Have you ever wanted to get a taste of what it’s like to

grow your own food?



Hydroponic Lettuce

Well, now you can do just that.  With rising concerns about the source of our food, the Horticulture Department of the University of Arkansas began a new Sustainable Methods in Urban Horticulture class this summer.  It is the brainchild of, and taught by, Dr. Garry McDonald.  This 5-week special topics class recently had 9 students complete the first ever offering of a small scale hands-on sustainable garden.  It is designed for those interested in small horticultural pursuits but who may not have a traditional farming background.  I was fortunate enough to be one of those students. 

Dr. McDonald demonstrates how to utilize the bamboo we harvested on the farm for tomato trellising.

Learning how to operate the Dingo.


The Class Covered a Variety of Skills

Topics covered ranged from operation and maintenance of various small scale farm machinery, to seeding, transplanting, trellising, drip irrigation, mulching, fertilization, weed management, pest management and even growing hydroponic lettuce.  

Learning the back-hoe.





The students were each assigned a portion of the larger plot to maintain. The entire garden measures 150′ by 80′ and contains tomatoes, peppers, flowers, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and herbs. 



Tractor maintenance.



What Our Day Looked Like

When I say hands-on, I mean hands-on.  Every morning at 7:30, 5 days a week, we arrived, grabbed a hoe and marched out to the garden to whip those weeds into submission.  Then, on our hands and knees, we inspected almost every leaf for any signs of critters trying to get a free meal at our expense, often picking them off by hand and crushing them under foot.  I believe this is the first class I’ve ever taken where many students came in on the weekend and/or arrived 30 minutes early for class!  

Daily weeding is essential.

Now, I must note here that there is not much you can both plant and harvest in 5 weeks except maybe baby greens and radishes.  However, those students that wish to can continue to manage their plots for the rest of the summer and reap the rewards come harvest time.

Planting cowpeas.

Dr. McDonald setting up fertilization through the irrigation lines.









At The End of The Day

It was a wonderful, inspiring, educational and enlightening class that drove home the point that sometimes the only way to learn is to just get in there and do it!  We got muddy, dusty, sweaty, greasy, stinky and sunburned and loved every minute of it.  I hope they continue to offer the class so many more can come to appreciate both the work and the love that goes into growing food.

Changing the oil on the tractor.





Next Year’s Class

One piece of advice, if you think you might be interested in taking it next summer, sign up early.  I have a feeling this one is gonna fill up fast. 

And for those of you who don’t know, the UofA has a Foundations of Sustainability Minor.  You can check out the information on the minor by clicking here.


I will post more as our harvest comes in so stay tuned!