Mason Garden Readies for Harvest

Posted: July 16, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: July 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

By Ethan Vaughan

George Mason University is famous for nurturing young minds — but in the courtyard behind Potomac Heights, a lot more than knowledge is being cultivated.

“We have all kinds of things,” says Danielle Wyman, sustainability projects specialist with the Office of Sustainability. “Beans, corn, herbs and lots of pumpkins are just a few of the vegetables growing here, although the pumpkins really are taking over.”

Sustainability Projects Specialist Danielle Wyman takes viewers
on a tour of Mason’s vegetable garden. Video by Ethan Vaughan

Wyman is the manager of the Mason Garden, a project sanctioned by the university that has enlisted school employees and student volunteers to bring organic vegetables up from the earth and increase Mason’s attempts to encourage sustainability. The garden provides students with a hands-on experience for creating healthy soil and producing healthy plants.

In 2009, the garden received a $5,000 award from the Transurban-Fluor Capital Beltway Project Community Grant Program. This grant was made possible through a partnership with the Fairfax County Restoration Project.

“[Sustainability Outreach Coordinator] Colin Bennett and I came up with the idea, and it was basically just the two of us at the beginning,” says Wyman. “We were out there digging out beds and building raised beds. We then had some student interest beginning in the spring of 2010, and the students started the George Mason University Organic Garden Association [GOGA].”

Starting the garden, Wyman recalls, was not easy.

“We had a really tough beginning,” she says. “There were issues with not having enough composted materials in the soil. The soil here, as in the rest of Virginia, is basically straight clay, so it was very difficult to grow anything. We had issues with watering as well; with the combination of clay soil and over-abundance of water all the plants died. We decided to start from scratch this spring with the assistance of our wonderful new student group.”

Today, with the help of imported topsoil and careful attention by Yuka Taylor, the garden intern for the summer, and Wyman, the garden is a vibrant place bearing pumpkins, beans, corn, cantaloupe, potatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli, basil, tomatoes, beets, purple kale, asparagus and okra.

Wyman estimates that at harvest, which will be completed sometime in October, the plot will yield approximately 500 pounds of food.

“A portion of that will go to regular volunteers, and the rest will go to the Salvation Army,” she says. “They’ll be picking it up in weekly shipments.”

Wyman hopes to hold a harvest festival with sustainability employees and members of GOGA in the fall. For more information on the garden, or if you’re interested in becoming involved, contact Wyman at

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