UofL Garden Commons: Eating healthier and being self-sustainable on campus (The Louisville Cardinal, March 8, 2019)
Interested in health, sustainability, good food, and growing things?! We need your help to make our garden grow! The Garden Commons at the Cultural Center is a community space for learning about organic urban agriculture, more sustainable food systems, and building resilient community. The Garden Commons is open to participation throughout the year from students, staff, faculty, and community members. Everyone who helps out is welcome to share in the harvest!
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Fridays, 11am-1pm (Jan. 24 - March 6)
Garden Commons at the Cultural Center
Join us in UofL's organic garden and greenhouse for our group workdays! Learn (by doing) how to grow hyper-local, super-delicious vegetables, herbs, and fruits! Anyone can work in the garden any time, but we'll gather together every Friday throughout the spring semester (Jan. 24 - March 6) from 11am to 1pm to start and tend seeds in the greenhouse, plant, weed, water, and harvest. No prior experience necessary. Tools & gloves provided. The is open to participation any time from students, staff, faculty, and community members. Everyone who comes is welcome to share in the harvest! Connect with us and get all the details on our Facebook Page. or
An aquaponics system with solar-powered pumps for raising fish and using their waste as fertilizer for growing plants has been assembled in the greenhouse, awaiting volunteers to manage it.
UofL's Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Club built & installed solar panels to power the greenhouse ventilation in May 2012!
Garden Commons Grows (UofL News, June 27, 2011)
- Inquiries about the Garden Commons can be directed to our Garden Interns: Alanis Harris (502-851-4397), and Sydney Hancock (859-760-0763)
Spring 2020 Workshop Series:
Jan. 17, noon – Maple-Tapping
Feb. 21, noon – Seed Starting. See photos.
CANCELED:March 20, noon (, west of Life Sciences) – Pollinators & Beekeeping
CANCELED:April 10, noon (Ekstrom W210) – Climate Anxiety
- The Garden Commons is moving from its original home next to the Cultural Center in 2020 due to the construction of a new residence hall on the site. The new location is adjacent to the Biology Department's , at the southwest corner of Strickler Hall.
- The Garden Commons is open to participation throughout the year from students, staff, faculty, and community members. Those who help out in the garden are welcome to enjoy the fruits of our labor via you-pick. Please don't horde the harvest.
- You need not wait for an invitation to get involved, but please join us as we gather regularly throughout the year for group workdays and a series of practical, hands-on workshops about how to manage different aspects of a chemical-free garden and greenhouse.. Learn more and get involved by joining us on Facebook or
- Several sustainable urban farming and permaculture practices are in use at the garden, including:
1. Rainwater capture from the roof for irrigation in two different large rain barrel systems;
2. Composting to generate organic fertilizer in four, rolling bins where you can toss your food scraps and organics (no meat, bones, or dairy products, please);
3. Ten raised beds and several in-ground beds, including a perennial herb spiral, anda polycultural permaculture bed called a hugelkulture mound (buried wood which slowly composts, reducing the need for irrigation and fertilizer);
4. A large, season-extending greenhouse with to power the ventilation fans and aquaponics pump;
5. Fruit trees (apple, peach, serviceberry) and berry bushes (raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry);
6. Maple trees, whose sap can be tapped in January/February to make syrup!
7. Bike parking and an outdoor classroom space; and
8. We have been experimenting with an aquaponics system in the greenhouse to raise fish and use their waste as fertilizer for plants grown in the system.
- Garden Commons is a community space open to participation from all.
- The Garden Commons was first created in March 2010 with just four raised beds as a collaborative project in partnership with Louisville Grows, and has grown in scope and scale considerably since then. The largest change came during a with funding and volunteer labor donated by the Akzo Nobel coatings company.
More Fruit came to the Garden Commons in Spring 2013, with the planting of dwarf apple and peach trees, which joined our berry patch containing a native serviceberry, strawberries, raspberry canes and blueberry bushes.
