GIM Coming Up!!

Like gardening? Growing your own food? Playing in the dirt? Have you been wondering why there’s a big green garden next to South Hall?

Come and learn at our GIM, next Wednesday, September 17 at 8pm in Eaton 203. BONUS: We’re giving away two potted plants FREE!

Can’t wait to see you in the garden this year!

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Campus Cultivation Conference

Campus Cultivation Conference
March 2nd
Tufts University
RSVP by Feb 15 at

In 2010, Middlebury College hosted the first Campus Cultivation Conference, bringing together students from liberal arts schools with a garden or farm – or just a dream for one – in the Northeast for a day of networking and sharing. The following year, Wellesley College picked it up, hosting such schools as Babson, Brandeis, Olin College of Engineering, Bennington, Tufts, and of course, Middlebury.

This year, on March 2, 2013, Tufts University student gardeners are planning to keep it going!

We’ll be focusing on issues surrounding cultivation in an urban environment, with workshops on diverse topics including hydroponics, medicinal uses for herbs, and how to garden in cold climates. We will also have a collective problem solving exercise to help students create strategies for issues such as using limited resources and in the face of high membership turnover.

Working schedule includes:

Keynote speaker: Groundwork Somerville

Hydro/aquaponics by Sabrina from Rootdown Hydroponics (
Canning/Preserving by TBA
Designing Food Systems Curricula by Jeff Hake (check out his blog:
Medicinal Uses for Herbs by Naturopathic Dr. Zartarian
Soil Health by Jeff Hake
Cold Climates by Tufts Biology Professor George Ellmore

For more information or to get involved with planning, email  or join us at our weekly meetings Wednesdays at 9pm in Eaton 203.

See you in March!
Tom Thumb’s Student Garden, Tufts University

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Garden Club Meeting 12/5

In today’s meeting we chose the seeds we are going to purchase for this spring. We have an assortment of vegetables in mind along with an abundance of herbs we will be growing to supplement the dining halls. We may even make some teas with a few of the herbs that sprout in the spring!Later on we discussed the topics we are going to be presenting at our conference in the spring. More to come next week!

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General Interest Meeting (GIM) tonight!

Come make our garden grow! The student garden will be having its General Interest Meeting tonight (Wednesday, Sept 12) at 9pm in Eaton 203. Come by to check out what we’re all about (hint: it has to do with gardens).

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Anyone can garden!

It’s true! Tom Thumb’s Student Garden is open to anyone in the Tufts community! Check out the different interests and experiences of a few of our members

Michael Rogove

Major(s): Biology

Hailing from: New Jersey

What I do in my free time: Sing, read

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: I worked a summer at the Rutgers University Student Sustainable Farm, which was a fully functional, 150-member CSA. I wrote the newsletter for part of the season and watched the tomatoes carefully.

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Tomatoes, duh

Why I joined the garden club: I joined because I wanted to grow something in the summer.

Favorite song right now: “Hello Weekend” by Biscuits and Gravy

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: Turn the entire roof of Tisch into one big farm



Major(s): International relations (Fletcher School, grad student)

Hailing from: Danville, Kentucky

What I do in my free time: Garden then cook what I grow

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: Part time work gardening in Kentucky, helping family at home with the garden, and farm/ranch work in Texas and Louisiana for family

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Tomatoes

Why I joined the garden club: I enjoy eating what I grow!

Favorite song right now: Bat Fruits, “When you love someone”

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: Colonize Mars with the garden crew


Liz Stockton

Major(s): Biology

Hailing from: Los Alamos, New Mexico

What I do in my free time: Hike, read, cook, study plants!

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: None to speak of

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Snap peas. yummy

Why I joined the garden club: I wanted to get outdoors and meet cool people who also like plants and hangin out outside. I love how informal and laid back our group is.

Favorite song right now: Oviedo by Blind Pilot (it’s so good. listen to it if you haven’t)

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: I wanna be able to fly (not in a plane, with wings) back to bawstooonnn. I miss the garden kids


Minh Leu

Major(s): So like I have a couple. Economics, International Relations, and Spanish

Hailing from: da ‘burbs – West Hartford, Connecticut.

