The Haultain Common: What We’ve Been Up To

I just wanted to give everyone a bit of an update about our work at the Haultain Common this year.  As you may know, SLUGS is partnering with the Haultain Common for 2012 and holding monthly workshops/work parties at the Common.  We’re stoked to have the chance to work with the Commoners because it gives us a chance to put all our gardening learning into practice while helping to build an amazing community food resource.

In case you haven’t heard about the Haultain Common, here’s a bit of background:  It’s a boulevard garden located at the intersection of Haultain and Asquith in Fernwood.  The Common was started by Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnson, and has always been a collaborative community effort.  There are always neighbourhood folks stopping by to help work or harvest, and lots of curious passers by who stop to ask questions and often stay to help out.  The Common is on public land and is a public food resource.  All are welcome to get their hands dirty working in the garden or to stop and harvest some berries or vegetables to eat.

In the early months of the year, SLUGS and Commoners met to create a plan of action for this year’s food production.  The Common is moving from a more conventional garden to a permaculture food forest model of growing, and we wanted to sit down and hash out how that was going to work.  Not only did we need to figure out how to construct a food forest, but we needed to figure out how to make this method of growing accessible to folks who might not be familiar with permaculture gardening techniques.  The Common is a community food garden, and we wanted to make sure that anyone passing by would be able to recognize what we were growing and feel comfortable harvesting it.  You can check out this older blog post for more details on the planning process and background information about permaculture food forests. 

Once we had the plans in place for this year’s iteration of the Common, we started working on putting them into action.  We’ve been transplanting, planting and weeding like crazy to get the Common ready for the growing season.  We transplanted some gojis, goumis and blueberries, added lots of new blueberries (they work well as part of a permaculture food forest as well as being extremely popular with all the kids in the neighbourhood), and rearranged the epic strawberry patch.

In April we built a pea trellis from willow branches (see photo at left) and planted peas, built four keyhole paths to allow better access for harvesting plants and did a ton of weeding.  There was an overwhelming amount of borage and calendula taking over the garden, and we sadly had to take most of them out.  It’s always a shame to lose plants that are so beautiful and useful (bees absolutely love them!), but we have to maintain balance in the garden as well as hewing to boulevard garden guidelines that stipulate that plants must be fairly low to the ground and clear pathways through the garden must be maintained.

We’re really happy about all the work we’ve gotten done on the Common so far.  The bones of a beautiful and functional garden are in place, and it will be great to watch it fill in and develop as the season progresses.  Thanks to all the folks who’ve helped out so far this year (and thanks also to Mike Large for the use of his photos for this post!).  We can always use more people at the work parties, so if you’re interested in hanging out in the sun, getting rad with fellow gardeners, learning about food gardens or permaculture food forests, or just stopping by to see what it’s all about, please keep an eye on this space for upcoming events!

Resources: 

-Info on gojis and goumis if you’d like to learn more about them
A great blog post by Maarten who attended some of our planning meetings
-Here’s a good starting point if you’re interested in learning more about permaculture food forests
A cool article and video about the Haultain Common
Instructions on how to make a trellis from branches like the one we constructed

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