- Over the years, the garden has been managed by student interns and volunteers in the Garden Commons RSO (Recognized Student Organization) whose goal has been: "Educating ourselves to become urban farmers." The RSO is currently dormant, but could be revived with new student leadership. When the RSO was active, students took the lead role in making decisions about what to plant, how to care for the crops, and what to do with the harvest - though everyone in the UofL community was invited to participate!
- The Garden Commons hosts an on-going series of hands-on workshops about organic gardening, agriculture, permaculture, and food justice.
UofL hosts beekeeping workshop as part of Earth Week (WDRB, 4/17/17) Photos. Video.
UofL holds workshop on native plants (Fox19, 3/15/17)
Five things we learned about syrup during on-campus workshop (UofL News, 2/17/17)
Students get a taste for sustainable gardening
2012 Garden Workshop Series
Video: Garden Commons Expansion: June 2011
Garden Commons Grows (UofL Today, June 27, 2011)
Video: Garden Commons grows Nov. 2010
Video: Garden Commons Ground-breaking, March 3, 2010
Native Plants & Pollinators Workshop!
The Garden Commons has been host to an on-going series of workshops over the years. Workshops are open to all, typically involve some hands-on work, and have focused on everything from organic gardening practices (composting, rainwater harvesting, soil management, cover crops, natural pest repellents, seed saving, seed starting, compost tea, permaculture, intercropping, etc.) to harvest preserving techniques and cooking/nutrition to larger issues such as food justice and sustainable food systems. UofL's Sustainability Council has taken the lead to organize workshops, often in collaboration with the Office of Health Promotion and the UofL Eco-Reps Program
SPRING 2020 Workshop Series:
Jan. 17, noon – Maple-Tapping
Feb. 21, noon – Seed Starting
March 20, noon – Pollinators & Beekeeping
April 10, noon – Climate Anxiety
FALL 2019 Workshop Series:
Aug. 17, 4pm -Salsa Making
Aug. 30, 1pm -Food Justice with
Sept. 6, 12pm - Herbal Tea-Making
Oct. 11, 12pm -Fermentation
Nov. 15, 12pm - Wreath Making
SPRING 2019 Workshop Series:
Jan. 18, 12pm - Maple Tapping
Feb. 15, 12pm -Seed Starting
Mar. 22, 12pm - Composting
Apr. 12, 12pm - May 31, 12pm - Serviceberry Foraging
FALL 2018 Workshop Series:
Aug. 18, 4pm - Salsa Making
Sept. 7, 12pm -
SPRING 2018 Workshop Series:
Jan. 19, 1pm - Maple Tapping (sign-up to volunteer to empty buckets) - See Photos. Watch Video.
Feb. 23, 1pm - Seed Starting
Mar. 30, 1pm - Composting
Apr. 20, 1pm - Hydroponics
June 1, 1pm - Serviceberry Harvest - See Photos.
FALL 2017 Workshop Series:
Sept. 15, 12-1pm - Herbs & Teas
Sept. 22, 12-1pm - Oct 27, 12-1pm - Native Plants & Pollinators Video.
Dec. 1, 12-1pm -
SPRING 2017 Workshop Series:
Feb. 13, 1-2pm - Maple Tapping Workshop
Mar. 20, 1-2pm - Native Plants. Watch the video recording.
FALL 2016 Workshop Series:
Sept. 9, 2-3pm - Fall Lettuce Planting
Sept. 23, 2-3pm - Green Apple Day of Service & Workshop with Stephen Bartlett, Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville. Workshop Video.
Oct. 7, 2-3pm - Herb Harvest & Workshop - Sample Teas and Learn to Dry Herbs
Oct. 21, 2-3pm - Garlic Planting Day!
Nov. 7, 3-4pm - Aquaponics
Nov. 21, 3-4pm - Adding Compost & Putting the Garden to Bed
Dec. 5, 3-4pm - Greenhouse Growing
- Read more about the 2015-16 Sustainable Gardening Workshop Series: Students get a taste for sustainable gardening (UofL News 9/4/15)
- Read about the2012 Garden Workshop Series.
