The cooling air and changing fall colors may turn gardeners’ attention to a season of harvest, and with the help of a free Duke program, faculty and staff can get into the spirit.
All Duke community members are eligible to be part of a community garden next to the Duke Smart Home on Faber Street. The space, which features 16 raised beds for gardening, a small orchard and greenhouse, allows faculty, staff and students a hands-on opportunity to learn about agriculture and grow produce to bring home.
By committing to a couple hours of volunteer time on one community workday each month, participants receive a plot in a bed to plant fruits, vegetables, herbs and more. This fall, workdays take place 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 15 and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7. Gardeners are also welcome to visit the space on their own time.
“Fall is a great time to get involved because you have an ideal climate for growing well into the season and have a harvest for Thanksgiving,” said Becky Hoeffler, an avid gardener and program coordinator for Sustainable Duke. “Broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes
and squash are all great to focus on.”
The community garden provides tools on-site, from gloves and shovels to wheelbarrows. Water for the garden is captured at the Smart Home with rain barrels and underground cisterns.
Jim Gaston, director of the Smart Home, said the garden helps bring all members of the campus community together to share an activity.
“Any time you have a shared space, there’s opportunity to learn leadership and teamwork,” Gaston said. “It’s a great example of how Duke tries to bring people together to be sustainable and use our natural resources more efficiently.”
Faculty and staff interested in joining the community garden can email Emily Dubie, a graduate student overseeing the garden, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall Gardening Tips from Becky Hoeffler
- Stay Indoors. Because summer heat lingers in North Carolina, greater success with plantings can take place by starting seeds indoors where they won’t suffer in heat. Keeping small planters or pots inside near sunlight will help while air conditioning keeps seeds and soil cool.
- Maximize Potential. Before transplanting to soil, soak plants in nursery containers. This will help water reach the bottom of the root system. Most water is either evaporated or absorbed before reaching 4 inches into the soil, so soaking in containers maximizes potential for growth.
- Replenish Soil. Instead of fall produce, another option is to use cover crops such as clover that can help soil recover from a long summer season and replenish nutrients such as nitrogen, which is crucial for healthy plants.