A Garden for the Students

The first semester of Tom Thumb’s Student Garden’s existence as a group open to the entire student body produced four additional raised beds, a solid starting collection of essential gardening equipment (a couple hoses, some shovels, rakes, spades, clippers, etc), and a core of excited and dedicated individuals.

My name is Mae Humiston. I’m a co-leader of the garden with Grace Myers. We both “apprenticed” under Signe Porteshawver, the group’s founder. Signe, Grace and I spent this last semester gathering interested individuals to join our mission for a glorious student garden. What ensued is hopefully an indicator of great things to come.

Signe and a friend building one of the first raised beds

We spent the incredibly snowy winter months planning which plants to plant, the budget, and how to save money and resources. Ultimately, we ended up scoring some wood from the theater set of a play, thanks to the efforts of set-builder and garden enthusiast Andrea Ness. As soon as the curtains closed, Andrea led us up on stage where we learned the basics of deconstruction (it’s a combination of finesse drilling and brute force, culminating in a feeling of awesomeness) With some help from some friends, we lugged the pieces over to the Crafts Center, our main construction site. Looking at the existing shapes and configurations, we realized we could use two of the frames from the set as tall raised beds. The original shape had been a kind of platform for actors to stand on, about a foot and a half tall. It was a sturdy frame in need of some siding, so we attached some plywood from a different set piece.

Emma and Rebecca pulling staples from theater scrap

The construction involved many hours of pulling staples, screws, and nails and fighting the binding force of glue, which our patient, good, beautiful, garden-loving friends Emma Sass, Nate Eckman, Rebecca Matyas, Carolyn Pace, Micaela Belles and Liam Walsh-Mellett did with skill (all under the guidance of our carpenter guru Andrea). With that addition, we placed our first Tom Thumb’s Student Garden-created raised bed next to the three beds left over from the Ex-College class (for more about the creation of the garden, see About).

Liam sawing plywood for a raised bed (that's Holi rang on his face)

Over the next few weeks, two more raised beds created in the same fashion joined the little cluster behind Latin Way. All in all, I’d have to say that using the salvaged wood, while sometimes frustrating to tear apart, was very satisfying and successful. The wood was already painted on one side, which meant we saved money on not only wood, but also on water-proofing the wood. I’ll also say that it’s pretty neat to look at a theater set and find a raised bed somewhere in the mix.

But before we could do any of the building, the snow had to go. So during that long waiting period, we decided what we wanted, and Gracie bought an exciting collection of seeds.  We got together one chilly afternoon to reap the warmth of a greenhouse and plant an early mix of peppers, tomatoes, squash, and melons, and a wide variety of each kind. With tender loving care from Miss Madeleine Carey they quickly overtook their sunny corner and as soon as the weather warmed up, we took them outside to their new homes.

Nate working on the tool-box

We also began a tool box (out of salvaged wood as well) to hold tools until the shed it finished. Oh yeah, the shed. Two members of Engineers Without Borders, the lovely Mariana Liebman-Pelaez and the awesome aforementioned Nate Eckman, are testing their design for a water catchment system by building a shed and water-barrel deal for the garden. We get a shed and some water, and they get to prove their idea is awesome to other EWB with concrete evidence. It’s a good deal, and they’re excellent people.

We spent a final day installing a couple smaller beds and a larger bed gardener/bikesmith/carpenter Carolyn made in an urge to build.

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