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Student GardenSpring has sprung, and the world is mudlucious… a perfect condition in which to begin seasonal planting. Sustainable vegetation is a key component of organic living and college should be no exception. Not only do most institutions have the land to accommodate an on-campus garden, but they have the hands to make it work.

When the students themselves are responsible for maintaining their own garden, they will experience several benefits. Not only will they literally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but they will feel accomplished in their agricultural successes and their ability to create and sustain positive ecological behaviors.

As Thoreau said of gardening near his notorious wooded cabin, “When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop. It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans…” His point, if I may interpret it, is that the process, as with many things, has greater rewards than the reward itself.

At the start of the planting process, it’s important to consider four factors: Product, Placement, Need, and Treatment.

·         Product– Choose vegetables and herbs that are native to the area. Not only will they grow better, but it is healthier for the soil.

·         Placement– Be cautious of where you are planting your crops. Try not to clear out excess vegetation or destroy land in the process; that would negate what organic gardening is trying to accomplish. Gardeners should also keep an eye out for wetlands. These are largely protected and not particularly conducive to growing produce.

·         Need– Waste not. The size of your harvest should be relatively consistent with the number of students you are trying to feed. In some cases, a crop might supply food for the entire college community, but this is something that should be determined before the planting process, taking into consideration the rate of growth and loss.

·        Treatment– For gardening to be truly organic, it has to abide by a few basic rules. The produce must be grown using only animal or vegetable fertilizers, such as manure, bone meal, or compost. The garden must be maintained with little to know chemicals; a certain amount of pesticide is necessary to deal with species that threaten the life of your plants, but killing off ALL insects is not the answer. Insects contribute to the biodiversity of the garden’s ecosystem and to remove them would upset its balance… however, there are a few insects and other species that are accidentally introduced to areas by unnatural forces. These problems can be treated, but with products that cause the least environmental damage. GardensAlive.com  has a line of “environmentally responsible” products, and its not the only company on the market that specializes in green gardening.  Web surf for some safe alternatives.

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