Green Demons: DePaul Urban Gardeners Club focuses on sustainability, helping communities with their crops


Kiersten Riedford

DePaul Urban Gardeners club members (left) Peter Dziaba, Makenzie Bay and Jaden Stern met on March 2 to discuss the preparations for the garden beds.

In the greenhouse on the fifth floor of McGowan South on Mondays and Wednesdays, DePaul Urban Gardeners (DUG) club members meet to plant mushrooms and craft new projects each week. As the seasons begin to shift, the club members are also caring for the outdoor garden behind the brown fencing across from Wish Field on the Lincoln Park Campus.

On March 2, the club members met to work on their mushroom growing project, check on the herbs in the shed at the garden and plan and order the seeds that will be planted in the spring growing season. Jaden Stern, club member and junior, said the club members will be planting many types of plants and crops like eggplant, bok choy, chili peppers and even strawberries.

Stern said he joined the club to learn more about gardening and growing new plants.

“My mom got me interested in it at first,” Stern said. “I also wanted to meet people through it and see what they like about gardening and make them feel welcome at DePaul.”

Peter Dziaba, a member of the Urban Gardners club, talks about the preparations for the garden beds located at 2249 N. Bissell St. (Kiersten Riedford)

Lukas Gilkeson, DUG co-president and senior, said the club is dedicated to teaching students how to grow plants in an urban setting.

“The club operates on two main objectives,” Gilkeson said. “One of those is growing food in an urban environment, experimenting with the space that we’ve gotten and experimenting with different strategies of planting and extending the harvest and seeing how we can grow and teach people to grow in an urban setting, which we all value as an important skill.”

Not only is the club an opportunity for people interested in gardening to learn how to grow crops, but Gilkeson said the club works to give some of the crops to organizations that will help people with food insecurity.

“We’ve gotten a better established system of connections with other organizations and food distributors and mutual aid groups in the city the last few years,” Gilkeson said. “What I’m most excited about is that the other side of things, and what we really want to do as a garden, is to not only cultivate a body of students who are in our organization and get to enjoy the space and feed off of a safe, green space on campus, but we also really want to build the garden as an outdoor space and as much of a refuge as it can be for other organizations.”

Aside from growing crops, the club also emphasizes the importance of sustainability. To implement sustainable practices in the club, there are DIY projects that members can do and have done over winter break like making soap and seed bombs. The club does more DIY projects in the winter quarter compared to the spring quarter.

Mackenzie Bay, club member and sophomore, said the club is a community for people who care for the environment and want to learn new things about gardening and sustainability.

“All I can say is no matter who you are, plant lover, [you] want to be sustainable or anything else, DUG is a great place to be,” Bay said. “[You can] meet all sorts of people and be a part of a community.”

Peter Dziaba, DUG board member and junior, said he is excited for the rest of the year for the club. DUG is planning to have harvest festivals and potlucks using the food that is produced from the garden.

For the rest of the winter quarter, the club will meet on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. in the greenhouse in McGowan South. The dates and times change depending on the quarter, but there will be more updates on the spring quarter schedule on DUG’s Instagram page.