Skip to Main Content


Organic Garden

One of the most important assets of the Agroecology program is the FIU Organic Garden. A hands-on teaching facility, students gain experiential learning about food production and its relationship to the ecosystem through gardening and plotted experiments.

  • Organic Garden Location

    Nestled adjacent to the FIU Nature preserve, the garden provides excellent opportunities to understand the various interactions between growing food and ecosystem needs. It contains 9 distinct areas for research and education: shade house, class plots, community plots, herb garden, fruit grove, meditation gardening, composting, biofuels and aquaponics. Want an exact location? Check out our map below or explore the FIU map

    A map shows the organic garden, on the west side/southwest corner of the FIU Nature Preserve.

  • Early History

    The FIU Organic Garden was established during the Summer 2007 semester on the southwest corner of the University Park campus, adjacent to the university’s 11-acre Nature Preserve. It was started as a research plot by one of the graduate students for his master's project. Later in Spring 2008, students in the Agroecology Program expanded it as a teaching facility. The invasive Brazilian peppertree that had dominated the garden site was removed and chipped. The resulting mulch was used to fill two new 40’x5’ raised gardening beds that, along with a shade house, comprised the original garden. The raised beds ran north-south and were bordered with black polyurethane plastic sheeting and steel fencing posts (#1 and #2 in Figure 1). The 2,400 ft2 shade house was stocked with gardening tools, supplies, and seeds. Germination tables were built from concrete blocks, lumber, and metal mesh.

    With the establishment of the garden came the formation of the FIU Organic Garden Club in 2008. The Garden Club’s founding members, under the direction of faculty advisors, became the garden’s first caretakers. The garden provided many of these students with their first opportunities to learn gardening basics hands-on. Students built soil with leguminous plants and experimented with different intercropping combinations. Lacking any water services during its first semester, the garden was hand-watered by dedicated students who collected water from a spigot at the adjacent baseball field, in 55- gallon barrels that they rolled back to the garden.

    Then, in preparation for the Fall 2008 semester, the Agroecology program established 8 new “teaching beds,” within which students from the program’s two core courses (titled Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture) would perform garden projects as part of their coursework. These teaching beds allowed for a new hands-on element in the Agroecology program’s curriculum. The plots each measured 4’x10’ and were bordered with CMU (concrete) blocks.

    Also during Summer 2008, a 10’x12’ pond was established within a 19’x23’ herb garden (see Figure 1). A weekly FIU Organic Farmers’ Market was launched late in the semester, on December 3 (Bacigalupa, 2008). The Spring 2009 semester saw the rapid expansion of Garden Club membership and gardening space and projects. The space dedicated to raised beds was doubled, with the construction of 8 new community gardening beds directly south of the teaching beds. Garden Club members were assigned plots within the new beds. Students also added a meditation plot, a fruit grove, a composting area (hot composting and vermiculture), and a rain-catchment structure. Enthusiasm was high as students were building, cultivating, experimenting, and learning from each other. Students shared techniques, engaged in creative problem-solving, and learned through trial and error.

    During the Fall 2009 semester, two new beds were added: a new “market bed” (production exclusively for the on-campus farmers’ market) and a keyhole flower bed. Spring 2010, the FIU Organic Garden was named a “People’s Garden” by the USDA. Also during 2010, one of the program’s graduate students, whose thesis topic relates to native plants as sources of biofuel, established a biofuels demonstration plot to the north of the shade house (see Figure 1). This area includes jatropha, simaruba, moringa, and the leguminous (N-fixing) pongamia.

  • Recent History

    During 2011, the vermiculture project that began during Spring 2009 was reinvigorated by an undergraduate student at the composting area. Also, Aramark, the university’s dining contractor that oversees all food distribution and retailing on campus, began providing food scraps for composting. These two steps represented a leap forward for the garden, as an increased quantity of compost began to offset the need for external inputs of soil. During the summer of 2011, the sixteen community and teaching beds that had been constructed during Fall 2008 were reconfigured into 4 continuous rows (#3, 4, 5, 6 in Figure 1).

