Week Four – Interview with Laura – Notes

This week I spoke with Laura Cantero, who is a student here in UL:

Laura is very interested in gardening. She has a medium sized garden in the city. Because she lives in rented accommodation, she had to a lot of the garden work herself from scratch. Due to the condition of the garden when she first began living there, she felt she needed to work the soil more and give it more nutrients; she feels the same way currently.

So far she has planted flowering plants, but very few edible plants. Plants such as strawberry bushes, Rosemary, Mint and Cherry trees are the current edible produce in her garden. However, she has a major issue with birds eating what is grown on the berry plants, so she cannot eat them.

Laura has two daughters who also love playing in the garden, and planting things too. They once planted avocado seeds but unfortunately, due to the climate, they failed to grow healthily.

She also planted mandarin seeds, and they are coming along nicely. They are currently in a large pot. The highest one is currently 10cm high. They are planted in 2 lines. In the beginning she planted them indoors, in 3 pots, one for her and both of her daughters. When they got bigger, they had to be transferred to bigger pots, and as it was the summer, they were put in the garden. But unfortunately, they were eaten by pests, slugs in particular. But now that they are raised up, they are more successful. They are growing much slower than if they were in Spain. Laura also informed me that most citrus fruits are picked in winter time. Maybe it’s not that the weather is bad, it’s wet, but not “bad”.

She would like to learn more about soil and how that affects plants and which soil is best for which type of plants.

They grow plants indoors too, such as basil. They have the window taken up with plant pots, but she feels it would be nice to have a specific area to devote to plants

She also mentioned that if she was to grow produce in her house, she would prefer if it were close to or be situated in the kitchen; herbs in particular.

Laura tried planting vegetables in her garden in Spain, but once again, the soil wasn’t suitable, so her efforts were fruitless (pun definitely intended). Everything seemed to grow for her in Spain, but just very small.

She would be very interested in growing her own food, and eventually she would like to keep chickens for eggs.

In terms of motivation for growing; self-sufficiency and organic cultivation methods stand out to her. She would like to know what she is eating, where it comes from, and growing her own produce would reduce the impact that she would have on the environment.

Laura also spoke about genetically modified seeds, and how they are designed to grow, but not give off other seeds. For example, if you plant corn, and harvest it, sometimes the corn won’t germinate due to the genetic modifications. In order to keep growing them, one needs organic seeds, but also due to nutrient depletion, the place in which they are grown should be left fallow for certain periods of time also. It is difficult to source organic seeds around the world, but Ireland is one of the few places in which organic seeds are not very difficult to obtain.

Laura seemed very educated on produce and genetic modification, and we spoke in detail for a while about how crops were modified to be hardier. For example, Laura mentioned that tomatoes were combined with the cells of scorpions to keep it strong against insect attacks. Some companies genetically modify their seeds so that the market will stay fresh; allowing them to sell more when sowing time arrives.

In her hometown, there is a very good sense of community, as many live on farms. This is a place festivals and group meals are organised which bring people together. It is a tradition. Laura grew up in this environment, and knows the best methods of planting certain crops and how to choose the best plants to use to sow with. But for her, it is nice to take a step back from modern living, to the old ages, in which you go to the garden and spend time there, because society doesn’t make it easy. But if you really want to do it, you can find a way.

Laura has no experience in other cultivation methods such as hydroponics, but was very enthusiastic about using it if it was made available to her.

The garden is definitely a family environment for her. When the weather is nice, Laura and her daughters go to the garden, and maintain the plants and, if it is winter, they prepare the plants for when the weather picks up. For example, with their roses, they remove the wilted parts of the stems, and put wax on them to give them a better chance to grow.

Laura believes that she has green fingers because most of what she plants grow very well.

She also mentioned light heartedly how she speaks to her plants and feels that maybe that is why they grow so well for her. We then got into a very interesting discussion about this, but I feel that it is best omitted as it was not glaringly relevant to this project. But one very interesting piece of information is that technology can be used now to help us learn more about plants; how they defend themselves and their response to external stimuli.

This interview was very informative, and rather fun. I’m very grateful to Laura for all of the information she gave me, and I picked up some very nice quotes that would be the foundation of some great design drivers:

“It wasn’t a good idea to put them outside”

“It’s just the lack of time”

“Everything is so quick here, and commercial that people simply don’t have the time to do anything like this”

“We don’t know what we’re eating, so the best thing is to grow your own vegetables!”

“This is the ideal situation; to be sustainable in your own house”

“Sometimes it [flowers and plants indoors] isn’t nice. Maybe you need more money for a nicer pot.”

I would love to try new ways of growing things, you know, everything that is new to me.

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