Courses / From 2012 Fall - Garden Implementation (Shono - Samantha - Angelica)

Sustainability Garden (Samantha Schwartz, Angelica Bishop, Shono Nagai)

1. What Is the Action?

Our organic student garden has created awareness with regards to organic food efficiency as well as a movement to reduce food waste not only at IES but throughout the personal life of students. Organic gardening not only serves as a form of exercise, but also as a relaxation technique. By getting students involved in the production of a student garden, we have not only increased the aesthetic appeal of the IES terrace, but also inadvertently created cohesion between the students and nature, as well as an understanding and appreciation of the advantages of growing food for oneself. Planting this garden on the IES terrace has provided an organic cradle-to-cradle system at IES where students have access to their own herbs and vegetables rather than always purchasing from markets and supermarkets that import a large amount of their produce.

1.1. Similar actions form previous semesters

  • Organic Student Garden. 2012 Fall. Katy and Shelby.


In the “Fall of 2010” there was a project which outlined the same goals for an organic student garden (copyright: Kendall Murphy "Creating a Garden at IES.") Consequently, there was also a project which outlined specifically the formation of an “organic tomato garden,” (Copyright: Carla Fischzang) where only tomatoes were grown as opposed to a variety of foods. The main differences between what these two projects proposed and what I propose is what specifically would be grown in the garden. The original student garden proposal outlined several herbs that would be grown in the garden, including lavender, parsley, mint, oregano and rosemary. Alternatively, the “organic tomato garden” proposed the planting solely of tomatoes. We agree with the organic student garden proposal in that several different plants will be more successful and favorable for our project (copyright: Kendall Murphy "Creating a Garden at IES."). We also believe that students should be able to suggest what they wish to grow after the initial planting, so that these plants are utilized to their fullest potential and do not go to waste. By allowing the students themselves to choose, we believe it would make students more likely to participate. We also believe that it would increase the likelihood of the program carrying on in the future years.

1.1.1. Why This or a Similar Action Didn't Succeed in Previous Semesters?

The actions we based ours on did not work because it was not exposed in a student-friendly way. This is why we utilized Facebook to get in touch with the students. Another reason is that each time it has been attempted, there have been too many changes necesary in order to get it implemented in time for that current semester. In our project, we got the garden established and maintained, and although students cannot pick any plants for consumption yet, the summer students will have immediate access to it, especially if the facebook outlet is utilized to reach new/incoming students from the start.

1.2. SWOT Analysis


  • Reducing cost of food purchases
  • Organizing finances efficiently
  • Organically grown/locally produced= less risk of ingestion of toxic chemicals
  • Utilize a popular relaxation technique while also getting exercise
  • Reduction in energy use, creates awareness in terms of organic use, composting, etc
  • Cradle to cradle (cycle of growing perennial plants (ones that will return yearly), dying plants, composting and becoming food when the plants come back when in season)
  • Students literally enjoy the fruits of their labor
  • Winters are mild for plants to survive
  • Low maintenance plants that survive the cold make it easier for students to get involved

  • Requires a collaborative effort between students
  • Informing IES students late in the semester
  • Too late to allow students to choose their own plants
  • Students not informed enough to pick plants that will survive climate & last through different seasons

  • Creating cohesion between the students of IES and nature
  • Enabling students with a more affordable and healthy means of vegetable/herb/fruit consumption
  • Reduces dependency on outside producers
  • Creative and sustainable plant life that inspires student to spend more time outside and buy less from large supermarkets, thus creating a more "local" product
  • Planting herbs/plants that will last through tougher weather/climate conditions, with little to no care, and that will come back yearly

  • Lack or organization/willingness amongst students in the future
  • Students may not take interest late into the semester
  • Plants might die quickly
  • Lack of water in the summer during drought
  • Water prices are high in the summer to water plants
  • Faculty could forget/lose interest
  • No new plants are added/no garden expansion
  • Our absence could result in a failure for long-term success of the garden

