“Once you start gardening, you also start worrying about the weather. You look at the sky and wonder if it is going to rain. Weather changes take on an altogether new meaning,” muses Brenda
Hanning, director of the Office of Education at NICHD. She is discussing the new NICHD community garden, a welcome addition to campus. Such a venture is not new to NIH. During World War II, NIH had its own garden, one of more than 20 million victory gardens
in the U.S. destined to alleviate food shortage. The garden was on Garden
Ln., behind today’s Bldg. 31B.
Times have changed and inspiration now comes from sustainable agriculture
and the green movement. Hanning thought it would be great to have a garden
run by fellows that would help them break with the lab routine and connect with the physical environment of the campus. She initiated a process of contacts with various NIH offices in fall 2008, which came to a happy conclusion on Apr. 23 (Earth Day) when the project was officially launched. The inauguration of the White House Kitchen Garden by the First Lady a month earlier (Mar. 20) gave considerable impetus to the enterprise.
Lynn Mueller, NIH groundskeeping manager and landscape architect, was of great assistance in picking the location for the garden, adjacent to Stone House, with a nearby fresh water supply. “The garden is an excellent idea and a wonderful
place. There is certainly room for expansion should other institutes be interested,” says Mueller. Today, approximately 30 people, mostly NICHD fellows,
take care of the 10 plots of the garden; they also formed the “Garden Club” through NIH R&W.
“My partner, Russ Morton, and I go to the garden every evening,” says Jen Gillette,
an NICHD fellow who cares for one of the plots. They have planted a variety of vegetables including squash, tomatoes and pumpkins. All the plots are pesticide-
free and marigolds help keep garden pests away. “It is a fantastic experience. Getting your hands in the dirt helps put things in perspective,” adds Gillette.
For its 3 months of existence, the NICHD garden is doing well and has set a fine example for other NIH institutes.—