    During Spring 2012, an influx of new students to the program saw the transfer of former students’ projects into new hands. The meditation plot was adopted by a new student who introduced native herbs and flowers to the plot, advancing both the original theme of spirituality and the garden’s broader theme of perpetuating native species. Also, a new “succulents” area was created when cactus, agave, and aloe were planted along the eastern exterior of the shade house, a relatively dry and rocky area not suitable for other types of plants. Also, an excess of compostable food scraps dumped by Aramark were used to integrate several “banana circles” into the biofuels demonstration area (see Figure 1).

    Diagram showing locations of plots in the garden.

Technical Equipment

  • LECO Truspec Carbon/Nitrogen Determinator

    The LECO Truspec C/N Determinator is an instrument that determines the Carbon and Nitrogen content of a variety of materials, including foods, feeds, oilseeds, fertilizers, meats, and soils. The instrument is connected to an external PC and uses a Windows-based software program to control the system operation and data management.

    There are three phases during an analysis cycle: purge, combust, and analyze.

    In the purge phase, the encapsulated sample is placed in the loading head, sealed, and purged of any atmospheric gases that have entered during sample loading. The ballast volume and gas lines are also purged.

    During the combustion phase, the sample is dropped into a hot furnace (950°C) and flushed with oxygen for very rapid and complete combustion. The products of combustion are passed through a secondary furnace (Afterburner, 850°C) for further oxidation and particulate removal. An additional furnace filter and a two-stage thermoelectric cooler remove moisture. The combustion gases are then collected in a collection vessel known as the ballast.

    In the analysis phase, oxygen is injected into the ballast and mixed with the combustion gases. The homogeneous combustion gases in the ballast are then purged through the CO2 infrared detector and the 3cc aliquot loop. Once the gases have equilibrated, carbon is measured as carbon dioxide by the CO2 detector. The gases in the aliquot loop are transferred to the helium carrier flow, swept through hot copper to remove oxygen and change NOx to N2 and then flow through the Lecosorb and Anhydrone to remove carbon dioxide and water, respectively. A thermal conductivity cell is used to determine the nitrogen content.

    The final result is displayed as weight percentage or in parts per million as determined by the operator. Results can be calculated on a user-defined basis – including dry-basis and total protein.

    • Delivers low cost-per-analysis
    • Sample sizes 1 to 10 mg
    • 30 samples can be inserted into the loading head at once
  • Olympus Optical BX51 Research System Microscope

    The Olympus Optical BX51 Research System Microscope is an optical instrument used for observing miniscule objects and organisms

    • 10x, 40x, 60x, and 100x magnification objectives
    • High S/N (signal-to-noise) ratio enables clear capture of weak fluorescence emissions
    • Varied illumination and advanced optics deliver top quality digital images
    • Advanced UIS2 system delivers high performance over a wider wavelength spectrum between UV and IR
    • DIC observation system optimizes the specimen image at wider magnifications
    • Ideal phase contrast observation with excellent image clarity
    • High-quality darkfield effect at all magnifications
    • Polarizing observation for wide-area retardation measurement
    • High-performance filters with high transmission, optimized to individual fluorochrome characteristics
    • Mirror unit with stray light reducing function to eliminate noise
    • Camera adapter and trinocular compatible for near infrared region
    • Lamp housing with aspherical collector lens providing excellent excitation efficiency
    • High resolution digital images equivalent to 12.8 million pixels captured in approximately 2.5 seconds from brightfield to fluorescence thanks to the DP70 digital camera
  • Biolog Microstation

    The Biolog Microstation is a semi-automated system for rapid microbial identification and characterization. The Biolog Microbial ID System can rapidly identify many species of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The system provides reference laboratory quality identifications without the labor-intensive requirements of conventional strips or panels.

    Biolog's latest generation redox chemistry enables testing and microbial identification of aerobic Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria in the same test panel.

