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R’Garden Workshops

By Sustainability Interns | May 20, 2015

Dear Reader,
“What would you think about me starting a training program for our gardeners?” I asked my boss, Fortino, at a lunch in the University Village. “That sounds great,” he said, “Let’s take a look at our workbook and get a feel for what that would look like.” As we flipped through our hefty copy of the UCSC Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening workbook, it dawned on us! Instead of holding some sort of formal training program, why not provide weekly workshops in the garden that would be open to anyone who wished to sit in and learn?

We’d been wanting to host more workshops regularly, but found that requesting experts in the field to donate their time and resources to teach wasn’t as simple as we’d dreamed up. This was perfect, we thought! What better way to train ourselves and others than through a student-led movement? That day, we drew up a plan for roughly six weeks of lectures and workshops in the garden spanning from such broad concepts as permaculture to the narrow scope of cultural weed management practices and identification. We’re in our third week and so far, they’ve been really insightful and engaging.

The first week, I taught on soil biology and ecology. I am so enamored by the wonderful world of soils and wanted to share that fascination with the community! “I’m not an expert on any of this stuff,” I confessed to my best friend half freaking out, half super stoked as she sat with me while I tied up some loose ends on my presentation that week. “That’s why you’re doing it, remember? So that you can learn more!” She assured me. It’s true, I’ve heard that we learn best by teaching and let me tell you, I learned a lot that day!

The day for me to teach had arrived just as swiftly as I had planned it out and I got to the garden early that day to prepare our teaching space in front of the gates. I grabbed a wheelbarrow and shoveled up some soil, did some pinterest-y chalk work on the chalkboard, and set up my gallon glass mason jar. Thankfully, my wonderful colleague, Tracey, wrangled up all the gardeners and had them sit in our earthen benches.

“Hello everyone! Thanks for taking the time to hang out for a bit and learn about soils. I’d like to begin by having everyone grab a handful of soil,” I started. Each person got up and reached their hands into the wheelbarrow; once they all took their seats, I had them close their eyes. “We’re gonna get a little cheesy and mushy, all,” I laughed, “In your hands, you hold kingdoms, food-webs, and societies. In your hands, you hold ecological currency. You hold life.” Throughout the rest of the workshop, I covered the various types of soils and their horizons, what a healthy soil looks like and how we measure that, mycorrhizae and plant mutualism in soil, and the various biota and micro fauna in soil. Toward the end, I grabbed my mason jar and had everyone drop their handful of soil in. We added water and shook it vigorously! We then left it overnight to settle; the next day we had a soil profile ready for us to examine. Being in that small group and learning together was something rather unique and intimate. It’s been a really great way to learn more about organic gardening practices and theories. We will continue to hold these workshops every week until the end of the quarter, though we hope to continue throughout the summer and into the fall. We can’t wait to see you there!

Warmly,
Lana

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