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'Think in the Box Gardening'

By Colette Wolf, UTTC Agro-Ecology Extension Educator
1 October 2013

      Rosebud Lee is our first 'Think in the Box Gardener.' Rosebud is a member of the Cheyenne River Tribe and a student nearing graduation from UTTC's Nutrition Program. This year was her second season gardening in the on-campus garden box.

Rosebud Lee and son Rome Tate harvesting from the box garden; Floyd Tate seated at rear. Colette Wolf photo

      What is a garden box?

      Introduced in spring 2012, the "Think in the Box" garden is our first waist-high, wooden, garden box. It was built by Construction Technology students to introduce gardening in a way that is easy to reach and easy to maintain. The box is 8' long by 4' wide and 3' high, making it perfect for a first time gardening experience.

      "A lot of what I'm doing is new to me," said Rosebud at harvest time. "Part of the nutrition program is learning how to design simple gardens and become familiar with garden vegetables. I was inspired to try gardening to improve my health and incorporate more fresh vegetables into my family's meals."

      Rosebud says gardening has turned out to be a fun activity with her kids.

      "We started the first spring with an empty box. Land Grant provided the soil, seeds and live plants, which really helped. The kids were able to see each step: planting seeds, watering and watching everything grow. Now I have Jurassic Park in the box!"

      She says they enjoy gardening as a family, take regular pictures and share their experience on Facebook.

      "I tell my kids, talk to the plants. They touch the squash and say, 'You are doing good, thank you!'"

      After starting with little knowledge, in just two years she knows much more about soil, beneficial insects, pollinators and companion plants.

      "At first, I was so tempted to buy Miracle Grow, but I'm glad I stayed with learning about organic gardening," said Rosebud. "This year I planted marigold flowers in each corner because it helps protect the plants. All are very healthy."

      And the harvest this year was very rewarding.

      "We harvested probably about three pounds of basil, lots of onions and around eight zucchini with more to come. I also have tomatoes, which I plan to preserve as stewed tomatoes and tomato juice, and peppers and squash. I recently discovered my favorite new magazine called 'Mother Earth News.' It is full of great ideas on gardening and preserving. I've learned how to freeze basil as ice cubes and store them in baggies in the freezer. It's lots of fun to make salsa with the kids and give it away to the aunties. We share in the memory that we grew everything together."

      For Rosebud, being a 'Think in the Box Gardener' has turned out well.

      "I had a difficult time bending down and the waist-high box made it possible for me to garden with ease," she said. "And it's been a fun project with the kids. We grow a lot of food, preserve it, reduce the grocery bill and even grow enough to share. Now, when I do go to the store, I plan my meals around vegetables. Not only is it healthy but it actually saves money."

      Land Grant plans to build additional boxes for next season. The one on campus is in the Anne Kuyper Community Garden. If you wish to build your own, contact me for the plans: 701-255-3285 x 1426, cwolf@uttc.edu.


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