Don your workin’ gloves, UNF Nature Trails growing an herb garden

Spinnaker

The tips of your fingers disappear into the soft earth as damp granules shift to create a cocoon for budding life. The grassy corner beside the Robert W. Lofton Nature Trails expect something new.

In just a few months, campus soil will produce its first crop of organic herbs, fruits and vegetables in UNF’s history. The Herb Garden cultivates growth with just clay, rocks, soil and compost: a simple environment which fosters the purest vegetation possible.
“The more you dig in the dirt, the more you know yourself,” said AyoLane Halusky, the Eco-Adventure coordinator and UNF Wildlife Sanctuary chief ranger.
Thanks to a donation made by Bruce Ogier, Park Ranger Katrina Norbom — Spanish major and environmental minor alumna — saw her dream of an organic oasis at UNF become reality. An engraved stone bearing Ogier’s name rests on the winding paths. Norbom would not give the donation amount, but she described it as “very generous.”
This green garden does not contain any genetically modified seeds and will not use pesticides which can leave a chemical residue on the maturing plants. Sweat hoses will be used to water the plants while conserving water, Norbom said. The organization might water with rain barrels in the future.
Serving as more than just a community garden, Norbom explains this is part of UNF’s role in furthering the Good Food Movement: a demand for organically and ethically grown provisions, which works to preserve natural resources, energy, animal welfare and more, according to an article written by President of Farm Aid Willie Nelson. Norbom encourages students to take the Real Food Challenge which “unites students to work with campus food providers to be a positive influence” concerning organic, locally grown produce and fair rights, Norbom said.
Cheryl Pakidis, a UNF English senior, attended the grand opening Sept. 30. She helped plant the butterfly gardens in the nature trails and start a compost around February to serve as a natural fertilizer for the greenery. Planning for the garden began seven to eight months ago.
Before becoming involved with UNF’s horticulture, Pakidis had no prior experience exercising her green thumb. She just “pulled out the [gardening] books and started going.” She considers the organic option a huge, progressive step forward for the university.
The organization chose specific plants which will flourish better in the fall weather for the first harvest, and it will utilize a tarp system to protect the budding shoots during the winter freezes. The organization uses this primary planting as trial run.
When you first start a garden, each plant’s presence builds up the nutrients in the soil which benefit surrounding plants and the next generation of seedlings to come, Pakidis said. This enables future crops to flourish more efficiently.
Halusky described the project as a “student-created, student-run” garden. Local elementary, middle and high schools in the past have asked to hold field trips in the trails to see and learn about the wonders of gardening. Now UNF can fulfill these wishes and maybe convert a munchkin or two into organic Osprey-ism.
Because caretakers need to water the plants two to three times a week, the organization relies on a lot of volunteer work to keep the garden green and growing. At press time, only a handful of currently dedicated volunteers committed to aid with cultivation, but Eco-Adventure needs to lasso in many more for succulent success.
“If students want this, then it will grow,” Halusky said.
If you would like to learn how to get involved, contact Campus Recreation at 620-1810.