One of the unexpected results of the COVID-19 pandemic has been more people and households gardening. This fall, Hollins students are getting to see if they have a green thumb, too, as the university’s community garden recently reopened to students who are interested in planting an autumn crop. This semester marks the first time since March that Hollins students could step foot inside the university’s garden, which is actually a greenhouse comprising ten garden beds.
“It’s a great opportunity that gives students experience in gardening, and it’s also an outlet for activities that are a lot of fun,” said Stephen R. Wassell, an associate professor of mathematics at Hollins who also helps maintain the community garden. While the garden was closed over the spring and summer, Wassell and his wife took care of the garden beds, even planting a summer crop. Now, Wassell’s been getting the greenhouse ready for the school’s Community Garden Club to take over. “I’ll provide guidance while students do most of the gardening work,” explained Wassell, adding that students will be planting a fall crop very soon. “The students will decide what to plant,” he said. “My intention is just to hand it back over to them and be a hands-off advisor.”
The Hollins Community Garden Club is a free, student-run club open to all students, with or without prior gardening experience. The club’s president, Mackenzie Sessoms ‘24, said that the club currently has about 20 members, many of whom are first-year students. “Gardening in general is like a type of therapy for me,” said Sessoms, who became the Community Garden Club’s new president this semester. “I usually walk to the garden almost every day when I have the chance to, just to see how the plants are doing, and it’s something I’m very passionate about and something that I would love to pursue. I enjoy taking care of plant life and receiving a type of reward for all the work I put in, the reward being harvest!”
The whole gardening club collectively decides what’s planted in the community garden’s beds, and harvests are purchased by the university’s dining services, which pays for next harvest’s seeds and soil as well as some extra activities. Normally, the Community Garden Club would offer a couple of intern or work-study positions as well, but this semester (because of the COVID pandemic and reduced resources) all work in the greenhouse will be volunteer-based. “For at least this semester, we’re setting up a system where the students get credits for the weeding and mowing and watering and various things that need to be done,” said Wassell. “Then with those credits, the students can have some of the produce that the community garden is producing.”
For more information about Hollins’ Community Garden Club, check out the club’s Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.