Look, Ask, Learn, Try

IMG_5237.JPGIMG_5243.JPGOur project involves gardening and planting seeds, so I decided that volunteering at the emerging Grow House in Phoenix would be a good opportunity to learn more about gardening. At Grow House they are trying to transform the land and make it more fertile by planting multiple rows of sunflowers in the vacant lot.

look: what are people doing and saying?

At first I observed the vacant lot and it’s appearance. The soil looked dry at first before any gardening was done. I don’t have much prior gardening experience, so I was a bit doubtful as to whether they would be able to plant and successfully grow sunflowers there. The project leaders said that they have previously successfully grown sunflowers at the first Grow House and at the Valley of Sunflowers in Phoenix because sunflowers are able to grow quite well in the Arizona weather and they do not need really special conditions.
ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone in regards to your project idea

I asked the leaders of the Grow House group about our project and they explained how it is important to make sure that the moisture of the seed packet that we are designing is kept at the right level. They also said that most of the soil in Phoenix Arizona has high calcium carbonate levels  and is mostly composed of clay. Therefore, the soil is very alkaline. Also another aspect of Phoenix is that the water is quite alkaline and salty  which compounds the Ph problem. In addition, the Phoenix soil lacks organic materials, which reduces the quality of the soil structure.
try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself


At the Grow House Volunteer day I helped distribute mulch/compost in horizontal rows across the lot. I used a shovel to take mulch from big piles and then I distributed it into a straight row that was designated using a measured string. Then after the row was created, the string was pulled out, revealing a neat row.  The mulch/ compost was then mixed with the already existent earth using a special machine. This will improve the quality of the soil and allow the sunflowers to grow in the previously low quality soil.

learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities. you can learn from what you observed in context, or you might do a quick search to find related information online.


I learned more about the process of gardening. One of the most important things that I learned was about the quality of Phoenix soil and some of the difficulties present when trying to grow and harvest something in Phoenix. A problem is that it is hard to determine the quality of present earth, therefore sometimes even adding compost or fertilizer will not guarantee the success of growth because every part of land and environmental situation is different. Therefore, adding sensors to seed packets to monitor conditions such as pH and moisture is so essential because it allows the grower to adjust to their specific circumstance.

Inez Binkiewicz


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