    • One minute setup protocol
    • Tests for diverse set of metabolic reactions consisting of 6-8 classes of carbon sources
    • Identifies environmental and fastidious organisms
    • Compatible with all six Biolog databases
    • Identifies over 1900 organisms (250 yeast, 500 filamentous fungi, 350 anaerobic bacteria, 500 gram negative bacteria, and 300 gram positive bacteria)
    • Identifications called in as little as 4 hours
    • Versatile plate reader uses dual wavelength readings for color and turbidity readings
    • Microbial community analysis for soil, water, biofilms, and other applications
    • Biochemical characterization data based on 95 different compounds
    • Enables user to create a customized database by adding novel organisms
    • Data can be saved, exported, and retrieved for tracking and trending purposes
    • Cluster analysis function produces dendrograms and 3-D diagrams
    • Validation packages, services, and support available
  • BioTek Synergy HTX Multi-Mode Microplate Reader

    The BioTek Synergy HTX Multi-Mode Microplate Reader is a compact system which measures absorbance, fluorescence, luminescence, and AlphaScreen/AlphaLISA using a unique dual-optics design. The absorbance detection optics uses a xenon flash lamp and monochromator for filter-free wavelength selection from 200 to 999 nm in 1 nm increments. Fluorescence determinations are made using a tungsten halogen lamp with interference filters in conjunction with a photomultiplier tube detector for maximum sensitivity.

    • Flexibility of monochromator based absorbance with high performance filter-based fluorescence/luminescence + Low volume (2 µL) nucleic acid and protein quantification with available Take3 Micro-Volume Plates + Optional dual reagent injector module with angled tips, for inject/read applications, such as enzyme kinetics and Dual-Luciferase Reporter + Modular and upgradable + Powerful Gen5 Software for reader control and all date reduction needs + Advanced shaking profiles including linear and orbital + Compatible with BioStack and 3rd party automation + Cold room (4 °C or 10 °C) compatible + Read methods: End point, kinetic, spectral scanning and well area scanning + Uses 6- to 384-well plates + Automatically processes up to 50 microplates at a time + 2 syringe pumps + Temperature control: 4-Zone incubation to 50 °C with condensation control +0.2 °C at 37 °C. 
  • SEAL Analytical AQ2 Discrete Multi-Chemistry Analyzer

    The SEAL Analytical AQ2 Discrete Multi-Chemistry Analyzer is a compact, bench-top, automated analyzer designed specifically for testing environmental samples, including water, soil and plant extracts. The AQ2 Discrete Analyzer allows methods for analyzing alkalinity, ammonia, chloride, cyanides, nitrate, nitrite, phenolics, orthophosphate, total phosphorous, silicate, sulfate, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen.

    The AQ2 Discrete Analyzer uses a robotic sampling arm and a stepper-motor driven syringe to aspirate, dispense, and mix precise quantities of sample and reagent into reaction segments. The samples and reagents are incubated in the reaction segments for a pre-programmed time. A single aliquot is transferred to the Optical Quality Glass Cuvette and the absorbance is read in the stationary optical bench for the best signal to noise ratio. Once the absorbance is ready, the cuvette is automatically and thoroughly cleaned.

    • High throughput
    • Low detection limits
    • 15 reagent containers
    • 10 reaction segments
    • 57 sample cups
    • Scheduling of 1 to 7 tests on a single sample with analytes in any order
    • High reproducibility
    • Auto dilution and pre-dilutions can be scheduled.
    • Ultra low reagent consumption + Carry over and cross-contamination eliminated
    • Capacity to add samples after a run has started
    • Test programmable per sample to reduce analysis time
    • Unattended operation ideal for overnight-programed runs
    • Methods have US EPA approval for both wastewater and drinking water
    • Methods specially optimized for soil analysis. 
  • Fisherbrand Elite Pipettes

    Fisherbrand Elite Pipettes accurately measure and dispense liquid suspensions at a variety of different volumes

    • Fully autoclavable
    • Extremely low plunger forces
    • Soft-touch tip ejection
    • Ergonomic comfortable lightweight handle
    • Creates 150% bigger air push than conventional piston for delivery of micro size drops
  • NuAire Class II Type A2 Biological Safety Cabinet Model NU-425-400

    The NuAire Biological Safety Cabinet is an enclosed, ventilated laboratory workspace for safely working with materials potentially contaminated with pathogens requiring a defined biosafety level. NuAire Class II Type A2 Biological Safety Cabinets offer personnel, product, and environmental protection to obtain optimum control over product quality while reducing the potential for exposure of both product and personnel to airborne biological or particulate chemical agents in low to moderate risk-hazard research and drug preparation or product operations

