Flora, Community, and Education Bloom on Campus

From the seed of an idea to colorful flowers and a hearty harvest, Dwight’s new garden program blossomed beautifully this year!

Kate Zolotkovsky, Director of CAS and Service, worked with fellow Dwight community members, to plant the initiative. “Over the past few years, I had spoken with quite a few people who wanted to have a school garden,” Kate explains. “I realized that a garden planted and maintained by Dwight students, parents, faculty, and staff would perfectly fit into our community engagement mission. Additionally, it would be educational and launch conversations on a wide variety of issues, such as world hunger, food distribution systems, healthy eating, and of course, the environment. We began the 100% volunteer-led community project this spring on the Main Campus and had over 70 gardeners involved, including students from every grade.”

After lots of planning, research, and expert advice, Dwight kicked off the garden project by planting spring flowers at the Timothy House 88th Street entrance, which along with the rooftop play space, became home to tulips, pansies, hyacinth, poppies, columbines, sedums, and foxglove — all designed to bloom before June.

The herb garden was planted on the Quad terrace, about which Kate muses, “You can get lost in the variety of textures and smells, with beautiful sage, parsley, cilantro, oregano, dill, chamomile, mint, chives, thyme, lavender, and rosemary. The mint was a favorite of our Timothy House students, especially the unusual varieties like chocolate mint and pineapple mint.”

On the terrace outside room 305 (a Bentley House science lab), gardeners planted a variety of native perennials and a few herbs. “This garden is not only beautiful, but also is a sustainable choice good for pollinators,” Kate explains. 

Finally, the rooftop next to Saturn became home to a vegetable garden with several types of lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, swiss chard, kale, and onions. Our gardeners harvested and enjoyed our homegrown veggies at an end-of-year garden party, along with herbs to make simple syrups to garnish lemonade and ice cream. It was a sweet way for our horticulturists to cap off their accomplishments!

In addition to bringing together gardeners of all ages from within the Dwight community, this program connected our volunteers together with neighbors at Goddard Riverside Community Center through intergenerational activities. Dwight gardeners planted the same varieties of herbs and vegetables in their backyard and crafted plant tags with residents.

Dwight’s foray into gardening has been a beautiful and delicious experiment in urban gardening. After seeing what would grow in different spaces with varying degrees of sunlight — and what the pigeons would and would not poach — we learned a great deal that will help shape what we do next year.

This summer, our amazing and tireless Facilities team is caring for the plants. In August, Kate will take stock of what survived and what spaces need to be replanted. “Come fall, we will join together to continue what we started and embark on another experiment to see what fast-growing crops we can grow before the cold weather,” she says. “I’m hoping for some miniature pumpkins!”

As our garden grows, so does our knowledge, our commitment to sustainability, and our bonds as a community. We can’t wait to see what blooms next year!