WBU employees nurture organic community garden

May 17, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University is breaking new ground – literally.

As WBU continues to expand its green initiative, the School of Math and Sciences proposed an idea that several faculty and staff members have embraced. The idea was to plant a community garden that can be used for educational purposes, as well as provide vegetables for those in need.

“We are going to be conducting experiments in organic gardening, learning what works and what doesn’t work,” said Dr. David Howle, professor of religion and one of the professors working closely with the project. “We are still determining what will be the eventual outcome of the produce, but the idea is that this will be in some way educational.”

Last week, the group met at the designated garden site on the corner of 8th and Utica streets and planted beans, squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, carrots, okra, sunflowers and onions. The plants were chosen simply by planting the seeds donated to the project. Howle has constructed a compost box. Vegetable scraps from the cafeteria will be used to develop the compost that will fertilize the plants.

Howle said the group does have some concerns about the ground where the garden is located. The hard, rocky soil is on a lot that has basically sat vacant for years. Tractors were brought in to break the small plot. Rocks were removed and the soil tilled to hopefully make it accepting of the new plants. The group built an elevated planter for the carrots. They didn’t feel the gentle vegetables would be able to grow in the hard ground.

Dr. Peter Bowen, professor of psychology, is constructing an elevated bed with a glass side through which students can watch the development of plants and the layering of soil and compost and perhaps determine how the plants function underground.

The garden will be completely organic. No chemicals will be used as fertilizer or pesticides. The group tried to plant seeds from plants that have grown in this part of the world and are adaptable to the climate.

“It’s mostly experimental,” Howle said. “We want to see what works.”

Along with the vegetables, Howle said they planted marigolds, which work as a natural pesticide. He said there is also a theory that grinding up certain bugs that feed on the plants and mixing a little water into the bug solution will provide a deterrent for insects when sprayed on the plants.

“I think we just want to see how it will work,” Howle said. “I’m sure that as we start getting plants to come up, we will start trying out new things and seeing what will work. Maybe we can come up with ideas that will work with our own gardens.”