Posted by Sharon Eifried, MG.
On April 1, 2017, New River Valley Master Gardeners were treated to an afternoon learning about the Selu Garden and Service Club. Master gardeners also toured the garden which is located on a 6,000 square foot piece of property located at Radford University’s Selu Conservancy. The gathering was hosted by Ryley Harris, a senior RU student majoring in environmental biology and Kaylee Caroline, a student at Tidewater Community College. Kaylee is an aspiring organic farmer and a permaculture expert who works on New Earth Farm in Pungo, Virginia.
The club began in April 2014 when club members and volunteers built an eight foot tall deer fence, established a garden and began producing and donating fresh food to local outreach centers. As an example, the Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread has received approximately 400 pounds of produce from the club over the last several years. The club members are students from many different academic backgrounds working together to grow food efficiently using a few different intensive gardening methods.
Ryley states that the Club’s current project involves “integrating sustainable gardening approaches into our 6,000 square foot garden. Among these methods includes the practice of intensive agriculture, which has an end goal to maximize crop yield per unit area per unit of time. We also utilize swale-contour gardening in order to maximize the amount of water available to our crops.”
Kaylee shared her passion for the practice of permaculture. She explained the process of creating swales that can reduce soil erosion and enrich the soil. At the Selu garden, swales have been created following the contour lines of the land. The swale is a ditch that gathers water from rain. The water then seeps into the soil for the benefit of surrounding plants.
About thirty-five students belong to the Selu Garden and Service Club with about seven students participating regularly. Ryley sees the club as a way for RU students to give back to their community and to learn new skills.
If you would like to visit the Garden and see the swales, contact Ryley at Rharris13@radford.edu. He would welcome your visit, questions, and comments.