- The UPA Horticulture Zone has been growing food & community behind UofL's Urban Studies Institute (426 W. Bloom St., west of Bettie Johnson Hall) since ground-breaking on May 22nd, 2013!
- It is an initiative of the Urban & Public Affairs Student Organization, with funding provided by both the Student Organization and the Department of Urban & Public Affairs.
- The students were inspired to take an under-utilized small parcel of green space behind the building and turn it into a living, productive, and engaging “Horticulture Zone.” What had once been an uninviting patch of grass that had to be mowed regularly with fossil fuels is being transitioned into an inviting outdoor gathering space beside our historic apple tree.
- The space is used to grow fresh, delicious produce on fruit trees (peach, apple, and native serviceberry, pawpaw & persimmon) and in four raised beds filled with rich, organic compost made by volunteers on campus from food waste collected both on and off campus.
- UPA students worked with Physical Plant’s grounds team to develop a site design that includes four hand-built planter beds with benches, sinuous paths, two compost bins, three rain barrels to capture water from the roof for irrigation, native shade-tolerant plants for areas under the canopy, and nitrogen-fixing red clover no-mow areas inspired by the Air Pollution Control District’s “Grow More, Mow Less” campaign which was run at the time by UPA graduate, Eric Burnett.
- After an abundant first growing season in 2013, three rain barrels were installed and the new garden was formally dedicated during on Campus Sustainability Day, October 23, 2013. The dedication ceremony was a highlight of UofL Sustainability Week and included the harvest of over 100 pounds of sweet potatoes grown in just one of the raised beds! Read the story: (UofL Today, Oct. 22, 2013)
- The UPA Horticulture Zone is an all-volunteer project open to participation from anyone in the community. Learn more online.
In Spring 2015, a new raised-bed community garden was installed by the Clubhouse at The Province, a UofL Affiliated Housing property on the northwest corner of campus. In summer 2015, a compost bin and rain barrel was added. The new garden features vegetables, herbs, and flowers and is intended for use by residents of The Province, who are welcome to pick fresh produce whenever they wish. All are welcome to regular workshops and tastings throughout the growing season. Stay in touch with events and developments in the garden via The Province's Facebook Page. Contact: Haley Cason, Asst. General Manager, HCason@studenthousing.com, 502-636-1688.
Preschool children at UofL's Early Learning Campus on W. Bloom Street learn about gardening from seed to harvest. The facility has featured a roof garden and greenhouse with vegetable beds since its opening. Once the UPA Horticulture Zone was created across the street in 2013, the children were taken on regular field trips to help plant seeds and taste the harvest. In spring 2016, UofL's lacrosse team helped install additional raised beds around the street-level outdoor play area so that kids can watch things grow as they play each day.
The Early Learning Campus is part of the Gladys and Lewis "Sonny" Bass Louisville Scholar House Campus and is an exemplary early child development center for children of UofL faculty, staff and students, and residents of the Louisville Scholar House. The facility is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and offers full day curriculum for children aged six weeks to four years.
In the spring of 2011, dedicated nutritionists from the Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center (in the Kosair Charities Building at Floyd and Chestnut) decided to create a garden to benefit children receiving evaluation and therapy through the Feeding Disorders Program. The vision was that a garden would provide great opportunities for the children who are very restrictive in the variety of foods they will eat. By May 2011, the Feeding Therapy gardens were growing with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans sprouting from 3 square raised beds that were already in place between Baxter I and II. To learn more, contact Diana Pantalos.
In 2011, dedicated staff at UofL's LEED Gold certified Center for Predictive Medicine on the Shelby campus planted a "Birthday" Garden to provide fresh produce to take the place of cake and ice cream celebrations for employees. Staff and researchers at the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory enjoy a bountiful harvest and have replanted each year. The abundance of produce has prompted staff to host fun related events such as chili cook-offs and pesto parties. The garden has expanded over the years and now includes a compost bin, raised beds made from repurposed pallets, and a vertical herb garden. To learn more, contact Marlene Steffen.
