As our world is in ever-increasing need of environmentally-conscious projects,
the Greenville Community Garden provides a replicable model embodying sustainability and service.
ECU Sustainability Coordinator, Chad Carwein
Thanks to the efforts, dedication, and guidance of our partnering East Carolina University Sustainability Manager, Chad Carwein, our Garden serves as a replicable solution to hunger through its use of sustainable agricultural methods.
How Our Garden maintains sustainable practices while maximizing our yield and impact...
and how YOU can, too.
Pesticides are often considered a quick, easy, and cheap way to control weeds and insect-pests. However, pesticides have contaminated almost every part of our surroundings, including our soil, air, and food.
Pesticide contamination also puts our environment and non-target organisms (like beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms) at risk. Thus, at the Garden, we use safer, non-chemical pest and weed-control methods -including recruiting volunteers to help weed and maintain the plants.
Crop rotation, or changing the crop every year, essentially changes what nutrients are used frequently, as well as the insects the crop attracts. This has a number of benefits: important nutrients are not significantly reduced, pests and insects do not localize, the soil is continually diversified (and thus preventing diseases in crops), and weeds are reduced.
Our volunteers assist with crop rotation every year.
At the Garden, community-members take their food scraps and yard waste and bring them to us for composting. Instead of ending up in landfills, these natural materials are used to help soil retain moisture and add nutrients (which means less need for water or fertilizer!). Our composting system produces healthier plants and offers a great way to reduce food, animal, and plant waste.
You can create your own composting system at home! Simply research your Do’s and Don’ts, and you’ll find that setting up the system is incredibly simple and beneficial.
Limited Use of Fertilizer
The most common chemicals found in fertilizers are nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be very problematic for water quality. Reducing fertilizer use, or properly applying it only when necessary, can prevent fertilizer run-off and the reduction of our water-quality.
When all proper conditions are maintained (i.e., balanced nutrition) in your Garden, managing fertilizer-use can have a number of benefits!
Re-using Materials for Effective Uses
We recycle and reuse materials that would otherwise end up in the land-fill at the Garden; for example, we utilize used plastic cups to serve as plant holders and wooden materials to support our composting-system.
The materials that we typically throw away can serve highly-effective uses in the Garden and help reduce trash harmful to our environment!
Luckily, not all plants set seed and die in a single growing season. Some long-lived plants are perennial, surviving and flowering for many years.
At the Garden, we grow plants like these (asparagus and apple trees, for example), and instead of disposing their seeds after harvest, we save the seeds for later use - which in turn saves us money, helps pollinators, and even enhances the flavor of some produce.
With a bit of research, you can begin with easy, self-pollinating crops (like peas, beans, lettuce) and learn how to save seeds, too!
At the Garden, we use mulching: a method of using cut leaves, straw, leaf litter etc. to cover the bare soil while still farming and growing crops on it. This practice has a number of benefits, including improving and protecting the soil, preventing weeds from growing, and fertilizing the soil!
As carbon-emissions rise and produce harmful effects on the environment and our health, trees provide a natural solution in significantly reducing carbon gases. As plants, they absorb carbon and release the oxygen we rely on. At the Garden and Orchard, we plant and maintain several trees ranging from apple to persimmon trees.
Fertilizers & Manure
At the Garden, community-members bring animal manure for it to serve as natural, organic fertilizers for our soil. Manure is packed with nutrients the soil needs, including nitrogen, and it can help greatly enrich the soil.
Manure can also help reduce runoff and leaching of nitrates in the soil. With a bit of research, you can find horse, cow, chicken or other harmless manure from local farmers or residents who are happy to give it away.
In addition to good soil, sun, and nutrients, growing certain plants together (companion-planting) can help make a garden successful!
Companion-planting can help regulate shade, improve plant health, suppress weeds, and even ward off insect-pests. With a bit of research on what vegetables to grow together, you can reap the many benefits of companion-planting.