The Secret Garden of UCSB



Maggie Jenkins

Photo by Maggie Jenkins

Tucked away behind the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Recreation Center, towering eucalyptus trees, native mugwort plants, and compost bins line garden beds of vegetables and herbs. This hidden treasure is The Grove, the university’s on-campus garden located across from Harder Stadium and directed by the Department of Public Worms (DPW). As a division of Associated Students Recycling (ASR), DPW’s primary goal is to divert organic waste from the landfill and promote environmental awareness and sustainable living practices.

This past fall, The Grove’s garden was renovated to include a variety of new garden beds and an herb spiral currently flourishing with winter vegetables such as leek, kale, and broccoli. With the help of red-wriggler worms, The Grove uses Isla Vista’s waste, obtained from places such as Blenders, to produce vermicompost. The worms eat the organic waste, creating vermicompost and worm tea, which are applied to the garden beds to enrich the soil. DPW and ASR collaborate to create a sustainable food-to-food system where the garden is nourished by the compost generated.

DPW continuously advocates that their workshops and tours remain free of charge in order to spread compost and gardening education. Students and community members are welcome to attend The Grove’s quarterly workshops on composting and gardening that focus on teaching skills applicable to students’ everyday lives. The winter quarter workshop “From Garbage to Garden” taught attendees how to build a home compost bin, brew worm tea, prepare soil, and plant strawberry seedlings.

“These workshops help advocate for this change of lifestyle that we all need,” said Clayton Beaver, a UCSB student who attended the last workshop. Previous workshops have demonstrated growing summer vegetables and urban gardening techniques useful to students in Isla Vista’s small living spaces.

In addition to quarterly workshops, DPW tables at local events, hosts tours at The Grove for all ages, and provides online resources for composting and gardening year-round. Additionally, DPW sells compost and worm tea, both nutritious soil amendments, at the Isla Vista Co-op for a discounted price. The Grove is a learning space that demonstrates the successful cycling of food waste to food, and visitors are welcome for individual or group tours. Information on sales and upcoming events can be found on the ASR website: