Visit to McMaster’s Community and Teaching Garden

Mike Lee chats with Karen and the interns
Mr. Mike Lee gave Hamilton Eat Local’s Karen Burson and the Environment Hamilton summer interns a tour of the McMaster Community and Teaching Garden and were we ever impressed!   The garden was started in January of this year, and in that short amount of time it has flourished under his hands into a producing food hub.  The garden is laid out in three triangles separated by water permeable walkways. One triangle is a raised bed, made of pressure treated wood, so the bed has a liner.  Companion planting plays a role in this great garden, with marigolds interspersed among the many different types of tomatoes and peppers, eggplants, beans, Swiss chard, chives, oregano, rosemary, beets, basil, and a pumpkin plant.  The garden is located right next to an outdoor sitting/teaching area.  Mike hopes for plans to better develop this area to better promote the space, and use it for workshops as well. Some of the food produced goes to the Mac Farm Stand, and a scale is on its way so the garden can track its net product weight. The money made from sales goes directly back into the garden. In the fall, Mike hopes to supply some fresh produce to one of the near-by cafés on campus in the coming fall.

The raised bed and permeable pavement.

Mike Lee and the garden’s volunteers maintain the garden, weeding, watering, and whatever else the plants might need. Having no past gardening experience, Mike has done wonders with the garden, and states “there is so much to learn”.  Mike sees the garden as a pilot project: if it is successful Mike hopes the university will start larger projects.  He has identified many areas that would be ideal for potential urban agriculture and campus farms.   The plans for the immediate future are to have several courses and professors become involved in the garden in integrated science programs doing project-based learning.  Mike hopes to coordinate with next year’s summer day camps and high schools that need volunteer opportunities.  

Hamilton Eat Local looks forward to the future of this garden and is excited to see where Mike will take it next.  “I have had a few spots in mind for a project just like this in the core,” says Project Manager Burson, “But while we’ve had other major projects on the go we haven’t been able to start one.  Having the right partners in place would change all of that, and I have to say I’d love the idea of collaborating on a teaching garden as a research project with McMaster or with Mohawk College”.  Let’s see what ideas will take root this winter!

Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes in the community garden.

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