What I do in my free time: I usually just bop around campus. Sometimes Boston if I’m feeling adventurous .

I’m also that weird/annoying person who goes to Tisch to “do homework” when really I’m trying to socialize. shhh don’t tell anyone. But I do spend a lot of time in Tisch because classes are hard and that’s where I post all of my ARC tutoring sessions.

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: None!!!!!!! I watched food channel just ALL THE TIME and they would sometimes have short videos of gardens. That’s the extent of it though.

Favorite thing grown in the garden: The FRIENDSHIPS!!!!! (between gardeners)

Why I joined the garden club: Because watching greenness magically appear from black dirt and tiny brown balls is just wonderful.

Favorite song right now: I’m a sucker for Adele. I’ll have to say “Someone Like You”. I transcribed it for Music Theory and after listening to it 923134 times to figure out the notes and stuff, I still love it!!

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: I would spread my wings and soar up high and fly with the eagles. And then I would make them my besties and we would fly to fun places together and find rainbows to frolic around in. then we would fly to Spain and bop around there for a little bit and be merry.


Victoria Stevenson

Major(s): History

Hailing from: Candyland

What I do in my free time: Go hunting for the jabberwalki.

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: I spent a lot of time in my garden at home, but other than that I did not have much experience before joining

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Salad greens

Why I joined the garden club: Because I love being outside and I love food

Favorite song right now: Old’ 55 – Tom waits

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: I’d go flying with puff the magic dragon.


Eric Seigel

Major(s): International Relations (Middle East)

Hailing from: Menlo Park, CA

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: I helped out around my mother’s garden since I was little and WWOOFed for a short time the summer after high school, but in the last couple of years I’ve really started to get interested in where my food is coming from and have fallen in love with getting my hands dirty.

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Tomatoes, hands down

Why I joined the garden club: Coming back from abroad, I had a new-found interest in food systems and decided to check out the garden club’s January GIM. I hardly knew anyone in the room, but everyone was so welcoming and friendly and eager to share what they knew. All the gardening stuff aside, it’s just a great community to be a part of!

Favorite song right now: Piano Man- Billy Joel

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: Freeze time so I could read everything on my ‘to read list’ while sitting in the shade of a big tree.


Stefanie Yeung

Major(s): International Relations

Hailing from: Chadds Ford, PA

What I do in my free time: Compulsively bake.

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: My dad and I have gardened together, not always willingly on my part.

Favorite thing grown in the garden: Basil because it’s in two of my favorite cuisines, Italian and Thai.

Why I joined the garden club: I joined the garden because I liked how ‘tangible’ the club was. We’re actually creating something and gaining skills that we can use daily. Also, I think the smell of dirt is a wonderful thing.

Favorite song right now: Luminol – Miracles of Modern Science

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: I’d stay in China for another year and use my limitless supply of money to travel to all the provinces and try all their dishes.



Major(s): Biopsychology, French

Hailing from: Santa Clara, California

What I do in my free time: cooking and baking with seasonal ingredients, exploring the unknown, making terrible jokes, and learning to use my film camera

Other gardening/farming experience before joining the student garden: Volunteering at Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale, CA! (after joining the garden)

Favorite thing grown in the garden: sage and basil

Why I joined the garden club: the tomatoes and peas are just as sweet as my fellow gardeners, and I love the dirt under my nails

Favorite song right now: “Rayos de sol” -Juan Magan

What I would do if I could ignore the limits of physics and money: jump (or hop) from country to country across the world and make pestos out of every herb imaginable, all while taking every class at Tufts that could not fit into my four year schedule.

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And then there were herbs!


What started a month ago as mere seedlings in the Barnum Hall Greenhouse, now exist in front of Tisch Library as herbs!


