In 2012, Mercy by the Sea was accepted as an outreach project of the University of Connecticut (UConn) Master Gardener Program. That year three volunteers put in a vegetable garden, much to the delight of the resident groundhogs. The following year, funds were set aside for a fence, plants and mulch and the adorable rodents had to forage elsewhere.
Every year 12 to 15 interns rotate through the UConn program. As part of their internship, they spend time at Mercy Center, caring for the various gardens. Specifically, they:
- Remove invasive plants
- Plant the vegetable garden in spring and harvest produce in summer and fall
- Maintain the labyrinth and when necessary restore a secondary shell path off the labyrinth to the statue of Mary, where gifts to Mary, both hand-made and natural, are often left.
As part of other UConn projects, Master Gardeners have created a three-bin composting system and presented a program on composting to the Mercy by the Sea staff.