  • To get rid of the weaknesses, we have…
    • created a Facebook page to help students communicate outside of the terrace
    • started the garden with plants that we know will survive
      • We decided not to redesign our action to prohibit students from selecting their own plants to grow since this option will make the garden more attractive to the students.
  • We can prevent the potential effect of the threats by…
    • creating a Facebook page to help students keep organized in the future
    • inviting students to join now that the plants are doing well
    • involving more staff in the project during the summer
    • asking IES to fund our garden year-round

1.3. Feedback loops

The past loops have included the following: A reinforcing loop, where when students plant their own food organically, there is a reduction in buying from supermarkets, decreasing energy use as well as inorganic waste. A balancing loop, where students are able to produce their own organic products, later compost them, and repeat the process. Through this a continuous cycle would be maintained, as well as increasing a sustainable gardening awareness.
Furthermore, we would plant plants that are in various stages of their life cycle; this method accelerates our implementation and makes the results immediate.

The loop that we have found in our implementation is that students plant the garden, which leads to an increase in student interest and other students getting involved, which would lead to an increase in IES involvement, which would lead to more resources available, which would reinforce the students planting in the garden. We believe that this reinforcing loop is strong and will lead to the success of the garden and its use by the IES community (students, staff, etc.).

1.4. Advertising

In terms of advertising, there will be several methods used to appeal to students. Upon initial arrival to Barcelona, students will be informed of the production of a student garden. We have a sample of the email that would be sent out here:

Dear IES Abroad Barcelona Students,

As you may have noticed, some new plants have been planted on the IES terrace! There plants aren't just to make the space more pleasant (although they do add quite a nice touch!) they are also in place with a sustainable purpose. This garden has been planted in order to provide a space where students can participate in its maintenance and thus use the herbs, flowers, and vegetables in your own cooking. If you are interested in participating, please contact one of us students that have planted the garden!

Angelica (acbishop@colby.edu), Samantha (sms5973@gmail.com), and Shono (snagai@gwmail.gwu.edu)

In our updated implementation, our biggest addition to advertising was that we also advertised through social networking, Facebook, in order to access more students, since many students may not look too closely at their emails. The facebook page has had success and we have actually had students ask us in person about the garden because they read about it on facebook. This showed up that social networking was a very effective method of reaching the student body and we wished we had made it on our first day of the project for greater success/results. However, as a learning experience, it helped us target successful advertising techniques.

2. Why This Action Makes Things More Sustainable

  • Little cost
  • Self-sufficient from season to season (perennial)
  • Locally produced/ produced naturally
  • Little to no environmental impact
  • Promotes organic food consumption
  • Promotes composting, which is a cradle-to-cradle design
  • Promotes self-sufficiency for students
  • Open-source software allows others to make improvements on our action

2.1. Potential Costs

The potentially costs for maintaining a sustainable organic garden would include the costs of the seeds and/or young plants, the soil which would be transported and used, as well as large plant pots or troughs for larger plants. All of these necessities are not particularly expensive; however they would require a certain amount of care from the participating students.
We purchased all of our materials from Mayolas, an organic garden shop in downtown Barcelona.

Plants: about 1,50€ per plant = total: €15
Soil: 2,90€
Flowered Plant: free; donated generously by Prof. Xavier de Pedro
Pots: free; already in the garden
Total Cost : 17,90€

  • Since our project has been approved by Jane Ewart, students will not have to pay per semester. If it is very successful, it may need to be paid for in the future. In this case, when the participants have committed, the funds for the materials needed for the garden that semester will be decided depending on what the students decide to grow.
  • One person will only need to water/clean up the plants once per day. The time per student per semester that is needed depends on the number of participants.

3. How Will You Implement It

First, a general consensus would have to be made in order to choose when planting should begin, as well as which plants/herbs should be planted. To start out the project, we chose which plants would be most suitable to last, which include tomatoes, balm, chives, fenugreek, and thyme. IES provided money for the planting material for the participating students (ie: pre-started plants, soils, planting pots, troughs, etc). Unfortunately, we had no committed students for the initial planting, so we started the garden on our own.
Students have the opportunity to sign up for garden chores and usage of the grown products, based on what they feel would be of most use to them personally. This list can be found on the Facebook page.