Thanks to the kind offer of Tufts Facilities and an agreement with Dining Services, Tom Thumb’s Student Garden has been charged with maintaining the two beds immediately outside of the library. In these beds, the plan is to grow herbs that can be used in the dining halls over the summer. Obviously the needs of a full-scale dining program are beyond our scope at the moment, but we hope to at least be supplemental!


In our first planting day, we planted Purple Opal and Sweet basil and thyme starts and a small tomato plant, as well as parsley and cilantro seeds. We have run into the unique problem in that we have more room than we have seedlings and seeds!!! Prof. George Ellmore helped us out a little by planting a couple curry plants, but we still have a ton of room to work with! It is exciting, and daunting at the same time. The search for attractive plants continues!

Informational signage to come shortly! (We want everyone passing to know who we are and what we intend to do!…and maybe ward off excessive nibblers…)

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It’s been a while

It’s been a while since we last posted, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working!
Here are some updates:

We’re finished with our semester now so we’re transitioning to our summer care team. If you’d like to be a part of it, email

We began planting an herb garden in the beds in front of Tisch Library. We’re still looking for more herbs to plant, so if you have any ideas, let us know!

We transplanted the plants from the greenhouse into the garden! Our beds are filling up, but we still have a few empty ones ready for the planting whims of a gardener!

I’ve had a water barrel sitting in my backyard for like a year now and we finally set it up by the corner of the shed closest to the garden.

Professor Ellmore will be bringing his summer session class down to the garden to show them plants in mid-growth. In return for letting him do this, he said he’d tend to our garden a little himself!

To take this fall:
EXP-0026-F: Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
1.0 credit, Letter-graded
Monday, 6:30-9:00
Caitlin Hachmyer

And some things we need to do:
-Repair some beds
-Fix up the fence where it’s threatening to fall
-Make legit educational signs
-Plant more things!
-Build a spiral herb garden!

Also- Some groups to check out:

Higher Education Farm Network and New England Students Cultivating Campuses

And a couple blogs to watch:

Food and Community and History at the Table by Tufts Professor Cathy Stanton

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Some Watering Tips

On Wednesday, Alex gave a fantastic and much-needed presentation on watering techniques.

He listed something factors to consider:

  • Sun v. shade
  • Morning v. afternoon sun
  • Reflected heat from pavement, buildings, etc.
  • Type of soil (sandier, lighter soil needs to be watered more; clay-like, heavier soil needs to be watered less)
  • Type of plant
  • Plant age
  • Mulch
  • Weather conditions (sun, wind, etc.)

The soil should always remain somewhat moist, like a damp paper towel. It should not be crumbly and dry but also should not be dripping wet. You can test this out by feeling the surface of the soil.

Young plants need more consistent moisture closer to the surface to penetrate shallow roots. They should be watered lightly and more frequently.

Some recommended techniques include bottom watering, as watering from the top could kill seeds. However, our garden mentor, Professor Ellmore, says that as long as the seeds are watered with a watering can that has a sprinkler head, plants should be fine. After all, seeds have to live through rainstorms in nature.

Also, plants must not be overwatered because damping off could cause fungi and diseases, which can adversely affect or even kill new seedlings. Chamomile tea is supposedly a holistic anti-fungal natural remedy that can be sprayed on soil. Garlic serves the same purpose.

For mature plants, here are some watering techniques:

  • Slow, deep watering: it builds deeper roots. This sometimes means 2 rounds of watering. In our garden, we often do a round of watering, do some other garden chores, then come back and water some more.
  • Water close to the base: this prevents splashing , which can cause fungi in the soil to spread to the plants.
  • Avoid leaves: this avoids sunburn, which can occur on very sunny days if there are droplets of water on the leaves. Water on leaves also encourages fungal diseases to attack leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits.

Alex also noted that people tend to underwater, not overwater.

Happy gardening!

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A Poem

In celebration of our upcoming planting on Sunday, some eloquent words by New England local, Robert Frost:


You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

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“Of compost shall the Muse descend to sing”

To a gardener, compost is the stuff of dreams, but to those unfamiliar this pile of dirt holds many mysteries. In this post, I will try to break down compost (heh, get it?) into the basics.


