College Students Create Innovative and Sustainable Gardens
Every two years the U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the Solar Decathlon, a competition of college teams to design and build houses powered by the sun. The event is being held this month at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine (last days open to the public are Thursday – Saturday, 10/15-10/18). It features 14 student built homes which showcase the latest in sustainable technology, which is also applied to the gardens/landscapes of the homes. Best of all, the landscapes are designed to save, capture, and otherwise make the most of our most precious resource: Water!
Many of the teams included food growing systems in the landscapes of their homes. Because the homes are small and on small lot footprints, their strategies are very applicable to our small urban/suburban lots. If you think you can’t have home grown veggies because of a small or no yard, these creative strategies will inspire you.
A Movable Edible Garden
The University at Buffalo New York designed and built rolling planters using industrial strength metals and soil containing mesh ‘sox’. The planting tables can be moved to capture sunlight as the seasons change or, in the case of their house which includes a solarium, moved indoors to continue growing during winter months. Team Buffalo also provides for preserving the home grown food by including a canning station and storage in the kitchen.
Hydroponic Grown Edibles
Team Texas/Germany installed a hydroponic garden to grow its edibles. The garden borders the entryway to the home providing inspiration to all who pass to eat a healthy meal with food picked on the way into the house. This team also included large rain water capture systems to utilize rainfall for many weeks after storms.
Window Box/Wall Planting Systems
Clemson University planted edibles in hanging window box type planters on virtually every exterior wall of the house. Under each window, a bright yellow window box provides easy access to herbs or veggies as well as a colorful architectural accent. They also created lattice work privacy walls around the deck and hung additional planter boxes on the exterior providing plenty of easily accessible growing space.
Compact Vertical Hydroponic Garden
Missouri University of Science and Technology included a stand alone hydroponic Tower Garden from Juice Plus. With a footprint of only about 3 feet in diameter, this system could fit and grow edibles in almost any home, condo or apartment patio that receives 6 hours or so of sun a day.
Drought Tolerant Landscapes
Since the Solar Decathlon is in southern California this year, where sadly our drought is world famous, the student teams saved the water for the edible plants and used drought tolerant plants for the decorative landscape. Use of succulents, California native plants, and water thrifty grasses provide beautiful but drought tolerant landscape choices.
Where: The Orange County Great Park in Irvine, CA
Dates: Thursday – Sunday, October 15 – 18, 2015
Time: 11 am to 7 pm