This has been implemented by the help of Ferran Terres, who has agreed to help maintin the garden. The maintanence of the garden will mae it possible for future students to get active in the garden from the very beginning of the semester. The facebook group will be available to help them organize.

3.1. "Cradle to Cradle" design

An organic student garden does many things which promote a cradle to cradle design. In many ways this garden can be considered efficient, as we would be utilizing not only the natural amenities of Barcelona, but also the space provided on the new IES terrace. We would be using natural sunlight as a means of growing these plants, as well as utilizing resources to create products. These methods are also essentially waste free, seeing as all of these products are naturally grown, and can all also be composted naturally. Through these means we are able to establish a cradle to cradle design.
By picking perennials (plants that will return yearly), we have set up a solid cradle to cradle design in that when the plants die and decompose, they will simply become nutrients for the soil so that those same plants can grow again. The plants are mostly self-sufficient in their life cycle and do not require new materials for "food" once our project is implemented. The waste literally becomes food for the next plants.

3.2. Questions for the unified survey

Survey Questions (left by computers of IES for students to fill out anonymously) :

1. Would you participate in the initial planting of products in an organic student garden?
a. Definitely yes
b. Probably
c. Maybe
d. Probably not
f. Definitely not

2. Would you utilize products grown in an organic student garden?
a. Definitely yes
b. Probably
c. Maybe
d. Probably not
f. Definitely not

3. How often would you be willing to help with the garden?
a. Every school day
b. 1-2 times a week
c. A few times a month
d. Once a month
f. No more than once a month
c. Never

4. Would you be willing to help on the weekends?
a. Definitely yes
b. Probably
c. Maybe
d. Probably not
f. Definitely not

3.3. Analysis of Survey Results

Unfortunately, we did not distribute our surveys effectively enough to recieve significant results. We only got 4 surveys back, and they all expressed interest in the project but reluctance to commit. Therefore, we have taken two things away from this survey and its results (or lack there of); first, that there needs to be better distribution, advertisement, and incentive for filling out the survey for future actions regarding this project, and second, that there needs to be higher incentive for students to want to commit to the garden club/activity/project so that they can actually benefit from it full and not just enjoy the visual improvement on the terrace.

3.4. Incentives

There are various both personal and community wide incentives which would be created with the establishment of an organic student garden. Personally, students are able to save money by growing their basic vegetables as well as herbs. Community wide, these locally produced goods are not only environmentally friendly, but they also cut down on waste as well as energy use.

3.5. Relationship with the Other Initiatives Being Implemented

This action is not concurrent with other initiatives going on this semester, but it could be paired with the suggested Curved COncentrated Cooker (Hanne, Ellyse, David, Patrick; 2013; http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Courses%3A_%3A2013+Spring+-+Curved+Concentrator+Cooker+%28Hanne+-+Ellyse+-+Davis+-+Patrick%29&structure=Courses%3A_%3A2013a+Spring%3A_%3ADesigning+New+Actions)

3.6. How Will this Action Be Sustained When You Are Not Here?

The student garden will become an annual event for the different semesters of students abroad. Hopefully in the future, students will be interested in the garden from the get-go and will be there for the initial planting event.
The resources will be made continually available; however, this project in many ways is directly related to the interest level of the students. The means for the maintenance of the garden there needs to be a certain level of interest upheld by the students who wish to participate. As a backup, the reception office has agreed to take turns maintaining the garden during the summer.

Following are the instructions we have left with the Student Affairs department at IES (Ferran Terres):
Watering Instructions for the Sustainability Garden:

Tomatoes - During the summer, water every other day, slowly so water can seep to roots
Balm - saturate soil once a week (twice a week if extremely hot out)
Chives - saturate soil once a week (twice a week if extremely hot out)
Fenugreek - water once a week, or as needed (when plants begin to wilt)
Thyme - saturate soil once/twice a week (or when soil is dry to the touch)

We also did research and found that these perennial plants are quite self-sustainable, so there will be little need for students to devote much time to the maintenance of the garden, other than to expand and improve it, which will only make the product of our project better.

