Sustainability

Gardening Wisdom

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    Emily Castle '18 enumerates the functions of comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) in the garden: groundcover, nectary, mulch, shelter plant for beneficial insects, and medicinal herb.
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    Julia Portmann '19 describes how many plants commonly perceived as weeds are desirable in the garden.
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    Emily Castle '18 explains the layers of the edible forest garden.
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    The rain garden harvests water from a nearby building that previously ran across impervious surfaces into the Chester River. It grows black huckleberries, sunflowers, currants, little bluestem, and swamp rose mallow hibiscus.
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    Melia Greene '20 enumerates the many multifunctional plants in the picket fence guild, including groundnut (Apios americana), the hard-to-find native nitrogen fixing edible tuber.
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    The evergreen Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' functions as a nectary, aromatic pest confuser, groundcover, and edible/medicinal herb.
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    While tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a garden volunteer, it provides habitat for beneficial hover flies, lacewings, lady beetles, predatory stink bugs, soldier beetles, tachinid flies, chalcid wasps, and ichneumon wasps.
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    The cold frame that grew brassicas throughout early spring has been repurposed to onions and carrots for summer.
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    Emily Castle '18 points out the edible goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora) as a nitrogen-fixing hub of a fruit tree guild.
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    The pond uses a gleying technique with nitrogen-rich horse manure kept in anaerobic conditions to foster a biological barrier that holds water.
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    The volunteer white mulberry (Morus alba) was the only fruit tree at the site of the campus garden when it was founded in 2011.
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    The keyhole bed opens to the sun to use the thermal mass of the rocks for heating on chilly days, and it offers easy access for veggies.
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    Environmental Science and Studies department sponsors a co-curricular beekeeping course for students each spring.
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    Melia Greene '20 describes the many wild edibles students work with in the garden, including pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea) that the Master Gardeners sampled.
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    Julia Portmann '19 relays how a recent Casey Time service event brought dozens of students to enhance features in the garden.
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    A slightly shaded raised bed is dedicated to stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), a plant highly valued for its many functions.
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    Emily Castle '18 explains how the herb spiral, a classic permaculture project, combines microclimates with elevation to water plants as needed at different levels.
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    Emily Castle '18 describes a collaborative project with the Student Environmental Alliance to grow herbs in a vertical space using reclaimed materials.
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    The Master Gardeners review the criteria for Bay-Wise certification.
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    Master Gardener Debbie Pusey describes how the Bay-Wise consultation works with homeowners.
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    The Campus Garden racked up inches on the Bay-Wise yardstick for its commitment to ecological gardening.
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    Having earned 48 inches on the Bay-Wise yardstick (with only 36 required for certification), the students and Master Gardeners gather for a celebratory photo.
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    Melia Greene '20, Emily Castle '18, Julia Portmann '19, and advisor Shane Brill '03 M'11 are delighted to have earned Bay-Wise certification for the garden.
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    Melia Greene '20, Emily Castle '18, and Julia Portmann '19 install the official Bay-Wise sign at the west entrance of the garden.
May 18, 2017
The Campus Garden earned Bay-Wise certification as a conservation landscape, modeling how food production can improve the health of the Bay.

Washington College’s Campus Garden, which began six years ago on a small plot of nondescript, unused land off a parking lot, this spring earned one of the highest scores possible from the Bay-Wise program.

“The Washington College Campus Garden is a perfect example of a well-thought-out garden that continues to evolve,” says Rachel Rhodes, Horticulture Associate Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for University of Maryland Extension. “Following permaculture principles, each plant has a purpose and follows a self-maintained habitat modeled by our natural ecosystem.”

To help position the Campus Garden as an outdoor learning space and model for conservation efforts, the Garden Club looked to the Bay-Wise program to help prioritize projects. Properties that earn 36 inches, or points, on the Bay-Wise yardstick tool are eligible to be certified as a conservation landscape. After examining the Campus Garden in May, Rhodes and a team of Master Gardeners awarded the students 48 points — one of the highest scores possible.

“Most Maryland residents live within a half-mile of a drainage ditch, storm drain, stream or river that directly flows to the Chesapeake Bay,” says Rhodes. “The Bay-Wise program addresses how we maintain our landscape to reduce harmful impacts to the Chesapeake Bay and our backyard environment. By changing a few simple landscaping practices we can each do our part to take care of our environment.”

The students follow the permaculture design technique of stacking functions for ecological resilience, which allows plants to support each other biologically. “Plant life possesses a range of fascinating functions,” notes environmental studies major Emily Castle ’18. “Plants are habitat-supporting, nitrogen fixers, mulch-producers, healing/medicinal, edible, while also beautiful.”

Castle, the Campus Garden intern, is determined to challenge the way we see and think about our landscapes, looking to nature as the guide to cultivate beneficial relationships between people, plants, and wildlife. She coordinates the activities of the Garden Club and collaborations with the Student Environmental Alliance, SGA, and Habitat for Humanity. Their combined efforts this year led to the creation of a pond, herb spiral, rain gardens, fruit tree guilds, hugelkultur (a type of raised bed built from composted materials), keyhole beds, trellises, and the expansion of the composting program.

“Ecological gardening requires us to be both radical and humble in our relationships with nature,” Castle explains. “The practices ask one to go beyond human-centric thinking to consider how we can fundamentally understand and harness the productivity of natural processes for the benefit of not only us, but wildlife.”

German studies major Melia Greene ’20 appreciates the interactive nature of the garden, from planning a new site to building structures and bringing in new species. “We have a responsibility to educate the community about sustainability, nature, and the way we impact our environment,” she says.

The student gardeners anticipate that the Bay-Wise certification will increase community involvement in the garden. “It presents an opportunity for bringing people together and teaching them about sustainable practices,” says biology and environmental science major Julia Portmann ’19. “Hopefully we will be able to share our garden with more and more people, and show how important it is to garden in a way that promotes the Earth’s health, even in this small patch of land.”

Working in the Campus Garden helped Castle to land a competitive ecological gardening summer internship at Mt. Cuba Center, a botanical garden and research center. Upon returning to campus this fall, she plans to develop more community collaborations and experiential learning opportunities.

“Gardening for ecology is imaginative and inspiring,” she says. “Our Bay-Wise certification makes our ecological importance official!”

Get a Bay-Wise Consultation

To get more information about a Bay-Wise consultation, call or email the University of Maryland Extension Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener Coordinator, Rachel Rhodes, at 410-758-0166 or rjrhodes@umd.edu.


Last modified on May. 18th at 4:19pm by Shane Brill.