This morning I decided to ride my bike down Mount Auburn Street to see how spring was faring in three gardens; the Harvard Community Garden, installed on April 17 outside Lowell House; the Longfellow National Historic Site, which has had its historic 1904 garden restored in 2000-2006; and the Mount Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1831. Today, I’ll talk about Harvard’s garden, such as it is.

The Harvard Community Garden’s 25 raised beds look a bit spartan at this point. It’s strange to see boxes of unfinished lumber filled with dirt sitting in front of a venerable dormitory for the wealthiest university on the planet. This serious food-growing venture apparently didn’t have the budget for a few pansies or alyssum sprigs for onlookers to admire while the peas refuse to sprout. Can’t Harvard support bread and roses?

The Harvard Gazette article on the garden doesn’t indicate that any landscape architects or designers of any kind were involved in this project, and it shows. It’s also strange: Harvard has a school of landscape design three blocks away. Didn’t anybody tell them a new garden was going into one of the most visible sites at the college outside Harvard yard?  At a minimum, the site could have used a more interesting geometric layout like this rooftop garden — or how about this garden at Villandry?

Frankly, the garden looks like a nice little sandbox for students to play in. I’m sure Harvard plans to sweep it up in a few years and reseed the lawn when students have moved on to less labor-intensive concerns.

As I was photographing the garden, a maintenance worker walked through and picked up a few soda cans off the grass. What does it mean for a “community garden” to be cleaned up by a professional staff every day? The Boston Natural Area Network’s community gardens don’t get that kind of service.