It has been a year since the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the high tunnel. In that time, Concordia's organic garden have seen eight different interns and many plantings and harvests.
As one of the new garden interns, it has been amazing to see the work that has been put into the gardens and to become a part of that work. Most of the plants are doing really well. The lettuces are lush and such a vivid green, the radishes are poking red bulbs out of the soil, and the outside garden is handling the cooler fall weather. Even the marigolds are still in bloom – maroon and gold, Concordia colors.
While I cannot speak to everything that has happened last year and over the summer, I do know that the 14 beds in the high tunnel and the outside garden have done very well. The Little Free Garden, too, has held its own in its zebra-painted raised bed, currently having a tomato plant, pepper plants, and a broccoli plant that only ever really flowered.
To speak to my own experiences, last May I spent some time out at the gardens with summer interns Kaya Baker and Sam Ferguson. Together we gave the fence around the garden a facelift, readjusting all of the fence posts and pulling the plastic mesh taut and upright. We weeded the outside garden, pulling all the weeds that had sprung up between winter and planting season.
Tomatoes, peas, beans, radishes, corn, spinach, strawberries, raspberries, ground cherries, and even sunflowers were planted in the garden. The high tunnel, already planted, growing and harvestable, had and has lettuces and tomatoes and cucumbers, cilantro and thyme, mustard greens, basil, onions, sage, kale and more.
The grape tomatoes in the high tunnel grew so well that they had to be strung up with twine and are reaching, still, for the ceiling. The tomatoes outside are sprawling and wild, too. Both have to be groomed often. This fall, when I started as an intern, Kaya, smiling and giggly and holding one offshoot of a tomato plant in her hand, told me that we need to trim the armpit hair, which was the new stem sprouting between a main stalk and a branch of the tomato plant. The new growth needs to be snapped off in order to encourage the tomato plant to produce fruit rather than keep sprawling in every direction.
I like the metaphor of that.
Anyway, much of what has been harvested, from greens to beans to cucumbers, is donated to the Dorothy Day Food Pantry, the Great Plains Food Bank or Churches United. What is not donated to organizations is given away to community members and friends or eaten ourselves. There is nothing better than eating a salad that you picked just an hour before.
The garden and high tunnel are still producing and still take a lot of work. The high tunnel needs watering every day and we give tours once or twice a week to different classes. The walls have to be rolled down when it gets too cold and rolled back up before it gets too hot. Plants need to be weeded, pruned and harvested.
All of this has been an experiment at growth, and I find myself growing along with the plants.
Alyssa Armstrong '19 studies environmental studies and English writing at Concordia.