It is a joyous and active fall season at Vasudha. Over the past two weeks, students from all over campus—first and second year Vasudha students, Student Sustainability Task Force members, Nason Hall residents, and many others—have been working ardently to finish the newest edition to the Nason building … an organic garden! On October 7, they accomplished their task, having completed the excavation of four perpendicular plots, filling them with topsoil, and creating a mulch path for navigating the garden.
The garden is a very exciting project for Vasudha because it is the first job that the first-years have planned and executed together as a community. For those who have never heard of Vasudha, it is the Earth, Energy, and Environment Living and Learning community on the first floor of Nason Hall. Many students enthusiastically jumped right into the job of building an eco-friendly and sustainable garden; what better way to start their careers in the Rensselaer Environment housing? Behind the planning of this exciting garden adventure and the gathering of those interested is first-year Vasudha student Kenny Campbell ’16. Before starting, Campbell contacted the landscaping administration, sought out help in designing the layout of the garden, gathered interested students, and did most of the research that went into the garden’s execution.
For fall and winter, all of the work that needs to be done on the garden has been completed, but the project is still far from finished. In the spring, this area is planned to supply local and organic food for anyone on campus who is interested in growing and maintaining plants outside of Nason Hall. In the two outside plots, students plan to plant tall bushes. On the side adjacent to the Nason patio, outside of the Vasudha Lounge, the gardeners also envision a tall fence with a grapevine on its edge. These bordering features will contribute to the creation of a natural sanctuary by blocking out the parking lot and buildings. The goal is for a person to be able to walk into the Vasudha garden and feel the serenity or peace that comes with being in a place filled with nature.
Another part of this natural aura will be the maintenance techniques used on the garden. Before all the plants are added in the spring, xeriscaping will be implemented. Xeriscaping entails growing native flora in order to reduce the need for supplemental watering. Vasudha is looking into finding plants that are dependent on local temperature and precipitation patterns so that the environment will not have to be adjusted too much, thus saving water and energy, and posing less of a risk to the surrounding ecosystem. The fertilizer and mulch that were used to fill the garden floor are also organic. These types of dirt are effective in blocking weeds, which is important for Vasudha’s aim in avoiding pesticides completely. Avoiding chemicals will ensure the growth of the cleanest and purest plants.
Another exciting part of the garden is getting to effectuate the use of the compost bin that has been sitting outside on the Nason patio for a long time. Inside the bin lie the remains of past efforts to recycle biodegradable food. These bins have not been emptied in quite some time. The brave Vasudha gardeners plan to do a massive clean out of this bin and start composting before winter brings drastically colder temperatures. If the bin is started soon, the composting will create its own heat as the materials biodegrade. That means that if everything goes to plan, Vasudha can create its own soil during the late fall and winter for use in growing its organic plants in the spring!
The garden has brought together many people from around campus, and it was a great bonding activity for Vasudha, especially the freshmen who made up a majority of the turnout. Transitioning from high school to college can be hard, but getting involved in something as fun as starting an organic garden can easily get rid of (or at least calm) aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa those freshman jitters. It is also thrilling that the first-year Vasudha students were given an opportunity so closely related to their theme housing so early on in the year. It is definitely the start of many other great things to come!