Making a garden… from household garbage

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Making a garden… from household garbage

What may be considered garbage after one-time use can become a receptacle in your home garden for 2022. Form Four Presentation College, Chaguanas student Dimitri Siewnarine demonstrated this in his project for the regional Season of Creation Challenge hosted by the Franciscan Institute for Personal and Family Development, a ministry of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.

The theme for 2021 was A Home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God. Participants from schools and parishes in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and St Lucia, had five categories to choose from: Pollinators, Marine Life, Building a Home, Vegetation and Family Tree.

The virtual awards ceremony October 23 saw Siewnarine announced the winner in the ‘Vegetation’ category Forms 3 and 4 Secondary School, and his mother Rosemarie, winner in the ‘Building a Home’, over 18 parish category.  The Siewnarine family attends Our Lady of Mt Carmel RC, Freeport, Carapichaima.

Siewnarine spoke about his project to the Catholic News.


Q: What made you decide to choose this project for the competition?

I decided to choose this project for the competition because of the pandemic. The need for a family garden became essential since venturing out of our house was risky with the spread of the virus. The theme for the competition, A Home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God also reflected the genesis of this garden as I had a multitude of materials and concepts which we were able to salvage to complete this project. I also felt inspired by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ in caring for our common home, and so this garden was born.


Q: Do you have previous experience growing plants/vegetables?  Do you have a “green thumb”?

Yes, I do have experience in cultivating plants. As early as kindergarten years, during the July-August vacation, one of our family projects would be a family kitchen garden, where we spent time cultivating crops, in particular lettuce, peppers, chives, seasonings, celery and chadon beni. I do believe I possess a green thumb. Everything that I have planted yielded a produce that was capable of sustaining my family.


Q: Can you talk about the materials from the household which were used and what determined the things you chose to grow?

I used a variety of materials from my household. I observed the characteristics of the selected material and decided which crop was appropriate for each. Seedlings were set in egg crates due to perfect conditions for sprouting.

We utilised juice tins for celery plants; empty detergent bottles were cut in halves for lettuce, basil and tomato plants because of their rooting system. Peppers were planted in empty oil containers because of their deep roots.

Empty tomato ketchup packs, cookie packs, Coca-Cola packs and mustard packs were used to plant chives because of the fibrous rooting system, the choice of discarded packs were an ideal choice.

Dill seeds were pressed in a book and once dried sprinkled into the egg crates for seedlings. Later these plants were transplanted into discarded Blue Waters 5 litre containers individually, since they needed both space per plant and rooting space. Blue Waters 500ml bottles were used to try a homemade aquaponic system for chadon beni plants. This was an experiment to see if this seasoning can grow in water.

Parsley and thyme were put in fabric softener containers. These were selected to also allow root space and expansive growth of these plants. Pimento peppers were planted in the hollow of broken concrete blocks. The depth for each plant was ideal.


Q: How long did it take to set up your garden and see your first yield? How did that feel?

It took approximately one week to erect the garden and within one month we were able to have our first yield of lettuces, chives, celeries, basil and most other crops. The feeling of attaining our first yield was fulfilling. The accomplishment was beyond rewarding as we saw our little kitchen garden providing us with so much at the same time.


Q: Comment on the issue of food security

Having access to this produce was a blessing and experience of how you can reap what you sow and how much God provided during these trying times. There was an abundance of lettuce, seasonings, tomatoes, basil for pizza, peppers for pepper sauce and we were able to even share with our neighbour as we now not only managed safety and acquiring vegetables during a pandemic, but we were able to give to others.


Q: What have you learned by your participation in this project?

I have learnt many valuable lessons as this project progressed. I was in awe at the number of materials we discard and the value it can add when reused or recycled. I saw a business conceptualising from using these materials. ‘Garbage’ can be reinvested into and make great revenue for our economy.

I think [the people of] Trinidad and Tobago need to be educated about the importance of how they can reuse the discarded boxes, tins, cans, containers, newspapers etc. I would like to encourage everyone to look at the items you are disposing of and think how it can be repurposed in your environment at home. This is part of Laudato Si’, it is part of the renewal of the oikos of life connected to God and His precious creation of Earth.


Q: How did it feel to participate in the competition with your mother and win a prize?

I felt astonished and fulfilled that my mom and I both participated and won in the competition, for we entered not expecting to win. My project was a combined effort of all members of my family [mother, Rosemarie; dad, Donnel; and brother, Damascus].

We function as a unit in everything we do and both of us participating and winning was a family achievement. We also prayed about our projects before sending them and it displayed to us that if you ask anything of God, He will grant it if it’s in accordance with His will.


Q: What tips do you have for others who want to start their home garden but do not have much space; for example, they live in an apartment building?

  1. Assess your space. If you have space, decide the area that may be appropriate to start and draw up a plan in relation to shelving, space and light access. If you live in an apartment and may not have space, you can make a window box and plant in there, probably starting with a simple seasoning garden.
  2. Hang containers on a balcony or around corners of your apartment and plant there.
  3. An old laundry basket can make a small garden in the corner of your apartment. A very simple way to also plant is to use an old shoe organiser with pockets, fill each pocket with soil, plant and fasten it to a wall.
  4. Always include God in your ideas. Pray and ask for His guidance, for Him to make a way for you, for His will to be done and listen to what He tells you.