Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Garden Sale

Our first garden sale of the year was a success! Come by on Friday and we will have more tomatoes, herbs greens, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, flowers, native trees and more! Everything is organic and non-gmo.

UNI 101 students selling plants for the garden

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Plant Fundraiser Sale

Wednesday April 23 & Friday, Aril 25
12-2pm in front of the cafeteria
Get your starts for the garden! This is a garden plant sale and benefit for the SMU’s Learning Garden. Prices vary from $3-$7 depending on the plants.

Plants for sale:
Green Zebra Heirloom Tomatoes
Red Brandywine Heirloom Tomatoes
Black Krim Heirloom Tomatoes
Yellow Pear Heirloom Tomatoes
 Purple Kohlrabi
Greens Mix

Snap Peas 
Onions (Walla Walla Sweet)
Beets (Shiraz)

Day Lilies
Golden Sage
Western Hemlock Potted
Firs Potted
Vine Maple Potted

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Laboratory for Learning

The SMU Learning Garden is a laboratory for a hands-on exploration of subjects such as sustainability, food justice, urban farming and engineering.

On Earth Day, April 22 at 6:30pm we will be screening the film Growing Cities in Harned Hall 110 (free). The film examines the role of urban farming in America and the potential of urban farms to revitalize the city and to improve the ways that we eat and live. It will be followed by a discussion with a panel of local farmers and food activists. Check out the full program here. If this inspires you to action, stop by the SMU Learning Garden just outside of the cafeteria.

The campus garden is a perfect place to apply theory to practice and to experiment with urban farming and sustainability ideas. It is a lab to learn and to model  sustainable ways to produce food on a small plot of land. For example, most recently, we have faced the problem of water. EPA cites that sustainable water management is essential to ensuring the environmental and economic sustainability of our communities.

So we asked, how can we collect and use rain water to water plants in the garden? We began with a 260 gallon food-grade tote, found on Craigslist for $100. If you do a search online, you will find that there are plenty of these containers available for re-use after they have been emptied of their original contents.

Next, we had to figure out how to install the massive tote in the garden. Since the plot is in the center of campus and highly visible, aesthetics are just as important as function.

Maintenance technician, Vernon Randloph, came up with the ingenious design. He covered the plastic container with cedar siding to blend it into the garden and raised it to create water pressure for watering.

To our surprise, the 260 gal. tote filled up after only a couple of days of rain! Vernon had to engineer a design that dealt with the overflow.  Once the tote was full, it would spill over and create a drainage problem around the base of the building and in the garden, so Vernon rerouted the overflow back into the building drain. Check out the incoming and the outgoing pipes and the awesome water pressure. Now we have a model for a water collection system that can be used for demonstrations of the design, class experiments as well as for watering the garden.

What do we do with the food that we grow? In the Benedictine spirit of service to the community, it goes to the Thurston County Food Bank.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring clean up

  Weeding, mulching and pulling up carrots and beets that survived the winter!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Time to wake up the garden

On the first day of Spring, David Martin and his team of international students sowed seeds in the greenhouse, weeded and prepared garden beds for planting. It was so warm on the first day of spring that the vents on the greenhouse popped open. Students planted chives, peas and lettuce seeds.

Some things have been thriving all winter. The garlic greens are already about 5 inches tall and the culinary sage is abundant. Drop by the garden and pick some sage leaves for cooking. If you are not sure what to do with them, try out this recipe from Saveur.

Fried Sage Leaves

Delicate, crunchy fried sage can be crushed and sprinkled on squash or bean soups, served as an accompaniment to burgers, and even eaten whole as a snack.
1 bunch fresh sage
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Pinch off leaves from sage. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
2. Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time until crisp, 2–3 seconds. Transfer with a fork to paper towels and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring is almost here!

Two days until Spring is official, the weather is warming up and it's about time to start weeding and getting the garden beds ready for planting. Here is a great resource about what to do in the garden, complete with a guide on what to plant when and some useful apps for mobile devices.

