Thursday, May 30, 2013

Edible Campus Gardens

About the Gardens
The Edible Campus Gardens are managed by the Office of Sustainability as outdoor laboratories for a variety of academic courses. They serve as demonstration gardens to showcase the beauty and diversity of edible landscaping in an urban setting. Additionally, the gardens provide service opportunities for student volunteers from the Bennion Center and others, as well as K12 youth education programs.
Dr. Fred Montague, professor of biology (now retired), founded the first campus edible garden at the Sill Center in 1996 as an outdoor laboratory for his courses. In 2002, he established a second garden site east of Pioneer Memorial Theater. The Pioneer Garden was greatly expanded in 2011 and again in 2012 when students successfully proposed more gardens instead of lawns after utilities construction work in the area dug up the existing turf.
When Dr. Montague retired in 2010 the Office of Sustainability assumed primary oversight. Sustainability Coordinator Jen Colby serves as gardens project advisor.  A handful of stalwart interns and coordinators have served throughout time as vital garden crew members.

Four-Season Gardening
The gardens have been designed to maximize diversity and growing space using raised bed techniques. Dr. Montague describes this method in an article in Catalyst Magazine
and in his beautiful, hand-lettered and illustrated book, Ecological Principles of Organic Gardening.
Although summer and fall are the height of the growing season, the gardens project is active year-round. The winter months are times for garden planning, seed starting in the Biology Department greenhouses, composting, and even some outdoor gardening. Students have been experimenting with season extenders such as row covers and low hoops to protect cold-hardy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and fava beans, as well as cover crops for soil conditioning and erosion control.
Summer brings a bounty of classic warm-weather crops such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and basil. Most varieties are heirlooms, and students experiment with different ones to see which do best at each site.
Produce grown in the gardens is sold seasonally at a student-run market stand. From July to mid-August, the stand is open Fridays at the Pioneer Garden site. Once theUniversity of Utah Farmers Market opens, the stand moves to Thursdays at Tanner Plaza. Some items are also sold to Chartwells, the campus dining service. All proceeds directly support the gardens. Vegetables are also donated to local charities, the Social Soup Lecture Series, and enjoyed by students and volunteers.
Students working in the gardens

How You Can Get Involved
The Edible Campus Gardens survive and thrive because of a dedicated crew of student and community volunteers. Volunteers are welcome year-round for a wide variety of projects, such as:
  • planning and design;
  • greenhouse work - seed starting and propagation;
  • gardening;
  • harvesting;
  • helping at the Farmers Market booth;
  • outreach and education - including tours for youth from local schools;
  • planning and hosting events like the Fall Harvest Soiree; and
  • enjoying the vegetables and fruits we grow!
We host both one-time projects and ongoing long-term efforts. Skilled gardeners are particularly welcome for some projects. No gardening experience is necessary, though.
The Bennion Center hosts the official Edible Campus Gardens Student Group. To get involved in the gardens, please fill out the Volunteer Interest Form.  The gardens are listed under Environmental Stewardship.
For more information you may also email the program advisor Jen Colby at the Office of Sustainability, or call 801-585-9352.
Like and follow University of Utah Edible Campus Gardens on Facebook to keep up with the latest projects, opportunities, and garden news.

We also encourage people to get involved in other ways.
  • Take a class (click on the academic opportunities tab on this page)
  • Shop at the produce stand at the U of U Farmers Market
  • Donate to the project.
    Bradley DeHerrera, Campus Gardens PD

Gardens as Living Laboratories and Outdoor Classrooms
Do you want to learn how to grow your own food? Are you interested in the science of gardening? Or perhaps how gardens can serve as spaces for community building, artistic expression, and health? Consider taking a course!
The Sill and Pioneer Gardens serve as outdoor classrooms for the Department of Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Continuing Education, Biology, and more. 
A sample of current academic classes includes:
ENVST 3280, Organic Gardening, Summer Semester (cross-listed as ENVST 328 through Continuing Education)
BIOL 3460, Global Environmental Issues, Spring Semester (cross-listed as ENVST 3460)
AOCE Lifelong Learning 529, Vegetable Gardening Basics
Katie Sikkema harvesting beans

-Bradley DeHerrera, Campus Gardens Program Director