    •  Simple switches control the blower, lights, and outlets
    • Mini-helic gauge measures plenum performance.
    • High efficiency motor saves on energy bills while increasing filter life
    • Adjustable base stand
    • Plastic armrest minimizes cold conduction and provides additional forearm support
    • Runs quietly
    • Unidirectional airflow moving along parallel flow lines at a constant velocity of 60 fpm (0.30 m/s) minimizes air turbulence within the work zone lessening the chance for cross contamination
    • Strong inflow air velocity of 105 fpm (0.53 m/s) over an aerodynamic airfoil creates maximum personnel protection.
    • The HEPEX plenum inflates to provide quiet uniform air without transferring vibration. Positive pressure chambers and ducts are surrounded by negative pressure eliminating potential leaks
    • A single shell, high grade stainless steel, fully welded cabinet eliminates potential leaks that may occur through failures of gaskets and cabinet seams.
  • Shimadzu Corporation Capillary and Packed Gas Chromatograph (GC-2014) with Autosampler (AOC-5000 Plus)

    The Shimadzu Corporation Capillary and Packed Gas Chromatograph quantifies N2O, CO2, and CH4 in atmospheric air. This system also separates and provides quantitative information for N2, O2 and CO using an electron capture detector (ECD), thermal conductivity detector (TCD), and Flame ionization detector (FID). In addition the system can be used for ethylene and acetylene gas analysis to quantify biological nitrogen fixation using acetylene reduction assay.

    • Methanizer assembly for the detection of low levels of CO2 and CO
    • Large oven accommodates up to 4 detectors and 2 injection ports
    • 7 heated zones and sixteen 24 volt relays
    • High-level repeatability of carrier gas
    • Accurate electronic ¬flow controllers set and maintain ¬flow rates in multiple modes eliminating human error
    • Equipped with the advanced ¬flow controller (AFC) technology allowing high-level repeatability of retention time and peak area
    • Flame Photometric Detector designed to accommodate capillary analyses and packed column measurements and allowing for simpler nozzle replacement
    • Large LCD displays chromatograms and method parameters in real time
    • Graphical pop-up screens clearly indicate the polarity preventing manual injection errors
    • Self-diagnostics validate the instrument before injection preventing unexpected downtime
    • Using the electronic ¬flow controller, the column inlet pressure, column ¬flow rate, linear velocity, and split ratio are digitally set
    • Easy setting of carrier gas ¬flow by the electronic ¬flow controllers for both capillary and packed column analyses
    • Optimum injection mode can be selected from four types of injection units:
    • Dual Packed Injection Unit
    • Split/Splitless Injection Unit
    • Single Packed Injection Unit
    • Direct Injection Unit

    + 5 types of detectors:

    • Flame Ionization Detector used for detection of organic compounds with a hydrogen carbon bond
    • Thermal Conductivity Detector used for analysis of inorganic gases and concentrated organic compounds
    • Electron Capture Detector used for analysis of electrophillic compounds
    • Flame Photometric Detector used for analysis of organic sulfur compounds and organic phosphorus compounds such as residual pesticides and malodorous components
    • Flame Thermionic Detector used for analysis of organic nitrogen compounds and organic phosphorus compounds such as residual pesticides
  • Agilent Technologies 1260 Liquid Chromatograph with New Infinity II Multisampler

    The Agilent Technologies 1260 Liquid Chromatograph pumps a sample mixture or analyte in a solvent at high pressure through a column with chromatographic packing material to separate and measure mixture components.

    • Handles both vials and microtiter plates up to 600 bar system pressure
    • Capacity to load 16 microtiter plates and house up to 6,144 samples
    • Reduces cycle time with overlapped injections using dual-needle design
    • Reduces carryover to less than 9 parts per million using multi-wash capability
    • Sample drawers available in three heights allowing for the mixing of shallow drawers with deeper ones to accommodate different sample sizes
    • Efficient temperature control
  • Shimadzu Corporation TOC-VCSH Total Organic Carbon Analyzer Combustion Catalytic Oxidation/NDIR Method Model

    The Shimadzu Corporation TOC-VCSH Total Organic Carbon Analyzer measures the amount of carbon found in water samples. Knowledge of total carbon serves as a non-specific indicator of water quality or cleanliness of manufacturing equipment and aids in the management of pharmaceutical water, ultrapure and recycled water for the semiconductor industry, mains water, and impurity contamination.

