LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — This spring, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, established “One Garden,” a vegetable garden designed to provide fresh food and immersive learning opportunities for the campus community.
The 40x40-feet demonstration garden marks a symbolic return to the campus’ history. The University House, built in 1834, along with 27 acres of the campus, were home to the Garner family dairy farm until 1968.
“The campus garden will serve as a living lab for students to learn about horticulture, nutrition, and economics,” said David Meredith, retired associate professor of engineering, who has led the development and maintenance of the garden.
A collaborative effort
Plans for the project began in the fall of 2019 with support from a group of 20 students, faculty and staff.
Development for the garden, which is located near the University House, started in early spring before the University announced a transition to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On a quiet campus, the maintenance crew installed a deer fence around the garden’s perimeter. Chuck Roman, campus landscaper, rototilled the sod, incorporated compost, and provided grass mulch to retain soil moisture and control weeds.
Paul Coltus, research technologist, built and prepared the raised beds and mulched the walkways. Billie Jo Yuhaniak, administrative support staff, along with Coltus and Meredith, did the sowing. The group also met virtually with gardeners from other Penn State campuses to compare notes and share ideas.
The garden consists of 14 3x16-feet raised beds, each dedicated to a specific family of plants — cabbages, greens, legumes, warm-soil crops and root crops — which will be planted successively and rotated each year to mitigate diseases and pests. Other plants include sweet potatoes, acorn squash, sweet corn, and herbs and flowers to attract pollinators.
“We are also demonstrating some vertical gardening methods with pole beans, tomatoes in cages, and cargo netting for the cucumbers and peas,” said Meredith.
Crops were selected and planted to be harvested before students leave campus in late spring and after they return from summer vacation.
The soil was tested by the Penn State Agricultural Extension Service and amended with compost, nitrogen and fertilizer. While the garden is not certifiably organic, no pesticides were used.
Sharing the harvest
This season, the garden produced a total of 328 pounds of fresh vegetables, worth $828 by current market prices.