APD starts Mini-Farm for Vegetables and Herbs

Garden towers planted in the hospital courtyard at APD.

APD's kitchen has found a new way to add healthy, locally grown and raised ingredients to its meals. Shawn Richardson, APD's Manager of Nutrition Services, already buys the kitchen's beef and dairy products from Upper Valley farms. Now he has started a mini-farm for vegetables and herbs.

The Hospital courtyard is home to four new garden towers. Each one holds up to 50 plants to make the most of space.

“These plants would take up quite a big area if they were spread out over the ground,” says Shawn. “With the towers, we can use vertical space, and every plant still gets the sun and water it needs.”

In addition to herbs and flowers, the towers hold cucumbers, purple peppers, and red and yellow tomatoes. “It’s healthy to include a rainbow of colors in your diet,” says Shawn. “Each color represents a different vitamin or mineral, with a different benefit. Orange foods are good for your eyes, and yellow foods are loaded with potassium.”

The towers will be wheeled inside during the winter, then brought out the following spring. Each year, they can reuse the same soil.

Inside of the towers, Shawn is making use of vermicomposting, or composting with worms. Vegetable scraps from the kitchen are placed inside the towers a few times each week. Worms can change most kitchen scraps into rich, finished compost in less than two weeks. The compost adds to the soil inside the towers, works better than store-bought fertilizer, and cuts down on waste sent to landfills.

The worms continue working and making compost through the winter months.

“This is just the start of our garden and composting programs,” says Shawn. “We’re hoping to have more garden towers in the future. When the compost is ready, our Facilities team can use it in the gardens on campus, or wherever they’d like.”

APD’s kitchen will use these home-grown herbs and vegetables to bring the rainbow of colors to delicious, healthy meals for patients, visitors and employees. Stop by the courtyard this summer and watch the garden grow!