Let it grow – urban farming as a PhD student

Hope is on the ground…

There are moments during the time as a PhD student, when your head is just full and you can’t rest. Sometimes even sleeping doesn’t work anymore, everything is frustrating and the nerves are bare. The ImmunoSensation Blog previously reported many ways to improve your work-life balance during your PhD:

Sport, music or meditation often helps, but what if it does not? When you reach this point, you have to look for a new way to stop the spinning wheel of thoughts and create new perspectives – here you can find one, which will make our city even greener by the way.

… or in?

Have you ever noticed the tree-plate in front of your house? Unloved, dried out and often used as the new favorite toilet of the neighbor’s dog. Usually, these areas don’t give much and look quite depressing. I only have little experience with gardening. But to be honest, it can’t be worse than it looks right now, can it? I tried, and this is what happened: With fresh potting soil, shovel, hoe, seeds, a few flower bulbs and fresh flowers you can achieve a lot. In the beginning everything has to be digged up. This is not easy because of the completely dry and hard soil and therefore the perfect way to let the stress out – But please pay attention to the earthworms if there are still some alive, they will be very useful later on ;). There are not many possibilities here that are better or worse and most importantly there are no mistakes that could destroy weeks of work. You folks in the lab know what I’m talking about, right?!

April 2018

The old weeds and their roots will be removed, the new potting soil and seeds distributed, the bulbs placed and the flowers planted. Depending on the time of year (spring/summer/autumn/winter) when the frustration threshold is reached, the choice of flowers is of course different but you can always find something to plant. So go ahead!

A little journey through the year

During spring, plant a bunch of beautiful primroses, pansies and cyclamen in all possible colors. Since I planted the tree-plate in front of our house I can see how it brings also joy to other people. People stop and smile, admire the flowers and every now and then I even get a compliment for my work.

As our summers are getting warmer and warmer, lavender, midday flower or stonecrop is particularly suitable during that time. They are easy to care for and are forgiving if you forget to water them for a while. With the lavender it also smells a bit like being on holiday, don’t you think?

In autumn, plant colorful mixture of chrysanthemums and asters. Tulips, narcissus, crocuses and little snowdrops are just some amongst many flower bulbs that like to be planted in autumn. I always like to put everything wildly mixed up and then next spring: surprise!

During the wintertime, planting gets more difficult, but not impossible – you can focus on Christmas roses and winter jasmine.

April 2019

A great surprise

With seed mixtures you can let the tree-plate become a wild pasture. It is nice to sow wildflower seed, which is an excellent food source for insects or bees, attracting them to your tree plate. Can you imagine having your own butterfly garden?

While the freshly planted flowers make you immediately happy and look beautiful, the bulbs and seeds are a great surprise for next spring – A little reward, so to speak. My grandma always said, gardening is like a holiday in the middle of dirt, a clear goal and when your motivation disappears you can just leave it alone and do something else. It can be so easy….

Opportunities – no obligation

In the long run you should water the plants, pluck the weeds from time to time and be happy when the first plants sprout from the planted bulbs and seeds in spring.

This little tree-plate in front of your house is worlds away from being perfect, but the beautiful thing is, it doesn’t have to be. Here is a spot of earth that is happy about attention, but also forgives if there is simply no time for it. Everything just keeps growing, the planted and the weeds that were there before and will probably always find a way out. But that’s fine – when there is time (or chaos in your head again) the gardening continues.

April 2020

A little glance in the future

This little piece of earth gives you the much needed little success experiences that, let’s be honest, is rarely seeded during the time as a PhD student. There is something that you planted by yourself that survives, gets stronger and eventually is finished.

When that happens, it doesn’t seem so unreal anymore that the road to a PhD will soon come to an end.

In this sense, best regards and let it grow!

Author: Lisa Norkus