Sustainable Gardening in the Fox Cities: An Introduction

Posted on July 6, 2017 by Grace Reif

Growing up, I always saw myself as the antithesis of the “crunchy granola” type: I need a lot of stimulus, constantly, to find any semblance of focus. Part of this has to do with my background as an Irish dancer, as my brain was required to focus on several different aspects of technique at the same time in order to succeed. Another part is due to my god-given gift of anxiety. I’m convinced my first thought as an infant was why enjoy today when you can be worrying about tomorrow?

These traits amounted into one neurotic, city-loving person. I would much rather be hurrying through a bustling street than sitting around a campfire. However, this summer I took a job in my university’s garden on a whim. I like being active, and minimum wage is minimum wage, right?


My ideal locale, also a representation of my brain

Well, I’ve only worked a week in the garden and I’m almost ready to take my first bite of granola. The garden is no busy street, but it is a community – not only do the other workers in the garden care for the plants, but they care for each other. We don’t go to the garden every morning to crankily drink coffee before our busy work days, we go there to tend to the plants and see living things grow because of our care. It’s a reminder to shift focus: instead of placing my awareness on receiving things (food, money, water, etc.), I’m aware of the process that comes before that. Yes, this is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I’m eating, but where did the peanut butter come from? Where did the blackberries and sugar come from to create this jelly?


An example of a hoop house, a place to grow warm-weather plants like peppers and eggplants

Beyond asking questions about the process of how crops grow, I’ve taken pride in how my university’s garden is able to answer those questions. We practice sustainable gardening, meaning we work in harmony with nature. We aren’t using chemically charged pesticides or weedkillers and we compost everything compostable. In this way, we are doing our part to help out an environment that could use every little boost it can get.

Throughout this blog series, I’m going to be exploring ways in which we can shift our focus to sustainable gardening in the Fox Cities. In this exploration, I hope to guide fellow neurotic busybodies to the joys of playing in the dirt.

Do you have any sustainable gardening best practices to share? Leave a comment below telling us all about it! 

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