 Also, if you are thinking flowers, here is how you can help the bees out.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sustainability Conference

The Sustainable Saints are going to a sustainability conference being held at Western Washington University in February.

Washington higher education sustainability conference

The student summit looks especially exciting. Check out the conference schedule here. Registration is still open! Email Irina ( igendelman... )  if you would like to go and carpool with us.

Monday, December 2, 2013



Wednesday, December 4th






Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Leaf Mold Bin

What is a leaf mold bin and why would you want to make one?

  A Leaf Mold is a type of compost made of leaves broken down by fungal action.
We need to add compost to our garden beds on a regular basis to replace and replenish our soil to grow the best vegetables.
Although compost is available commercially it is very expensive and made of a wide range of materials, some better than others.
The leaves we used in our compost were Bigleaf Maple leaves,
Acer macrophyllum our native Maple Tree with
Very Big Leaves!

 It is very important that the leaves remain wet over the winter to achieve decomposition by Spring.
We will add another layer to the bin and we may cover it in the Spring to heat up the fungal action.
Come and check out our leaf mold bin!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Edible Ornaments for the Birds!

Here are some example of the fun stuff student volunteers are making for our up coming Holiday Sale. We worked on Orange and Lime Pomanders and Peanut Butter Pinecones for the birds.

We will be making garlands and decorating trees!
The Learning Garden is planning a Holiday Native Tree Sale with edible ornaments for the birds! 

If you have extra clean dry pine cones laying around, bring them by and leave them inside the greenhouse located in the Learning Garden, just outside of the dining hall.

American Goldfinch

Thursday, October 24, 2013


when the Learning Garden was just a dream

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Orange Peel Mushroom

This Orange Peel mushroom showed up in the carrot and beet bed in the garden this week.
Aleuria aurantia among the carrots

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Fall Clean-up in the Learning Garden

 Twelve International students helped clean up the Learning Garden and Greenhouse. We picked a final harvest of Tomatoes and Peppers.

Most vegetables we plant are annuals. Annuals are plants that grow, flower, produce seeds and die in one growing season. The students removed these plants from the garden and put them in the compost.

Here is a fall strawberry!

All the beds were gone over and weeded now they are ready to be covered in leaves for our rainy winter.

This group worked so well together, the work was done and there was still plenty of energy!
Thank You Student Volunteers!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Food for the Honey Bees

The latest visitors to the garden are honey bees!
Here is one that we spotted collecting pollen from a giant sunflower. This means that there is a honey bee hive somewhere within a 2 mi radius, because that's how far the bees will travel to look for food.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fighting Hunger with Fresh Veggies

Today we took a box of heirloom organic tomatoes, red peppers and herbs from the SMU Learning Garden to the Thurston County Food Bank.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ecology’s Food Bank Garden on October 5th

Our neighbors at Ecology are calling volunteers to help harvest from their garden and take to the Thurston County Food Bank. Come spend a few hours outside and help eliminate hunger!
Thurston County Food Bank volunteers

What: Fall Potato Harvest

Where: Department of Ecology Food Bank Garden, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey
The garden is located near the far parking lot in the meadow.

When: October 5th 9:00am-2:00pm

Why: All the produce grown in the garden is donated to the Thurston County Food Bank.

What to Bring: Tools will be provided, but are limited. Bring gloves and shovels if possible.

Lunch will be provided!

Contact Laura Inouye with questions @

Friday, July 19, 2013

Learning Garden brainstorming with Taiwanese students visiting SMU

On Thursday July 18th  I had the pleasure of working with visiting students from Taiwan. We decided  to label the plants in both English and Mandarin. This gave rise to the idea of making laminated labels for the plants in the Learning Garden in all the languages of people likely to visit the LG.

We also collected seeds from our bed of greens, and trimmed the remaining scapes from our second garlic bed.
We did a little hand pollinating in the greenhouse on the tomatoes.
We had a lot of fun in the Learning Garden!