters should be patient and document the progress of their plants. To test how well rooted a plant is when it is time to transplant it, one should be gentle and wiggle the plant by its base to see if the soil will hold together during the transplant.

Valentine laid out her armory of planting supplies, much of which she was able to purchase from the dollar store, and exhibited surprise at how much gardening material could be found there. She explained how most pots have holes in the bottom to prevent over-saturation of the soil.

It was then time for everyone to begin putting together their own herb gardens, using the herbs that Valentine had already started growing in her basement garden. There were many to choose from, including rosemary, oregano, chives, lemongrass and lavender. Valentine also had seeds of various kinds of tomatoes and peppers for participants to plant for themselves. 

She advised that plants did not require light until they sprout, so the most important thing was to keep herbs that were still germinating near sources of heat. Once they begin to sprout, it is still important to keep them warm, but light becomes necessary.

There was a feeling of warmth, excitement and optimism as participants put together their herb gardens. While this is Valentine’s last event of the year, she encouraged everyone to visit the farmer’s market over the summer, where she and many other local farmers sell their produce for everyone to enjoy.


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