By: Ann Brock
Just east of the U of M’s Elma Roane Fieldhouse, where tennis courts once dominated
the landscape, organic gardens are producing herbs, flowers and vegetables. The corn
has tasseled out, and ears have perked up, blossoms have produced squash and vines
tied to bamboo stakes are hanging with tomatoes. Other crops include green beans,
peppers, eggplant, okra, basil and parsley. Marigolds and sunflowers add a golden
splash of color.
Sunflowers are one of many crops being grown as part of the
campus garden initiative.
(Lindsey Lissau photo)
The area, dubbed “The Oasis,” is part of the Tiger Initiative for Gardening in Urban
Settings (TIGUrS) pilot project, an idea spawned by Dr. Karyl Buddington, director
of the campus Animal Care Facilities and associate professor in Life Sciences.
“I was just thinking, ‘Well, money’s tight, and people could use some extra food.
Why not make use of our resources to produce food rather than putting in scads of
flowers that you rip out at the end of the season,’” Buddington said.
In the spring, volunteers moved cinder blocks to create the raised gardens, spread
compost, dug holes and dropped in plants. All 47 gardens were planted in just two
Buddington sees the project as an educational one in which students will learn, for
instance, that beans grow on vines, not in a bin at the grocery store. Also, some
people will learn how to pick the produce.
“Of course, it’s OK to pick a tomato, but you don’t pull the plant up by the root.
Some people have uprooted some of the vegetables, and we had to replant,” said Buddington.
Plans for the garden are to create a haven where students, staff and faculty can visit
and relax. Trellises, benches and a solar-powered water fountain will be added. Planned
activities include yoga, picnics, musical events and storytelling.
Buddington said that growing a garden is not difficult and can be very rewarding.
“It’s easy to build a garden. It’s kind of like having an animal. You need to go out
and look at it everyday and see if it needs attention. Give it a little bit of love,
and as long as you’re doing that, your garden will do great. And it’ll give a lot
back to you.”