J&S builds self-sustaining garden for UT Jester Dorm

Jester Garden

Jamail & Smith Construction has a long history of working with the University of Texas at Austin Division of Housing and Food Services. We know the 40 acres like the back of our hands, and we find great pride in helping the University of Texas maintain the best possible living environment for its students.

Last summer, Jamail & Smith was called upon to help the University with a project unlike any other we’ve done for them before: we were tasked with installing a garden on the grounds of the Jester Dormitory. But this wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill backyard plot with a few rows of tomato plants. It was a completely self-sustaining garden for growing organic produce to be used in the Jester cafeteria.

Our team worked with Russ Bragg Landscape Architects to design and install an underground drip irrigation system that featured a 7,000 gallon rainwater collection tank. We redesigned the gutter system to accommodate the increased volume of water coming from the tank and installed gauges for monitoring water pressure.The Jamail & Smith team also put up a solar panel adjacent to the tank to run the irrigation system, taking this garden completely off the grid.

In addition to this elaborate, self-sustaining rainwater collection and irrigation system, our team seeded and sodded the garden bed, constructed a cage around the bed to keep out birds and other animals, and built a 6′ x 6′ shed to store tools for maintaining the grounds.

Aside from providing organic produce to the dining hall, the Jester Garden also serves as a learning tool for the undergraduate and graduate student team who manages the crops. This self-sustaining garden gained local recognition and esteem when the nationally renowned Natural Gardener, John Dromgoole, did a news segment on it this spring. The Jamail & Smith project manager and superintendent, Alex Canalini and Charles Denning, did an excellent job completing this high-profile project for the University in just six short weeks.

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