From the outset, Groundswell envisioned a community garden surrounding the Community Greenhouse. In 2010 work began on this project and the principles of permaculture were a great fit. Permaculture is a holistic approach to design allowing the creation of a sustainable and regenerative system which is based on science yet guided by ethics. Theories on design surrounding; shelter, energy, waste, water and food production are applied as proactive long term solutions to satisfy our basic needs.The design of this garden was established through a Permaculture Design Course, given by Verge Permaculture, in April 2013. This course took place over two parts, where the principles of design and agricultural techniques were taught and later implemented on the site by hard-working volunteers.
Our first and most significant form of permaculture adoption on the site is the way we have built up soil. Considering the silt and rock aggregate that forms the substrate in the garden enclosure, serious remediation of the soil was required to support any growth. By excavating our garden beds and layering viable planting mediums like mulch, top soil, compost, and further incorporating michorizal fungi, blood and bone meal, worm castings and of course love and joy we were able to begin planting our food forest thereafter. To further build soil fertility, we have adopted a longer-term plan where cover crops are planted and mowed before maturation, leaving the degrading roots and decomposing biomass on the surface to further contribute to the volume of viable soil. As of autumn 2013 we have established a foundation for our food forest, where our incorporation of trees, shrubs, companion planting and cover cropping have resulted in a low maintenance yet highly productive variety of edible crops.
As part of our emphasis on food security and education, a welcome addition to the Permaculture Garden is our teaching area, where we have built a wood-fired artisan bread and pizza oven. The oven was built through a workshop in September 2013 with Dirt Craft and the generous contribution of local stone mason, Darren Livingston who voluntarily built the stunning rock base of the oven. Made of clay, sand and straw, building this cob oven provided us with an excellent view into the art of natural building! Visit our Facebook page for pics and video.
Although the oven itself is built, a significant amount of work remains to complete the teaching area. A deck and living roof enclosing the teaching kitchen are all projects to tackle in the near future. We see this space bringing community members together for open discussions, to share gardening tricks or their favorite recipes or simply a place to savor the tranquility of the garden while enjoying locally sourced fresh and organic meals.
Groundswell’s Permaculture Garden incorporates rainwater harvesting, where 5000 square feet of roof collection area is stored underground. This rainwater supplies our drip-line system and our passive land gradient irrigation. As part of this passive irrigation system, water will flow through our wetland feature – not only serving to filter the water but will also be a showpiece for wetland ecology education and experimentation. As a result of the gradient based irrigation system, water will disperse evenly throughout our food forest, providing enough water to reduce or forego manual watering.
Rent a plot
The Permaculture Garden also offers garden plots for rent to community members. There are options for raised garden beds, that are keyholed for accessibility and suitable for annual food production. Furthermore, community members will have the option of renting space in the Elliot Coleman four season bed upon its installation. We are also planning the addition of chickens and ducks in the garden, to incorporate the permaculture solution to pest reduction and fertilizer production.
As you can tell by now, this is a work in progress with limitless possibilities. We have had the chance to learn a lot from contributing professionals and have had a great time spreading the knowledge throughout the community. Come keep busy with us in the garden, there’s always something to do and something to learn! We would like to hear from you if you have any know-how, time or materials to donate to the cause, we might even bake you some artisan bread!