EcoHouse proposes new design for historic Whitney garden
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 01:08
The overgrown, shabby-looking garden in front of Whitney Dining Hall might look unassuming but it is steeped in UConn history. Called the Knot Garden, it was created to commemorate 100 years of women at UConn. Its adjoining building, Sprague, was named after Amestella Sprague, UConn’s first female Dean. With these associations, the Knot Garden represents many revolutions in thought, and now with EcoHouse’s planned Permaculture garden it will become the symbol of yet another revolution.
Tanner Burgdorf, a senior in Landscape Architecture and fourth year EcoHouse resident, is leading the project with help from many EcoHouse members. Burgdorf hopes to create a garden that is both aesthetically pleasing while being functional and sustainable.
“Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals, and takes from nature. If you think of any sort of ecosystem, any sort of forest, its very much self sufficient, everything biodegrades into the soil and there is a definite interconnectedness between the plants and the animals. But with modern gardening and agriculture we’ve kind of stepped away from that. Permaculture is taking that idea in a slightly more structured way. You are still creating a garden that is aesthetically pleasing but using those inherent qualities to create an ecosystem. Essentially, you are replicating an ecosystem. You’re planting flowers and plants that are attracting beneficial insects who will protect your plants from negative pests. And you are including variability in plantings,” said Burgdorf.
“We will also be focusing on purposeful planting, and one way we will do this is to plant only species native to New England. They will be more accustomed to the types of soils here, the climate, and will lead to a more successful planting. We will also choose plants keeping in mind weather patterns and water availability. Purposefully picking plants like this will lead to a more sustainable garden.
The permaculture aims to be an example against many unsustainable practices being used in gardening and farming today, such as the planting of monocultures and use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to support non-native plant growth.
“Often what you see in agriculture is just monoculture, that is planting only one type of plant purely for the sake of getting as much production as possible, and not planting anything to benefit the environment. This garden would challenge that and show that you can be just as productive while encompassing different types of plants,” said Burgdorf.
Burgdorf hopes that the permaculture garden will lead to changes in the community’s relationship with food and space in addition to a change in the thinking in agricultural science.
“This garden has potential to bring about an awareness of purposeful planting and awareness of our connection to our food. Landscapes are usually passive: they can do amazing things but maybe aren’t as functional or as interactive as they could be,” said Burgdorf.
“And this garden is getting at the idea that you can do all those things while still being functional. And it empowers the people who get involved. It’s not just a garden; it’s also a place where people can gain confidence about their ability to grow some of their own food. I see this project kind of encompassing all of campus, and providing a shared space where everyone can go out to and know that they are a part of the answer to why it’s successful.”
Burgdorf plans to have many edible plants in the garden.
“It will have many herbs that Whitney Dining Hall has specifically asked for, including a lot of chives oregano and thyme. Some annual vegetable crops like onions, eggplants, peppers and some shrubs like blueberries. After completion, the permaculture garden will satisfy all of Whitney’s needs for herbs.”