Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Growing of the Garden

One of the CSU Environmental Learning Center’s many claims to fame, in addition to having a wildly fun and creative staff as well as having the highest density of mosquitoes west of the Mississippi, is of course the infamous Organic Garden and the mighty produce it yields. For years, staff members of the ELC have upheld the tradition of backyard agriculture and passed down the legacy of the garden summer after summer. Today, the garden stands as an important symbol of the Environmental Learning Center's eternal commitment to sustainability, education, and community involvement. Not only does the garden serve as a great educational tool for young students or as a service learning opportunity for volunteers, but also as a way for the ELC to give back to the community that has shown so much support over the years.

This year, in an effort to immortalize the Organic Garden as a summertime symbol of the ELC, and to produce an even greater harvest than the last, we've made some long overdue improvements to the garden and documented the season from day one.
Planting begins in late Spring in our very own greenhouse, where plants are sprouted and started in a controlled environment for several weeks until they are ready to be transplanted to garden beds. Compost from the previous year is added to the soil to increase fertility and ultimately lead to a greater harvest. This year’s variety of veggies includes the usual squash, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, green beans, peas, carrots, onions, potatoes, cucumbers as well as watermelons.

What staff and volunteers do not take home from the harvest throughout the summer goes directly to the Food Bank for Larimer County and the community of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. The ELC Organic Garden allows us a chance to give back to the local community while facilitating educational experiences in local food production. Last year the ELC Organic Garden yielded a total of 913 pounds of fresh produce in total, an equivalent of over 1,400$.

Some of the most recent improvements include the renovation of last years pumpkin patch(below) to house this year’s crop of watermelons. Since pumpkins only took up space and gave the deer something to much on, it was decided that this year's pumpkin patch would instead be used to grow something red and delicious.

You also may remember these wildflower beds(below left) that seemed to grow more weeds than flowers, well this year the growing has gone three dimensional, with the addition of these spiffy new rock garden beds(below right). Rather than planting on flat ground, these beds will take advantage of gravity and add some much needed elevation to the centerpiece of the garden.

If YOU would like to lend a hand planting, growing, or harvesting the ELC Organic Garden or to learn more about gardening in general contact us via our website, www.cnr.colostate.edu/elc, and sign-up to become a registered volunteer, where you will recieve updates about future volunteer opportunities at the CSU Environmental Learning Center.