KPPC brings gardening into the office
In 2018, the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) at UofL's Shelby Campus experimented with hydroponic gardening inside their office. KPPC has been an Advocate Member of the KY EXCEL program since its inaugural year in 2006. KY EXCEL is a free, voluntary program that encourages members to complete projects that improve the environment at home, within an organization, or in a community. There are various levels of tiered membership for participants that include for non-regulatory members – Farm and Advocate, and regulated members – Partner, Leader and Master. Visit the KY EXCEL website to find out more about being a voluntary member. In keeping with KPPC’s ongoing KY EXCEL Advocate membership, a sustainability project is identified annually that can improve the Center’s day-to-day operations and serve as a demonstration of the different ways to consider sustainable practices in the workplace for our clients.
KPPC selected hydroponic gardening for their 2018 sustainability project. A hydroponic garden is a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to encourage and demonstrate a commitment to environmental and social sustainability. Alex Beebe, a Speed School engineering co-op at KPPC, was assigned as the project lead for researching, designing, procuring, constructing and maintaining the hydroponic garden for the office space. “As a student co-op, it was an exciting opportunity to lead our 2018 Kentucky EXCEL project.” he said.
A deep water culture hydroponic system was selected. This was comprised of containers for the nutrient rich water, aeration equipment, a LED grow light, net pots and clay pebbles. KPPC staff donated some of the materials. The total cost of a four-container setup was around $200. A selection of herbs were grown from seed in soil and then transferred to the hydro system as mature plants where they thrived, yielding multiple harvests of mint, basil, oregano, and chives. Maintenance involved checking PH and nutrient levels on an every other week schedule that only required about ten minutes each time. Additionally, the herbs were harvested around the same time to prevent overgrowth and provide KPPC employees with a regular supply to use at home or share with others.
One of the project work objectives was to establish an online resource to assist others with bringing the benefits of this sustainability initiative into an office, classroom, home or any other appropriate indoor setting.
A hydroponic gardening web page has been created and is now available on the KPPC website. There is a frequently asked question (FAQ) styled layout of information about the project along with a promotional video, a slide presentation that can be used to share the story with others, along with additional resources including a Hydroponic Gardening Maintenance Guide.
“Initially, the project was to create a hydroponic garden for our own use within the office. As planning and construction occurred, we realized that this could serve as an example of an affordable, unique and time-conscious sustainability project for any workplace” said Alex Beebe. “Leading the hydroponic project gave me experience that engineering co-ops rarely receive such as video production, web page writing, graphic design and more. KPPC encourages utilizing creative projects to involve employees in a sustainable culture.”
UofL Green Scene columns:
UofL students tap maple trees for syrup (Courier-Journal, 3/11/16)
July 2011 - UofL's Office of Health Promotion was inspired to start an herb garden in repurposed cigarette butt containers!
TheFood In Neighborhoods (FIN) Community Coalition provides a wealth of resources, including those compiled by the Urban Agriculture Coalition (find gardens, calendar, directory, discussion forum, and resources for growers). Follow on
Louisville Grows - a non-profit whose mission is to grow a just and sustainable community in Louisville through urban agriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education. An excellent source for local knowledge, seeds, and starts. Check out their handy Louisville Planting Calendar. Follow on
Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville - seeking to educate, train, empower and accompany the next generation of farmers for the rebuilding of a just and local food economy in Louisville and its regional foodshed.
Hydroponic Gardening - The Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) at UofL's Shelby Campus has experimented with hydroponic gardening inside their office and assembled lots of resources online.
- 15Thousand Farmers - helping create, empower, and inspire 15,000 new, sustainable, neighborhood backyard/front yard farmers in Louisville to feed themselves, their families and others! Follow on