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Organic Garden Project

“The Organic Garden Project...is an incredible opportunity to educate people of all ages in a meaningful, hands-on way about the importance of sustainability, organic gardening practices and the role that pollinators play in the ecosystem.”

-Harry Liggett, Zoo New England Manager of Horticulture and Grounds

  • Insectory planting
  • Wash station with solar panels and rain collection
  • Summer harvest of carrots, beans, turnips and peppers
  • Raised beds for gardners with disabilities
  • Ruby throat hummingbird
  • Honeybee on buckwheat
  • ZooTeens preparing vegetables
  • Fleabane
  • Bee hotel
  • Log cuttings for bee hotel
  • Turnips, carrots, lettuce, beans, tomatoes and basil
  • Long-legged fly on mustardleaf
  • Volunteer group
  • Candy striped leafhopper on mustard
  • Augochlora sweat bee on mustard
  • Compost
  • Marigold
  • McIntosh apples
  • Ruby throat hummingbird
  • Cabbage white butterfly on fleabane
  • Hoverfly on buckwheat

Here's a look at what we harvested (and Zoo animals quickly devoured) in 2017!

• Butternut squash- 28 lbs
• Pumpkins - 37.5 lbs
• Carrots 8 lbs
• Turnips - 24 lbs

Launched in the spring of 2014, Zoo New England’s Organic Garden Project is an initiative to provide organic food and enrichment to Zoo animals sustainably. The main garden grows animal dietary staples like romaine lettuce and endive. The second garden includes red peppers (a favorite among our animals), carrots, turnips, pole beans, squash, swiss chard, pumpkins, and a variety of herbs. Buckwheat (a "green manure" that adds nutrients to the soil) is grown in a third garden. Five resident honey bee hives provide our garden with a ready source of pollinators, as well as teach guests about the vital role that bees play in our ecosystem.

Produce and herbs help supplement our animals’ regular diets, while the garden’s raspberry plants and apple trees provide them with sweet treats. Surplus food from the garden is donated to the Boston Food Bank.

Sustainability

The garden is watered sustainably through water barrels and solar panels, which provide power to a 500-gallon drip irrigation system. And the animals play a role in their garden by making daily contributions (i.e: poop) to the Zoo’s compost, made fresh at Franklin Park Zoo.

Community Gardening

Under the guidance of the Zoo’s Organic Garden Project Committee, a dedicated team of volunteers constructed the garden. It’s now maintained by a team of volunteers, interns and ZooTeens, who all lend a hand composting, weeding, harvesting, washing and reseeding crops.

Access for All

Four handicap accessible raised planter beds make it possible for volunteers with physical disabilities to tend gardens of cucumbers, basil and tomato.

Bring on the bugs!

We use Integrated Pest Management techniques in keeping the garden pesticide-free. Gardens are surrounded by insectary plantings that attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, hover flies, predatory wasps and others. Plantings, which include dill, fennel, forsythia and cosmos, are also used as enrichment --novel food and play items for the animals.

Nature's Classroom

In addition to creating produce, the garden educates guests and volunteers regarding the importance of fresh, locally grown produce and how to start small-scale organic gardens on your own. An outdoor classroom was created using logs salvaged from a local construction project.