Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Research project builds on organic garden, aims to increase edible landscaping

A new plant nursery could help Randolph College fill its campus—and the Lynchburg area—with more sustainable landscaping thanks to the work of a student and a graduate in the College’s 2011 Summer Research Program.

Ludovic Lemaitre ’11 and Adam Eller ’13 used the eight-week summer program to study “edible landscaping,” a practice in which plants that provide shade and decoration are also used to grow fruit, nuts, berries, and other edibles. They expanded the organic garden on campus to create a nursery where students will tend edible plants that can be transplanted to permanent homes on and off campus.

“We are living in a local food revival,” Lemaitre said. “The time is right to re-introduce many forgotten edible perennials. Not many places have taken this task seriously yet, and Randolph College could become a pioneer in this discipline.”

During the Summer Research Program, Lemaitre wrote a “how-to” guide with information on more than 100 species of edible plants. Eller analyzed soil chemicals around campus to choose sites for new plants. Together, they are using money from the program to expand the campus organic garden to make room for edible plants.

Eller said some herbs will be planted near the dining hall so the College’s food will have fresh seasonings. He also envisions students picking fruit on campus for snacks. “This gives us a chance to demonstrate the viability of edible landscaping,” he said.

Lemaitre and Lynchburg officials have started conversations about using edible plants in the city’s landscaping. The nursery could provide plants to local gardeners, although details are still in the works.

After Summer Research, Lemaitre assumed the role of sustainability coordinator for the College. He will help devise ways for the College to use less energy and conserve natural resources. He looks forward to seeing a successful edible landscaping program result from his work. “I am confident that this research will unleash future great projects on the Randolph College campus and beyond,” he said.