“Last November(2008?) the Office of Sustainability hosted a Sustainable Food Summit and one of the ideas that came out of it was an on-campus garden. After several months of trying to find a suitable location on campus the garden started in the middle of last semester. The spot that is currently being used was offered by the Mason department of Housing and Residence Life. The site was definitely not ideal, but it was better than nothing. Due to the fact the area was in fact the courtyard of a building, all the topsoil in the area had been removed during construction and was replaced by sod. As such, the land had a major drainage issues (when it rained the water had no where to go) and there was no soil, just hard clay under the sod. Three Service Learners from NCC helped Colin Bennett and Danielle Wyman from the Office of Sustainability with the preparatory work before any planting began. This included building the fence, turning and tilling the sod, adding organic fertilizer (composted horse manure), and other similar tasks. Several volunteers also helped in preparing the site for the garden and also assisted in finding donations of tools and supplies. After about a month of preparation the land was ready for planting. The garden mostly existed through donations (including several hundred dollars of Colin’s
money) but funds were spent to build a shed. Over 100 plants including at least a dozen different vegetables and herbs were planted. They included, tomatoes, several types of peppers, eggplants, squash, zucchini, cabbage, onions, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, pumpkins, a few types of greens, and several other vegetables. For several weeks, the plants were growing very well and we were on our way to a successful harvest. During that time, Colin from the Office of Sustainability was primarily in charge of the garden and he was assisted by Danielle and another part-time Office of Sustainability worker. During the middle of July, Colin and Danielle went away to a week-long environmental leadership event that Colin had organized. While they were gone they had arranged for the garden to be watered but the sprinkler system was turned on and all the plants ended up dying as a result. When Colin and Danielle returned they were (obviously) heart broken but they decided to plant as many new plants as they could. They asked to have the sprinklers turned off but it turned out that the sprinklers were actually just turned down. That being the case, it took them several weeks to realize what the problem was and the second groups that went into the ground also died. Finally, the sprinklers were turned off for real.”
Entering the garden in Fall 2009, I had my doubts regarding the progressive milestones that would be reached. Unfortunately, the garden greeted me in the form of a dark dismal swamp, and I peered back at it with a weary eye. I entered the Mason Garden Crew at a new and exciting time, presented the task of recreating the foundations of a sustainable and organic garden. Research provided a number of gardening methods to consider for our project. We then considered what the best route of action would be to avoid previous plights the garden had faced. After considering the unfortunate historical track that the garden face, we took on the project of creating raised beds, which certainly presented a number of issues. Firstly, we were forced to search for the appropriate soils for the new beds. This meant traveling to near by horse farms to collect manure, soil, and mulch. After a bit of hammering, nailing, and paint we created some pretty nifty fences to line the walls of the beds, giving the garden a wow factor that it had been in need of. Though the cold winter stormed in rather abruptly, the work in the garden through out the semester provided some fundamental groundwork for where it stands now. Through hard work and dedication, the garden has nearly reached a breaking point for the winter, and when spring comes along the plot will hopefully be ready to support some plants.