I chose to explore the school’s community garden behind the environmental classroom. Because of its location, it is a very quiet and private place. You can see the classroom, as well as the old chapel, a piece of machinery used by Grounds, plenty of trees, and a peek of Purchase Elementary over the wall. The garden itself is surrounded by a fence to keep the deer out with an unlocked door, inviting anyone from the community to enter and enjoy. In the garden are numerous planter boxes filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables growing. It seems as though it has been a while since the garden has been tended, however, since most of the boxes are overrun with weeds. In some, it seems as if the weeds are starting to successfully choke out the plants intended for the space. The space in-between the boxes is lined with cardboard to make it easier to navigate the garden after a rain. There are also various cages strewn about, some being used to support active crops, most off to the side waiting to be needed. Finally, a couple hay bales are placed to the side to act as seats, for anyone who needs or wants to sit down while in the garden, and a trash can is provided, I assume, for compost materials.
The community garden operates with a multitude of functions. It provides food for the hungry, but also acts as a place where one can learn how to feed oneself. It acts as therapy for people that meditate through gardening. It acts as a museum of plants able to grow within the region. It acts as a place to get away from it all. And it acts as so many other things. But what every function of the garden has in common is the fact that it is dependent on isolating you from civilization and immersing you in nature while making you feel safe. Therefore, if I had to describe the type of environment created by the garden, I would say it is natural & secure. I would say it is a place that just feels right, as a return to our roots.
While this particular community garden is limited only to individuals associated with Manhattanville College that are aware of its existence, the concept of the community garden is one that extends beyond sociocultural boundaries. They are becoming more and more common within urban areas, independent of the areas demographics. Of course, as you move to more rural and/or wealthy communities, the gardens themselves become more private compared to the public nature of the community garden. However, the garden is still existing as an accessible location.
The latch to the door accessing the community garden. It self-closes and self-locks so that it can not accidently be left open for the deer to get in. However, it remains unlocked so that anyone and everyone can access it whenever desired. You can see that the fencing because more dense along the bottom of the fence and door to try and keep out more critters than just deer. Of course, a lot of the smaller animals will still find their way in for a snack.
Here we can see one of the planter boxes filled with highly thriving onions. The rest of the box is filled with a plant that resembles mint, but I believe to be actually be a weed. It is a good example of the overgrowth of weeds within the garden. You can also see the cardboard lining the walkways in-between the boxes. Again, this makes movement within the garden more readily accessible,. more frequently. The cost of initially setting up boxes like these can sometimes be expensive and a lot of hard work. But the cardboard is a highly affordable and effective solution to a common problem that can be integrated into any community garden.
A few unripe strawberries, showing that intended crops are still thriving within the garden, despite the explosion of weeds. These were the only bunch of strawberries I could find in an entire planter box filled with strawberry plants. This indicates that the plants are likely struggling to gain enough nutrients to warrant putting forth the energy for reproduction. So, even though the presence of these strawberries displays an image of endurance by the strawberry plants against the weed invasion, the miniscule number is a clue that these plants are not thriving as well as they appear to be.
Another planter box that has been completely overrun with weeds. I am not even sure what is supposed to be growing in this box because of the overly extensive growth of so many different weeds. I thought I could make out a couple different fruit plants, but there was no fruiting of any kind, so it was impossible for me to be sure that they weren’t just more weeds. This is a great example of how a community that starts a garden needs to be ready to make the commitment to continually provide the need and care needed to endure the garden is maintained overtime. A lot of time and effort and money went into building the garden and planting & growing the crop plants. And all of that time and effort and money was spent in order to create an environment, and acts in all the functions, described earlier. But if you want to continue to receive these gifts from the garden, the garden requires continued love in return.
We can see in this planter of broccoli that the outbreak of weeds has not taken over the garden in its entirety. A couple planter’s like this one here, remain relatively clear of weeds with happy, healthy crops growing. However, there are a few weeds starting to sprout. This means that the weed invasion will take over the last few boxes soon enough unless maintenance is provided.
Finally, I want to look at the hay bales provided for sitting within the garden. These are a very smart addition to the garden for a number of reasons. First, they are cheap and outdoor safe. They are the perfect height for someone who wants to sit, not kneel, while weeding and gardening, and are light enough to easily move where you need them. Being that the garden is removed away from most everything, these bales are also a great convenience for anyone who needs a rest from the journey out there, or just wants to sit and enjoy the natural space for a bit.

3 thoughts on “Photo Gallery (Physical)

  1. Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed viewing your photos and the captions. I am a big believer in social reconstruction as an educational philosophy. Thus, in my opinion, projects such as community food gardens are outstanding conduits for learning about a specific topic in the context of benefiting the world around you. These community gardens are particularly vital in times of food insecurity. I think it is beautiful how the garden is unlocked; this emphasizes trust as a community value. Plus, it is good to know the garden is providing snacks to some cute critters.

  2. This is a great location to spend time with nature and explore all of the different plants that others have grown when tending to the garden. You are definitely right about how the secluded nature of the garden creates a tranquil environment! I was able to work in the garden a few times for my plant biology course last semester, and it taught me that anyone can grow and take care of plants with the right knowledge and commitment.

  3. Michael,
    I love the photos of the garden that you took. I honestly had no idea that the campus contained this garden and I think that this is a wonderful experience for students to learn about plants. In high school, I remember going outside and caring for the garden with one of my classes. We were able to plant vegetables and fruits and tend to them; it was such a great experience.

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