Get involved

Q: How can I get involved?
A: Come to our garden volunteer days! They generally happen every weekend from 10am-12pm. Check out the events on our Facebook page for the most up-to-date details. If you want to be added to our newsletter mailing list, or can’t find what you’re looking for, email us at

Q What are the different types of programs?
A: We will have two types of programs: partner plots and general volunteer/communal row program.

The partner plot system entails JHU groups–students, staff, faculty, and even affiliates (such as Space Telescope Science Institute) gardening a single 4′x8′ plot for the entire season. The group will also take on a greater responsibility – that of reaching out to the Waverly community and connecting with one local community, school, or church group who will then manage a second garden plot. The two groups will work together as partners to manage the two garden plots and share in their bounty. The BJP committee will supply interested JHU groups with contact info of neighborhood groups who may be interested in collaboration. The JHU groups will then make phone calls, visit community meetings, and talk to folks in the neighborhood to make the necessary connections and arrangements to find a partner for the garden this year.

The communal row program is intended for those who want to garden with a less serious responsibility. These communal row gardeners, such as students who would be unable to take care of a partner plot during the summer, are encouraged to attend workdays beginning at the end of February. During the off-season, i.e. winter, and early spring, workdays mostly happen on Saturdays and Sundays. However, during peak growing season, communal rows will likely need to be tended on a daily basis. The produce from this plot will be split among volunteers who show up on harvest days; some produce will be donated to charities.

Q: What will the time commitment be?
A: Those who want to participate in the partner plot program are looking at a commitment of about 2-3 hours a week, but have more flexibility because they can arrange the time they want to garden with their community organization.  Communal row gardeners are encouraged to work in the garden at least once a month. We will have other garden-wide volunteer days almost every weekend beginning at the end of February. These volunteer days will rotate from Saturdays to Sundays every other week. For an updated list of upcoming volunteer days, check out the events on our Facebook page. General volunteers are not committed to a certain number of days.

Q: Where is the garden?
A: The garden is located at Johns Hopkins at Eastern Campus:
1101 East 33rd Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Google Map link here.

Q: How can I get to the garden as a JHU student without a car?
A: The Blue Jay Shuttle Green Route takes students from the Homewood campus to the Waverly Giant. The walk to JH Eastern from Giant is only a half a mile from there.
Blue Jay Shuttle Green Route map

Q. How much does it cost to garden in the Blue Jay’s Perch?
A: It’s free! The garden is entirely funded by student group funds, grants, and private donations; and it mostly relies on volunteers! All we require is your commitment!

Q. How can I donate to the Blue Jay’s Perch?
 A: Individual donors may donate to the Blue Jay’s Perch via the Johns Hopkins Giving program. You can go to, click on the Give Online tab, select “Other” from the drop-down menu, and enter “Eastern Garden” in the box below the drop-down menu.

You may also donate by mail, after filling out the Giving Form (again, write “Eastern Garden”)
You can send the form and check to:
Johns Hopkins Business Services
201 N. Charles Street, Suite 2500
Baltimore, MD 21201
Attn: Gift Processing Supervisor

Q. Are the communal rows only open to groups?
A: Anyone from the Johns Hopkins system can sign up to be a gardener in the communal rows! You may submit an application to be an individual gardener or you can register a whole group of people (your Hopkins friends, colleagues, classmates… As long as you are officially affiliated with Johns Hopkins community, you can join the communal row efforts). Non-affiliates only have the option of partner plots. Ideally, we would like communal row gardeners to be able to commit to one day of communal row gardening per month. You contribute your time and effort and you get some fresh produce in return.

Q. So how does the communal row harvest plan work?
A: Produce from the communal rows can only be harvested on designated harvest days (most likely on Saturdays or Sundays, but it all depends on mother nature, since we can’t tell plants when to ripen) throughout the growing season. Only gardeners who show up on harvest days will be able to take home the produce that day. We will let people decide how much and what they want to take home. Any extra produce will be donated to the Campus Kitchen Project or another local charity. This is not to say that the communal rows will only be gardened on weekends; we will be tending to those throughout the week.

Q. How do we access water, soil and tools?
A: We are building a community watering station using a 350-gallon cistern. We will connect the cistern to a water source from the Eastern building.  Volunteers will regularly fill it up. We will have a few watering cans in the garden shed for gardeners’ use. We are in the process of purchasing some hand tools (large and small) for our garden shed. You are welcome to bring your own tools and watering can!

