New gardening class offered for community garden

The university community garden will receive care from many students this year, not only those who are a part of the Students Organized for Sustainability but also students enrolled in special topics biology course 2191,  which is focused on sustainable gardening and permaculture in south Texas. The course, taught by associate professor Kelly Lyons and students Hayley Sayrs and Nathan King, returns this year for the second semester. The course is split between lecture days and garden work days.

“We are going to implement a few projects this semester to best utilize the gardening space,” Sayrs said. “A lot of what we are looking to do is goal””oriented, not object””oriented.”

The course concentrates on gardening in south Texas, and plants chosen for the garden were selected based on how well they are expected to grow in the San Antonio climate. The course meet on Fridays at 11:30 a.m. in the Center for Science and Innovation on lecture days. Some subjects covered include the importance of sustainability and closed””loop systems. Student leaders Sayrs and King intend to implement a closed loop system while working in the garden this year with students. Utilizing a closed loop system means introducing as little external fertilizer, pesticides and the like into the garden as possible, so that it is self-sustaining. In addition to Lyons’ lectures, Sayrs hopes to introduce individuals within the San Antonio area to the course so that others can present information to students on topics such as grafting and drought””tolerant species. Sayrs and King work together with students in the classroom and garden to lead the course with Lyons. The classroom environment is intended to be a community learning experience, and students are encouraged to take leadership roles in teaching others what they know as well as the course material covered in class. It is a single credit course open to all years, with a diverse makeup of students, according to Sayrs.

“I hope to teach our students how to grow organic vegetables with care and how to adapt gardening practices to best serve themselves and the community,” King said.

Vegetables are planted in the garden in Dec, and then harvested just before fall. Students will work to understand how to best handle the gardening space, taking into account shade and sun exposure for the plants. Students intend on planting cauliflower, kale, collard greens, beets, broccoli, leeks, and possibly legumes in the upcoming months. The majority of what is grown in the garden is then donated to the San Antonio Food Bank following harvest. Seeds have been donated to the garden in the past by other community garden groups, according to Sayrs, and they hope to plant donated seeds this semester as well. Sayrs views the course as an experiential learning environment where all students are encouraged to ask questions and better themselves as well as the environment.

“I feel that learning how to garden helps people be conscientious of the time it takes to create food,” said junior Claudia Garcia. “Maybe this will encourage people to try to be less wasteful, and be aware of all the efforts that go into their dinner.”

Students interested in contributing to the work on the garden are welcome at Students Organized for Sustainability garden work days, which take place on Sundays during the semester, said King.

“We are working together to achieve a common goal and create something,” Sayrs said. “We felt it was important to make the garden into a classroom.”