What is compost?  For the purposes of gardening, it is a mixture of decayed and broken down household and yard organic wastes. This process mimics natural cycles of decomposition found in ecosystems of all types, but most visibly on forest floors.  These natural cycles depend on the beautiful co-mingling of microorganisms, moisture, oxygen, and darkness.

When these four factors are working in harmony, they create a well-oiled compost-making machine. The biological process they facilitate is called aerobic decomposition – the decomposition of bacteria that thrive in the presence of oxygen. When the balance is off, it can lead to anaerobic decomposition, which is the slow decomposition of bacteria that thrive in conditions without oxygen. This usually leads to a slimy, smelly, disgusting pile for gross, rather than rich, dark, earthy-smelling soil.

While compost does have some nutrient benefit, especially with micronutrients, the primary benefits concern soil structure and nutrient retention. Without too much detail, the addition of compost to soil works magic in all sorts of soil, creating porosity in dense, clay soils and improving water retention in soils that are too sandy. Further, they offer to the soil COLLOIDS! These magical structures help retain nutrients in the soils. When applying nutrients in colloid-free soil, a few good soakings could leach the nutrients down below the soil horizon where veggies roots could reach. However, colloids help keep the nutrients stationary in the soil, ready to be used at will!


Farmers have used compost for thousands of years, with some of the earlier written records dating back to Ancient Rome. Back then, they would pile all agricultural waste in a large pile and let it decompose over the course of the season (which works, but is tediously slow.) Today, we have a better understanding of the components that make a good, fast and productive compost pile. There are four primary chemical ingredients for a healthy compost (not to be confused with the other four important factors mentioned above:

Carbon – for energy; the microbial oxidation of carbon produces heat (crucial to adequate breakdown and extermination of weed seeds), if included at suggested levels. High carbon materials tend to be brown and dry.

Nitrogen – to grow and reproduce more organisms to oxidize the carbon. High nitrogen materials tend to be green (or colorful, such as fruits and vegetables) and wet.

Oxygen – for oxidizing the carbon, and supporting the organisms in the decomposition process.

Water – in the right amount; the proper moisture of a good compost pile should be about that of a wrung out sponge.


Proper piles construction and maintenance for best decomposition includes a few considerations. The smaller the surface area (read size of the pieces), the faster they can be broken down.  Thanks high school chemistry for that lesson!

It’s also important to aerate the piles semi-regularly (a couple times a week) to assure that enough oxygen is getting into the pile.

While aerating, notice the moisture of the pile – if it is looking a little dry, give it some water, and if it is looking a little wet, add some brown material to soak it up a bit!

Finally, we know things are cooking away properly if the internal temperature of the pile is 135-160 degree Fahrenheit. The breakdown releases heat, so if it is too low, it’s a sign that things are not working at optimal capacity, and if it is too high, it will kill all the wonderful soil organisms.  This optimal temperature helps kills soil pathogens and weed seeds! Hurray! Of course, few people have a thermometer to stick in their pile, but if you stick your hand in it should be really warm, or, if it’s a cool morning, it should be steaming when you stir it!

But what do you put this all in? At Tom Thumb’s Student Garden we have two black plastic composting barrels that are chugging away, but you can also make a mesh pen, or heap it into a pile (recommended by biology Prof. George Ellmore.) It’s really a matter of what suits your space and preference.


Phew! That’s a lot of information! One last thing to top it all off. How much green stuff vs. how much brown stuff is ideal? Well, it seems the popular ratio is 30:1, Brown:Green. Now, each plant has different green/brown ratios, so it’s sort of complicated, but since most waste in a garden is green, the moral of the story is that you can almost always add more brown (dead leaves, newspaper, egg cartons, that test that you failed…)


Hope this was helpful! Happy Gardening!


P.S. I tried to include more soil puns, but Googling “soil puns” really doesn’t yield a lot, which surprised me with the number of garden geeks that exist in the world!

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