UAB Gardens creates open spaces for urban farmers

  • UAB Sustainability opened a new garden space this year along 12th Avenue South and 17th Street.
  • An overgrown dirt lot along 12th Avenue South was little more than an eyesore on the south side of campus until it became a part of the campus master plan to create more open, usable outdoor space.
  • UAB Sustainability Manager Julie Price was tasked with putting lipstick on this pile of dirt as a prelude to a larger greenspace redevelopment that eventually may create a campus bookend to Birmingham’s Railroad Park.
  • Campus Maintenance and Concierge Construction Services ran the water line to provide irrigation to the site.
  • A UAB Facilities crew led by Sharon Johnson, outside construction supervisor, graded the lot, built raised planting beds and more, which helped keep the cost minimal.
  • Initially, the walls surrounding the garden's lower lever were covered with vines and graffiti.
  • UAB alumnus Jon Woolley designed a wall mural and worked with art faculty and students to bring life to the freshly cleaned and painted walls.
  • Associate Professor of Art Doug Barrett was among those who volunteered to paint the mural.
  • Art faculty, alums and students painted a wall mural that envelops the gardens.
  • Alumna Chiharu Roach paints a bee on the wall. Beehives made from natural materials also were created to foster pollination in the garden.
  • One of the beehives of natural materials is nestled among the beds (on the right).
  • The new UAB Gardens houses 44 raised beds for the urban farmers among the university workforce.
  • Flowers and vegetables get equal space in the UAB Gardens.
  • The flowers are in full bloom in July.
  • Nothing goes to waste with UAB Sustainability. This shed was rescued from the old Alagasco site and transported to the gardens to provide storage. A fresh coat of paint gave it new life.


During the spring and summer UAB Sustainability put lipstick on a pile of dirt as a prelude to a larger greenspace redevelopment that eventually may create a campus bookend to Birmingham’s Railroad Park.

A small parcel that lies along 12th Avenue South on a sloping hillside at 17th Street is the site of the new UAB Gardens, which houses 44 raised beds for the urban farmers among the university workforce. It’s a little larger than the former gardens on Eighth Court South, which first awarded its lots in 2013; most of those employees have held tightly to their leases. Hopefully the larger space will enable UAB Sustainability to take applications for available slots in future years as the site expands to the surrounding area, said Price, manager for UAB Sustainability.

“I’ve kept quiet about the program for the past three years because I never had spots open up and it was hidden behind a fence,” Price said. “This spot is much more visible, and we have a fantastic new intern to help keep it looking good and manage the participants.”


A new beginning

“Campus Services staff, committed gardeners and talented artists turned this eyesore into something that brings smiles and friendly comments from people passing by. It is the ultimate recycling project."
On the new master plan for campus, UAB Gardens is a small plot in a proposed mini-park that will border 12th Avenue South between 15th and 18th streets. It supports the mission to create an open-space system that ensures a healthy urban environment and promotes pedestrian activities and social engagement. Price refers to this year’s update as a low-budget quick fix that previews better things to come during the next few years.

Prices said the transformation of a weed-strewn dirt pile into something far more palatable was made possible by the hard work of a UAB Facilities crew led by Sharon Johnson, outside construction supervisor (and UAB Employee of the Month for May). The group cleared vine-covered walls, graded the lot, built raised planting beds plus installed fencing and irrigation lines, which helped keep the cost minimal.

She also credited a great deal of hard work to UAB Sustainability intern Nina Morgan, a senior anthropology/sociology major and newest resident expert on UAB’s trees.


Art among nature

Doug Baulos, assistant professor of art, has a plot in the gardens which he uses to grow plants that can be used to make paper and dyes for his art classes. This year he’s growing the plants to make indigo dye for a class on Japanese art.

Baulos, associate professor Doug Barrett, students and alumna Chiharu Roach, also were instrumental in beautifying the area. They painted a wall mural that envelops the gardens and built bee habitats under the direction of UAB alumnus Jon Woolley, conservation design manager for Birmingham’s Ruffner Mountain nature preserve.

“The new gardens site is just one example of UAB leading the way in sustainability for urban campuses, with significant support from leadership and strong partnerships among departments to make projects come to life,” Price said. “And Campus Services staff, committed gardeners and talented artists turned this eyesore into something that brings smiles and friendly comments from people passing by. It is the ultimate recycling project."