On Thursday, May 7, we took our first trip To the UAB Community Gardens. I never knew UAB had community gardens for students or faculty until now! At first glance of the syllabus, I was expecting us to travel to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens instead of right behind the soccer fields. Nonetheless, I was very impressed with the UAB Community Gardens upon arrival.
We were first greeted by a faculty member, Ms. Bambi Ingram, who is the UAB Sustainability Program Administrator. Ms. Bambi met us at the gardens and told us a little about her background and job at the gardens. After that, we were free to roam a little before we gathered back together for the all access Mukhtar Garden Tour. Dr. Mukhtar showed us different plants, and how some of them contained special characteristics black tomatoes. It was interesting to learn that tomatoes with a darker color are actually healthier for you. Also, we learned that marigolds were planted in plots to serve as an insect repellent. Dr. Mukhtar also explained to us that some growers liked the idea of poring on plant leaves to deter bugs from chewing on them. Throughout the garden tour Dr. Mukhtar kept pointing out interesting facts unique to each plant while showing plant diseases that were present in some. One misconception I had coming into the OUTPACE Program was that moisture and rain were very beneficial to plants but I learned that pathogens spread the best under those conditions. Another misconception I previously thought was that purple leaves were signs of a sick plant. However, the purple pigment is actually due to a pigment in the leaf called anthocyanin that gives the plants their red/purple color. It is not a sign that the plants are sick, and the pigment does relatively nothing to the plant other than the obvious difference in color. We also learned from Dr. Mukhtars post-doctoral student, Camilla Koerner, interesting facts about a chinese potato that was growing in the garden. This particular potato doesn’t need to be sustained and after harvest it will grown again on it’s on the next year!
Also at the gardens we learned about an organization called The Leaf for Life Project. We met with Ms. Amy Badham, MPH, who is the Instructor of Health Care Organization and Policy at the UAB School of Public Health. She explained that The Leaf for Life Project helps people improve their diets through by the process of growing and cultivating their own vegetables with materials donated from the organization. I was very impressed to hear about this organization, because it is self sustaining and doesn’t need constant donations. Once the plot in the UAB community gardens is started the people who are in need of better diets are able to maintain their own vegetables. Members in the organization also give the people they help out the knowledge it takes to keep their vegetables growing.
The trip to the UAB Community Gardens was a great experience and I look forward to going back next week. We all got a laugh at the poorly engineered irrigation apparatus at the back of the gardens that seemed to collect more leaves than water. Although it was 100 degrees outside I really enjoyed the first trip to the gardens and I hope to learn more about plant pathology and gardening throughout the summer!