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

  • Wash station with solar panels and rain collection
  • Summer harvest of carrots, beans, turnips and peppers
  • Insectory planting
  • 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. Four handicap accessible raised planter beds give volunteers with physical disabilities the ability to tend gardens of cucumbers, basil and tomato.

Gardens are surrounded by insectary plantings, which include dill, fennel, forsythia and cosmos, that are intended to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hover flies, predatory wasps and others. Insectary plantings are also used as enrichment --novel food and play items for the animals. The organic garden also includes 100 raspberry plants and three apple trees, which will be used to supplement exhibits and for enrichment.

The garden is watered sustainably through water barrels and solar panels, which provide power to a 500-gallon drip irrigation system.

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.

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.

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.

Science and research are also at work in our garden. We use Integrated Pest Management techniques in keeping the garden and the entire Zoo pesticide-free. Volunteers observe and keep a log of bugs found on leaves, noting color combinations or leaf shapes that may attract certain insects. This record-keeping guides gardeners’ efforts in choosing the right insectory plantings to control pests. Likewise, bird visitors are also closely monitored.