The Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) has been a critical part of the campus community since its conception twelve years ago. Members of SLUG leave one big, green thumbprint on the everyday workings of the campus, from providing produce for Andrew Commons, the occasional honey sales and other popular house events such as Bread and Buttons. But there is a lot more to SLUG than what meets the eye, especially as the temperature rises.
SLUG was started 12 years ago as a product of Professor Jeff Clark’s Urban Agriculture class and has blossomed ever since. Since SLUG’s conception, this term marks the first time that the class has been offered again and much of the class has been focused on revamping SLUG and making it more efficient.
The garden uses a half of their quarter-acre plot due to hills, but they maximize the most of their space. A hoop house for warm-weather crops like peppers occupies the side of the garden closest to the river. Peach and apple trees, blackberry bushes and rows of vegetables and herbs are only some of the plants occupying the garden. SLUG even has an area of “kiddo” beds, called such because of their small size and because they contain hardy plants for when schools come to visit.
Having a long Wisconsin winter leading into warmer weather lends itself to extensive planning. Junior Jenny Hanrahan, the upcoming garden manager, explains, “During the winter we plan different community events. We bring in speakers and spend a lot of time learning different parts of the garden. Our SLUG Bjorklunden trip in the winter is when we take inventory of all our seeds and actually set out a plan of what we will grow the next year, so that’s always really exciting.”
Hanrahan argues that the garden plan is not solely based on what will make money or what will be easy to grow. “It’s like our playground,” she said. “With the exception of tomatoes, which are sort of a cash crop, it’s all stuff that we want to grow. Some of it’s based on curiosity, and some of it is people really liking a specific vegetable, so it’s very much designed by the students.”
When asked what Lawrence students can look forward to from SLUG this spring, Hanrahan exclaimed, “Oh man! There is so much! We’re building a shed for the bees and I have a passion project to maximize seating ability in the garden. We’re going to grow a lot of things we’ve never grown before.”
To ready the garden for spring crops, SLUG members have spent time this week ‘double digging,’ which is a process of cultivating the soil in the beds for better aeration and drainage.
“One of the greatest things about coming out of winter is seeing life happening,” Hanrahan said. “My favorite thing is the network and community that exists that’s so tied together by our love for the garden.”
Any students interested in joining the thriving SLUG community, check out the garden hours posted around campus. There are also weekly meetings, which are held in the Geology Seminar Room (Youngchild 218) every Tuesday at 8 p.m.