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Outdoor Classroom Garden Yields First Harvest

Stephanie Eckman west chester university

In this season of bounty and thankfulness, the University celebrated its first harvest from the outdoor classroom vegetable garden.

Over the summer, the garden segment of the outdoor classroom between the Merion Science Center and the Schmucker link was created and began producing a variety of herbs and vegetables. It was tended and harvested primarily by students, including Honors 314 graduates who helped plan, design, build and plant the garden, as well as EARTH group and geography and planning undergraduates.

Joan Welch, co-chair of the Sustainability Advisory Council and geography and planning chair, reports that the garden produced “snow peas galore, broccoli, basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, lettuce (deer tongue and romaine), cucumbers, scallions, onions, yellow zucchini, eggplant, green peppers, bush green beans, potatoes (russet, yellow and red), turnips, yellow pear tomatoes, Brandywine slicing tomatoes, and Roma tomatoes.”

Students and faculty created vegetable and herb stir frys, added sautéed vegetables to pasta and made many salads with herbs and steamed snow peas.

Students and faculty also used plants with natural insect repellent properties to help keep pests away and others with scent and visual attractants to entice pest controllers to the garden. Among those flowers were morning glory, calendula, marigold and sunflowers.

The garden was also the site of Paul Morgan’s “Sustainability in Education” summer courses. Those students planned and built an additional raised bed garden that yielded hot peppers, zinnias and broom corn.

Although the garden has now been bedded down for the winter, some of the bounty was still being harvested until recent weeks. Sustainability intern Jessica Copeland continues to keep the bird feeders filled, says Welch, adding that as plants died back and were pulled, they were composted.

Welch notes that Joy Fritschle, who team taught Honors 314 with her this past spring, “was integral to creation of the garden this year.” The garden will also probably figure in more courses, she says, including Fritschle’s Sustainable Living course and additional Sustainability in Education classes.