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Friday, December 27, 2013

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist

What do Community Gardening, Kickstarter and Permaculture have in common? In the case of a Kickstarter campaign by Michael Judd to self publish a book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, I was able to combine a few of my somewhat related interests. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and IOBY (In Our Back Yard) that started locally in New York and as of today has project funded in 61 cities, are crowdfunding websites to support anyone whose idea is accepted by these websites. Someone has an idea, creates a campaign by offering perks related to the idea, sets a dollar goal and hopes enough people will support the project to make it a reality. The campaigns can be in the arts, social or technological as well as other fields. I usually search the tech campaigns looking for the latest cool gadget that I may or may not need.

I was very intrigued by the title of this book and the chapters which included Rainwater Harvesting: Swales and Rain Gardens, Earthen Ovens and Uncommon Fruits. All of these techniques discussed within the concept of Permaculture made it seem like a book I would enjoy and use and a worthwhile project to support. 

I was first introduced to Permaculture about 35 years ago when I read Permaculture One and Permaculture Two by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. These books gave practical ideas and advice how to design a space using nature as a guide, not wasting anything and utilizing energy and materials that are available on site. While the books focused on plots of land larger than most community gardens (5+ acres) many if not all of the ideas and concepts can be adapted to smaller scale. Back then the authors were giving us a roadmap to sustainable design and living. There are practitioners of Permaculture throughout the world and many are using the techniques on a small scale in Urban areas. Community Gardeners can use many techniques in their quest for sustainability.

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist is easy to read with clear photos and illustrations. Armed with this book and some ability at gardening and landscaping one could utilize the chapters in this book in your own community garden or backyard.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Uncommon Fruits. I have planted hardy kiwis in my own backyard and am hopeful that this summer will bring our first fruit harvest. The fruits are small and delicious, very different from the supermarket fuzzy kiwis. It is also a species that has male and female plants and I was sure to order both when I planted mine. Paw Paw is another unusual fruit tree that is native to the US that  I want to plant in community gardens. The fruit is not available commercially but is about the size of a small mango and has a flavor somewhat like bananas. Mulberries are also included in this chapter and while I enjoy eating them when they are ripe, the trees are very messy and unruly so I wouldn't recommend them as much for community gardens.

Now that my project to build a chicken cage in my backyard is completed, I can start planning the pizza oven that my wife has wanted for awhile. The chapter on Earthen Ovens will be very useful to us to decide how to build our backyard oven.

As we in the Northern Hemisphere spend the winter planning our gardens, ordering seeds and deciding on projects for spring and summer, this book would be a great addition to our bookshelves. It is a book that is fun to read as well as having useful how to information. Most community gardeners that are looking for ways to make their gardens sustainable will find at least one chapter in this book to help toward that goal.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things I've Seen

It has been 5 months since my last post. I have been very busy community gardening which left little time or energy for blogging. To catch up I thought I would share photos and a little text to show you what I have seen and some of what I have been doing since my last post.

This was a banner year for community gardening in New York City. It was odd for community gardeners long used to little support from mayors and the powerful in the city to find that the city was now encouraging community gardening and putting city tax dollars into the effort.

 This was done under the Mayor's Obesity Task Force and community gardening is one of many tactics being used to combat obesity and by extension try to lessen incidence of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

 Neighborhood groups are creating new community gardens with material and technical support from the city. Corporate groups are pitching in with volunteer labor and funds for materials.

Some existing community gardens were devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Many people stepped up to help. I was involved in several of these projects. The transformations were amazing and a tribute to the hard work of community gardeners and the tremendous support they received.

Many community gardens continue to be in the forefront of creating a sustainable city, from Rainwater Harvesting to designing and building their gardens to attract pollinators.

Even after many years in community gardens I am still surprised at times at the things I see. Not just the interesting sculptures and the beauty of the gardens but how the community gardeners join together to transform unwanted or unused spaces into these amazing community gardens.