Jaspers put green thumbs to work on college roof
By Andy Gross
Three Manhattan College students have turned an ordinary rooftop into a sprawling urban garden.
Gabriel Quiroz, Arielle Simmons and Casey Barrett are tending and harvesting an organic vegetable garden on a campus rooftop as part of an inaugural program at the school.
The three student-agrarians are growing, producing and donating their yield weekly to the Get Fresh Yonkers Farmers Market.
“It’s a great opportunity not only to feed people, but also to be able to learn new things,” said Ms. Simmons, a senior, who is president of the school’s Green Club.
The garden is situated above a parking garage on the east corner of Manhattan College Parkway and Broadway, where the garden occupies approximately 10 percent of the 2,300 - square - foot roof.
Two varieties of eggplants, lettuce and corn, along with carrots, bush beans, Minnesota Mini Melons and herbs comprise the college’s garden planted in 83 containers.
The vegetables are positioned directly in the sunlight, but acute attention is required to maximize growth.
“Plants need more than just water and sunlight to grow,” Ms. Barrett said. “Working with them you get to know when a plant is in need of a special nutrient.”
Due to a lack of bees, the interns have cross-pollinated some plants by hand.
The students have also learned to use vermiculite as an organic fertilizer and natural fish oil to supplement growth, as well as hydroponics and composting.
Mr. Quiroz, a senior business major, said interns are paid to work about 20 hours a week but are more likely to work 10 additional hours.
“Not only have I learned a lot but I now have a new hobby. I find gardening relaxing,” Mr. Quiroz said.
This sentiment delighted Jeffrey Myers, a Manhattan College associate professor of English and the director of the college’s Course Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability.
“It’s fantastic. You get enthusiastic kids and they can do anything,” Mr. Myers said.
With the wave of urban gardens spreading throughout the city, the three students hope their work inspires neighbors in the area to plant their own gardens.