- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Slowly, Ella Ellingson cleared a raised bed of weeds on a recent Saturday morning as nearby Truong Tran and David Agnew worked to fix a hoop house.

Recent storms have made it harder for the Arkansas State University garden club members to visit their garden beds. The hoop house, which they use to grow plants in the winter, was also damaged in the storms.

Still, Tran told The Jonesboro Sun (http://bit.ly/TRHpXL) his bed of tomatoes is growing well.

The club began around five years ago and currently has 12 members working in the plots this summer. Ellingson said she helped start the club because she wanted to continue gardening after she came to the university.

“I grew up with a dad who is a gardener,” Ellingson said. “And we always had a garden.”

As students, club president Rachel Burns said they do not always have the space to garden, especially if they are international students. The club provides the space.

The club is open to students, staff and faculty, their family and alumni. Agnew, the club’s adviser, said they have a traditional garden on Stella Drive as well as raised beds and the hoop house on A-State’s farm.

“It’s an opportunity to get practical hands-on experience,” Agnew added. “We learn from each other and can get the community involved.”

Tran, a Vietnam native and A-State graduate, said he joined to get a better understanding of native plants. It also helps him reduce stress when he has worked in the office all day.

He grows tomatoes, summer squash, sweet corn, green beans and peppers. Agnew said Tran has also introduced them to new crops as well as a new trellis technique that utilizes tree branches.

Raised in the country, Tran said his family later moved to the city where his father kept a small garden. Tran wanted to continue his family’s hobby when he moved to Jonesboro.

“It is a challenge,” he added. “I was introduced to some new technology and new crop varieties.”

Members grow a variety of herbs, flowers and vegetables year-round. The produce is then taken home, shared with other members or sold to buy equipment.

Burns said the club provides the land and water while members have to purchase their own chemicals and seeds.

“You really don’t need much more besides that,” she said.

Burns said it is important for all members to respect each other’s beliefs since their gardening techniques vary widely, especially when it comes to spraying their crops for pests.

But, there are no restrictions expect for chemical use. The club requires some pest control to help with the garden’s overall pest management.

“If you don’t take care of your plants, they’ll get on someone else’s plants,” Burns said.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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