Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garden Update #1: Building Soil on International Permaculture Day

In this post, on this first day of summer, I will be going back in time to recount the garden's beginnings.

This April I discovered that May 6th has become International Permaculture Day - from the description, it appears that this year was only its second year being celebrated.

I decided it would be the perfect day to get moving on the garden! I made a call out through my networks about holding a garden work day. Although it was last minute, two of my dear friends, Jess and Cameron, responded enthusiastically.

Items on the work agenda included building an outdoor compost from pallets, harvesting dandelions for dandelion wine, and extending an existing bed using the lasagna gardening technique.


Cameron is an avid carpenter and up-cycler. Lucky for us, he has the power tools and the skills needed to put together a great compost, using the pallets I found behind the hockey rink during my son's practice. After discussing various options we decided it should live in our little forest.

Bonus: my youngest son picked up some carpentry skills!

At the end of the day, we dumped what I had been collecting for the compost for months.

So smelly!


Jess and I got to work on uprooting some large rocks from the border of a narrow bed along the southeast wall. We moved the rocks out about 5 feet, aligning them with the tip of the arch around the window well.


This bed gets a lot of light and, because of the long sunlight hours paired with the reflection off the siding, a micro-climate is created. (Graham Calder, P3 Permaculture Design, brought this to my attention during our permaculture consultation last Spring.)

The perfect environment for sun-loving veggies!

Lasagna gardening is a technique I have been familiar with for a long time. Funnily enough, I bought my mother this book
that describes lasagna gardening as an easy, no weed, less work method, about 15 years, and we used it as a resource for this project. Ahh, the timelessness of gardening techniques.

I rediscovered this method myself through my education in permaculture design. Lasagna gardening is also a popular workshop topic for permaculturalists -- I have attended two such workshops in the past year. The "no dig" aspect of lasagna gardening fits into permaculture principles because (a) nature's design is being integrated: the healthy bacterial ecology that has already established in the soil is not being disturbed; and (b) energy input is being minimized ('smart design').

(1) Grass completely covered with newspaper.
(2) Newspaper layer watered thoroughly.
(3) Layer of compost added.

Lasagna gardening is about building soil by alternating nitrogen and carbon layers. Unfortunately, at this point my camera ran out of batteries.

(4) Added layer of dry leaves (pictured in the wagon in the background of #2).

At this point, I realized that I hadn't purchased enough compost. We covered the beds with tarps.

The following week another friend and I finished the beds:

(5) Another layer of compost was added.
(6) A layer of hay topped off the bed.

The lasagna beds were then left to "bake" before planting.


Last but not least, Cameron shared some of the seeds from his Farmaseed Bank with the kids. They planted them in their raised vegetable beds, on the eastern edge of the property.

Here are some pictures from 2008 of my mother and the children using the lasagna garden method to fill the then newly built raised beds. There are three - one for each child.

That evening there was a super moon. It was the perfect end to a good beginning.

All the best,
Gardener in-training

Coming soon: Seedlings from Santropol, the Botanical Gardens and Vert ta Ville


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