Between downpours on Sunday, June 10, we made good progress in the gardens behind the school.
(1) We did more planting in our “fruit forest”.
This “fruit forest” area is designed to take advantage of nature’s tendency to transition from forest to clearing through shorter and shorter levels of vegetation. There are already some old apple trees which James McMahon has pruned aggressively for rejuvenation. We are adding other fruit trees (pear and plum) and berry bushes (highbush cranberry, saskatoon berry, elderberry).
The trees are surrounded with corrugated cardboard to turn the sod into compost. The cardboard is topped with manure and woodchips lasagna-style. Plants that support the fruit trees are placed around them. These include plants that repel and confuse pests, such as alliums (e.g. chives), mint and oregano, and dynamic accumulators such as comfrey whose leaves (especially if chopped regularly) supply mulch rich in minerals that their deep tap roots have brought up from the subsoil. These guilds of supporting plants will also include nitrogen fixers like clover (which we can seed) and flowers to attract pollinators – we had some donated johnny jump-ups which bloom forever and are edible.
A working fruit tree guild minimizes pest damage without using sprays, does not compete with the high-value plant for resources, improves the soil and nutrition available to the tree, and creates mulch. The goal is to maximize productivity while minimizing human labour in the long term.
James, Heather and Monika completed the tree planting in this area that our Permaculture instructor Graham Calder had laid out during the “implementation week”, and added more supporting plants, with help from Lloyd and Helga.
(2) Kitchen mandala garden progress
Using a water level and shovels, Rob and Peg leveled the circular path in the mandala garden which was started during implementation week, and dug the keyhole paths leading away from the circular path so that they slope downward.
Then everyone worked together to lay cardboard on the mandala, adding woodchips in the paths and manure on top of the growing areas to hold down the cardboard.
We are short of woodchips right now, but eventually they will fill the paths and keyholes completely.
After we have added more layers of manure, leaves and compost, we can put in end-of-season donations of vegetable transplants. Even if they don’t grow to harvest, they will help break down the layers and build the soil.
Thanks to Monika Wildemann, James McMahon, Rob and Peg Hennessy, Lloyd Klassen and Helga Grüner for their help on Sunday.
We’ll have another workday on Sunday, June 24 from noon to 5 pm.