How the Garden Sprouted

Interact with the post modules and flippable booklet below to learn about the process of developing the SMFA Garden.

Planting the Seed
Tufts Green Fund grant application process and project beginnings of the garden in 2019-2020.

Planter Ideation and Design
Development of container bed designs for balonies off the library and atrium of the SMFA 230 Fenway building.

A selection of student sketches for custom planters for the balcony at the SMFA Library. At roughly 8x4 feet with a half-moon shape, it was a fun and intimate space to activate.

Ideas for container designs were solicited from the school community; fantastic responses came back. Click to view iterations for planters on the atrium balcony.

Preparations to bring the library balcony planters to life involved paper mock-ups, cardboard approximations and full-scale tracings of the space.

Approval for permanent garden installation required knowing the library balcony planters' volume; therefore an estimate of total weight when full of wet soil could be determined, ensuring the garden beds would remain under the balcony's load limit. Volume of the custom curved and sloping planters was approximated by calculating corresponding geometric prisms for a total volumetric sum.

Planter Fabrication and Installation
Creation of cutting layouts, renderings and piece lists to fabricate planters in the SMFA Metals studio. 

Development of plans for planter fabrication in three phases:
      1. Research U.S.-based Corten steel suppliers; request quotes, place orders.
      2. Collaborate with the SMFA Metals studio on the planned use of each steel sheet.
      3. Update planter designs for structural integrity and adjust cutting layouts.

In order to collaborate with project partners remotely, the creation of detailed planter renderings and piece lists were important steps in the process.

Placement diagrams were submitted with workorders to install other readymade planter beds that were purchased. Many thanks to the SMFA Facilities staff who assisted in receiving and relocating shipments of project materials, as well as developing a balcony-access procedure.

The complete custom-fabricated planters were installed in spring 2022. Photos show planter details and installation sites at the SMFA 230 Fenway building. Much appreciation goes out to the SMFA Metals studio manager and student workers.

Garden Planning
Surveying the SMFA at Tufts community on which pollinator-friendly plants were preferred to start in the garden, research of soil mixes for container gardens and development of planting diagrams.

The SMFA Garden hosts 18 pollinator-friendly plant species, ranging from spring, summer and fall blooming native wildflowers to perennial herbs and annual veggies that support insect pollinators when left to flower and seed. Image gallery above shows seed-starting workshops and a survey used to collect community plant preferences.

After researching custom container soil mixes, a lightweight blend of soilless growing media was chosen with proper aeration, drainage and retention of moisture and nutrients in mind. Final mix: 35% Perlite, 35% Peat moss/Coir, and 30% Compost.

After collecting individual plant species' details on spacing needs, bloom times, sun requirements, average height, planting depth and more, plant placement diagrams across the total seven planters were developed.

A second set of planting diagrams mapped out plant spacing before seedlings were transplanted into garden beds. The SMFA Garden had officially taken root!

Final Report
Read a final report submitted to the Tufts Green Fund in spring 2023, including an overview of the project objectives, accomplishments, future goals, breakdown of funds and a selection photos from over three years of project development.


BFA Thesis Exhibition: Outrageous Plans for Sensible Ideas, SMFA at Tufts University (Virtual)
View the virtual exhibition.


The SMFA Garden was featured in an article on the SMFA at Tufts website in August 2022. Read for more details on how the garden took root.

View PDF of Green Fund final report View PDF of Green Fund final report