3.7. Comparison to Similar Actions from Previous Semesters

In many ways this project is related to a similar project outlined in the Fall of 2010. However, the main difference is that instead of producing plants for a general group of students, students would specifically be able to choose what they wish to be planted. Both require cooperation by not only IES, but a group of students who maintain a certain degree of interest in preserving the garden. With cohesive cooperation we, as well as the Fall of 2010 outline, believe this project could be very successful.
Furthermore, our Spring 2013 group believes that the improvements made to the 2012 proposal will make this a sustainable and long-lasting project.

4. Time-sheet / Chronogram

Using perennial plants that can withstand different climates/weather conditions and that require little maintenance makes the time sheet much simpler.
February: Plant pre-grown plants
March - October: Provide plants with a little water, i.e. 1x weekly. Watch them grow!
November - January: As they plants lose leaves, cover with newspapers to protect from the cold.
Write it in a "recipe style" to guide students from future semesters to implement you action easily.
In rows, who will do what; In columns, months of the year. In the cells, the codes for each subaction described in the report.
This is to schedule the action for the next semester, not to report what you did this semester regarding this action. You are designing an action to be sustained over time, and this report is the outline of what needs to be done and by whom in next semesters to continue your action

Proof of concept: What Did You Do to Test Your Action?

We started the garden to test our action. We also were able to test student interest in general through the facebook page we created. Unfortunately, there has not been much commitment from the students since the semester is coming to a close, but we have maintained the garden and spread the work via the social network of facebook. We do find, however, that students expressing that they would have liked to partake in the garden tested and proved that the action can be very successful IF it is promoted by IES from the start of orientation.

4.1. Who Will Do What

Students: Students, including ourselves, participate in the up keeping of the garden and thus have access to as much of its products as they desire, in return. They will plant new plants, herbs, flowers, and care to the little maintenance needed to upkeep the plants. Students will also be responsible for maintaining advertisement through social media.
IES: IES provided students with the money to purchase seeds, baby plants, and soil to expand the garden. The reception office will help maintain the garden over the summer by watering the plants while there are no students.

5. Document format

We produced a facbook page, which is accesible in the annex.

6. Bibliography

10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow. 2009. Jenny Sigler. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1293

Benefits of Organic Gardening. 2009. (Author Unknown). http://www.organicgardening-101.com/benefits-of-organic-gardening.html

Benefits of Organic Gardening. 2013 (Updated). NYFamily5. http://www.squidoo.com/Benefits-Of-Organic-Gardening

How to Grow Herbs. 2013 (Updated). (Author Unknown). http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-herbs

Organic Gardening Offers Many Health Benefits and Helps Plants and Animals. 2009. Heather Havey. http://www.naturalnews.com/025579_organic_health_plants.html

Organic Student Garden. 2012 Fall. Katy and Shelby. http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Orgnanic+Student+Garden+%28Katy+and+Shelby%29&structure=2012b+Fall+Actions

Organic Tomato Garden. 2011 Spring. Carla Fischzang. http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Carla+Fischzang+Brainstorming+Page

7. Annexes

IES Sustainability Garden Facebook Page we created: http://www.facebook.com/IesBarcelonaSustainabilityGarden

Images we took of our planted garden:

Image Sign Up Sheet Template

This is the sign-up sheet used as advertisement to get students to participate in the garden.

We are using the Attribution Creative Commons license for our website, since we created it through sc.seeds4c.org, which has a Creative Commons license.
The Attribution License is beneficial to our webpage because people can easily make changes to it as long as they credit our work. Also, it allows people to share our work so perhaps it could be adopted in other programs. Future students are also welcome to use the pictures that we took of the garen.

7.2. What did you learn and what did you incorporate from the feedback received?

-We learned that to upkeep the garden over the summer, we would need volunteers from the school to help over the summer.
- We created an advertisement to hang in IES.
- We used materials from an organic shop.
- We came up with a sign up for a schedule for chores.

7.3. Acknowledgements

Thanks to Prof. Xavier de Pedro for generously donating some of his Capuchina flowers.

7.4. Students involved in this action

Samantha Schwartz
Angelica Bishop
Shono Nagai

We all split the work equally to come up with ideas, write, and edit the report.

Page last modified on Friday 25 of September, 2015 00:08:50