Compost will be regularly delivered to the garden.

Q. Baltimore has some HOT HOT summers so plants will need daily watering. Why are you only requiring partner plot gardeners to commit to gardening once a week?
A: We know that not everyone will be able to travel to the Blue Jay’s Perch on a daily basis, especially if it’s 95 degrees outside! When you are part of a gardening group, you can actually rotate watering and weeding duties amongst members. If you have enough people to share the work, each person may never need to garden more than once a week, but you still get to share amazingly fresh produce!
We should also add that watering schedules will differ according to your plants’ needs and weather conditions. We will all just have to follow mother nature’s cues!

Q. Do we have some kind of natural borders to mark the garden limits and protect the plots from the elements?
A: The Blue Jay’s Perch has a sturdy chain-linked fence around it. In the spring, we will be planting climbing plants (e.g. peas, cucumbers, cantaloupes) along the fence to spruce it up. We are looking into purchasing a few grape and kiwi vines for the fence, but it will take a few years for these plants to establish themselves. Feel free to send other suggestions our way!
We have already planted 5 fruit trees (plums, pawpaws and persimmons), and we are getting two more trees in the spring of 2012: 1 fig and 1 sour cherry.  As of February 2012, these fruit trees are just larger twigs, so look forward to watching them grow!

Q. What’s the story behind the 6-foot plant limitation?
A: The honest answer is that it is an arbitrary number. The communal rows and partner plots will be located very closely together. Thus, if a group decides to grow a bunch of corn, that plot may block sunlight from its neighbors. If you are not sure how tall your plants will get, send us an email or ask one of your neighbors before you put them in the ground.

Q. I am a student working with very closely with a community group. I really want to help my community group friends grow their own food in a partner plot, but I can’t be here over the summer. Does this mean I can’t do the partner plot program?
A: There are plenty of staff and graduate students who are in Baltimore year-round! We suggest that you reach out to other members of the Johns Hopkins community and form a group that can be here all summer; then you can get your community group involved. You will be building community on two fronts; how cool is that?!

Q. I volunteer once a week/month with local schools/after-school programs… etc, and we are always looking for field trip ideas. Can I bring kids to the Blue Jay’s Perch and have them walk through the garden or help with some cleaning up?
A: The short answer to your question is yes! However, we will really make the decision on a case-by-case basis. Please check with us at least two weeks before the planned event so we can make sure that all the bases are covered. Generally, we like the idea of having school-aged students in the garden, as long as they have responsible adult supervision.

Q. What if I know very little about gardening?
 A: That’s alright! Come to a volunteer day where you can work under the guidance of the garden manager and other experienced gardeners. Gardening is a very exciting hobby, and while there are many aspects to learn, it is very rewarding. (Just wait until you taste the first carrot you grow yourself!) Coming to the garden as a casual gardeners to work on the communal rows could be a great start to a lifelong hobby! Check out our upcoming weekend volunteer days in the Garden Calendar tab of this blog.

Q: I am a Hopkins undergraduate and I want to participate in a partner plot, but I will not be in Baltimore for the summer, what can I do?
A: To participate in the partner plot program as Hopkins affiliates you must first join or form a gardening group of three or more Hopkins affiliates. This is because a plot can be a lot of responsibility during our peak growing season, and we want to ensure your plot will be taken care of. Second, at least one member of your group must be able to take care of your garden over the summer, we suggest undergraduates talk to faculty, staff and graduates about their willingness to join your group. The Blue Jay’s Perch may be able to provide you with a list of staff/graduate students to contact. Third, you must find a community organization willing to be your other half of the partner plot pairing. We have a list of organizations on our blog you can reach out to. If you need any help, please email us.
Q. Do all JHU students need a staff member in their group, even for per-existing groups? What if the community organization we work with agrees to take care of it over the summer?
A.All JHU groups applying for partner plots (i,e, collaborate with a community group in a pair of plots) must have at least one person in the group who is able to take care of the JHU group plot during the summer. The same goes for community groups applying to work with a JHU group.
Here are the reasons why:
1)having someone from each gardening group work in the garden throughout the season helps to ensure long-term continuity.

2) For legal reasons, community groups must have a regular JHU group contact, even during the summer. ALL STUDENT GROUPS at risk of leaving their portion of the partner plot during the summer must include at least one, but preferably more, JHU affiliates who can stay during the summer in their partner plot gardening group.

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