Haultain Common: Planning a Permaculture Food Forest

Last week’s work party at the Haultain Common saw us learning to repair irrigation systems, checking out the bones of the garden before spring growth explodes, and escaping the cold weather by sitting inside drinking mint tea and starting to work on our garden plan for the year.

The Common is in a transitional stage between what most folks think of as a traditional vegetable garden and a permaculture food forest model of growing.   If you’re new to the food forest model, it can be explained as a garden that “mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships of a natural forest. Food forests are not ‘natural’, but are designed and managed ecosystems that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity.”

It’s exciting to be working on an urban community garden with such a natural structure.  The Common already has a fair number of plants in place that can be fit into such a system (artichokes, goumis, gojis, blackcurrants, blueberries, walking onions, oregano, borage, calendula), so our major challenge is to figure out how to arrange them all in the most mutually beneficial structure.  As well, there are a lot of shady areas in the Common, and we’re trying to figure out what would do best in those conditions.  If you’re interested in helping out, our next planning meeting will be Sunday March 11 at 2:30 pm (see our Upcoming Events page for more details).  We welcome folks with any level of gardening and permaculture experience — we’re all figuring it out as we go, so don’t feel you need to be a pro-star to come contribute!

As I start to do my research for this project, I pulled out my trusty copy of Gaia’s Garden:  A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway.  Hemenway does an amazing job of introducing ecological gardening principles in a way that is thorough but not overwhelming, and his plentiful ideas of how to institute permaculture on a backyard scale are both extremely practical and extremely inspiring.  I recommend giving this book a read if you haven’t already!


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