Springtime Sprouts


Photo contributed

Christian Encarnado stands with his plants.

Vila Miller, Staff Writer

Spring has sprung, and the indoor seed starts have sprouted, making the hordes of small, soil-loving fungus gnats giddily swarm inside and sophomore Christian Encarnado more than ready for May 8, the day he can move his plant starts outside without risking a late frost.

“I’m super excited. I love expanding the garden and just seeing everything grow,” Encarnado said. “It’s seeing the plants develop that makes me happy, like going out and seeing the progress, and then knowing what there will be next year. That vision excites me.”

Encarnado is an avid gardener and says his passion for gardening started back in 2019, when his mother bought him a palm tree and an orange tree during a vacation in Florida. He has at least four Musa Basjoo banana plants that can survive an Indiana winter outdoors and a pomegranate tree just as tall as him.

“I do a lot of work with tropical plants,” Encarnado said. “This year, I’m growing a lot of exotic vegetables. I just grow them in my backyard. I water every day and fertilize. I make sure I prune, and I spray them with the copper-sulfate solution to keep the fungus off.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, Encarnado had a lot of time on his hands, and he got the chance to cultivate his skills more.

“I just made my own tropical forest in my house,” Encarnado said. “It was cool to have it there and see stuff grow and have something to look forward to.”

By the summer of 2020, Encarnado’s friends were involved in their own gardens as well. Encarnado still exchanges plants and ideas with them. Not only did gardening cultivate his relationship with his friends, but also with his first-grade brother.

“He helps me all the time,” Encarnado said. “It is good bonding time because sometimes we argue, and it’s nice to have some time when we are not arguing. Him liking plants brings us together more.”

Encarnado says that gardening has improved his patience, especially with his brother. He has to wait for everything to grow. In the summer, he will water his plants for up to two hours. He has to constantly treat and prune his plants and move the crop if it was blighted the season before.

“I think patience is a big thing I’ve learned with my garden,” Encarnado said. “Sometimes with my brother, [it] takes me a while to calm down and just not get super angry at him. He’ll bug me a lot.” 

With all of this success, Encarnado is setting goals for himself this season.

“I’ve been able to produce enough tomatoes and peppers that we haven’t needed to buy them from the store much,” Encarnado said. “My goal for next year is to not buy from the store at all.”

Even though Encarnado has plenty of tasks and goals for his garden, Encarnado says that gardening is great for his mental health.

“It’s been a really good stress reliever,” Encarnado said. “I can use gardening as an outlet to maintain stress.”

Encarnado’s favorite plants to grow are bananas, but he says he enjoys growing everything from the most tropical fruit to the common rose. He recommends growing tomatoes, squash, and herbs to anyone trying to start a garden of their own.