The Plots Thicken (Part 1)- Urban Greens Collaboration in Bond Hill, Permablitz host site

A Robin with chicks at Bpnd Hill Garden on top of the future water tank
A Robin with chicks at Bpnd Hill Garden on top of the future water tank

Well after another month of working with Urban Greens, I have come to many realizations about the way humans manage land and natural resources in general.  Its been an interesting look around as we grow nourishing food and watch in utter astonishment at societies wasteful landscaping industry.  After all, we are just glorified landscapers as Permaculturists, however we are bent on abundance of yield that does include aesthetics as well.  It struck me the other day while gardening in the ghetto that we care more about having sidewalks edged as a society than feeding people.  Thankfully we are in the business of feeding people.

The interesting part of food production in an organic fashion is that we are working with nature not against.  And at times this spring it has been a challenge with this cooler and somewhat wet spring at times.  But thats agriculture, never the same variables year after year which makes it a very complex and daring enterprise.  So the plots have been advancing, thickening with green leaves, natures solar panels of carbohydrates, feeding humans and microbes alike.  The gardens have been a nice place of exchange, learning more about growing in my hometown tri-state area of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.  We have seen glimpses of both the Arctic and the tropics as that is what this midwestern industrial cities climate boasts.

Bond Hill

Zoomed in Bond Hill Urban Greens garden design
Zoomed in Bond Hill Urban Greens garden design

Recently named after doing the observation that we permies do, Willow Spring Garden

spinach and radishes- stacking in space and time
spinach and radishes stacking in space and time

has been one of the main gardens that I have been tending to at least once a week over the last month. Myself and Ellie Faulk have been managing the garden, with Ryan Doan and Kevin Fitzgerald, other members of Urban Greens assisting. We have been managing the 24, 8 x 4 ft raised beds that were left over from the previous garden (the lighter green boxes from the above design). Very nice seeding and germination have taken place with mixed beds like Onion with beets and spinach with radishes.  Our idea is that as one is finished the other will fill the space void, fulfilling the permaculture principle of stacking in space and time.  Also to reduce weeding and increase fertility we have been laying down leaf mould compost and straw in between the rows.

Bond hill urban greens -urban agriculture Cincinnati

Another main project we took on was increasing the growing space by actually removing

Ellie Faulk working hard
Ellie Faulk working hard

some of the raised beds, adding compost, and tilling.  The raised beds had very large paths in between and because this is a production garden now, we seek to have square footage to pump out food in this food desert.  Since tilling, we have been raking it, weeding it, and adding organic matter to the paths; an Urban Greens trademark.  To really utilize the space efficiently we have been doing some edging and further raking of the beds to get them ready for summer plantings.  We thought we might sneak them in early but the high water table, hence the spring part of the garden name, has been dramatically raised over these last days of monsoon like rains.

Meanwhile, the trees that are housed outside of the fenced in area are setting roots. The BHill With tree namesstone fruits by the car park are getting used to their semi waterlogged home.  Planting them on bigger mounds would have been probably been a good idea but hopefully the future plans of large sheet mulches and guild plants will aid in the heavy clay situation.  However, the chestnuts that were planted on an already existing earthwork have been growing strong other than the one that was pulled out twice.  Sometimes the wildlife sector known as humans can be quiet destructive even when good intentions are present.  We look forward to creating a mediterranean garden on this mound over the coming years including figs and lots of herbs.  The soil there is full of gravel, it’s on a well-defined ridge and might be the only place of somewhat dryness in a garden that is defined by the seepage spring and willows.

Another project I have been committed to each time I go to the garden is building compost pilecompost to take advantage of weeds we are pulling, grass and forbs that are growing in our outer zones, and the imported carbon material.  It’s not meant to be a hot compost but this soon to be couple cubic meter pile should breakdown to be a fungal rich compost for next years plot.  As they say, make hay while the sun shines and it’s a great time to cut weeds like chicory and plantain before they flower.

Next Week on Monday the 13th of May 2013, we will be advancing the garden quite a bit with an event called a Permablitz.  These action days are meant to mobilize our students of Permaculture and the others around the city who are wanting more hands on experience with implementation techniques including Urban Greens CSA members.  To try to alleviate some of the water logging issues we are having at the garden, we are hoping to catch it higher in the landscape and get it to infiltrate.  The swales will tap into the seepage spring and the runoff from the above hillside including a small valley.  That is how we planned them out, observation, then using a water level to find contour. Now we try and gather folks to make this implementation project happen.  We have plans of IPM plants and edible landscaping to add to the character of the garden.

Bond Hill Before the swales
Bond Hill Before the swales

We are very excited to host everyone and show them the gardens.  They are looking like they will be very productive one day but due to their lack of commitment over the years to soil building and management from the We-Thrive folks we are faced with some weed and pest problem.  We are doing our best to bring more fertility and stability to the system through diversity.   In the end its been a great experience to dial these gardens in, see the growth, feel the setbacks, and dream big of a food hub of extreme beauty.

collard greens in the raised beds at Bond Hill
collard greens in the raised beds at Bond Hill

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