“Who’s been eating my strawberries?” West Campus community gets together, talks gardening

  • YWC Master Gardner, Dawn Landino
    YWC Master Gardner, Dawn Landino
  • West Campus community breakfast
    West Campus community breakfast
  • Zheng Wei, scholar, orchid grower
    Zheng Wei, scholar, orchid grower
  • Caroline Brown greets Campus favorite Heidi
    Caroline Brown greets Campus favorite Heidi
  • Garden Talk panel
    Garden Talk panel
  • Farm volunteer Pana Raguskus
    Farm volunteer Pana Raguskus
  • Iman Mousavi built skills in self-sustainable gardening
    Iman Mousavi built skills in self-sustainable gardening

At least 20 million first-time gardeners are said to have picked up the hobby in 2020, with many more in the following years. The reasons why are seemingly as diverse as the community that live and work at Yale’s West Campus – but many share a passion for the green-fingered pastime.

Numerous gardening stories and experiences were swapped by a large gathering of West Campus colleagues May 16th at a community breakfast and ‘Gardening Talk’.

Hosted by graduate student Caroline Brown, one of three coordinators of the West Campus Student & Postdoc Committee, the breakfast social featured a panel of four special guests from students and postdocs to staff and campus volunteers, spanning professionally trained gardeners to the freshly germinated hobbyist! 

More accustomed to working behind the scenes on the landscape so admired by residents and visitors alike, West Campus Master Gardener Dawn Landino spoke of her career trajectory in a profession and at a campus she cares deeply for.

“Stop and say hello as you’re going around campus and we’ll be happy to share gardening tips,” she said.

Next: “What’s eating my Strawberries?,” came the audience question? The bitter/sweet answer, from West Campus volunteer Pana Raguskus: “Everything loves to eat them!”

As a campus of 136 acres of mixed habitat, West Campus residents are used to sharing the space with numerous species of birds and mammals - bringing its own challenges to the farm volunteers.

Roses are another favorite “candy” of most animals. But Panelist Zheng Wei, a graduate student in the Crawford Lab in the Institute of Biomolecular Design and Discovery, has an answer. He and lab mates have taken to growing roses and orchids inside campus buildings.

“They grow well in the lab because they don’t require as much water!,” explained Wei, who uses a spread sheet to monitor the lab’s watering regime.

During the pandemic grad student Iman Mousavi, postdoc associate in the Berro Lab at the Nanobiology Institute, developed an interest in self-sustainable gardening. “The cost and availability of fresh produce was prohibitive,” he explained. “Growing vegetables at home was challenging but it was great to learn a new set of skills during the pandemic.”

A recent redesign of the inner ‘quad’ space around the West Campus Conference Center has seen the introduction of numerous indigenous species to complement the extensive woodlands and trails that bisect the campus space.

According to Landino, the amenity of this and the whole West Campus landscape is just waiting to be explored. “We have 136 acres here, from the lawns and flower beds to the Oyster River and walking trails, so if you love the outdoors, get away from your desk and experience everything West Camus has to offer.”

This and other gatherings are supported by campus groups keen to pool different ideas towards a common aim: to help us get to know our campus neighbors. The idea is central to the West Campus’ Anti-Racism Working Group and the Campus’ Student & Postdoc Committee, in recognition of the continuous and broad connections needed to propel our shared work.

Please let us know what our next gatherings should be by contacting westcampus.administration@yale.edu

Story and images: Jon Atherton