“the starting point for a better world is the belief that it is possible.” —norman cousins, journalist, professor, and world peace advocate
Boston College takes pride in the lush and colorful atmosphere of its campus. One of the university’s strengths is its true campus environment: The campus has large grassy areas and plentiful trees, flowers, and shrubbery, yet is still within close proximity to the city of Boston. Every year, students will choose Boston College for its campus over universities without a definitive, verdant location, even if they may be closer to the city.
Although our green campus contributes to the splendor of Boston College, maintaining the abundant landscape can strain resources. Plants require a significant amount of water, fertilizers can be harmful, and grounds equipment uses energy. BC actively searches for new ways to reduce its impact on the environment while simultaneously supporting green practices.
The student environmental groups EcoPledge and Real Food BC started an organic garden in a yard on the Brighton Campus. The plot grows everything from tomatoes, peppers, carrots, zucchini, and broccoli to basil and chives. The garden provides recreational and educational activities for BC students and faculty, as well as for the local community. It is a place for people to gather and work on a fun project together outside in the sun.
Once the garden has been further established, groups of students from Newton’s local schools and summer camps, as well as from BC’s Campus School, will be welcomed and encouraged to take educational field trips to the garden to learn about sustainable agriculture, how to garden, and the benefits of eating local. These trips have the potential to be led by students of the Lynch School and/or interested volunteers.
Many Real Food members who are actively involved with the garden also work in Addie's Loft, an on-campus eatery that serves local, sustainable food. These employees help educate their customers about the value of supporting a sustainable food system.
Furthermore, as BC is a Jesuit school that often quotes the phrase “Men and women for others,” the garden is also an outlet of service. Other schools usually sell the majority of their produce back to the dining hall. Because of the smaller scale of our plot, the idea is to donate this produce to local food shelters and host free community dinners/lunches over the summer months.
Finally, with the coming expansion of the Environmental Studies minor into a major, the hope is that the garden can be incorporated into the curriculum and utilized as a research tool for the Biology, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Chemistry, and other interested departments. Dr. Starr, who began teaching the course "Food and Politics" in Fall 2008, is also interested in using the garden for the purposes of this course. Dr. Starr comments on the importance of returning to gardening in our increasingly globalized society:
Fortunately, we will have a next generation of farmers. Not because they are inheriting land and wealthy enterprises. Not because government policy encourages the maintenance of American traditions of husbandry, land stewardship, and frugal entrepreneurship. Not because there's any money in it. But because a generation of young people wants meaningful work, and they want to heal the earth, our relationships, and our economy. And they see these things are related. They are clamoring to learn farming, real farming, the kind you do by knowing nature, knowing a piece of land, and producing in a context of community. The big ag schools, with textbooks full of fertilizer formulas, are aghast. The grand universities who thought farming was out-of-date are scrambling to build interdisciplinary knowledge about food's origins and meanings. And students, desperate for hands-on skills, are building scrappy gardens at their stately universities, vegetable gardens that light the way to a newly respectable career and industry.
Read the Final Report on the Garden: Cultivating Change: The Boston College Community Garden. Also read the article in the Heights: "Group Brings Garden to BC."
See the Community Garden slide show!
The term "xeriscaping" was coined in 1978 in Denver, Colorado, in response to a long-avoided recognition of a harsh reality. Colorado is an environment of nearly perpetual drought, and water is no longer a cheap or abundant resource. Consequently, xeriscaping began, principally as the concept of designing gardens and landscapes in such a way that the need for water is brought to a bare minimum.
Boston College is planning to implement the practices and ideology of xeriscaping into its ground efforts in the form of natural landscaping. Natural landscaping is based on six principals for gardening:
- Planning & Design — Adjust the placement of plants to consider year-long color, evaporation from the sun and wind, runoff, and water tolerance of the plant.
- Practical Turf Area — Different plants prefer different soils, so testing the soil’s pH levels, compaction, nutrient quality, and absorptive capacity before planting is important. Planting is then tailored accordingly based on the results, or the soil is prepared before planting to accommodate the needs of the plant.
- Appropriate Plant Selection — Native vegetation is part of a community that has co-evolved with many species over a vast period of time. Thus, once established, native vegetation is not only better adapted to withstand local climate conditions, it also provides the habitat necessary for local species. Thus, local geological, hydrological, and climate conditions are taken into account when selecting vegetation.
- Efficient Irrigation — Plants that are less water efficient are grouped together such that, if needed, water can be affectively applied. Layout is designed to minimize runoff and provide opportunities for evaporation.
- Use of Mulches — Mulch is meant to help retain soil, reduce evaporation, and discourage weeds. Peat mulch is avoided, as it can actually pull water up from the soil when it dries.
- Appropriate Maintenance — Weeding and pruning is still necessary for a garden that uses natural landscaping.
Boston College is working on implementing the above principles into its landscape operations. For more information on grounds efforts at BC, visit our Grounds Maintenance web site. You can also find more information about xeriscaping at EarthEasy.com, CalRecycle, Sustainable Sources, and About.com.
If you’re looking to find more information on sustainable gardening, or want to start your own naturally landscaped garden, see the sites below: