In 2015, student volunteers petitioned to keep the Community Garden in the wake of construction through its plots. This year, they’re operating an updated, expanded version of that garden.
This past year, 117 Comets volunteered with the Garden. Altogether, they managed to harvest 680 pounds of organic produce, due to new features such as the greenhouse and weed barrier. The Community Garden functions as a way to introduce both experienced and new gardeners to gardening in a practical way.
When the Office of Student Volunteerism had to move its Community Garden to Phase 1, Mackenzie Hunter, interim director of the OSV, incorporated several new features to improve and expand the production of their produce. Part of the Community Garden’s upgrade was the addition of a greenhouse, which helps in planting new vegetation and nurturing seeds into seedlings.
During the move, the Garden also expanded with two additional garden beds. With this expansion, they were able to add three new hose bibs so watering the plots would be easier. The garden also included a new weed barrier to combat the grass invading the garden beds.
“We’ve had a community garden on campus since 2006, but we’re currently on our third iteration. I mean, it’s exciting. It’s just our campus is growing so much,” Hunter said.
The Community Garden donates its produce to food pantries, such as Jewish Family Services. Produce is grown seasonally, so the summer crop of tomatoes, cucumber, okra, eggplant, watermelon and others, was just harvested. During a gardening event on Sept. 30, students had the opportunity to assist in the transfer of summer produce to fall plants.
“They had the extra special treat of being able to transplant the broccoli, kale, bok choy and lettuce that we had started from seed in the greenhouse. Now they’re little seedlings and they’re strong enough to go out in the real world, and so the volunteers help us transplant them into the plots,” Hunter said.
Students such as molecular biology sophomore Vivian Nguyen are plot holders at the Garden. Plot holders commit to a section of the garden and are free to plant whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t inhibit the growth of the neighboring plants.
“The fact that we have a donation plot and we have UTD students that are so intrigued by gardening and wanting to beautify the UTD environment and get involved in stuff, is just amazing to me,” Nguyen said.
Accounting junior Vidya Mohanraj, also a plot holder, initially joined the Community Garden for the community, but said she was eventually drawn to the satisfaction of planting something and watching it flourish.
“Bridging the gap between those that live in the urban areas and those that do gardening for fun, it’s something we can all learn,” she said.
For those who have always been interested in gardening, but don’t have much background, the Community Garden offers several different opportunities, including a one-time volunteer event where students can try their hand at gardening.
In the future, the Community Garden would like to continue to expand and add more plots, and it would like to continue improving its unique opportunities afforded to all aspects of the UTD community, Mohanraj said. The next Community Garden event will take place Oct. 11 and is available to all students.
“For our alumni and our faulty to have opportunities to engage with students in a nonacademic setting, of course there’s lots of learning that takes place, but it’s just special for them to be working alongside students and teaching in a more informal way, and also helping to grow and learn in their development as gardeners as well,” Hunter said.