What began as an idea a year ago has grown to fruition as a full-fledged community asset. The New Mexico Tech Community Garden, located across the street from campus at the corner of Bullock Boulevard and Leroy Avenue, is providing an outlet for students seeking time outdoors as well as for green thumbs from the Socorro community.
When the notion first surfaced a year ago to turn a weedy and neglected lot owned by the university into Socorro’s third community garden, Tech Auxiliary Services Director Nowka Gutierrez’s first thought was that she knew little to nothing about gardening. But what she did know was how to round up support for the effort, which involved bringing together the New Mexico Tech Gardening Club and Socorro County Options, Preventions, and Education (SCOPE) coordinator Samantha Winters to help Tech launch the initiative. Winters brought her expertise on community gardening and grants.
“It kind of needed somebody to take it and run,” Gutierrez said. “I can’t let projects go by the wayside. I’m not one of those people.”
The Tech Gardening Club got to work four months later with a memorandum of understanding in place. Club President Christopher Nance, a recent business management graduate who plans to pursue a master of science for teachers (MST) degree this fall, said club members and community volunteers were eager to pitch in.
“This has been a very big rush to get things ready so we could put stuff into the ground this year,” he said. “We had to kind of start from scratch.”
Duties over the past several months included cleaning up the leaves, brush and trash before getting a mulch layer down and installing the produce beds and putting soil in them. The city of Socorro donated irrigation lines and timers, a water hydrant, and tools, and is not charging for water service. The Facilities Department donated mulch from trees on campus that had to be cut down. Picnic tables from the Tech Golf Course have been repurposed for a second life in the garden. NMT Dining will contribute food scraps to the garden’s three compost areas.
The garden features 12,000 total square feet of growing space with eight fruit trees and eight beds for growing produce as well as an annuals bed. Plans are in place for grapevines, a sunflower bed, a pollinator patch and an herb section. A shade structure, rocks, sculptures, other varieties of art, and garden stones decorated by kids at the New Mexico Tech Children’s Center will add beauty to the green space, Gutierrez said.
Nance said in the future the gardening club may convert some of the space inside the adjacent garden shed to grow hydroponic plants with lights.
Produce from the garden will go to students, Gutierrez said. Anything students don’t utilize will go to local food shelves.
“It’s a source of fresh vegetables for students,” she said. Gutierrez said she envisions the Tech Garden Club may sponsor a booth at the farmer’s market with the money earned going back into garden improvements.
This summer New Mexico Tech Garden Club members and students involved in the Upward Bound program at Tech are the primary workers at the garden. Volunteers from the community are always welcome. The garden’s established work times are Wednesdays, from 6 to 8 p.m., and Sundays, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Contact the garden club at [email protected] for more information.