Day 9: A Plug for the Morven Kitchen Garden

Hi friends!

Fresh-cut flowers from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

Fresh-cut flowers from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

We are enjoying a nice fresh, rainy summer day out here at Morven. As the plants are outside soaking up the deluge of water, our students are inside soaking up tons of knowledge as we wrap up the last few days of classes.

Since it’s sort of a slower day here, I’d like to take this opportunity to fill everyone in on the history and current status of the Morven Kitchen Garden (MKG), since after all, it ties in very well to what students are learning about here at MSI.

The Morven Kitchen Garden.

The Morven Kitchen Garden.

The one-acre cultivated plot that is the Morven Kitchen Garden was established by UVA students three years ago. Students reclaimed a plot that had been organically cultivated for John Kluge from 1989-1999, but laid fallow for more than ten years during which time it was taken over by various trees and wild plants. As you may know, the Morven property was originally purchased by Thomas Jefferson in the late 18th century. Jefferson used the property, known then as “Indian Camp,” as a grounds for tenant-farm labor agricultural experimentation. With the same goals of agricultural experimentation and innovation, UVA students today use the MKG as a “natural space for agricultural learning.”

(See MKG “State of the Garden Report” at http://www.uvafoundation.com/uploads/pages/images/state_of_the_garden_final2.pdf)

Lettuces from the MKG.

Lettuces from the MKG.

This Summer, the MKG is in its third growing season, and let me tell you, things are growing strong! The garden has seen a few major transitions over the past year, as three of the original student founders of the garden, Michelle Rehme, Marie Schacht, and Rowan Sprague, have begun (or are in the process of beginning) new life ventures that take them away from the MKG. But with an every blossoming new crop of garden managers and volunteers, the garden continues to flourish! Just next week, managers of the garden will be starting this season’s CSA program for local community members. If you are interested in signing up for that, contact Isabel Greenberg at ifg2ac@virginia.edu.

Two MKG leaders -- Rowan Sprague (right) and Isabel Greenberg (left) -- just finished with harvesting 101 radishes!

Two MKG leaders — Rowan Sprague (right) and Isabel Greenberg (left) — just finished with harvesting 101 radishes!

New this year in the MKG is a joint UVA faculty-graduate-undergraduate research project on sunflowers! This project will be researching and experimenting with sunflower genes, in the hopes of discovering the genetic basis for why sunflowers are heliotropic (germinating sunflower buds actually follow the sun across the sky throughout the day and then reset again at night to repeat the movement the next day!)

One of the experimental sunflower seedlings.

One of the experimental sunflower seedlings.

The research group has grown the sunflower seedlings in a greenhouse lab, planted them in a quadrant in the MKG, and will be tracking their daily movement in the garden with over 20 different cameras placed alongside the flowers (see below).

Those aren't a bunch of three-legged aliens in our garden -- they're the tripod cameras used by the UVA sunflower research team to track sunflower heliotropism!

Those aren’t a bunch of three-legged aliens in our garden — they’re the tripod cameras used by the UVA sunflower research team to track sunflower heliotropism!

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