By Brandon Gertz, MEM ‘21
Nicholas School Communications Student Assistant

DURHAM, N.C. – Lots of schools have gardening clubs, but the Nicholas School of the Environment’s GROW program is on another level. Literally.

On Wednesday, dozens of student members of GROW – the Green Roof and Orchard Workforce – made the long climb to the roof of Grainger Hall for their first planting day of the new semester. Armed with shovels and water hoses, the student gardeners cleared weeds and replaced them with chard, chrysanthemums, and a dizzying variety of other winter-safe plants.

Why plant on the roof? It’s all about sustainability. Gardening on top of Grainger Hall turns a space that would otherwise be bare and lifeless into a hotspot for locally grown produce and important pollinators. Plus, rain that falls onto the garden trickles down through the soil and is collected for use by Grainger Hall’s facilities.

GROW took over responsibility for the garden in 2015, and the student group’s leadership of the project is still going strong. It’s not just the environmental benefits that make GROW’s events so popular, though.

“GROW provides a great opportunity for Duke students, faculty, and staff to join around a common love of the environment while making the campus more sustainable and beautiful along the way,” said undergraduate Avery Indermaur, president of GROW and an environmental science major. “It lets you take a break from the stress of your day-to-day work and build a community with a welcoming group of like-minded people.”

Other students at the planting party agreed that a big part of GROW’s appeal is the opportunity to take a break from their daily routines.

“It’s nice to have a place for me to anchor myself by working with plants after a long day of school,” said Andrea Gonzalez, MEM ’21.

Tianshu Huang, MEM ’21, felt the same way. “It’s a chance for me to really get in touch with nature,” he said. “I don’t have anywhere to garden outside at home, so being up here is really relaxing. Knowing that what I’m doing is for a good cause makes it even better.”

You can follow GROW on Instagram @dukegrow or check out its homepage to learn more about the group’s mission and projects.