IF you walk down the stairs of Cafe V’s patio, towards the green field, and turn right, you’ll see a pair of gray metal gates and a sign with a visible “E” peeping from behind. Walk through the gates and you find yourself in Ellie’s (Main) Garden, a rectangular plot of land lush with greenery. Keep going down the sidewalk and you’ll see more sets gates, which lead into Ellie’s Backyard, Ellie’s Farm, and (coming soon) Ellie’s Nursery.
The secret behind Ellie’s green thumb? Compost. In the photo lies but one pile of “hot” compost, where raw material gets turned and watered so that, within a mere 6 weeks, it transforms into usable compost, which is then screened and added to the soil beds.
Into this compost go kitchen scraps, paper, straw, plant trimmings, and (most of all) coffee grounds from Price Center’s Sunshine Market and Starbucks. During the summer, Chris Johnson, a groundskeeper with Facilities Management, rides in his electric golf cart and carries 9 buckets of grounds to the garden each week. Through the school year? 20 buckets a week. Whatever can’t fit into the bins gets sent to green waste and turned into mulch.
“I estimate that I picked up 7 tons of grounds last year. FM is trying to establish a green waste site, but I gather there is not enough money or urgency to create the large site that they propose. I will be offering the idea of starting very small, like a quarter acre to test the program on a doable scale.” – Chris Johnson
Furthermore, the gardens are made from a lot of scrap material – railing, wood, benches that were left behind from other projects on campus. The only necessary purchases are gravel and potting soil, as many of the plants actually grow from seeds and roots taken from other plants on campus as well. In that way, Ellie’s gardens have diverted more than just green waste from landfills, and have helped make up for the loss of plants (on campus) which were torn down and destroyed by wind and rainstorms.
Best of all, Ellie’s gardens are open to everyone! You can volunteer to help work on the plants (check out their Facebook page here), or simply indulge in the fruits that grow from its composted soil♣