By: Jeff Dadisman, MDS teacher and coach
Beginning in mid-May, a dedicated group of Mount de Sales staff and faculty broke ground on the new campus garden, located on the south side of Cavalier Hall along Columbus Street. The site, for as long as many can remember, could safely be called ‘an eye-sore’ on an otherwise beautiful campus. It has been transformed! Featuring 8 corrugated metal raised beds, a black steel trellis lining the perimeter, dark-gray crushed slate walkways, and multiple 80-gallon compost tumblers, it is now a haven for plant productivity and soil-building.
On the very last day of June (late, but not too late), an array of fruits and vegetables were tucked into their new homes to serve as the pioneer crops for the new garden. All, with the exception of the tomatoes, have fared well despite their late planting. Dedicated student members of the Eco-team harvest produce daily and have filled buckets of okra, hot peppers, bell and sweet peppers, cucumbers, pole beans, black-eye peas, and herbs, including mint, thyme, oregano, and parsley. In smaller quantities, they have harvested strawberries, eggplant, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Virtually all of this produce is delivered to the cafeteria where is it prepared and served by the Flik Dining team as part of the lunch menu.
An equally dedicated group of Eco-team students has taken ownership of the campus compost operation. Once a week, they roll a barrel of vegetable and fruit scraps collected in the cafeteria kitchen to the compost tumblers. Here, the richer compost material is mixed with leaves and yard debris material to undergo a transformation into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. The process takes about six weeks for each tumbler, where it is then ready to be distributed as a top layer back into the raised beds. Since July, over an inch of the compost amendment has been added to every raised bed in the garden. To put this in perspective, adding an inch to the soil profile of most southeastern ecosystems usually takes decades!
The MDS Campus Garden is a great resource for the school. It is an outdoor lab. It is a place for meditation and appreciation of life. And, we’ve already gotten some pretty good meals out of it.