A “secret” garden atop Bascom Hill (and it’s edible)


The following is a guest post from Jill Sakai, communications director for the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability:


An unassuming door off a stairway in Bascom Hall leads to a small courtyard, often overlooked even by the building’s occupants.

Thanks to a student effort, there is a new reason for people to find this secret garden. (No, it’s not a Pokémon.)

Late this spring, senior undergraduate Aida Ebrahimi was contacted by Alfonso Morales, a professor of urban and regional planning, and Everett Mitchell, who until recently served as UW–Madison’s director of community relations.

“[They were] interested in transforming the courtyard into an edible garden,” says Ebrahimi, who leads the Edible Landscapes student group.

Students work to plant an edible garden in the courtyard of Bascom Hall

Students work to plant an edible garden in the courtyard of Bascom Hall//Photo courtesy of Jill Sakai

Mitchell was interested in the concept of urban gardens from his experience with the UW South Madison Partnership. “Communities develop around them. That’s one reason I thought for this particular space in Bascom, we could sow seeds and the idea about importance of gardening and the Earth, respecting the land,” he says.

Ebrahimi was excited to bring Edible Landscapes to Bascom. “We try to transform underutilized raised beds or grass areas to gardens for educational purposes and food security issues, and to make a statement for campus that urban gardening is possible and easy to manage,” she says.

She worked with Gary Brown from Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture to get permission to turn one corner plot in the courtyard into a vegetable garden.

In mid-June, students from Edible Landscapes and the GreenHouse Learning Community pulled out the grass and replaced it with a bed of herbs, greens, edible flowers, and vegetables. Now, pole beans and pea vines are climbing the trellises and tomatoes are ripening.

The garden is available for anyone to enjoy. A small sign in the plot encourages visitors to “please harvest responsibly and wash produce.”

“We hope students will be encouraged to explore Bascom and visit the garden,” says Ebrahimi, noting that students are not always drawn to the administrative nature of the building. “If it’s popular, we would like to do a strawberry patch there.”

Tomatoes grow in a new edible garden in the Bascom Hall courtyard

Tomato plants grow in a new edible garden in the Bascom Hall courtyard//Photo courtesy of Jill Sakai

Mitchell enjoyed the plot before leaving campus at the end of June for a new position. “This is a way for Bascom Hall to participate in something that students are doing on campus,” he says. “I’d love to see people in Bascom take ownership of the garden – weed it and see that it grows and stays with the community at Bascom for years to come.”

More information about the Edible Landscapes group and their projects can be found on their website.


This post originally appeared on the Office of Sustainability’s website.