Spilling the Beans: A Secret Garden Exposé

By Naturalist Ben Sehl

We have just caught wind of a new development at the Dunes Learning Center! The previously secret garden at the DLC has recently been EXPOSED. Hold onto your trowels and rakes, folks: we have uncovered all the dirt on the garden happenings in Goodfellow field.


The old basketball courts from historic Camp Goodfellow have been used as a garden space for a while now, but some new improvements and adjustments have propelled it onto the scene in spectacular fashion. What a slam dunk! Boy Scouts from Troop 929 made some major additions in spring 2018, including new raised beds, benches, tables and 250 gallon jugs that catch rainwater from the newly constructed shade roof. Changes are taking place outside the garden as well. The National Park Service has cleared the surrounding area of vegetation as part of a habitat restoration effort, with the end goal of converting it into a prairie ecosystem. The restoration has made the fenced-in garden more visible than ever, and boy is it ready for its public debut!


Despite a late start to planting in summer 2018, the secret garden was a wild success. Dedicated secret garden volunteer and Indiana Dunes National Park advocate Sue Labovitz is reported to have called it the “garden of the year.” Carlos Tellez, DLC naturalist, was overheard saying, “I’ve never seen so many tasty veggies!”

We also have reports that DLC summer campers were central to the garden operation and helped plant, weed, water, and decorate all summer long. The garden grew quicker than ice melts on a hot day and the DLC staff ALMOST had more vegetables than they could eat!


This year, the DLC garden has a lot to live up to, which is why staff have gotten an early start on planting. A source close to Dunes Learning Center has told us that there are already vegetables sprouting in the NPS greenhouse, and plants will be in the raised beds by early May. Staff is also trying out a “Fungarium” concept in the southwest corner of the garden. Various logs and decomposing material are being compiled in attempts to represent as many different species of fungus as possible.

The reports keep rolling in about the DLC’s Secret Garden and golly, folks, we just cannot wait to hear what else is in store!

BEFORE: Basketball court buried by trees and invasive species. AFTER: The not-so-secret garden!


Ben Sehl