Avant Garden: An edible outdoor laboratory

A slice of green space near the Young Memorial Building on the northern edge of campus has transformed into a lush garden that serves as a sort of outdoor laboratory, where volunteers learn to plant, grow, and harvest food, as well as share recipes and tips on food preparation. 

Led by Facilities Services’ Office of Sustainability, the Avant Garden project is collaboration between Facilities, the Smart Museum and the Court Theatre to spur interaction, production and innovation. Over the course of the growing season, volunteers bring the garden to life by planting, watering, maintaining, harvesting, and winterizing the garden.

The leafy greens sprouting at Avant Garden offer a reminder of the continued relevance of exploring and understanding how food is grown. Connecting people and plants plays a critical role in expanding the understanding of sustainable food systems and its relevance to the campus community and in our own day-to-day lives.  

Lavender, mint, thyme, oregano, tarragon, cilantro, sage, dill, and basil are all in harvest at Avante Garden. A bumper crop of tomatillos are just about ready for harvest as their dainty paper husks dangle from the plant’s branches like little green lanterns. Every year we grow a variety of tomatoes, carefully selected based on types, size, color and shape. Black Cherry, Golden Honey Bunch, Tye Dye, and Mountain Fresh tomatoes are beginning to ripen and will soon be ready for salads, sandwiches, or just to eat out of hand. Summer squash and Yellow Doll watermelon are beginning to form fruit hidden amongst their robust foliage.  

The garden began its life on campus in 2011. Now in its third year, the garden has strengthened the sense of volunteerism and involvement with the University, as well as increased interaction with others on campus outside of their individual departments. 

If you or someone you know has an interest in learning more about sustainable food systems, feel free to join us in the garden from noon to 1 p.m. each Friday from June through September, for discussions, hands-on demonstrations, and tastings of fresh herbs and vegetables.

Can’t make a Friday program but interested in pitching in? Email Kathleen Golomb in Campus Design + Sustainability to join the watering schedule and learn how to get more involved.

-- By Kathleen Golomb, landscape project manager