Whitman students grow a passion for gardening


Henry Haddon

@henry_plants capitoned this photo on Instagram: “Found this little guy chillin today. In order, hydrangeas, close up of zinnias, and petunias with a 60mm macro and a shot of the shishito and tomato plants with a 35mm.”

By Ella Adams, Walt Whitman High School

On a warm August afternoon, while many students are out at the pool enjoying their last days of summer, seniors Henry Haddon and Joe Ku are in their own home gardens, harvesting microgreens, tomatoes, shishito peppers, cucumbers and melons.

Haddon and Ku love planting, weeding, harvesting — every part of the gardening process. They appreciate the hard work and dedication that come with watching a tiny seed grow into a cucumber. Haddon and Ku both cited the cooking and food backgrounds of family and friends as inspiration for their gardening.

The two gardeners each tend to their gardens for at least an hour every day, spending around a total of 10 hours a week. On Instagram where they post photos of their gardens, Haddon and Ku have a combined following of 373 followers, and each has found a wholesome social media community.

Haddon started gardening last year because he loved watching his family members and friends garden. For him, gardening is an escape from the stresses of high school, he said. He feels that it’s “cathartic.”

Ku, on the other hand, started gardening at the age of 11. He was inspired because of his fascination with how food is grown.

Every year Ku shows off his hard work and talks to fellow gardeners at the annual Montgomery County Fair.

“I have been going to the county fair for the past four years,” Ku said “It’s pretty fun to be able to compete with other people and who grows the best tomato and the biggest pepper. There’s a category I always do; it’s arrangement of a fruit basket. I’ve done that for several years and got second.”

As their gardens grow, both Ku and Haddon post pictures of their progress on Instagram. Haddon started to post photos of his garden in June 2019 to update his friends and family.

“I was — and still am — surprised that my gardening Instagram has been increasing in popularity,” Haddon said. “It’s nice to know that people are genuinely interested in what’s going on with my garden.”

For Haddon, he has found that the produce he grows tends to taste better than what his parents buy from the supermarket, he said; he doesn’t treat the plants in his backyard garden with chemicals and pesticides that come with most vegetables from grocery stores.

Joe Ku
Ku captioned this Instagram photo of his pumpkins: “First day of fall vibes.”

But the hobby doesn’t come without its challenges. Haddon’s biggest obstacle is when his crop gets a disease, but fixing these issues has refined Haddon’s problem-solving skills, he said

“My cucumber started to get a disease like a virus, so I had to apply the medicine and make sure it didn’t die,” Haddon said. “I have to keep my eyes open for new things that pop up all the time.”

Ku’s gardening doesn’t stay in the backyard. He also takes care of the greenhouse garden on Whitman’s third floor. Ku is responsible for maintaining the plants which community members have donated to the school.

After graduating, Haddon plans to continue gardening as a hobby.

“I will continue to garden during the summer and hopefully be able to garden during the school year at college,” he said.

Unlike Haddon, Ku will leave his garden behind, but continue his interest in studying plants by majoring in science. He hopes to eventually have a job helping farmers determine when to plant their crops.

“Not exactly as a farmer who lives in the midwest and grows beets,” Ku said. “More of an applied science or culture of science. So I would go around analyzing soil for farms analyzing others on what is the best time to plant, how they would mend their fields, and how they would get more productive in their fields.”

For both, gardening may have started as a hobby, but has grown to an everyday activity because of the love they have for it.

“I love gardening because you get to see the fruits of your labor which is calming and the satisfaction of seeing them grow is incredible,” Ku said.

This story was originally published on The Black & White on November 26, 2019.