|By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78|
In a narrow lot next to Young Orchard dormitory, a ragtag band of sunflowers has been nodding and waving at passersby this summer. Closer inspection reveals a remarkably productive little garden, its raised beds jam-packed with arugula and tatsoi, beets and carrots, squash and eggplant. Marigolds deter nematodes, and calendula attracts aphid-eating lacewings. Peas share their nitrogen with their neighboring tomatoes, which stretch exuberantly toward the sky. Squash volunteers run rampant in the compost bins, herb garden, and lettuce beds. "Squash happens," says Margiana Petersen-Rockney '11, who with George Warner '10 ran the garden this summer.
For several years students lobbied Brown for land to plant, and in 2006 administrators offered the plot on Hope Street, hauled off contaminated city soil, and replaced it with shellfish compost. This is the second season students have planted it, providing campus eateries with fresh produce while educating their peers and neighbors about the possibilities of city gardening. Local preschoolers planted the squash bed—very intensively.
All summer, the students say, neighbors drop by to discuss gardening techniques or to drop eggshells and vegetable parings in the garden's three-bin compost pile. During the school year, student volunteers are plentiful, says Petersen-Rockney, adding, "The compost gets stirred a lot."