New Agriculture School teaching garden plans finalize

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Several members of Auburn's College of Agriculture are finalizing the master design for an 11.3-acre teaching garden to be located next to the Old Rotation on Lem Morrison Drive.

As part of the University's master plan, the "Field Lab No. 1" will enhance the Old Rotation by growing crops, trees, turf grasses and ornamentals that agriculture students will tend to and cultivate.

"This is an area that several departments in the college have used for various instructional activities," said Dave Williams, professor of horticulture and garden steering committee chair. "What we want to do is just give it more organization, give it a little bit more functionality, make it look good and make it an element that, yes, while still using it as a teaching space, we can share with the community."

Willams said that the first step in the process will be relocating plants from other parts of campus to the footprint of the new garden.

The medicinal plant garden from the old agronomy farm on Woodfield Drive, which includes plants such as coneflowers, chamomile, and lemongrass, is expected to be the first of the plants migrating to Field Lab No. 1 in late fall or winter of this year. 

When the new garden is fully completed, the workable land will be divided into field plots including teaching orchards, field crops, an ornamentals maze and shade garden, fruit and vegetable crops and turfgrass.

There will also be permanent structures built including teaching pavilions and greenhouses that will provide crops for tiger dining, according to Williams.

Williams hopes that in the end the garden, open to the public when not being used for classes, will be a part of a "bridge of activity" that stretches throughout Auburn.

"The dream is to create an experience that goes from the arboretum, through this garden, down to the performing arts center, over to Jule Collins Smith museum and down to Town Creek Park," Williams said.

Field Lab No. 1 will have well-defined pathways marked with informational signage throughout the garden that will add to the community education about the Old Rotation. These paths will eventually become part of a walking/bike trail system that extends from the arboretum.

Williams said he is excited for what this new garden will provide to students from all majors, giving them an opportunity to physically experience where their major crops come from.

"This is carrying on that [Old Rotation] legacy, which is really pushing the envelope of knowledge, that helps us to understand soils in general and crop rotation practices," Williams said. "Even though it's been done forever and it's old stuff, it seems there’s more things we learn as the soil and plant ecosystems change over time."

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