    • Combustion catalytic oxidation at 680°C oxidizes persistent or insoluble organic compounds and eliminates the need for oxidizing reagents
    • Accurately measures any type of organic substance not affected by interfering substances or the sample properties such as pH or conductivity.
    • No special draining operations are needed.
    • Support software for pharmaceutical water management applications
    • Incorporates software for automatically performing resolution and system suitability tests
    • Wide variety of TOC measurement methods
  • Lab Equipment Applications
    • The Shimadzu AA-6200 atomic absorption flame emission spectrophotometer is a piece of equipment used to measure the amount of light of a specified wavelength that passes through a mixture in order to determine the makeup and concentration of substances within the mixture
    • The Thermo Scientific Smart2pure 3 converts tap water into deionized water which can be readily dispensed and is ideal for use in the laboratory setting
    • The Harvey SterileMax autoclave is a pressure chamber used to sterilize laboratory equipment and supplies by exposing them to high pressure saturated steam at 121 °C
    • The Fisher Scientific and Precision low temperature illuminated incubators can be set to maintain temperatures and fluorescence appropriate for the growth of microbiological cultures such as bacteria and fungi
    • The Percival Scientific biological incubator provides temperature and lighting control for many applications including bacterial and fungal culturing, plant seedling, and insect rearing
    • The Thermo Electron Corporation Precision and Lindberg/Blue ovens are thermally insulated chambers used for heating, baking, or drying substances
    • The Fisher Scientific Isotemp muffle furnace is a device used for high-temperature heating
    • The ESCO Airstream horizontal laminar air flow hood provides a large loading area in which air is pushed through a HEPA filter and over the work surface out to the operator to keep the workspace clean and prevent possible contamination
    • The Protector laboratory hood offers a large workspace with a blower to filter air away from the operator and an adjustable fiberglass reinforced polyester sash which protects against fire and corrosive materials
    • The Leica Quebec Darkfield colony counter is a device which determines the number of bacterial or fungal colonies existing within a culture plate
    • Petri dishes are shallow glass or plastic cylindrical containers used for microbial culturing
    • The Thermo Scientific Orion 3 STAR Benchtop pH meter measures the pH and temperature of a sample
    • The Precision Scientific water bath is used to temporarily store or heat materials within water at temperatures between ambient and 100 °C
    • The Biolog turbidimeter measures the cloudiness of an aqueous sample
    • The Fisher Scientific Marathon 21000R and IEC Centra CL3R centrifuges rotate samples at a high speed around a fixed axis in order to separate substances within the composition by density
    • The New Brunswick Scientific shakers are used to mix, blend, or agitate substances held in tubes or flasks. Some of the shakers have built-in refrigerators or incubators to provide temperature and/or fluorescence control which accommodates the growth of microbiological cultures
    • The Fisher Scientific mini vortex mixer shakes in a horizontal circular motion in order to agitate substances within test tubes or other containers upon contact
    • The Lab-Line MAXI rotator provides bidirectional horizontal and vertical motion through a 6-degree angle at speeds between 0 and 25 rpm
    • The Osterizer 10 speed blender uses an electric motor attached to a rotating metal blade to break up or mix substances
    • The refrigerators allow for the preservation of chemicals, microbiological cultures, plant tissues, etc. which require storage below room temperature
    • The Crosley -20 °C freezer is used for storage of soils, roots, microbes, water, and reagents at low temperatures
    • The Fisher Scientific Isotemp Basic -86 °C ultra-low temperature freezer has a urethane insulation which allows for reliable sample preservation at extremely low temperatures
    • The Fisher Scientific Isotemp basic stirring hot plates allow for heating of substances between 4-40 °C and stirring from 60-1200 rpm
    • The Fisher Scientific scales and Mettler Toledo Balance accurately measure the weights of small objects in grams
    • The Justrite flammable liquid storage cabinets provide a safe space for the storage of acids and other corrosive substances
    • Various Erlenmeyer flasks, volumetric flasks, graduated cylinders, beakers, bottles, vials, test tubes, and funnels are available for the accurate measurement and/or storage of substances