In 2011, a group of students put together a proposal to fill the Geography Building’s courtyard with a community garden. In their proposal, they expressed their desire to “transform underutilized space within the Geography Building courtyard into a place of food, community and education for the undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff who use the Geography Building.” Their initiative falls in line with the sustainability aspect of UBC’s strategic plan, Place and Promise: The UBC Plan as these gardens would not only grow food for consumption, but assist the Geography community in applying their sustainability concepts in the real world.
The courtyard underwent renovation during 2014 as part of Public Realm Plan funded by UBC “creating areas on campus that invite social interaction, support learning and connect students, faculty, staff, and residents.” Wooden planks were used to build rectangular garden plots, three on the north side of the courtyard and three on the south side. The 2014-15 GSA VP-Sustainability took on the challenge of implementing the GeoGarden into the Geography community in its first year. Requests for plots and teams to take care of plots were sent in and four groups of undergraduate students took up four of the plots while the remaining two went to graduate students and staff members.
Undergraduate Student Plots
As most know, the GeoGarden has been a labour of love over many years by staff, faculty and student alike. Finally, we are proud to have the plots in use and productivity booming. The undergraduate plots saw their first planting this spring when a group of about ten volunteers cleared and sowed the plots. We planted varieties of peas, kale, spinach and radishes to carry us through to the summer months.
In May, priority took to spacing the garden, harvesting the leaf vegetables and building trellises for our quickly growing peas. As the summer went on the GeoGarden saw challenges. Most volunteers were out of town, working full-time (or over full-time hours) and there was a lack of coordination. Deep into the drought we saw the garden suffer. However! Mike Wilgosh and Evelyn Chan have taken the reigns, clearing the plots, picking new seeds for a fall crop, and planting. Volunteers are trickling back into the city and are ready to get their hands dirty. We’re looking forward to seeing where the garden goes. A huge thank you is extended to the staff who have helped maintain the undergraduate plots this summer. We encourage all people interested in a plot or volunteering with the garden to email.
By Emily Rennalls, 2014/15 GSA VP-Sustainability
Photo by Mimi Yu, Editor
Leo and Dave’s Plot
Graduate Students (PhD)
As far as we are concerned, the inaugural summer of the GeoGarden has been a huge success. Over the summer, we have maintained our plot at the north end of the Geography courtyard and gradually spilled over into an adjoining one which now houses our jungle of tomatoes. For months now, we have enjoyed a continuous stream of vigorous, fresh and local veggies. We have had gardens before, but nothing beats the ease and convenience of doing your gardening on your lunch break at work, or bringing nothing to school for lunch but your salad dressing! We shy away from anything finicky, and so far everything has grown well with minimal maintenance, although we had problems with pests eating the beets and rot with the garlic. Our biggest producers were the kale and potatoes, which also happen to be the lowest maintenance plants.
Maintaining one of the geo-garden plots is the furthest thing from stressful. It is a welcome distraction (i.e. procrastination tool), allows you to play out your thesis-induced fantasy of being a farmer, and gives you an opportunity to catch up with your supervisor as he pilfers your produce. Based on nothing but wild speculation, we would guess you could easily provide as much as 50% of your summer produce needs with one plot between 2-3 people. We certainly have not bought greens, garlic or potatoes in months. Additionally, a GeoGarden plot gives you an inflated sense of self-righteousness as you bike your local organic veggies home and
rub them in your friends’ faces… er… I mean share them?
The garden is a wonderful addition to our day here at the Geography building, and we have been thrilled to care for one of the plots. It has been an easy and deeply rewarding experience, and has left us feeling that the workplace is the ideal location for a community garden. It’s an idea we would love to see spread around campus and Vancouver!
By Leo and Dave
Photo by Mimi Yu, Editor
Staff Garden Plot
Vicky, Mimi, Stefanie, Alex
It’s been really neat seeing little seeds sprout and grow their first true leaves, to watch the plant thrive and become vegetables more beautiful than anything you could find in the supermarket (gardening makes you biased, obviously!). It’s even more interesting to see what happens to vegetables after their edible, usually-ready-for-harvest stage! Our lettuce (a strain oddly named Drunken Women) grew about 3ft tall before seeding. We’re hoping to save some seeds from our sugar snap peas and arugula plants for next year.
I think we were lucky this year in avoiding most pests (except for the mysterious animals that have been taking calculated bites from our cucumbers) and plant diseases. We did have disappointments of course; our starburst radishes (white on the outside and purple pink on the inside) and golden beets were all plant and no root, our “rainbow” pack of carrot seeds yielded mostly white carrots which did not taste as sweet as their orange or purple counterparts, and that if you start seeds indoors, they often get ‘stringy’ too quickly and can’t withstand the environment outdoors– only three of our 20 cucumber seedlings survived the transplant, but those three survivors have since thrived and overtaken most of the plot!
The GeoGarden has been a great addition to our work life; almost every day yields a surprise when you’re growing vegetables, especially during the harvest season (and if you plan your crops well, every season can be a harvest season!).
Photo and article by Mimi Yu, Editor