Macoskey Center offers community gardners a place to grow

Students spread compost on the garden

May 25, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Got a green thumb but no soil to sink it in? Fear not amateur gardener! With an eye - or pruning sheers - on bringing the Slippery Rock community together through gardening, the Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research is renting garden plots now through the end of October to members of the University and local communities.

"This type of endeavor really fits in with (the Macoskey Center) mission, which is helping people in the community live a more self-sustaining lifestyle," said Sami Laurence, a park and resource management graduate student from Grove City, who works at the Center.

This growing season marks the 10th year that the Center has offered rental plots to the community. Plots, which range in size from 65 square feet to 285 square feet, are available at $20, $25 and $50, depending on size. High school and college students with a valid ID are eligible for $5 and $10 discounts.

In addition to the plot, the Center also provides renters with water, hand tools and usage of compost bins. In return, gardeners are asked to adhere to certain requirements such as: avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, adopting responsible water management practices and using the provided compost bins for any unused vegetative matter.

"With these requirements, we're really trying to teach more sustainable, agricultural methods," Laurence said. "It's been a really cool teaching experience."

Laurence said that participating community members are using plots to grow a wide variety of produce, including peas, beans, tomatoes and squash. "One person is using her plot to experiment with other 'green' gardening methods such as using buckwheat and other grasses to build her soil in a new way."

"(The garden plots) are a good way to build community," Laurence said. "It's all about this mutual exchange of knowledge and experience with the different ages and backgrounds from which our gardeners come. They help each other grow in addition to their crops."

Prior to making the plots available this year, the Center assisted its future renters by sheet mulching the soil. That process, also known as "lasagna gardening," is a layered method of soil preparation that suppresses weeds and helps to build fertile soil. To do this, thick layers of cardboard, compost and mulch are placed on the ground, lasagna style, to decompose over time, thereby creating a rich plating medium that is beneficial for vegetable gardens and ornamental planting beds.

In the near future, Laurence hopes to develop a "farm-to-table night" where renters can come together and have dinner using their self-grown harvests as well as produce grown by the staff at the Center.

"It would be great way to all gather together, share ideas and build connections," Laurence said.

For additional information and plot availability, contact the Macoskey Center at macoskey.center@sru.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT: Megan Bush | 570.730.3640 | mxb1092@sru.edu